Fledgling nations have an understandable urge to spend the early stages of their independence over-compensating.

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Fledgling nations have an understandable urge to spend the early stages of their independence over-compensating. The years of impotent squirming beneath the heel of whichever vanquished oppressor are avenged in an orgy of stamp-redesigning, banknote-issuing, street-renaming and statue-decapitation. In Central Asia, however, the clamour for recognition of several post-Soviet states has resulted in the most entertaining example of post-independence Freudian neurosis yet recorded: a gathering competition to erect the world’s tallest free-standing flagpole.

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