253. Making Peace with Russia

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The late Boris Nyof is becoming a nonperson. He was president of Akmenistan, a tiny but oil-rich country near Russia. The new president, Ivan Gurba, has banned all media use of Nyof's name. Gurba has removed all the photos, posters, and statues of Nyof. In the capital city, Gurba has ordered the destruction of a stainless steel spire honoring Nyof. Gurba shut down the spire's floodlights and mechanisms.

"From the steel, we will build a Museum of Peace," said Gurba. The 100-foot-tall spire was brilliantly lit every night for the last 10 years. At its top was a likeness of Nyof's head, 16 feet in diameter. The head made a complete revolution every 59 minutes. Then it paused for one minute, while flames shot out of Nyof's mouth, accompanied by the roar of a lion.

Every day at noon, "Nyof" gave a three-minute speech talking about what a great president he had been. There was a different speech for each day of the year. Every January 18, for example, Nyof talked about how he had paved all of Akmenistan's dirt roads, by himself. Every July 3, he described how he had invented the Internet.

As president, Nyof actually had renamed the days of the week after his siblings, and the sun and moon after his parents. He had banned marriage. Instead, couples in love signed one-year "Friendship" contracts, renewable yearly, if both "friends" agreed.

Although citizens thought Nyof was a little weird, they liked him for boldly standing up to occasional threats from Russia. Now that he was gone, Russia seemed more intent on acquiring Akmenistan's oil, one way or another. Gurba thought that he might help prevent a Russian invasion by removing all traces of Nyof and by building the Museum of Peace.

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