8/18/2006

Meet Saparmurat Niyazov...

Saparmurat, or "Turkmenbashi" as his friends call him, is the President of Turkmenistan and Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers. He seems like a pretty fun guy. You be the judge (a little long, but worth it):
  • Niyazov is an authoritarian leader and is notorious in Western countries for the personality cult that he has established around himself in Turkmenistan. Claiming Turkmenistan to be a nation devoid of a national identity, he has attempted to rebuild the country to his own vision. He renamed the town of Krasnovodsk, on the Caspian Sea, Turkmenbashi after himself, in addition to renaming several schools, airports and even a meteorite after himself and his immediate family. Niyazov's face appears on all Manat banknotes and large portraits of the president hang all over the country, especially on major public buildings and avenues. Statues of himself and his mother are scattered all over Turkmenistan, including one in the middle of the Kara Kum desert as well as a gold-plated statue atop Ashgabat's largest building, the Neutrality Arch, that rotates so it will always face into the sun and shine light onto the capital city. Niyazov has commissioned a massive palace in Ashgabat commemorating his rule. He has been given the hero of Turkmenistan award five times. "I'm personally against seeing my pictures and statues in the streets - but it's what the people want", Niyazov has said.
  • The education system indoctrinates young Turkmen to love Niyazov, with his works and speeches making up most of their textbooks' content. The primary text is a national epic written by Niyazov, the Ruhnama or Book of the Soul. This book, a mixture of revisionist history and moral guidelines, is intended as the "spiritual guidance of the nation" and the basis of the nation's arts and literature. With Soviet-era textbooks banned without being replaced by new publications, libraries are left with little more than Niyazov's works. In 2004, the dictator ordered the closure of all rural libraries on the grounds that he thought that village Turkmen do not read. In Niyazov's home village of Kipchak, a complex has been built to the memory of his mother, including a mosque (est. at US$100 million) conceived as a symbol of the rebirth of the Turkmen people.
  • As President-for-Life of Turkmenistan, he has issued many unconventional decrees, such as:
    -In March 2004, dismissing 15,000 public health workers in wide-ranging cuts that particularly targeted nurses, midwives, school health visitors and orderlies.
    -In April 2004, urging young people not to get gold tooth caps or gold teeth, suggesting instead that they chew on bones to preserve their teeth.
    -In February 2005, ordering the closure of all hospitals outside Ashgabat, saying that if people were ill, they could come to the capital; also ordering the closure of all rural libraries of Turkmenistan, saying that ordinary Turkmen do not read books anyway.
    -In November 2005, ordering that physicians swear an oath to himself instead of the Hippocratic Oath.
    -In December 2005, banning video games, stating that they were too violent for young Turkmen to play.
    -In January 2006, Russian media reported he had ordered to stop paying pensions to 1/3 (more than 100,000) of the country's elderly people, cutting pensions to another 200,000, and ordering to pay the pensions received in the past two years back to the State. This has supposedly resulted in a huge number of deaths of old people, who may have had their pension (ranging from US$10 to US$90) as the only source of money. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan strongly denied these allegations, accusing the media outlets of spreading "deliberately perverted" information on the issue.

Currently the U.S. maintains good relations with Turkmenistan and considers them a vital partner in the Global War On Terror. Information provided by Wikipedia.

3 comments:

Frank Sirmarco said...

He looks like Wayne Newton with a mean streak.

Chris said...

Yeah, a cross between Wayne Newton and Mr. Miyagi's nemesis from "Karate Kid II".

Grant Miller said...

I saw that guy on "60 minutes." I liked his style.