Ashgabat, Ahal , Turkmenistan
|| February 19, 1940
|| December 21, 2006
|Last Modified||Juan Croniqueur|
May 19, 2013 12:04am
Reactionary - Anti-Term Limits - Married - Islam -
|Info||Saparmurat Atayevich Niyazov Turkmenbashi has been the most powerful figure in Turkmenistan since 1985. |
He was orphaned at an early age, his father having died fighting the Germans in World War II, and the rest of his family dying in the massive earthquake that leveled Ashgabat in 1948. He was raised in a Soviet orphanage, which could explain his fixation with his family. He joined the Communist Party and rose through the ranks, eventually becoming head of the Communist Party of the Turkmen SSR (later known as the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan). After the fall of the Soviet Union, he retained control of the country when it proclaimed independence in 1991, and became its first president.
On October 22, 1993, he styled himself Turkmenbashi, meaning "Leader of all Ethnic Turkmen", in the style of Kemal Atat?quot;Father of the Turks". On December 29, 1999, he was proclaimed President for Life by the country's rubber-stamp legislature.
Niyazov is an authoritarian leader and is known for his massive cult of personality. Believing Turkmenistan to be a nation devoid of a national identity, he has attempted to rebuild the country in his own image. 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. His face appears on all Manat banknotes and large portraits of the President hang all over the country, especially on major public buildings and avenues, and statues of himself and his mother are scattered all over Turkmenistan. The statues include one in the middle of the Kara Kum desert, and a gold-plated statue atop Ashgabat's largest building, the Neutrality Arch, that rotates to face the sun. Niyazov has commissioned a massive palace in Ashgabat commemorating his rule.
Niyazov is often noted for what are widely perceived as eccentric policies. For example, in August 2004, he ordered that a giant ice palace be constructed in the middle of the desert country, although many observers have said that without some form of technical assistance it will be an impossible dream. He also announced two decrees, the first of which stated that television presenters were banned from wearing make-up as the President had difficulty telling male and female newsreaders apart. The second declared that the chewing of tobacco on Turkmen territory was to be outlawed (because Niyazov had to give up smoking after a successful anti-cancer operation).
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, which serves as the "spiritual guidance of the nation" and the basis of the nation's arts and literature. Niyazov's other efforts to transform Turkmen culture include renaming the days and months after national heroes and symbols, defining the stages of life, and introducing a new Turkmen alphabet based on the Latin alphabet to replace Cyrillic. He has also banned long hair, beards, and gold teeth.
After an alleged assassination attempt against him on November 25, 2002, the Turkmen authorities proceeded to arrest massive numbers of suspected conspirators and members of their families. Some critics claim that the attempt was staged in order to crack down on mounting political opposition from inside the country and abroad.
The summer of 2004 saw a leaflet campaign in the capital, Ashgabat calling for the overthrow and trial of Niyazov. The authorities were unable to stop the campaign and the President responded by firing his interior minister and rector of the police academy on national television. He accused the minister of being incompetent and declared 'I cannot say that you had any great merits or did much to combat crime.'