Thursday, December 21, 2006

Leader of All Turkmen 

Saparmurat Niyazov became Communist Party chief of what was then a Soviet republic in 1985 and was elected first president of independent Turkmenistan in 1991.

In 1999, he was made president-for-life by the country's rubber-stamp parliament.

During his reign, Mr Niyazov established a cult of personality in which he was styled as Turkmenbashi, or Leader of all Turkmens.

He renamed months and days in the calendar after himself and his family, and ordered statues of himself to be erected throughout the desert nation.

Cities, an airport and a meteorite were given his name.

Mr Niyazov was intolerant of criticism and allowed no political opposition or free media in the nation of five million people.

His laws became increasingly personal. It was forbidden to listen to car radios or smoke in public, or for young men to wear beards.

An alleged assassination attempt in 2002 was used to crush his few remaining opponents.

All candidates in the December 2004 parliamentary elections, at which there were no foreign observers, were his supporters.

Turkmenistan has vast gas reserves. Who will get to it first?


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