What is your opinion about Saparmurat Niyazov, leader of Turkmenistan?
He refers to himself as "Saparmurat Turkmenbashi the Great", Turkmenbashi means "leader of all ethnic Turkmens". Although Turkmenistan is probably a safer place than most of other former Soviet central Asian republics, it stayed away of all border disputes between Kazakhstan/Tajikistan/Kyrgistan/Uzbekistan and GDP growth was 15% last year, some of the Turkmenbashi's ruling methods are questionable.
Firstly, he ordered his picture to be placed on every commercial building. Than he told that main streets and mosques in each city's should be renamed to "Turkmenbashi Avenue" and "Turkmenbashi Mosque" names. Later he renamed Ashgabat International Airport to Turkmenbashi International Airport, port city of Krasnovodsk to "Turkmenbashi". Next he called for reform of calendar and renamed month of January Turkmenbashi. Turkmen word for "air" was also changed to Turkmenbashi. When meteorite hit Kazakhstan it was called "Turkmenbashi" and so was called biggest world's carpet when it was made. Ashgabat and Turkmenistan is now full of gold-coloured statues of Turkmenbashi, which replaced statues of all communists which previously stood there. Many buildings were torn down in Ashgabat to make place for a huge squere, in middle of which huge gold plated Turkmenbashi statue stands, which revolves to follow sun. Turkmenbashi also wrote a book, called Ruhnama, which was declared sacred later and now every office must have it, in schools this book is studied two times a week (in schools there are also subjects like "foreign and internal politics of Turkmenbashi"). Book talks about history and how Turkmenistan was a cradle of civilization. This book now takes most place in national libraries. In Turkmenistan there are two national TV
companies, both called Turkmenbashi TV
and using Turkmenbashi's head as their symbol. They shows Turkmenbashi's speaches, also soap opera called "Turkmenbashi, my Leader", which depicts western woman, who imigrated in Turkmenistan and decided that Turkmenbashi's politics are the best, so asked for political assylum. National slogan of Turkmenistan would be translated as "Nation, people, Turkmenbashi". Turkmenistan's national oath is "Turkmenistan, my beloved motherland, my beloved homeland. You are always with me in my thoughts and my heart. For the slightest evil against you let my hand be lost. For the slightest slander about you let my tongue be lost. at the moment of my betrayal to my motherland, to her sacred banner, to Sapamurat Turkmenbashi, let my breath stop.". Children must say this oath before kissing the flag each day at school. Turkmenbashi's birthday is a national holiday. His press secretary once tried to nominate him for Nobel Peace Price. Some minister said, that although Allah is in heaven, only Turkmenbashi is on Earth. Turkmenbashi's representative once said that Turkmenbashi is prophet no worse than Muhamad. XXI age in Turkmenistan is quite commonly called "Epoch of the Turkmebashi", turkmenbashi was supposedly re-elected last time by 99,8% of votes. However, he won't need elections anymore - parliament declared him president for life. In meetings of cabinet, however nobody is allowed to speak except Turkmenbashi himself. Turkmenbashi also owns a catsle with golden dome, same as one in Jerusalem, where he lives. Huge garden with lots of fountains is in front of that catle. In Ashgabat, there are other 50 governmental structures, each very pompous. Every squere bears a gold coloured statue of Turkmenbashi in various positions, including beneath fountain, with some ancient Turkmens, on top of the world and on top of 75 meters height mast. Only ones who proves their support for Turkmenbashi are allowed to live in Ashgbat. Of course, it is no surprise that Turkmenbashi is also depicted on money and lots of other things, including watches every schoolchild gets as a present for Turkmenbashi's birthday. It is not surprising also that URL of Turkmen embassy to USA is http://www.turkmenbashi.org/ and that the frontpage of the site talks exacly about Turkmenbashi...
Turkmenbashi supposedly asked before several times television stop praising him and told parliament stop giving him new titles and medals (He was called Hero of Turkmenistan, etc.). However, everyone refused to do so and then Turkmenbashi said that he will accept everything to comply with the will of people. He also said that he didn't wanted a palace and instead wanted a small house, but parliament overruled him on the issue. Turkmenbashi claims that people themselves requested to rename all things to Turkmenbashi.
So, what do you think about him? Is he really a "poor" leader which is forced to live like a millionaire by parliament and people? If not, does his achievements (15% GDP growth, on-time pensions, guaranted educationa and healthcare, safety, "neutral" policy which made him friends with everyone, including Iran, Russia, USA, Taliban and other mid Asian countries) surpasses or at least matches his popmpastics? Anyway, he is not a totalytarian leader like Kim Jong Il - government doesn't controls every side of life in Turkmenistan, just politics...
[Edited 2003-03-12 01:23:19]