Turkmenbasy's 'cult of personality'

Turkmenbasy's 'cult of personality'

Saparmurat Atayevich Niyazov, a Turkmen politician and First Secretary of the Turkmen Communist Party, went on to lead Turkemenistan for 15 years after independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. He crowned himself “President for Life’ and gave himself the title Turkmenbasy meaning ‘Leader of all Turkmen’.

Niyazov became a substitute for the vacuum left by the downfall of the communist system, with his image replacing those of Stalin, Marx and Lenin. He renamed a town, schools, airports and even a meteorite after himself and members of his family. He introduced a new Turkmen alphabet based on the Latin alphabet to replace Russian Cyrillic; days of the week and months were renamed after heroes, poets, historical events, his family members and himself

Eccentric decrees

Some of the decrees he passed were:
* Niyazov requested that a palace of ice be built near the capital, though Turkmenistan is a desert country with a hot and arid environment. The palace was never built.
* Men were barred from wearing long hair or beards.
* News reporters and anchors were banned from wearing make-up on television, apparently because he had difficulty telling male and female newsreaders apart.
* Gold teeth were outlawed in Turkmenistan after Niyazov suggested that the populace chew on bones to strengthen their teeth and lessen the rate at which they fall out.
* Dog and cat ownership in the capital was restricted to one animal by law.
* Right hand-drive imported cars converted to left-hand drive were banned due to a perceived increased risk of accidents.
* He declared that doctors were to swear an oath to him directly instead of reciting the Hippocratic oath.
* After having to quit smoking due to a heart surgery, he banned smoking in all public places and ordered all government employees to follow suit. Chewing tobacco was later banned.

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