The Full Wiki

Saparmurat Niyazov: Map


Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:

Saparmyrat Ataýewiç Nyýazow ( ) (Russian : Сапармурат Атаевич Ниязов) (19 February 1940 21 December 2006) was a Turkmen politician who served as President (later President for Life) of Turkmenistanmarker from 2 November 1990 until his death in 2006. He was First Secretary of the Turkmen Communist Party from 1985 until 1991 and continued to lead Turkmenistan for 15 years after independence from the Soviet Unionmarker in 1991. He was known in English as Saparmurat Atayevich Niyazov, the romanization of the Russian spelling Сапармурат Атаевич Ниязов of his Turkmen name.

Turkmen media referred to him using the title "His Excellency Saparmurat Türkmenbaşy, President of Turkmenistan and Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers". His self-given title Türkmenbaşy, or Turkmenbashi ( ), meaning Leader of Turkmens, referred to his position as the founder and president of the Association of Turkmens of the World.

Foreign media criticized him as one of the world's most totalitarian and repressive dictators, highlighting his reputation of imposing his personal eccentric upon the country, which extended to renaming months after members of his family, and recoining the Turkmen word for bread by the name of his mother. Global Witness, a London-based human rights organization, reported that money under Niyazov's control and held overseas may be in excess of US$3 billion, of which $2 billion is supposedly situated in the Foreign Exchange Reserve Fund at Deutsche Bank in Germanymarker.


Niyazov was born in Gypjakmarker, located in the Turkmen SSRmarker. His father died in World War II fighting against Nazi Germany. The other members of his family were killed in a massive earthquake that leveled Ashgabatmarker in 1948. He grew up in a Sovietmarker orphanage before the state put him in the custody of a distant relative.

In 1962 Niyazov joined the Communist Party. He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming first secretary of the Communist Party of the Turkmen SSR in 1985. He gained this post after Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev removed his predecessor, Muhammetnazar Gapurow, following a cotton-related scandal. Under Niyazov, the Turkmen Communist Party was one of the most hardline and unreformed party organizations in the Soviet Union. On January 13, 1990; Niyazov became Chairman of the Supreme Soviet, the supreme legislative body in the republic. The post was equivalent to that of president.

Niyazov supported the Soviet coup attempt of 1991, but after it collapsed, he set about separating Turkmenistan from the dying Soviet Union. The Supreme Soviet declared Turkmenistan independent and elected Niyazov as the country's first president on October 27. On June 21, 1992, Niyazov was elected as the country's first popularly elected president; he was the only candidate. A year later, he declared himself "Türkmenbaşy," or "Leader of all Turkmen."

In 1994 a plebiscite extended Niyazov's term to 2002 so he could oversee a 10-year development plan. The official results showed that 99.9% of voters approved this proposal. On December 28, 1999, Parliament declared Niyazov President for Life; parliamentary elections had been held a few weeks earlier in which all candidates were hand-picked by the president.

Niyazov and his Russian-Jewish wife, Muza, had a son and a daughter, Myrat and Irina, respectively.


Niyazov became president at the transition of Turkmenistan from a republic of the Soviet Union to an independent state. His presidency was characterized by an initial crumbling of the centralized soviet model that in many respects was unsuited to function as a separate entity. Also, there were large amounts of foreign income from gas and petroleum reserves (~$2–4billion as of 2005). There was outside concern about press freedom and to a lesser extent religious rights of minority religious groups. Niyazov made a personal attempt to create a cultural background for the new state of Turkmenistan by writing and promoting the Ruhnama, an autobiography meant to guide the people of Turkmenistan with his ideas and promote native culture (and by extension prohibiting foreign culture). He also took part in creating new holidays with a specific Turkmen nature and introduced a new Turkmen alphabet to replace Russian Cyrillic.

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 the town of Krasnovodskmarker "Turkmenbashi" after himself, and renamed schools, airports and even a meteorite after himself and members of his family. His many, sometimes erratic decrees, and the doting actions of the official Turkmen media gave rise to the clear appearance of a 'cult of personality'. The eccentric nature of some of his decrees, and the vast number of images of the president led to the perception, especially in western countries, of a despotic leader, rich on oil wealth glorifying himself whilst the population gained no benefit.

Despite emphasizing a need to move from a centralized state to a market economy and to a full democracy during his reign neither plan can be said to have progressed. Yearly plans set forth by the government and a centralised economy gave little indication of moving away from communism, and the dictatorial nature of many of his decrees and his crowning himself 'President for Life' gave little hope as to much progress in these two areas.


Oil and gas

Turkmenistan has the second largest reserves in the gas-rich former Soviet Union, generating high revenue for the state. The government has used central planning, such as state control of production and procurement, direct bank credits with low interest rates, exchange rate restrictions, and price controls, since it existed as a Republic within the U.S.S.R.

In the years following independence Turkmenistan invested heavily in plants and machinery in an attempt to convert it from being primarily a supplier of petroleum to a more advanced economy. Such investments included oil refineries and a polyethylene plant. In an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper Niyazov claimed that Turkmenistan was able to process 85% of its domestic output. Additionally numerous petroleum transportation projects were completed such as a pipeline from the Korpedje field to Kort-Koi in Iran.

In 1991 Niyazov's government put forth a decree granting "the free use of water, gas and electricity and refined salt by the people of Turkmenistan for ten years,". When the decree expired he extended it to 2020.


Turkmenistan's other primary resources are cotton and grain. Niyazov continued the old practice of demanding yearly quotas in agricultural output, and then blaming and/or sacking deputy ministers when quotas were not met. Nevertheless, Turkmenistan had an emergent period during which there was heavy investment in plant and machinery so the country could change from a producer of raw cotton to a cotton processor. During his presidency a textile industry was founded in Turkmenistan.

Niyazov introduced the practice of "Melon Day", a harvest festival celebrated on the second Sunday of August; unlike some of his other creations the celebration of "Melon Day" has continued after his death.


Niyazov put the revival of Turkmen culture as one of the top priorities in Turkmenistan's development. He introduced a new Turkmen alphabet based on the Latin alphabet to replace Cyrillic. The National Revival Movement, an organisation to promote Turkmen culture (Turkmen:"Galkynish") was also founded.

In many respects Niyazov's cultural ideas and changes were most visible to external viewers. His renaming of the days of the week and of the months to Turkmen heroes, poets, historical events, his family members, and himself raised many eyebrows all over the world. For example, September was renamed Ruhnama in honour of the book written by Niyazov (which he finished writing on 19 September 2001).. Not all the changes promoted Niyazov; October was renamed Garaşsyzlyk to remember the beginning of an independent Turkmenistan, which was obtained on 27 October 1991, and November Sanjar in honour of Sultan Sanjar who led the Seljuqs to their last full flowering. The new names came into effect with the introduction of a new labour law which stated that "the dates of professional holidays are specified by decrees of the President of Turkmenistan".

These names were later abolished by his successor Berdimuhamedow in April 2008.

Internal affairs

One of the earliest acts of the president was to abolish the death penalty and guarantee various human rights to the people. Press freedom under Niyazov's leadership was much criticised as it was with other former Soviet central Asian states. Turkmenistan's media constantly doted on the president and helped build his cult of personality. In May 2000, the government revoked all Internet licenses except for the state-owned Turkmen Telecom and in June 2001 shut down all Internet cafés.

In February 2005 all hospitals outside Aşgabatmarker were ordered shut, with the reasoning that the sick should come to the capital for treatment.According to the paper Neitralniy Turkmenistan physicians were ordered to swear an oath to the President, replacing the Hippocratic Oath.

  • In January 2006 one-third of the country's elderly had their pensions discontinued, while another 200,000 had theirs reduced. Pensions received during the prior two years were ordered paid back to the state. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan strongly denied allegations that the cut in pensions resulted in the deaths of many elderly Turkmen, accusing foreign media outlets of spreading "deliberately perverted" information on the issue.

  • On March 19, 2007 Turkmenistan's new president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow reversed Niyazov's decision by restoring pensions to more than 100,000 elderly citizens.

  • In December 2008, the new president also reversed Niyazov's changes to the national anthem which made numerous references to him.

  • In March 2004, 15,000 public health workers were dismissed including nurses, midwives, school health visitors and orderlies.

By 2005 there were 36,000 Internet users, representing 0.7% of the population.

He furthermore promised free and fair elections by 2010 in a move that surprised many Western observers.

Presidential pardons

In keeping with the predominantly Islamic nature of Turkmen society, President Niyazov granted pardons each year on the Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Omnipotence).

For example, in 2005, 8,000 convicts were pardoned including 229 foreign nationals. In 2006 Turkmenistan set free 10,056 prisoners, including 253 foreign nationals from 11 countries. Niyazov said:
"Let this humane act on the part of the state serve strengthening truly moral values of the Turkmen society.
Let the entire world know that there has never been a place for evil and violence on the blessed Turkmen soil."

Decrees and laws

  • Niyazov banned the use of lip syncing at public concerts in 2005, citing a negative effect on the development of musical arts incurred by the use of recorded music.
  • Dog and cat ownership in the capital is restricted to one animal by a law restricting the keeping of herds of animals in Ashgabat.
  • According to the Asgabat correspondent of right hand-drive imported cars converted to left-hand drive were banned due to a perceived increased risk in accidents.
  • 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.
  • All hospitals outside of Ashgabat were ordered shut, with Niyazov feeling that sick people should come to the capital for treatment.
  • He declared that doctors were to swear an oath to him directly instead of reciting the Hippocratic Oath.
  • After having to quit smoking in 1997 due to his resultant heart surgery, he banned smoking in all public places and ordered all government employees to follow suit. Chewing tobacco on Turkmen soil was later banned as well.
  • In February 2004 he decreed that men should no longer wear long hair or beards.
  • He also banned news reporters and anchors from wearing make-up on television, apparently because he belived Turkmen women were already beautiful enough.
  • 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. He said:
    "I watched young dogs when I was young.
    They were given bones to gnaw to strengthen their teeth.
    Those of you whose teeth have fallen out did not chew on bones.
    This is my advice..."

Foreign policy

Niyazov promoted a policy of strict neutrality in foreign affairs, refraining from seeking membership in NATOmarker or GUUAM and almost ignoring the CSTO. Turkmenistan has not participated in any United Nations peacekeeping missions. It has however become a member of Interpolmarker

Relations with Russia worsened immediately after independence;

The full independence of Turkmenistan was recognised by an UN General Assembly resolution “The permanent neutrality of Turkmenistan” of December 12, 1995. As a result in 2005 Turkmenistan would downgrade its links with the Commonwealth of Independent States becoming only an associate member under article 8 of the CIS charter, as such it would not participate in any of the military structures of the CIS.

In 2006 the European Commissionmarker and the international trade committee of the European Parliamentmarker voted to grant Turkmenistan "most favoured nation" trading status with the European Union, widely seen as motivated by interest in natural gas, after Niyazov announced he would enter a "human rights dialogue" with the EU.

Attempted assassinations and overthrows

After an alleged assassination attempt on November 25, 2002, the Turkmen government arrested thousands of suspected conspirators and members of their families. Critics claim the government staged the attempt in order to crack down on mounting domestic and foreign political opposition.

The summer of 2004 saw a leaflet campaign in the capital, Aşgabatmarker, 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 director of the police academy on national television. He accused the minister of incompetence and declared: "I cannot say that you had any great merits or did much to combat crime."

Niyazov later announced that surveillance cameras were to be placed at all major streets and sites in Turkmenistan, an apparent precaution against future attempts.


On December 21, 2006, Turkmen state television announced that President Niyazov had died of sudden cardiac arrest. Niyazov had been taking medication for an unidentified cardiac condition. The Turkmen Embassy in Moscowmarker later confirmed this report.

According to the Constitution of Turkmenistan, Öwezgeldi Ataýew, Chairman of the Parliament, would assume the presidency. Deputy Prime Minister Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow was named as head of the commission organizing the state funeral. Due to the imprisonment of Öwezgeldi Ataýew who, under the Constitution is first in line to succeed the presidency, Berdimuhamedow was named as acting president. Berdimuhamedow and the Halk Maslahaty announced on December 26 that the next presidential elections would be held on February 11, 2007.

The circumstances of Niyazov's passing have been surrounded by some media speculation, including that Niyazov had been the victim of poisoning. Some Turkmen opposition sources also claim that Niyazov died several days before the officially announced date of December 21.


Niyazov was buried in his ready prepared tomb in Kipchak Mosquemarker on December 24 at his home village of Gypjakmarker, approximately 7 kilometres west of Ashgabatmarker. Prior to being moved to the village, Niyazov's body lay in state in an open coffin in the presidential palace. Many mourners, including foreign delegations, passed by the coffin in a three hour period. Many of the ordinary citizens were dramatically weeping and crying as they walked, some even clinging to the coffin and fainting, though there are rumors that they were "forced" to mourn in this way. Tang Jiaxuan, the Chinese State Councilor and special envoy of President Hu Jintao to Turkmenistan, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Richard Boucher, Iranian Vice President Parviz Davoudi, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan attended the funeral.

In popular culture

In the American mock atlas Our Dumb World: The Onion's Atlas of the Planet Earth, much of the section on Turkmenistan is devoted to Niyazov.

See also

References and notes

  1. BBC News, " Turkmen go back to old calendar", 24 April 2008.
  2. Saparmurat Niyazov raps local governors for failures in cotton harvest
  3. Saparmurat Niyazov dismisses grain products association chairman
  4. List of holidays and commemorative days approved in Turkmenistan
  5. Turkmenistan Votes, The Economist, December 30, 2008, Accessed January 5, 2009
  6. "Turkmen anthem set for makeover", BBC, December 9, 2008.
  7. The World Factbook entry for Turkmenistan information retrieved on August 30, 2006
  8. Turkmen leader pardons 8,145 thousand convicts
  9. [ Turkmenistan bans converted left-hand-drive vehicle imports]
  10. Whitlock, Monica. " Young Turkmen face beard ban." BBC. Wednesday 25 February 2004. Retrieved on 29 August 2009.
  11. Short resume maintained by Reporters Sans Frontières

Further reading

  • Theroux, Paul. "The Golden Man: Saparmurat Niyazov's Reign of Insanity". The New Yorker, 28 May 2007, pp. 54–65.

External links

Additional sources


Monuments to Niyazov

Embed code:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address