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Cult of Personality

The news yesterday that Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov had died has left a "power vacuum" in the gas-rich former Soviet republic in Central Asia. However, most westerners familiar with Niyazov probably know of him for reasons that don't have much to do with politics. The Christian Science Monitor described Niyazov's cult of personality:turkmen.jpg
In recent years, Niyazov had become increasingly erratic, passing laws banning men from wearing beards or listening to car radios, and prohibiting teenagers from playing video games. He named a key town, an airport, and even a meteorite [sic] after himself, and scattered statues of his mother around the country. A year ago he ordered all doctors to swear a personal oath to himself instead of the Hippocratic oath.

What the CSM's article does not mention is that he renamed the month of January after himself and April after his mother. It also leaves out a story about Niyazov banning lip-synching that The World Almanac 2006 included in its Offbeat News Stories (p. 38). After the jump, read the story as we told it back in 2005. Or visit Turkmenistan's info page in the CIA World Factbook to learn more than wacky trivia about this republic.

Real Turkmen Don't Lip-Synch
Under the order of Saparmurad Niyazov, president of the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan, even tone-deaf Turkmens are being held to a new decree: No Lip-Synching. Citing "a negative effect on the development of singing and musical art," Pres. Niyazov announced a ban on lip-synching at cultural events, concerts, on TV, and even at private celebrations on Aug. 23, 2005. Niyazov has been president of the Central Asian nation since 1990, and is responsible for several other unusual regulations, including a ban on opera and ballet in 2001, and a 2004 proclamation against gold-capped teeth on young people, beards, and long hair for men.

Photo: Wedding ceremony under Niyazov statue in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Ben Paarmann (cc)

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