|The following is reprinted from Uncle John's Curiously Compelling Bathroom Reader.
Saparmyrat Ataýewiç Nyýazow or Turkmenbashi [wiki] (1940 - 2006)
After the USSR broke up in 1991, the Soviet Republic of Turkmenistan became an independent nation but had no identity of its own. Enter Turkmenbashi.
Turkmenistan had been under the control of Russia for more than a quarter century when it was declared part of the Soviet Union in 1924. In 1991, after the fall of Communism and the USSR, the country found itself independent for the first time in a hundred years. The new president, Saparmurat Niyazov, was the obvious successor – he’d been the Communist Party’s puppet governor since 1985. But easing a country of five million people into a new era of self-sufficiency and autonomy was not the highest item on Niyazov’s agenda. He was more concerned that decades of Soviet control had left Turkmenistan with no national identity. So, in 1993, Niyazov took it upon himself to create the country in a new image: his own.
First, he took the name Turkmenbashi (Leader of All Ethnic Turkmen) and declared himself President for Life. Since then, he’s undertaken scores of self-aggrandizing – and bizarre – measures to make Turkmenistan a very unique place:
› The airport in the capital city of Asgabat was renamed … Turkmenbashi.
› Dozens of streets and schools across the country are now called … Turkmenbashi.
› In 1998 a 670-pound meteorite landed in Turkmenistan. Scientist named it … Turkmenbashi.
› The name of the large port city Krasnovodsk was changed to … Turkmenbashi.
› The New president also renamed the months. January is now called … Turkmenbashi. April is called Gurbansoltan edzhe, after his mother. (Bread, once called chorek, is now also called gurbansoltan edzhe.)
Turkmenbashi TV: All Turkmenbashi, All The Time.
(Image Credit: jabsonwheels [Flickr])
› The image of Turkmenbashi’s face is used as the logo of all three state-run TV stations, and is legally required to appear on every clock and watch face as well as on every bottle of Turkmenbashi brand vodka.
Turkmenbashi Vodka (Image Credit: Carpetblogger)
But thankfully, the brandy is called Sekerde - oh wait, that's Turkmenbashi's photo!
(Image Credit: tienshan [flickr])
› In 2001 Turkmenbashi wrote a book – a combination of poetry, revisionist history, and moral guidelines – called Ruhnama (Persian for “Book of the Soul”). It is now required to be prominently displayed in all bookstores and government offices, and next to the Koran in mosques. Memorization of the book is required to graduate from school and to get a state job or even a driver’s license. Schoolchildren spend one entire day every week reading it. Since all Soviet-era book have been banned, most Turkmen libraries have only the Ruhnama and other books written by Turkmenbashi. In 2006 Turkmenbashi made reading the Ruhnama a requirement for entry into heaven.
The giant Ruhnama, in oversize format for easy reading.
(Image Credit: Begemot [Flickr])
› There’s a 30-foot Ruhnama in Ashgabat, not far from a 50-foot solid-gold statue of Turkmenbashi.
Statue of Turkmenbashi on top of the Arch of Neutrality. The statue always rotate to face the sun (Image Credit: Christopher Herwig of Herwig Photo | Flickr)
More gold statue of Turkmenbashi (Image Credit: mrtoes [Flickr])
Yet another gold statue of Turkmenbashi (Image Credit: blogjam [Flickr])
› Not surprisingly, Turkmenbashi recently “won” the Magtymguly International Prize, honoring the best pro-Turkmen poetry, which is awarded by … Turkmenbashi himself.
MORE STRANGE ACTS OF TURKMENBASHI
› In 2004 Turkmenbashi banned newscasters from wearing make-up. Why? He said he couldn’t tell the male and female news readers apart and that made him uncomfortable.
› After he quit smoking in 1997, he banned smoking for everybody else, too (but only in public places).
› In 2006, to mark Turkmenistan’s independence day, Turkmenbashi gave each female resident a gift of 200,000 manat (about $38).
Turkmenbashi on money, as fully expected.
(Image Credit: Charles Bray's Turkmenistan Journal)
› He banned gold tooth caps and gold teeth, and suggested that tooth preservation could be more easily accomplished by chewing on bones.
› In 2000 he ordered that a giant lake be created in the desert along with a huge forest of cedar trees, which, he said, would help to moderate Turkmenistan’s climate.
› In 2004, he ordered that a giant ice palace be build in the middle of the same desert, the Karakum – the hottest location in central Asia. It will include a zoo with penguins.
Karakum Desert, future home of some very unlucky penguins (Image Credit: UTexas)