Monday, November 28, 2011

Saparmurat Niyazov

Saparmurat Atayevich Niyazov; (19 February 1940 - 21 December 2006),  was a Turkmen politician who served as President (later President for Life) of Turkmenistan 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 Union in 1991. His name in English is a 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"[citation needed]. His self-given title Türkmenbaşy, or Turkmenbashi (pronounced [tyɾkmenbaʃɯ]), 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 eccentricities upon the country, which extended to renaming months, which had been borrowed Russian words, after members of his family. 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 between $1.8-$2.6 billion was supposedly situated in the Foreign Exchange Reserve Fund at Deutsche Bank in Germany.

Niyazov was born in Gypjak, located in the Turkmen SSR. According to the official version, his father died in World War II fighting against Nazi Germany, while other sources contend that he dodged fighting and was therefore sentenced by a military court. The other members of his family were killed in a massive earthquake that leveled Ashgabat in 1948. He grew up in a Soviet orphanage before the state put him in the custody of a distant relative.

After finishing school in 1959, he worked as an instructor in the Turkmen trade union committee exploration. Then he studied at the Leningrad Polytechnic Institute, where in 1967 he received a diploma as an electrical engineer. After graduating, he went to study in Russia, but was expelled a few years later for his academic failure.

In 1962, Niyazov started his political career, and then he 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 Gapurov, 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 of the Turkmen SSR, the supreme legislative body in the republic. The post was equivalent to that of president.

Niyazov supported the Soviet coup attempt of 1991[citation needed] 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, Murat 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 (approximately $2–4 billion 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 Latin-based Turkmen alphabet to replace Russian Cyrillic. The current Latin Turkmen alphabet consists of: Aa, Bb, Çç, Dd, Ee, Ää, Ff, Gg, Hh, Ii, Jj, Žž, Kk, Ll, Mm, Nn, Ňň, Oo, Öö, Pp, Rr, Ss, Şş, Tt, Uu, Üü, Ww, Yy, Ýý, Zz.

Niyazov became a substitute for the vacuum left by the downfall of the communist system, with his image replacing those of Marx and Lenin. He renamed the town of Krasnovodsk "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 progressed. Yearly plans set forth by the government and a centralised economy gave little indication of moving away from state-dominated economics, 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.

Decrees and laws
# Niyazov banned the use of lip syncing at public concerts in 2005 as well as sound recordings at "musical performances on state holidays, in broadcasts by Turkem television channels, at all cultural events organized by the state... in places of mass assembly and at weddings and celebrations organized by the public," citing a negative effect on the development of musical arts incurred by the use of recorded music.
# Niyazov banished dogs from the capital Ashgabat because of their "unappealing odor."
# According to the Ashgabat 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", or indoor ice skating rink, be built near the capital, so that those living in the desert country could learn to skate. The palace was built in 2008 and located near the new Turkmen State Medical University.
# 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.
# He outlawed opera, ballet, and the circus in 2001 for being "decidedly unturkmen-like".
# In February 2004 he decreed that men should no longer wear long hair or beards.
# He banned news reporters and anchors from wearing make-up on television, apparently because he believed Turkmen women were already beautiful enough without make-up.
# 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...

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, Aşgabat, 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 a sudden heart attack. Niyazov had been taking medication for an unidentified cardiac condition. The Turkmen Embassy in Moscow 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. Some Turkmen opposition sources also claim that Niyazov died several days before the officially announced date of December 21.

News reports also claimed that Niyazov also suffered from diabetes, ischemic heart disease and kidney failure.

Niyazov was buried in his ready prepared tomb in Kipchak Mosque on December 24 at his home village of Gypjak, approximately 7 kilometres west of Ashgabat. 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.

From :