This Just In… Turkmenbashi Is Still DEAD
How in the hell could Kid Various have missed this? Saparmurat Niyazov, also known as “Turkmenbashi,” President of Turkmenistan and candidate for the world’s nuttiest leader – died in December, 2006! And The Kid heard nary a peep from the major media.
But there he was, reading the March issue of The Atlantic and The Kid opens up to this obituary written by Mark Steyn (most of it sadly behind the subscriber wall) which not only gives a good overview of this guy’s wackiness but also manages to cram more puns using the word “stan” per column inch than perhaps any other piece in the history of writing.
…He produced five volumes of poetry and read nightly on television, one remorseless Turkmenistanza after another. He banned news anchors from wearing makeup because he found it hard to tell the men from the women and had no desire to see the country degenerate into a sad Eastern imitation of the decadent Ratherstan and Couricistan.
In 2005, he banned lip-synching because he was tired of seeing elderly singers mouthing to their old hits and reducing Turkmen culture to just another Millivanillistan. He banned ballet because … well, it just wasn’t his bag. “How can the Turkmen people be encouraged to love ballet if there is no ballet in their blood?” he asked. “I do not understand ballet. What use is it then to me?”
…He was a repressive dictator increasingly prone to show trials and torture and Stalinist purges, but the world will cut you a lot of slack if you’re a kook: To modify the old actors’ line, killing is easy, comedy is hard. And, in an age of gray thugs, Turkmenbashi was every Fleet Street tabloid’s favorite totalitarian nutjob. His finest hour was his redesignation of the days of the week and months of the year under a law passed in 2002. January he renamed for himself: It’s now the month of “Turkmenbashi.” April he’d proposed to call “Mother” in honor of mothers in general, but he was prevailed upon to rename it “Gurbansoltan” in honor of one mom in particular—his own.
…In 1992, he was elected president with 99.5 percent of the vote. Two years after that squeaker, 99.9 percent of the electorate voted to extend his five-year term to ten years, and, in 1999, he “reluctantly” acceded to the wishes of his People’s Council to become president-for-life. The lifelong Communist with the Russian bride dedicated himself to root-and-branch Turkmenization. Cleansing his country of Soviet influence meant little more than replacing it with a sickly suffocating cult of personality, but in dictatorships the line between necessary political hygiene and nauseating self-promotion is often a fine one, and especially so in a land where the leading soap powder is called Barf.
…His legacy is the Ruhnama, the spiritual tract he published in 2001. Its prose was barely workmanlike and barely Turkmenlike: It’s what the Little Red Book would have been had Mao spent too much time with Deepak Chopra and Dr. Phil. But it was immediately raised to equal status with the Bible and the Koran. It was hailed as “The Answer to All Questions,” including those on the driver’s test.
Indeed, Turkmenbashi’s fate is confirmed in an email from Idiom friend and daring adventurer, Mr. Democracy:
Yeah, Niyazov bit it in December. I can’t think of a nicer guy for it to happen to. That freak was wasting my oxygen.
Of course, things aren’t going to get any better. The new guy, Berdimuhammadov, was appointed in violation of the
constitution as the Chair of the Parliament, who should assumed power, was apparently put in prison. They had an “election” in February where Berdimuhammadov “won.” It was a total sham. Apparently it was like when I was in Turkmenistan and I observed them stuffing the ballot box in front of me and I’m like “Guys, you’re not even trying here…” Just more of the same tribal, despotic, kleptocracy. Azerbaijan
The truly sad thing is that the Turkmen had the great misfortune to live under a despot whom the rest of the world found, not dangerous, but merely “amusingly kooky.”
“Oh look, he named a day of the week after himself! Oh look, he banned lip-synching! Oh look, he had all the questions on the driving test to be about his quirky ‘book!’ He so crazy!”
The man was a Grade A psychotic and enslaved an entire country which he treated as his personal playground. And instead of reacting with the appropriate horror and doing everything reasonable to free a suffering people, the international community just sort of looks on and giggles, all the while slobbering to reap fat profits and line the pockets of the ruling cabal by developing Turkmenistan’s natural gas reserves. It truly is a sad display.And yes... There is a popular detergent in that part of the world called "Barf." I still have a box.