Turkmenistan Gets Over Cultish Leader

Turkmenistan's late president, Saparmurat Niyazov, the self-styled Turkmenbashi or "Father of All Turkmen" was a bizarre man. He renamed the months of the year after members of his family, banned opera, ballet and circus performances, made playing recorded music at weddings illegal, and put his face on banknotes. He also used profits from the world's fourth-largest gas reserves to build an ice palace, 40-meter pyramid, and a giant golden statue to honor himself while his five million people lived in poverty. Now, his successor, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, has undone many of those perverse decrees, and plans to topple the monument most emblematic of Niyazov's strange rule: a 12-meter-high golden statue of Niyazov that sits atop the 75-meter high arch of neutrality in the nation's capital, dominating the skyline, and rotating so that it always faces the sun. The change may be only cosmetic, though, as Berdymukhamedov appears to be developing his own personality cult. Since coming to power in 2007, after Niyazov's death in late 2006, the new president has replaced giant public portraits of the former leader with his own.