Thursday, December 21, 2006

Turkmenistan leaderless

The weirdest dictator in the world has died. President Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan had a heart attack yesterday.

“Mr Niyazov established a cult of personality in which he was styled as Turkmenbashi, or Leader of all Turkmens. He renamed months and days in the calendar after himself and his family, and ordered statues of himself to be erected throughout the desert nation. Cities, an airport and a meteorite were given his name.”

More pressingly:

“According to Turkmen law, the president is succeeded by the head of the legislative body, the People's Assembly. But this post was held by Mr Niyazov himself.”

I’m particularly drawn to this story, as a couple of my friends have just this week got back from a holiday in Turkmenistan. It was quite a challenge for them to get two of the very rare visas issued to Western tourists, but they really wanted to check out this strange place while they had the chance (actually, J was the keen one; K had reservations about the whole ‘impoverished isolated tyranny’ aspect).

Their timing is eerie.

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