East Turkestan: Turkmen President Niyazov Dies at 66
Below is an article published by the Guardian Unlimited:
Saparmurat Niyazov, the authoritarian president of energy-rich
State television showed Niyazov's portrait in a black frame, and a news presenter was reading a list of his accomplishments and merits. A spokesman for the Turkmen Embassy in
Niyazov, who underwent major heart surgery in 1997, acknowledged last month that he had heart disease but did not appear seriously ill. Two weeks ago he appeared in public to formally open an amusement park outside the capital called ``The World of Turkmenbashi Tales.''
Niyazov, an important ally in the
He retained control after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and turned
Creating an elaborate personality cult, he ordered the months and days of the week named after himself and his family, and had statues of himself erected throughout the nation. Children pledged allegiance to him every morning in schools and his writings were required reading.
An alleged attempt on his life in 2002 set off a harsh crackdown, leading to dozens of arrests that were criticized by international human rights groups and the
It was unclear who may be in line to replace Niyazov or how the succession process would be conducted. The funeral is to be held on Sunday.
Niyazov was born Feb. 19, 1940. His father died in World War II and the rest of his family was killed in an earthquake that leveled Ashgabat in 1948. He was raised in an orphanage and later in the home of distant relatives.
Niyazov attended Leningrad Polytechnic Institute in
Appointed head of the Communist Party in
He was elected president of the new independent
In 1999, he was effectively made president for life after parliament removed all term limits, but an August 2002 gathering of the country's People's Council - a hand-picked assembly of Niyazov loyalists - nonetheless went further and endorsed him as president for life.
Under Niyazov's rule,
But Niyazov supported the U.S.-led anti-terror campaign in neighboring
Niyazov also pursued strong nationalistic policies to encourage the use of the Turkmen language over Russian and banned access to Russian-language media, leading to an increased exodus of some of the country's most educated citizens and decimating its school system.
Secondary education has been reduced in