Turkmen ruler coins lasting memento for 66th birthday

Nick Paton Walsh in Moscow
Tuesday February 21, 2006
The Guardian 


The despotic president of Turkmenistan, known as
Turkmenbashi, has celebrated his 66th birthday by
creating a new set of gold and silver coins in honour
of poetry he has written.

Last year, to celebrate his 65th birthday, Saparmurat
Niyazov issued coins featuring his family tree. This
year, it was the turn of four collections of poetry
and two volumes of his Book of the Soul, known as the

On one side of each of the six new coins is a
different book. On the other, resides the presidential
emblem. Worth about 1,000 manat each (3p), they were
issued on Sunday, to coincide with his birthday, which
is also the Turkmenistani flag day.

Penned by Mr Niyazov in 2001, the Rukhnama gives
spiritual guidance to Turkmen citizens, of whom he
sees himself as the figurative father, the literal
translation of "Turkmenbashi". The book, which is
studied in schools and to which convicts must swear
their allegiance upon release from jail, provides
moral guidance, including respecting your elders, and
giving lots of jewellery to women. Last year, a copy
was blasted into space on a Russian rocket, inside a
container bedecked with the national flag. It is hoped
that it will return to earth in 150 years.
Mr Niyazov, who has ruled the impoverished central
Asian state since 1985, has built up a huge
personality cult and dominates the struggling economy.
The streets are lined with golden monuments in his
honour, and he has reportedly banned smoking, gold
teeth, recorded music and lip-synching to songs.

The national anthem ends thus: "To my motherland, To
her sacred banner, To Saparmurat Niyazov, Let my
breath stop."


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