“I believe in benevolent dictatorship provided I am the dictator” said Richard Branson.
True, who would want to be under a ruler where the rule is anything and everything that the ruler fantasizes about, where dissent means death, where freedom is non existent, where new ideas are not welcome, where God is a human, where land and all natural resources belong to only one person, where the entire nation is under slavery. Well, that is what a dictator is most of the times. And this dictator most of the time would be that person whom the very same people voted into power with great confidence. Power Corrupts, and when it does, it does so absolutely.
And today we will read about this Great(?) dictator who ruled this country called Turkmenistan not so long ago, just as recently as from 1992 to 2006, for 16 complete years and his funeral was attended by none other than our own present Prime Minister :)
Turkmenistan was a part of the earlier Soviet Union and this dictator called Saparmurat Atayevich Niyazov took over as the president of this country as soon as it became independent from the Soviet Union.
Now comes the first punch. In this first election of Turkmenistan he came to power with absolute majority. How many votes did the second in place get? None!! Meaning, there was no second contestant in the election, he was the ONLY contestant! Remember that Jamoon advertisement where a school kid comes home and says he came second in a running race where there were only two participants? That kid atleast had one competitor :)
Turkmenbashi – Source:Wikipedia
As luckier as it can be for most dictators, Turkmenistan even though most of it is desert, contains world’s fourth largest reserves of Natural Gas. What else does a dictator need when nature has piled up enough resources for him to dig out and make a living, and also take the living out of the rest.
Now what was the first thing he did when he took power?
The next thing he did was to change his title from “President of Turkmenistan” to “Founder and President of Association of Turkmens of the World“. Association of Turkmens?? Of the world??? wt..
And then he banned all other political parties in the country other than his own DPT – Democratic People’s Party of Turkmenistan.
As I said earlier, there was no need to worry about the nation’s income for money to spend on his ambitious plans. The Natural Gas and Petroleum exports of the country were earning enough money.
So what happened next? Krasnovodsk is a very important city in Turkmenistan, it is a port city as well as the only sea link to the west. Can something so important be named something so different? In 1992 our Turkmenbashi changed the name of this city to? What else? Turkmenbashi! Aren’t school lessons becoming easy, one word answer for any question asked. Who is your President? Turkmenbashi. Which city you live in? Turkmenbashi. What did you have for your breakfast?? :)
In 1994 he conducted a people’s opinion poll where he requested that he be made president for another 10 years to oversee a 10 year development plan of Turkmenistan which he said he had started in 1992.
99.9% of the people voted approving his request to be the President till 2002! Guess the other 0.1% was definitely a counting error.
Ok, next? See below.
Gold Statue of Turkmenbashi – Source: Wikipedia
What you see at the tip of the above structure is a statue of Turkmenbashi made of pure Gold. Probably part of the 10 year development plan which the President had planned. Not so interesting fact? Well, this statue rotates 360 degrees every 24 hours, so that the statue always is facing the Sun. Even during the night?
PS: Anything similar in India? Well, yes how can one forget the on going developmental work in Uttar Pradesh of Maya Memsaab (Mayawati) and her Statues.
A Closer look of the Gold Statue
Next comes the all mighty world wide web which is the greatest challenge faced by the all powerful modern dictators. Pen is always mightier than Gun. Remember you cannot access popular sites like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube etc in countries like China, Pakistan etc. And Turkmenbashi was no different to this. In 2000 he canceled the licenses of all Internet Service Providers in Turkmenistan and ordered that Internet services can be provided only by the state owned Telecom company. Fine, no matter who provides the internet services, the content remains the same isnt it? So in 2001 he shut down all Internet Cafes in the country. If you wanna surf, surf at home so that we can know who is surfing what and catch him if he types anything other than Turkmenbashi in Google Search :)
And what was our Association President doing all these years between 1992 and 2001? Well, he was busy writing a book, a book called Ruhnama – The book of the soul! Wow. This was not just his autobiography, but also a spiritual and moral guide to the people of Turkmenistan, a book on history (which was rewritten by our President to make it easy), a book on which the nation’s art and culture had to be based on, a book which contained even stories and poems, an all in one guide. You read this book and you get the highest educational certificate in the country. This book was declared as the official Guide to the people of Turkmenistan.
Reading this book was mandatory in all schools, colleges and offices. You would definitely get questions from this book in your job interviews. There were exams based on the content of this book, even in tests for driving licenses there were questions from this book! But wasnt that simple a life to live. Just read one book instead of so many, and you are done studying for all your exams and tests that you may ever face in the country.
How to encourage students to read this book? Turkmenbashi said that he had had a conversation with God and came to an understanding with the almighty where in any student who would read Ruhnama would get a free pass to enter heaven! Now there you go, this book helps you not only here on earth, but also in your after life. Please order a copy immediately.
Any disrespect to Turkmenbashi or his book would invite capital punishment, not only for the offender but even for his entire family sometimes! A huge replica of the book was built in the country’s capital Ashgabat and every evening at 8 PM this book opens and play passages from the actual book and that too accompanied by video! He even sent a copy of this book to space so that it can stay on board a satellite for at least a century! So creative, isn’t it?
Replica of Ruhanama in Ashgabat – Source Wikipedia
This Daddy of Turkmenistan now wanted to have control over the Calendar. So he renamed all the months and even days of the week in Turkmenistan. Well, but you cannot call all the months Turkmenbashi, can you? So what he did?
The first month was called, of course what else, Turkmenbashi. (PS: I have copied this word Turkmenbashi in my clipboard while writing this article, its so useful and saves a lot of typing you know)
The second month was called, by the name of the flag day of Turkmenistan which is celebrated on – when else? – on the birthday of Turkmenbashi. Other months were named after historic figures in his book Ruhnama. September was named as Ruhnama! April was named after his mother and so on..
He gave new names to weekdays as well, like Rest day, Main Day, Spirit day etc.
Then he named schools, airports etc after himself and also after the members of his family. He even named a meteorite after himself! He also introduced a new alphabet in Turkmen.
But didnt he do anything useful for his people? He did. Water, Gas, Electricity, Refined Salt was all free in his country! Imagine Gas and Electricity being free while in our country we are even paying for bottled water and battling never ending power cuts and fuel price hikes! He also invested heavily in advanced technology and made sure that Turkmenistan was able to process most of its petroleum product output instead of being a crude petroleum supplier. Now that was a smart move. Anything processed costs much much more than the raw material. Iron ore is very cheap compared to Steel, and yet in India we end up exporting most of our precious Iron ore for low cost and spend heavily on importing costly steel. Doesn’t Turkmenbashi sound more intelligent?
In 2002 when his 10 year plan ended and he had to vacate his Presidency and declare an election, he instead declared himself as the President for Life of Turkmenistan! So simple isn’t it. President for Life.
In 2005 he closed all hospitals outside the Capital city saying that sick people should come to the Capital for any treatment. He even discontinued the pensions being paid to many elderly people in the country, and even demanded a payback from them of the pension amount they had received in the last two years!
He then altered the national anthem to included references to himself! Well Sir, do you think anything at all other than the sentence I LOVE ME. Doctors were ordered to stop taking Hippocratic Oath and instead take oath in his name! What a great doctor who doctored the lives of people like anything.
After he became ill due to smoking, he banned smoking in all public places. Please dont be like me was the message probably.
He also ordered that men should not wear long hair or beards. Ordered people in the country’s capital not to have more than one pet at home. Also banned news reporters from wearing make up, why? Because he thought women in his country were already beautiful and did not require makeup. Well said Sir :)
People were banned from having a Gold teeth and our Turkmenbashi gave a valuable advice – Chew bones to make your teeth strong – saying “I watched young dogs when I was young. They were given bones to gnaw to strengthen their teeth. Those of you whose teeth have fallen out did not chew on bones. This is my advice…”. Wow, so kind of you Sir.
And after all these great achievement of being in power for over 16 years, he died in 2006 of sudden Cardiac arrest. The media speculated that somebody had poisoned him. Solomon Grundy Born on a Monday……