|Biographical detail : ||Turkmenistan’s ‘iron ruler’
Turkmenistan’s authoritarian president Saparmurat Niyazov ruled his country for 21 years. In 1999, he was made president-for-life of the Central Asian country where he was the centre of a personality cult.
Head of Communist Party in Turkmenistan, then a Soviet republic, in 1985, Saparmurat styled himself Turkmenbashi, Father of the Turkmen when he was elected first president of independent Turkmenistan in 1991.
He introduced bizarre laws, banning young men from wearing beards and listening to car radios. 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.
Niyazov was intolerant of criticism and allowed no political opposition or free media in the nation of 5 million people where poverty remained rife in the energy-rich country – the world’s fifth largest natural gas reserves as well as substantial oil resources.
Saparmurat Niyazov died of a sudden cardiac arrest in the capital Ashgabat.