Special Sub-Topic: Turkmenbashi, Crazy Dictator of Absurdistan
|First of all, Saparmurat Niyazov was not content to be referred to by his own name. Granted, he liked it enough that the press could refer to it in full in any and all articles about him, while they referred to other politicians by first initial and last name only. But anyway, he also liked to be called "Turkmenbashi". What is the meaning of "Turkmenbashi"?|
Leader of all ethnic Turkmen. Actually, his preferred form of address was "His Excellency Saparmurat Niyazov Turkmenbashi, President of Turkmenistan and Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers". It's a good thing he eventually restricted smoking in Turkmenistan (after he, himself, quit), because I'm sure people ran out of breath addressing him.
|So we've established that Saparmurat Niyazov liked to be called Turkmenbashi. He also just plain liked to hear it said. Which of the following other things did he rename "Turkmenbashi"?|
All of these (The month of January, The seaport city of Krasnovodsk, A meteorite that landed during his reign). Tennis star Andre Agassi was quoted in a commercial as saying "Image is everything", and Niyazov may have been listening. In his quest to forge a national identity for Turkmenistan, he liked to rename many things to build an image that either strengthened Turkmen history or himself.
He renamed all the months of the calendar, naming January after himself, while giving the other months various patriotic names, such as naming February after the flag and June, July, August, and November after various Turkmen historical figures.
He also followed in the footsteps of his Soviet personality cult predecessor Joseph Stalin in putting his name on cities, schools, and several other things, though the meteorite is probably the one that may be the most absurd.
|Actually, Saparmurat Niyazov was a bit of a momma's boy. In fact, he worshipped his mother, Gurbansoltanedzhe. In addition to renaming the month of April after her, what else did he name after her?|
Bread. Under Niyazov, the Turkmen word for "bread" became illegal. Instead, as an homage to the life-giving powers of both bread and mothers, he made the two synonymous. His mother's name was now the Turkmen word for bread.
Actually, in all fairness, Niyazov did not have an easy childhood, and this worship of his mother was more a worship of the image of motherhood than of his actual mother. He was an orphan, his father having died in World War II when he was a baby, while his mother and the rest of his family died in an earthquake when he was eight. He was raised in a Soviet orphanage, then eventually put in the custody of a distant relative.
He did rename the days of the week, except for Friday, which already had the Turkmen for "mother" in it, but none of them were named for people. The days of the week were named for platitudes: the good day, the blessed day, the day of recovery, etc.
|One of the ways that Saparmurat Niyazov built his power was through demanding all his citizens read and know well a book he had written. Knowledge of this book (up to and including reciting passages from memory) was required to get a driver's license or a state job, and this book was a required presence in all schools, churches, and bookstores. What was the name of this book that Niyazov demanded be considered equal to the Koran in Turkmen society?|
The Ruhnama. "The Little Red Book" was Mao Tse-Tung's book of quotations. It is unknown if its existence and influence on the Chinese people was any factor in the writing of "The Ruhnama".
"The Rubaiyat" was a book of poetry by 11th century Persian poet Omar Khayyam.
"The Ruhnama" (also spelled "Rukhnama", and subtitled "The Book of the Soul") was a book of history, poetry, and moral teachings. When Muslim leaders refused to display the book equally with the Koran (which would be considered to be blasphemous), they often faced punishment, up to and including having their mosques destroyed.
Lest anyone question how highly Niyazov viewed himself or his book, he was quoted in 2006 as saying he had interceded with Allah to ensure that any student who read "The Ruhnama" three times would automatically get into paradise.
|Saparmurat Niyazov's picture was on all the money. Photos and paintings hung on walls everywhere, including on all major buildings and city streets. A gold plated statue on top of the Neutrality Arch, one of Turkmenistan's greatest monuments, rotated so that Niyazov always faced the sun. When asked about his feelings about all this, what was Niyazov quoted as saying?|
I'm personally against seeing my pictures and statues in the streets, but it's what the people want.. Quoted in a "60 Minutes" story, January 4, 2004. The full quote was, "If I was a worker and my president gave me all the things they have here in Turkmenistan, I would not only paint his picture, I would have his picture on my shoulder, or on my clothing. I'm personally against seeing my pictures and statues in the streets, but it's what the people want."
|Health care may have been a concern for Saparmurat Niyazov. Which of the following did he do regarding the health care situation in Turkmenistan?|
All of these (Fired 15,000 public health workers and replaced them with military conscripts, Closed all hospitals outside of Ashkabat and ordered all sick people needing care to travel there, Outlawed gold teeth and tooth caps and encouraged the chewing of bones to improve dental health). Niyazov decided that it would be more economical to require that soldiers handle much of Turkmenistan's healthcare system rather than using expensive trained professionals. By closing all but a few hospitals and eliminating anybody who would have any skills and education that would command any real expense, costs could be kept to an absolute minimum. As for the impact that such cuts would have on the general welfare of the people, Niyazov did not seem to be too concerned about that.
Niyazov was known to be suspicious of higher education in general, since much of the information taught in colleges and universities originated from outside Turkmen culture.
|Literacy and education were another concern of Saparmurat Niyazov's. In response to his belief that many rural Turkmen were not reading, which of the following did he do?|
Closed all libraries outside the capital city of Ashkabat. As far as Niyazov was concerned, the only books that most Turkmen needed to read were the Koran and his "Ruhnama", not necessarily in that order, and that they should already have several copies of those books on hand in their homes, schools, workplaces, and mosques. Any other literary works were unnecessary for average Turkmen, and so the fact that they were not actively reading was not a problem.
"The Ruhnama" was taught in schools and encyclopedic knowledge of it was required to get a driver's license or to hold many jobs, so that successfully answered the literacy question, as far as Niyazov was concerned.
|Saparmurat Niyazov reportedly had about $3 billion under his control under foreign banks. Which of the following did he do to help avert the risk of a financial crisis within Turkmenistan?|
Canceled the pensions of one-third of the country's elderly and ordered past payments be paid back. While the three incorrect solutions would make sense for any normal country's leader to do in the face of a financial crisis, remember that this is a case where absurdity is the norm.
Turkmenistan has lots of natural gas, but has kept the export prices low, so the Ukraine, Russia, and Iran, its principal trading partners, don't look elsewhere instead. They likely had ample room to increase prices without problems, however. Their prices were extremely low in comparison to elsewhere.
Niyazov's canceling of old-age pensions and demanding that pensioners pay back pensions received in the previous two years was believed to have resulted in the premature deaths of many of Turkmenistan's elderly.
|Which of the following were illegal in Turkmenistan under Saparmurat Niyazov?|
All of these (News reporters wearing makeup, Men wearing beards, Listening to recorded music). Like any good iron-fisted dictator, especially one who put out a book of moral teachings, if Niyazov didn't like it, neither should anyone else. Niyazov was fond of the tan, wheat-colored skin that most ethnic Turkmen have and felt that makeup made their faces too pale, so he outlawed the makeup. Niyazov didn't like beards or long hair on men, so nobody could have them. Especially offensive to Niyazov was lip-syncing, and to ensure that couldn't happen as well as to promote indigenous Turkmen music against outside negative influences, all recorded music was banned.
|Saparmurat Niyazov was the head of the Turkmen Communist party from 1985-1992. In 1992, after Turkmenistan gained independence from the Soviet Union, he was elected president of Turkmenistan. In 1994, an election was held and his term was extended to 2002. What was the popular vote percentage that voted to extend his term to 2002?|
99.9%. Results were similar to Soviet era elections. Opposition was not tolerated, and as such, he ran unopposed. Voters were expected to vote in favor of Niyazov, and they did.
Such elections must have been too much of a cliffhanger for him, however, because in 1999, the parliamentary elections were held, with only handpicked candidates from Niyazov's party running, and after they were elected unanimously, Niyazov was declared president for life. In doing so, Turkmenistan was the first former Soviet republic to abandon free elections, no surprise since Niyazov, the only leader an independent Turkmenistan had ever seen, was the last Soviet head of the Communist party.
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