ASHGABAT -- Turkmenistan's first bona fide opera star, soprano singer Annagul Annakuliyeva, died in Ashgabat on July 18 at the age of 85, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reports.
She had battled a lengthy illness.
Annakuliyeva was famous throughout the former Soviet Union and was recognized by the Kremlin as a USSR People's Artist.
Annakuliyeva started working in 1941 for the Turkmen Opera and Ballet Theater in Ashgabat, where she starred in the lead role of the opera "Zohre and Tahyr."
Along with her opera and theater performances, Annakuliyeva also appeared in several Soviet films, some of them directed by her husband, Alty Garliyev.
Opera was banned in Turkmenistan by the late leader Saparmurat Niyazov in 2001, but was restored last year by his successor, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.