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Updating The Personality Cult, Turkmen-Style

A statue of the grandfather of Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov in Yzgant

A statue of the grandfather of Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov in Yzgant

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov last week unveiled a new statue of his father, Malikguly Berdymukhammedov.

The statue, which depicts the president's father sitting in an armchair with his hat on his lap, has been erected at Turkmenistan's Military Academy.

It's not the first time Berdymukhammedov has honored his family members with a statue. Last September, a bust of the president's grandfather, Berdymukhamed Annaev, was unveiled in his native village of Yzgant.

Annaev was further "immortalized" by officials in Akhal province, who named a new school in Yzgant after him.

When Berdymukhammedov came to power three years ago, many Turkmens expected the new leader would put an end to the excessive personality cult of his eccentric predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov.

Niyazov's had "decorated" the country with thousands of his statues, authored numerous books, and renamed streets and calendar months after himself and his family members.

Niyazov's photos were removed from big billboards, his statues -- including the rotating, 12-meter-high gold sculpture -- toppled, and the old names of calendar months were restored by Berdymukhammedov's order.

But it seems the new president is simply replacing Niyazov's personality cult with his own. His photos have appeared on city billboards and top stories in every publication in Turkmenistan, including women's magazines, feature the president's meetings, speeches, and trips.

Berdymukhammedov doesn't have a giant gold statue of himself yet, but he has managed to author several books on medicine and Turkmen history and traditions.

-- Farangis Najibullah

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