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The Talented Mr. Berdymukhammedov


Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov performs on his birthday in Ashgabat on June 29.

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov performs on his birthday in Ashgabat on June 29.

Being president of Turkmenistan, a country of some 5 million people with huge natural gas reserves, would not, one would think, leave much time for anything but the affairs of state.

Not so.

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has surprised his people by making an appearance on stage to perform his new song. Before a packed house, he is shown in a video running above the stage strumming a guitar to the accompaniment of...himself, shown also playing accordion.

WATCH: President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov performs "My White Rose For You":



It was no doubt hard for many to believe their president was also a songwriter, and indeed, there is reason not to believe it.

Although state television has identified Berdymukhammedov as the writer and performer of the song "My White Rose For You," it bears an uncanny resemblance to "On My Wedding Day," written and performed by Dovlet Amanlykov and posted on YouTube in 2009.

WATCH: Dovlet Amanlykov performs "On My Wedding Day":



Still, it was a look at a lighter side of Berdymukhammedov, whose attire seemed to have come from the American children's show "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood."

And the video of him "rocking out" in Ashgabat did have people on their feet. Who would dare to sit while Turkmenistan's head of state was crooning on stage?

By taking someone else's song and making it his own Berdymukhammedov is following in a tradition established by his predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov. Close inspection by a contributor to RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, also a historian, several years ago revealed Niyazov's book "Rukhnama" contains more than 70 pages of material taken word-for-word from Clifford E. Bosworth's "The New Islamic Dynasties."

-- Bruce Pannier

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