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Turkmenistan To Mark Holiday Without Turkmenbashi Images

A statue of former Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov stands in the center of Ashgabat.
ASHGABAT -- Turkmenistan is celebrating a major national holiday without its traditional images of late President Saparmurat "Turkmenbashi" Niyazov, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reports.

Neutrality Day, which is celebrated on December 12, is one of three major national holidays in Turkmenistan along with Independence Day and National Flag Day.

Traditionally, two weeks prior to its celebration, the emblems depicting the Neutrality Monument -- which has a rotating golden statue of Niyazov and sits in central Ashgabat -- are placed in public places, on the facades of state buildings and showcased in all media.

But this year the UN symbol, the Turkmen flag, and five "gols" -- famous carpet patterns from five Turkmen provinces -- were used instead.

The Neutrality Monument was erected to commemorate the country's permanent neutral status, as approved by the UN General Assembly on December 12, 1995.

Niyazov -- who was well-known for his personality cult -- had at least one city and many streets, squares, schools, farms, districts, food products, and even a month on the calendar renamed after him.

Since Niyazov's death, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has had some of the old names restored and many of Niyazov's portraits have been removed from billboards and other places around the country.

The Turkmen government even reportedly announced plans last year to move the Neutrality Monument from the capital city's center to another site in Ashgabat, although it has not yet been moved.