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Esenov, Writer Who Challenged Authoritarian Turkmen Leadership, Dies At 95

Turkmen writer Rahim Esenov
Turkmen writer Rahim Esenov

ASHGABAT -- Rahim Esenov, one of the most well-known Turkmen writers who openly refused to follow the orders of the Central Asian nation's authoritarian leadership, has died in Ashgabat at the age of 95.

Esenov's relatives and friends told RFE/RL on April 25 that the writer died over the weekend. No cause of death was given.

Esenov openly rejected the cult of personality that was created by Turkmenistan’s first President Saparmurat Niyazov in the 1990s and was blacklisted for his refusal to go along with the leader.

He rejected Niyazov's demand to change the plot of his book The Crowned Wanderer which he worked on for 27 years. Because of this, he was deprived of his private house and had to move to a small apartment in the Turkmen capital.

In 2003, after Esenov published his book ignoring "recommendations" proposed by Niyazov, who wanted the book to be another tool to cement his power, the writer was arrested and spent several months in a detention center.

Esenov was released amid an outcry from international organizations.

In 2006, he was invited to New York, where he received the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.

For many years, Esenov cooperated with RFE/RL's Turkmen Service.