Monday, July 13, 2009

The Anthem of Turkmenistan

The national anthem of Turkmenistan is called the National Anthem of Independent Neutral Turkmenistan (sometimes also Independent, Neutral, Turkmenistan State Anthem, a literal translation from Turkmen). The lyrics were written by the first president of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov (also known as Turkmenbashi, Turkmen: Türkmenbaşy). Niyazov died on 21 December 2006, and two years after his death the Parliament adopted a law that changed some of the lyrics – all references to Turkmenbashi in the anthem were replaced with the people.

Saparmurat Ataýewiç Niyazov (19 February 1940 – 21 December 2006) was a Turkmen politician who served as President of Turkmenistan from 2 November 1990 until his death in 2006. He was First Secretary of the Turkmen Communist Party from 1985 until 1991 and continued to lead Turkmenistan for 15 years after independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. He was known in English as Saparmurat Atayevich Niyazov, the romanization of the Russian spelling Сапармурат Атаевич Ниязов of his Turkmen name.

Turkmen media referred to him using the title "His Excellency Saparmurat Türkmenbaşy, President of Turkmenistan and Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers". His title Türkmenbaşy, or Turkmenbashi, meaning Leader of Turkmens, referred to his position as the founder and president of the Association of Turkmens of the World.

Foreign media criticized him as one of the world's most totalitarian and repressive dictators, highlighting his reputation of imposing his personal eccentricities upon the country, which extended to renaming months after members of his family. Global Witness, a London-based human rights organization, reported that money under Niyazov's control and held overseas may be in excess of US$3 billion, of which $2 billion is supposedly situated in the Foreign Exchange Reserve Fund at Deutsche Bank in Germany.

Niyazov became president at the transition of Turkmenistan from a SSR in the Soviet Union to an independent state; his presidency was characterized by a number of factors: an initial crumbling inherited from the centralized soviet model that in many respects was unsuited to function as a separate entity, large amounts of foreign income from gas and petroleum reserves (~2-4billion $ as of 2005), outside concern about press freedom and to a lesser extent religious rights of minority religious groups, a personal attempt to create a background for the new state of Turkmenistan such as writing and promoting the Ruhnama, promoting native culture (and by extension prohibiting foreign culture), as well the creation of new holidays with a specific Turkmen nature.

Niyazov became a substitute for the vacuum left by the downfall of the communist system, with his image replacing those of Stalin, Marx and Lenin; this coupled with his promotion of the Ruhnama and various other decrees, as well as the doting actions of the official Turkmen media gave rise to the clear appearance of a 'cult of personality'. The eccentric nature of some of his decrees, coupled with the vast number of images of the president led to the perception , especially in western countries, of a despotic leader, rich on oil wealth glorifying himself whilst the population gained no benefit.

On December 21, 2006, Turkmen state television announced that President Niyazov had died of sudden cardiac arrest. Niyazov had been taking medication for an unidentified cardiac condition. The Turkmen Embassy in Moscow later confirmed this report.

According to the Constitution of Turkmenistan, Öwezgeldi Ataýew, Chairman of the Parliament, would assume the presidency. Deputy Prime Minister Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow was named as head of the commission organizing the state funeral. Due to the imprisonment of Öwezgeldi Ataýew who, under the Constitution is first in line to succeed the presidency, Berdimuhamedow was named as acting president. Berdimuhamedow and the Halk Maslahaty announced on December 26 that the next presidential elections would be held on February 11, 2007.

The circumstances of Niyazov's passing has been surrounded by some media speculation, including that Niyazov had been the victim of poisoning. Some Turkmen opposition sources also claim that Niyazov died several days before the officially announced date of December 21.