Turkmenistan’s chief health fanatic led by example on this year’s state-wide Day of Health, state television footage shows, dispelling opposition reports the omnipotent president is suffering health problems.
State-run television showed Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov riding a horse, cycling, playing volleyball and pumping iron on the November 2 holiday, Russia’s Mir TV reported.
Not content building only his own personality cult, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov is ensuring his father becomes a subject of adoration in Turkmenistan as well.
The state-run TDH news agency reported on October 21 that Berdymukhamedov has released a novel about his 81-year-old father’s boyhood entitled, "The Bird of Happiness."
The speaker of the Turkmen parliament, members of government, and MPs attended the launch, which was held in Dashoguz.
Berdymukhamedov, a trained dentist, has already published books on medicinal plants, carpet weaving, horses, history and ethnography.
The novel narrates 18 months of Myalikguly Berdymukhamedov's childhood during the lean years of World War Two. During the war, nine-year-old Myalikguly assumed responsibility for his family when his father Berdymukhamed Annayev was drafted.
For the president, the story of his father’s life was “a school of courage and maturity,” TDH said, in what appears to be the first review of the book.
"Events the Turkmen president's father lived through during those years of hardship and his enormous achievements and selflessness are examples of great heroism. Tales of early maturation, unselfish love for the motherland and people, hard work, high spirituality, national traditions and customs, moral and ethical values of the Turkmen people [...] became for the head of the Turkmen state, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, a school of courage and maturity," TDH said.
A lover of all things fast, Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov is now heavily involved in promoting bicycles ahead of a national cycling race scheduled for September 1.
Earlier this month, Berdymukhamedov kicked off a summertime cycling drive in the hot desert nation by appearing on national television and winning a cycling race.
Berdymukhamedov tends to win when he competes. Last year he won his country’s first car race after entering at the last minute. The BBC reported that “the apparently choreographed display seemed designed to enhance the president's image as a man of action.” In April, the president won an $11-million purse in a horse race just seconds before taking a nasty spill.
But today Turkmen live in what Berdymukhamedov has dubbed “The Era of Supreme Happiness of the Stable State.” So nothing can thwart a bit of sporting fun.
On August 24, Berdymukhamedov inspected thoroughfares in his capital, Ashgabat, and took part in a ride with a group of professional cyclists, Turkmenistan's state-run TDH news agency reported.
“In the era of might and happiness, state policy priorities include developing a movement for physical training and healthy living, as well as high-achievement sports, creating all the necessary conditions for improving the nation's health, and shaping a generation that is physically healthy and spiritually perfect,” TDH quoted Berdymukhamedov as saying.
Turkmenistan’s president has dismantled some of his predecessor’s personality cult – only to replace it with a new one, in the spirit of two for the price of one: Aside from filling television screens and billboards with images of himself, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov is intent on immortalizing his father.
Citing Turkmen state television, AFP reported on August 13 that Berdymukhamedov had unveiled a 5-meter bronze bust of his father, Myalikguly Berdymukhamedov, to mark the patriarch’s 81st birthday. The bust is housed at a compound newly built for the Interior Ministry’s military unit No. 1001, where the elder Berdymukhamedov served and retired as a lieutenant colonel back in 1982. Under the terms of a parliamentary resolution last year, the unit now bears Berdymukhamedov Senior’s name.
“Myalikguly Berdymukhamedov enjoys a great reputation as a man who managed to bring up a highly humane son who is infinitely loyal to the Turkmen people and sincerely loves his people, showing a brilliant example of selfless service to his people. The courageous image of Myalikguly Berdymukhamedov, the father of the distinguished president, and his highest humanity serve as [an] enormous example for imitation for all of us,” the resolution says, according to the official Turkmenistan.ru.
After a decade of grilling students on the former president’s “book of the soul,” this fall Turkmenistan will remove the Ruhnama from its school curriculum.
A news website run by Turkmen exiles in Vienna reported this week that a new academic program drafted by Turkmenistan’s Education Ministry for the country’s secondary schools did not include Saparmurat Niyazov’s 2001 Ruhnama, which was once required reading not only for students, but for government employees, too.
According to the Chronicles of Turkmenistan, subjects like economics will replace classes dedicated to the book, which became part of the curriculum in 2002.
Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency confirmed the report and, citing an unnamed ministry official, said on August 1 that “prospective university students will still have to study the Ruhnama for their entry exams.”
Niyazov – who called himself Turkmenbashi, or “Father of the Turkmen” – once instructed youth to read the spiritual guide three times a day in order to secure a place in heaven.
Two years after Niyazov’s 2006 death, the Ruhnama was removed from the university curricula and was taught only one hour per week in secondary schools, RIA Novosti said.
UPDATE: The publicist for J.Lo (or J-Low, as she's being called on Twitter) has effectively admitted not knowing how to use Google: "Had there been knowledge of human rights issues [of] any kind, Jennifer would not have attended," the Associated Press quoted her representative as saying.
Pop star Jennifer Lopez performed at a glitzy birthday bash for the dictator of totalitarian, gas-rich Turkmenistan on Saturday, AFP reported, prompting fury from human rights activists.
Held at President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov’s multi-billion-dollar Avaza resort on the Caspian Sea, the party was a gift from the China National Petroleum Corporation, a company representative told AFP. In 2009 CNPC opened a pipeline carrying Turkmen natural gas to China.
Dressed in a clingy outfit, the singer danced with half-naked backing dancers and shook her famous behind in a rare performance for the Muslim country, watched by ministers, ambassadors and chief executives of state-owned companies, all of whom applauded enthusiastically.
She later appeared in a traditional Turkmen dress to sing "Happy birthday, Mr President" along with stars from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and China.
Berdymukhamedov's 56th birthday bash at the glitzy resort in Avaza, which means "land of singing waves", is officially tied to Turkmen cultural week, which culminated on Saturday with the opening of a yacht club at the resort and a firework display which lasted 20 minutes.
You would think that after his near-death experience on the track a couple of weeks back Turkmenistan’s top jockey, Gurbanguly Berdymukhemedov, might stop playing with ponies for a while. But nooooo. …
Berdymukhamedov was back in the saddle the other day hosting Turkish President Abdullah Gül at the track in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat. Gül was in Turkmenistan on a state visit, during which he signed an array of bilateral agreements, including one on energy cooperation. Berdymukhamedov also lavished some nice swag on his Turkish guest, including a state medal, an honorary professorship and an Akhal-Teke horse.
It’s ironic that as Gul was buddying up to Berdymukhamedov, whose regime is ranked by watchdog groups as one of the most despotic on earth, protests were erupting in Istanbul over the Turkish government’s increasingly authoritarian ways. Makes you wonder whether Berdymukhedov has been giving Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pointers on how to trample on individual rights?
Speaking of horses, Berdymukhamedov clearly suffers from a strange strain of equinophlia. If you delve into the history of horse-obsessed despots, you may recall that the Roman Emperor Caligula expressed an intention to make his favorite horse a consul. So don’t be surprised if Berdymukhamedov issues a presidential decree one of these days appointing an Akhal-Teke stallion as education minister.
On the day his capital received a Guinness rating as the world capital of white marble-clad buildings, Turkmenistan's attention-craving President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov added yet another title to his collection: “Distinguished Architect of Turkmenistan.”
The official TDH news agency reports that Berdymukhamedov, who likes to be called “The Protector” (Arkadag in Turkmen), was granted the honorary title by the rubber-stamp parliament on May 25. The title recognizes Berdymukhamedov’s "titanic efforts put into the political, economic and cultural development of our beloved Motherland."
Just in case anyone wasn’t convinced, on the same day Berdymukhamedov received another recognition for his efforts. Craig Glenday, the editor-in-chief of the Guinness World Records book, flew in to present the distinguished architect with a certificate recognizing Ashgabat as the city with the most white marble-clad buildings in the world, TDH reported.
"In an impressive architectural re-styling effort led by the government of Turkmenistan, an area measuring 22 km² (8.49 mi²) in the capital Ashgabat boasts 543 new buildings clad with 4,513,584 m² (48,583,619 ft²) of white marble," the Guinness website says. "If the marble was laid out flat, there would be one square meter of marble for every 4.87 m² of land."
The celebrations started on April 1 with government minders leading exercises. Students went first, at 6:45 a.m., Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency reported. Market workers assembled for 15 minutes of calisthenics in downtown Ashgabat.
This is the second annual Week of Health and Happiness. At the government meeting on March 29 where he announced this year’s program, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov stressed the importance of the nation's health and ordered that events be held all over the country, the state-run TDH news agency reported.
According to TDH, the Week will conclude with a youth cycling race into the hills above Ashgabat on April 7, World Health Day, along the aptly named Health Path – designed by Berdymukhamedov's predecessor, the late Saparmurat Niyazov.
While Niyazov saw exercise as necessary for everyone but himself (he supposedly used to fly in a helicopter to meet his sweaty and exhausted ministers at the top), Berdymukhamedov leads by example: He took part in the country's first car race last year and won. He’s also an avid racehorse enthusiast.
Sports are generally a top-down affair in Turkmenistan. Last year Berdymukhamedov instructed his desert nation to start playing ice hockey.
Turkmenistan has begun an epic project to turn itself from one of the driest nations on earth into a land of sweeping forests.
The Karakum Desert covers 80 percent of the country’s territory and temperatures often reach 50 degrees Celsius in the summer, lending a decidedly quixotic flavor to the enterprise.
State television showed President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov leading the way March 9 in a mass tree-planting exercise designed to create green belts around cities and villages. "In the current era of power and happiness, Turkmenistan will become a land of lush gardens and fields, green oases, fabulous parks and dense forests, heralding growth and renewal," Neutral Turkmenistan newspaper reported on March 11.
In the first step of his desert-greening plan, Berdymukhamedov signed a decree on February 22 ordering the planting of 3 million deciduous, coniferous, fruit tree and grapevine seedlings.
The “grand greening action” involving 465,000 people – more than one-tenth of the country’s population – went ahead as planned despite the cold weather and a recent snowfall. "Nearly 755,000 seedlings of coniferous trees and other species were planted,” the state-run newspaper reported on March 11. “Steps were also taken to care for the more than 1.6 million saplings planted earlier.”
Footage on state television showed the usual voluble festivities, taking place against the backdrop of the snow-fringed Kopet Dag Mountains on the southern limits of the capital, Ashgabat.
In an awkward contrivance, the official narrative seeks to depict the president as both exceptional and ordinary, so Berdymukhamedov was shown arriving at the wheel of a white foreign-made car, wearing jeans and a casual sports jacket. Girls in national dress greeted him with bunches of flowers.