For more than 20 years Saparmurat "Turkmenbashi" Nyazov ruled Turkmenistan with a tight hand, first as secretary-general of the Communist Party, later as president for life. His authoritarian regime involved a personality cult with divine characteristics.
The collection of golden statues of the man anywhere in the country, easily exceeds the amount of Lenin-bustes that once stood here. In cities, in villages and along the roads in between, the Turkmen citizen is continuously confronted with the image of the great leader. His motto "The People, the Country, Turkmenbashi The Great" is displayed on facades and roofs of those who want to show him their loyalty.
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Belgian freelance photojournalist Nick Hannes travelled over land from Brussels to Vladivostok and back from October 2006 to October 2007, filing stories and photos of his discoveries on his news blog. During his 12-month journey Hannes covered 50,000 kilometers crossing the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Mongolia, China and Russia, meeting earthquake refugees, imams, nomadic shepherds and many more. EurasiaNet is presenting a four-part series of audio-enhanced slideshows, highlighting key stops on his trip. More photos and notes from his trip can be seen at www.nickhannes.be.