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Turkmenistan: Turkmenbashi Redux?

An opposition website is accusing Turkmenistan's leader, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, of aspiring to build a cult of personality, just like his predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov.

According to a March 6 report on the opposition news website Chrono-tm.org, Berdymukhamedov is making his own writings required reading for Turkmen citizens. For almost a decade, Niyazov's spiritual guide, the Ruhnama, has served as Turkmenistan's main textbook in schools. But it looks like that may not be the case for much longer. Another website, Khronika Turkmenistana, reports that the Ruhnama is being removed from government offices and state enterprises.

There are other indicators that Berdymukhamedov is growing more comfortable atop Turkmenistan's authoritarian power structure. According to the Russian news agency Interfax, the Turkmen leader has had a mosque named after him. The newly built white marble Gurbanguly Hadji mosque, located in the city of Mary, has a turquoise 24-meter dome, four minarets and can accommodate 2,500 worshippers. It was built with a $1 million donation from the president's charitable fund, Interfax reported.

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Turkmenistan: Turkmenbashi Redux?

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