Friday, December 22, 2006


Didn’t I tell you that 2006 was turning out to be a really, really bad year for dictators?

Well, there is news overnight that Saparmurat Niyazov, the “president for life” of the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan, has died overnight.

A former Soviet Communist Party official, Niyazov had ruled the energy-rich nation for 21 years, quashing all opposition along the way, muzzling whatever was left of a free media and forcing dissidents into exile. The lucky ones, that is.

And like so many other dictators, he basked in what has been described as a “unique” and “bizarre” personality cult.

He gave himself the title of Great Head of the Turkmen, declared himself President for Life in 1999 and had thousands of flattering portraits of him displayed in offices and homes throughout the country.

Sounds familiar?

Having renamed the month of January after himself (naturally), Niyazov also had a statue in gold leaf built in his honour in the capital city, Ashgabat. As you would expect, the statue rotates so that it always faces the sun.

Meanwhile, in Havana …


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