Friday, April 25, 2008

Turkmenistan to drop late dictator's month names

You have to have a huge ego to run a country, but how big does your ego need to be to change the names of the months themselves (including naming one of them after yourself)?

That's exactly what Saparmurat Niyazov, former president of the Central Asian state of Turkmenistan did. A mild-mannered fellow, Niyazov called himself "Turkmenbashi" – or Father of all Turkmen. Turkmenbashi is also the month formerly known as January in Turkmenistan. In addition to Turkmenbashi, Niyazov named months after his mother and a book of philosophy he wrote.

Niyazov died suddenly in 2006, and Turkmenistan's new president Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov has taken on the task of dismantling the large cult of personality that Niyazov built, which includes restoring the months to their former names. He has also loosened restrictions on the internet and improved educational standards in the country.

Turkmen feel that their country is still far from being democratic, but calling January "January" is at least a small step in the right direction.
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