Turkmen president abolishes calendar introduced by his eccentric predecessor

The Canadian Press/April 24, 2008

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan - When it comes to the calendar, people in the central Asian republic of Turkmenistan are now back on the same page as the rest of us.

State media say President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov has abolished a calendar introduced by his eccentric predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov.

Niyazov, who ruled the gas-rich former Soviet republic for 21 years until his death in 2006, developed an elaborate personality cult .

Among other things, he changed the calendar to have some months and days named after himself and his parents and even a book he wrote.

Other months and days were named after symbols of Turkmenistan's independence and prominent figures in Turkmen history.

Berdymukhamedov says that henceforth the calendar will have to comply with international standards.

Niyazov, who preferred to be called Turkmenbashi, or Father of All Turkmen, made his book "Rukhnama" obligatory for students and government officials and renamed Saturday as Rukhnama Day.

Niyazov also tapped the country's vast energy wealth for outlandish projects, including a theme park based on Turkmen folk art and fairy tales; a giant, man-made lake in the Kara Kum desert; and a vast cypress forest aimed at changing the desert climate.

His golden statues and busts are still scattered across the country and his portrait is on every bank note and coin.

Berdymukhamedov, a former health minister, has signalled limited changes and more openness but also has vowed to adhere largely to the authoritarian course set by Niyazov.

Berdymukhamedov also has issued coins with his portrait and published books with his speeches - developments seen by some as the beginning of a personality cult similar to Niyazov's.

Meanwhile, Berdymukhamedov on Wednesday ordered preparations for a constitutional reform that would involve the structure of Parliament and local governance. No details have been given.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.