Cult status dismantled

Sydney Morning Herald/May 6, 2008

A 75-Metre, rocket ship-like monument to the late ruler of Turkmenistan, topped with a golden statue that rotates to always face the sun, will be removed from the centre of the Turkmen capital, state news media have reported.

The decision to move the monument was the latest step by by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov in dismantling the personality cult of Saparmurat Niyazov, whose often bizarre decrees turned the isolated country into the punchline of a bad international joke.

The President had already reversed an order by Mr Niyazov renaming the days of the week and months of the year in honour of himself and his family. He had also ended bans on opera, ballet and the circus, which Mr Niyazov had decreed un-Turkmen, and lifted restrictions on the internet.

The monument, erected in 1998, features a giant white tripod with an Eiffel Tower-type observation deck, capped with a spinning 12-metre effigy of Mr Niyazov, who ruled from 1991 to his death in 2006.

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