New anthem may drop 'Turkmenbashi' references

The Associated Press/December 15, 2008

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan - Turkmenistan appears to be removing all references to its autocratic former leader from the national anthem.

State media in the natural gas-rich Central Asian nation say lawmakers have approved revised anthem lyrics.

The reports Monday gave no specifics, but a revised anthem appeared over the weekend in a collection of writings by current Turkmen President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov.

It makes no reference to former leader Saparmarat Niyazov.

Turkmen authorities have gradually been dismantling signs of Niyazov's pervasive personality cult since his death two years ago.

Niyazov called himself Turkmenbashi, or father of all Turkmens. He issued bizarre decrees and made a spiritual tome he wrote mandatory reading.

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