Thursday, October 12, 2006


How Well do you know your Rukhnama?

Back in November last year I posted that-whatever our moans about our political leaders- we should be very, very glad not to live in Turkmenistan, especially given the behaviour of its ruler, President Saparmurat Niyazov. An article in the Daily Telegraph given to me by a member of my current affairs class(thanks Selwyn) updates the story in a way which greatly reinforces my original point.

This residual Stalinist clone has already decorated his impoverished country with golden statues of himself(picture shows newly weds in front of one), has banned his citizens from wearing gold teeth or, because he found la Traviata immoral, listening to opera. But it is the Rukhnama, to which I would direct readers' attention, as this surely, indicates what a Himalayan size fruitcake old Niyazov really is.

This 400 page volume penned by Ni himself, is not just something, produced by the head of state, like Henry VIII's songs, as the product of a harmless hobby. No, this fearsome volume is meant to provide spiritual guidance to the nation. And it's by no means optional either. School teachers have been ordered to write articles in newspapers singing the praises of the president's prolix effusions. Desperate to avoid the sack or reduced pay(the penalties for failing to make it into print), teachers have been besieging newspaper offices with enthusiasm unequalled by any free-lancer over here.

But there's more and worse: teachers will soon also have to sit an examination to demonstrate their knowledge of said dubious philosophical tour de force which now already comprises most of the school syllabus.

'Even medical students must spend most of their time learning from it. The only other author they are allowed to read is the 11th century Persian physician, Avicenna.'

Turkmenistan is rich in oil and other mineral deposits but ordinary citizens live, for the most part, in abject poverty. Despite a ruler as mad as a March Hare, the US government sees him as 'Our Mad March Hare' and he regularly receives visits from their diplomats and military. And us lot in the EU? Well, we bestowed 'Most Favoured Nation' trading status on the regime last March. Shame on us. For more visual information see here

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