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Thursday, 8 August, 2002, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
Turkmen leader to rename calendar
President Saparmurat Niyazov's palace rises in downtown Ashgabat
Niyazov spends lavishly on spectacular palaces
Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov has announced his intention to officially rename all 12 months of the year in commemoration of the country's heroes and most potent national symbols.


It seems like he lives on another planet

Turkmen man
Mr Niyazov proposes to rename January Turkmenbashi after his official name, which means Head of all the Turkmen.

Other months will be renamed to honour famous Turkmen poets and writers.

He also wants the seven days of the week to be renamed, with uplifting phrases such as Young Day for Tuesday and Spirituality Day for Saturday.

Mr Niyazov, who was attending Turkmenistan's annual People's Council, also said he wants to call the month of April "Mother".

In response, a speaker at the council suggested calling the month by the full name of the president's deceased mother, Gurbansoltan, which the president said he would consider.

Public opinion

Mr Niyazov already has several schools, cities, airports and even a meteorite named after him.

Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov
Niyazov has ruled Turkmenistan unchallenged since 1985

Many people on the streets of Turkmenistan seemed unperturbed, but others were bitter regarding their leader's latest plans.

"This is a joke, the entire civilized world lives by the same calendar but Niyazov decides to set us apart once again," one man told the AFP news agency.

"It seems like he lives on another planet."

Cult of personality

The People's Council also called on Thursday for the eccentric leader to remain in power until his death, rejecting Mr Niyazov's proposal to step down and hold elections in 2010, Reuters news agency reported.

He was made president for life in 1999.

Mr Niyazov has ruled the country since he was appointed Communist Party chief in 1985 when it was still part of the Soviet Union.

He quickly developed a cult of personality surrounding himself, suppressing legitimate political opposition.

He has spent vast sums of money on lavish palaces and statues of himself, despite the country's increasing poverty.

Much of the cash for such grandiose projects is thought to stem from deals involving Turkmenistan's rich oil and gas reserves.

See also:

19 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
29 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
19 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
11 Jan 02 | Country profiles
26 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
25 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
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