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Last Updated: Monday, 13 September, 2004, 09:33 GMT 10:33 UK
Turkmen leader opens up his soul
President Saparmurat Niyazov
President Saparmurat Niyazov has built up a personality cult
The president of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov, has issued the second volume of a book his people are obliged to read for moral guidance.

Rukhnama, or Book of the Soul, is said to expound Mr Niyazov's thoughts on love, morality and neighbourliness.

Part One, offering the president's philosophical interpretation of Turkmen history, is studied daily at school, and adults must read it every Saturday.

Mr Niyazov has ruled with an iron fist since taking power in 1985.

He has been named president-for-life, his portrait hangs everywhere in Turkmenistan, and streets and towns have been named in his honour.

Beard ban

The second volume of Rukhnama was launched on Sunday at a parliamentary ceremony attended by senior government officials and foreign diplomats.

I dedicated my meaningful lifetime to my dear nation by abandoning my personal life - one can't catch two melons with one hand. That's why I had to leave behind my personal delights. I do not blame myself at all for treating myself in such an enduring and ruthless way
Quote from Ruhnama
Parliamentary Speaker Ovezgeldy Atayev said the book represented "the great idea of national unification".

It was released with a circulation of 10,000, though the first book has run into hundreds of thousands of copies.

Recently President Niyazov ordered the construction of a palace made of ice in the heart of his desert country, one of the hottest on earth.

In February he passed a decree forbidding young men to wear long hair or beards.

After major heart surgery in 1997, he quit smoking, ordered all his ministers to do likewise and banned smoking in public places.

There is no major opposition to Mr Niyazov inside Turkmenistan, though there is a movement operating from abroad.

Mr Niyazov has written two other books: May the Turkmen People be Blessed and The Five Centuries of Turkmen Spirituality.

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