Leader leaves academic chaos

January 5, 2007

Saparyrat Niyazov, the President of Turkmenistan and self-styled "Turkmenbashi" ("Father of all Turkmens"), left a legacy of an education system in disarray when he died in late December, writes Vera Rich.

He had dissolved the Turkmen Academy of Sciences, shut public libraries and hospitals, banned "non-Turkmen" art forms such as ballet and limited university education to those who could prove three generations of pure Turkmen ancestry.

He authored the "philosophical" Rukhnama (Book of the Spirit) , which was the basis of education at all levels including postgraduate. Ironically, Turkmen exiles say the isolationist Mr Niyazov was not above stealing Western sources. The Rukhnama , they note, contains 17 pages lifted from Clifford Bosworth's Islamic Dynasties - save for the word "Turks" changed to "Turkmens."

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