|“||The bird of happiness can sit on the head of one man, which means the bird of happiness can sit on the head of the whole Turkmen people.||„|
|~ Saparmurat Niyazov|
Saparmurat Niyazov (February 19th, 1940 – December 21st, 2006) was a Turkmen politician who served as leader of Turkmenistan from 1985 until his death in 2006. He was criticized for being one of the world's most totalitarian and repressive dictators, highlighting his reputation of imposing his personal eccentricities upon the country, which extended to renaming months for details of his own biography among other things, while also imposing seemingly arbitrary bans on many small things.
Niyazov passed away from a heart attack on December 21st, 2006, while still in office. He was subsequently succeeded by Vice President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, who has remained President of Turkmenistan to present day.
Niyazov was born on 19 February 1940 in Gypjak (or Kipchak), just outside Ashgabat in the Turkmen SSR. He was a member of the influential Tekke tribe. According to the official version of his biography, his father Atamyrat Niyazov died in World War II fighting against Nazi Party, while other sources contend that he dodged fighting and was therefore sentenced by a military court. The other members of his family were killed in the 1948 Ashgabat earthquake that caused extreme damage and a high number of casualties in the city. His mother Gurbansoltan Eje was part of the cult of personality later. He grew up in a Soviet orphanage before the state put him in the custody of a distant relative.
After finishing school in 1959, he worked as an instructor in the Turkmen trade-union exploratory committee. He then studied at the Leningrad Polytechnic Institute, where in 1967 he received a diploma as an electrical engineer. After graduating, he went to study in Russia, but was expelled a few years later for academic failure.
In 1962 Niyazov started his political career, becoming a member of the Communist Party. He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming First Secretary of the Ashgabat City Committee, and First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Turkmen SSR in 1985. He gained this post after Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev had removed his predecessor, Muhammetnazar Gapurov, following a cotton-related scandal. Under Niyazov, the Turkmen Communist Party had a reputation as one of the most hardline and unreformed party organizations in the Soviet Union. On January 13, 1990, Niyazov became Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Turkmen SSR, the supreme legislative body in the republic. The post was equivalent to that of president.
Niyazov supported the Soviet coup attempt of 1991. However, after the coup collapsed, he set about separating Turkmenistan from the dying Soviet Union. The Turkmen Supreme Soviet declared Turkmenistan independent and appointed Niyazov as the country's first president on October 27, 1991. On June 21, 1992 the Turkmenistani presidential election of 1992 saw Niyazov - the sole candidate - chosen as the country's first popularly elected president. A year later he declared himself Türkmenbaşy - "Leader of all Turkmen".
In 1994 a plebiscite extended Niyazov's term to 2002 so he could oversee a 10-year development plan. The official results showed that 99.9% of voters approved this proposal. On December 28, 1999, Parliament declared Niyazov President for Life; parliamentary elections had been held a few weeks earlier for which the president had hand-picked all candidates.
Niyazov and his Russian-Jewish wife, Muza, had a son (Murat) and a daughter (Irina).