Cult of the Protector
"Berdymukhammedov, a dentist and the country's former health minister, also appears to share Niyazov's fondness for writing books. In his five years in office, his name has appeared on tomes covering subjects ranging from health care to his favorite horse breed, the country's famous Akhal-Teke.
"The president is reportedly about to launch a new book -- a spiritual guide for the Turkmen nation. According to media reports, the working title is either 'Turkmennama' (Book for Turkmens) or 'Adamnama' (Book for Humanity).
"The book would replace Niyazov's own work on the same subject, 'Rukhnama' (Book of the Soul), which was required reading in all Turkmen schools.
"Berdymukhammedov has also continued Niyazov's tradition of renaming streets, schools, and organizations after his relatives...
"Berdymukhammedov's personal tastes also have a habit of becoming national fetishes. Turkmen now celebrate the Day of Akhal-Teke, the horse breed he hails as the nation's 'pride and glory.'"
Last summer, explosions at Turkmenistan's Abadan military depot touched off a round of on-line citizen journalism, which the government swiftly moved to squelch. As reports on an increasing presidential personality cult started circulating soon after, I wondered if that might be connected, as hardliners within the government felt threatened by the miniscule opening that accompanied Berdymukhammedov's early years in power. That may still be the case, or it may have been a plan all along to set up the 2012 "presidential election," which the incumbent won yestereday with an authoritarian 97% of the vote.