Ubiquitous images of President-for-Life Niyazov, or Turkmenbashi, Leader of the Turkmens. Note identical portraits with different backgrounds. These photographs were taken seven months before his recent death; it is unclear what will happen to his cult of personality now. Apart from naming the month of January after himself, Niyazov issued a number of decrees: he instituted National Muskmelon Day; prohibited political dissension, lip-synching, hospitals outside the capital, car radios, use of recorded music at public events, long hair or beards on young men, gold-capped teeth, makeup on female TV news anchors, importation of foreign literature, rural libraries, ballet, opera companies, orchestras, circuses, smoking in public, unapproved political gatherings.
The Ruhnama is a two-part treatise by Niyazov on history, philosophy, and morality. It is compulsory reading and a large part of the education system; knowledge of the text is required to gain entrance to university, get a job or a driver's license, etc. According to Niyazov, reading the Ruhnama 300 times guarantees entrance into paradise. There are many images of the book in public, as well as a large replica which opens periodically. to text.
Monuments in Ashgabat. The bull with the earth on its back commemorates the devastating earthquake of 1948, which killed 2/3 of the city's population; it is next to the Arch of Neutrality, atop which Niyazov rotates to always face the sun (it looks a bit like the Seattle Space Needle.) The five-headed eagle is the presidential emblem, and the plunger-shaped structure is the Monument of Independence.
A number of monuments and billboards feature images of other monuments in Ashgabat. Satisfyingly self-reflexive.
The mosques are enormous and vacant. Different scenes from Ashgabat and the countryside.