December 21, Turkmenistan celebrates the Day of Remembrance of Saparmurat Niyazov ( 1940-2006 ) – founder and first President of Turkmenistan. The date is included in the list of holidays and memorials of Turkmenistan and is not a day off.
Saparmurat Niyazov entered the history of his country as the first President of Turkmenistan, whose period in power was accompanied by the formation of independence after leaving the USSR and overcoming the difficulties of the transition period. It was his merits in this field, along with the country's receipt of the status of a neutral power in 1995, that made Niyazov very popular among his people and led to, what else during his lifetime he received the title « Turkmenbashi », which means from Turkmen literally « leader or head of Turkmen ». Then a certain cult of Niyazov’s personality was formed in the country, which, in other things, did not prevent him from governing the country and remaining a cult person after death.
The path to power for Niyazov began in Soviet times. At that time, the period of his actual power in Turkmenistan began, when as a result of the movement on the party nomenclature he was appointed in 1985 to the post of First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Turkmen SSR. The emergence of the new post of the head of Turkmenistan in 1990 and the then elections made Saparmurat Ataevich President of the Republic. He held this post until his death in 2006.
The decision of the Mejlis in 1993 gave President Niyazov the title « the heads of all Turkmen people of the world ». After a certain time, he became known as Turkmenbashi the Great. The election of the President of the Republic in conditions when he was the only candidate along with his subsequent receipt of the title of Turkmenbashi and virtually unlimited power became the basis for talking about the formation of the cult of the personality of Niyazov. This point of view was further developed after the People’s Council of Turkmenistan announced the life-long presidency of Niyazov in 1999.
Despite the fact that after the death of the first President, a company began to curtail his personality cult, Niyazov’s popularity in society remained, and the date of his death became a memorial date at the official level. In the native village of Saparmurat Ataevich, where he is buried, a museum has opened, the exposition and exhibits of which tell about the life path of the first President.
Memorial prayers are held annually on December 21 in mosques, a mass pilgrimage is made to the Niyazov grave, and wreaths and flowers are laid on the monuments. Representatives of the government, as well as government agencies, public organizations and the media take part in these ceremonies. The President of the Republic invariably comes to the memorial complex, who addresses compatriots with a speech about the memory and merits of a person who has gone down in history as Turkmenbashi.