Saparmurat Niyazov (säpär´mōōrät´ nēyä´zôf), 1940–2006, Soviet and Turkmen political leader, president of Turkmenistan (1991–2006). An engineer and member of the Communist party, he worked in the electrical power industry and held party positions in what was then the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic of the USSR. In 1985 he became the premier of the Turkmen SSR and then head of Turkmen Communist party. Republic president from 1990, he supported the failed hard-line coup against Soviet President Gorbachev in 1991 and became president of Turkmenistan when it declared its sovereignty later the same year. Previously regarded as self-effacing, Niyazov established an intrusive and repressive authoritarian rule in Turkmenistan and created a self-glorifying personality cult that proclaimed him "Turkmenbashi" [father, or leader, of all Turkmen]. His rule was marked by corruption, the deterioration of the educational, health-care, and social systems, wasteful government projects, and bizarre decrees. His sudden death in Dec., 2006, left a power vacuum in Turkmenistan.
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