Love Me Turkmenistan, Nicolas Righetti. (Trolley Books) £14.99
Righetti portrays the wane of a nation-sized personality cult located between Kazakhstan and Iran, in the country of Turkmenistan. Saparmurat Niyazov, who died in 2006, was the nation’s President for Life. An orphan who survived to rise through the ranks of the communist party, Niyazov eventually became leader of the nation that declared its independence in late 1991, as the unity of the Soviets began to splinter. An eclectic leader to say the least, Niyazov renamed the months of the calendar to honor his family, and authored the book Ruhnama, made compulsory reading for Turkmen students, and which, evidently, the three-fold reading of which would guarantee entrance to paradise.
Righetti’s book begins with a succinct historical framework and a timeline of Niyazov’s life and presidency. The collection of photographs itself contains very little text, mostly quotes from the President himself, which works to the favor of the book’s mood, a simultaneous dreariness and surrealist humor. Righetti’s personal account of traveling to Turkmenistan, where “there’s a terrorist hidden in every tourist,” ends the collection on a serious note, grateful that the country is now, as his guide during Nyazov’s presidency suggested, “normal.”
“My countrymen worshipped Lenin, then Stalin, now it’ll either be Allah or myself. It had better be me”
“It’s a Rolex watch that the President has”
“My people respect me so much that I cannot sleep”