Thursday, December 21, 2006

"Father of all Turkmen" - dead at 66

The dictator of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niazov, has died at age 66 of a heart attack. May there be no successor like him to stain central Asia.

I profiled the eccentric "Turkmenbashi" here for my top 10 list back in October. While any news involving him was invariably made into fodder for laughs in the Western press, his bizarre rule was decidedly less funny among the people of Turkmenistan. So who's laughing now that he's gone?

There has been no immediate word of succession, but details are very sparse. Regarding his death, a television presenter in Turkmenistan said only "Turkmenbashi the great has died". Whether this turns out to be a boon for the country's hapless political opposition, or a prelude to yet even more authoritarian rule, remains to be seen.