Ruler Orders Construction Of Pyramid in Turkmenistan

Associated Press
Saturday, August 12, 2006

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan, Aug. 11 -- Turkmenistan's authoritarian leader called for building a 130-foot-high pyramid in the middle of the capital to mark the Central Asian nation's independence from the Soviet Union 15 years ago, a government-run Web site said Friday.

President Saparmurad Niyazov has budgeted $4.5 million to erect the stone structure, to be decorated with statues of eagles, fountains and gilded bas-reliefs depicting "steps of Turkmenistan's independence and major successes of the country," said the Web site, .

The pyramid will be topped with a cube of stained glass with Niyazov's personal flag inside. Construction is scheduled to be completed by Oct. 27, when the poor desert nation will celebrate its independence.

Niyazov has ruled the energy-rich state with an iron fist since 1990, isolating it from the outside world and creating an elaborate personality cult around himself.

The eccentric leader, who has ordered all citizens to call him Turkmenbashi, or Father of All Turkmens, has outlawed opera and banned lip-syncing.

His golden statues and busts are scattered across the country. A massive gold statue of him in Ashgabat rotates to always face the sun.

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