02:17 GMT +317 July 2019
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    Saparmurat Niyazov: A monument to himself

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    MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Kolesnikov) - The former Soviet republics are shedding the vestiges of Soviet heritage, each in their own way.

    Russia had its "shock therapy," whereas Ukraine and Georgia became stuck between two epochs, which aggravated people's discontent with Leonid Kuchma and Eduard Shevardnadze, and provoked "color" revolutions.

    Some post-Soviet leaders quickly carried out the necessary reforms, but retained the continuity of their personal power, like Nursultan Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan.

    The Soviet establishment quickly ceded positions in other republics, for example, Armenia. In others, it rapidly regained them, like in Azerbaijan, when former Soviet leader Geidar Aliyev was encouraged to take over.

    A populist leader, Alexander Lukashenko, came to power in Belarus.

    Islam Karimov maintained a harsh regime of personal power in Uzbekistan.

    Tajikistan's Emomali Rakhmonov survived a civil war and kept his post by learning to maneuver between centers of power.

    Turkmenistan, led by a Soviet-style party bureaucrat, became a despotic Oriental state whose economy and domestic and foreign policy were wholly dependant on natural gas.

    But even the former party bosses who became the top leaders of their republics and stayed in power by proclaiming independence (each in his own inimitable way), have not discovered the secret of eternal life.

    Some were washed away by popular revolutions, while others died, like Saparmurat Niyazov, the author of "Ruhnama," or "Book of the Soul," written "to eliminate all shortcomings and to raise the spirit of the Turkmen."

    Such high-ranking party officials with unblemished biographies as Niyazov, Karimov, Shevardnadze, Aliyev, Nazarbayev and Russia's Boris Yeltsin, remained loyal to Marxism only in word, as a way to camouflage their secret lust for politics and power free of any ideology. They played by Soviet rules when they had to, but quickly changed from party bosses into national leaders when rules were revised.

    This ensured the continuity of personal power. On the other hand, all senior political and economic officials had been party members.

    The situation was slightly different in the Baltic countries, although Estonian President Arnold Ruutel held a similar post during the last years of the Soviet Union.

    Niyazov was a classical Soviet leader. He rose from ordinary engineer to party leader, spending the required time on interim steps of the social and political ladder. Nobody was surprised that an aspiring politician from an ethnic republic was made chairman of his republic's government after a relatively short spell in Moscow's Central Committee, where he held a minor instructor's job.

    Niyazov ruled Turkmenistan for two decades, including the past 15 years under the green banner of his own teaching, Ruhnama, without any reference to Marxism-Leninism.

    The consequences of his death on the country are unpredictable, in particular because he was the sole leader and did not encourage successors. Strengthening the grip on Turkmen people seems impossible, and bringing democracy to a country that has not known it in Soviet or post-Soviet times seems unlikely.

    The new bosses of Turkmenistan, a collective body modeled after Niyazov, can only declare the continuity of their leader's policy, including in its most important, economic (gas) sector.

    The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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