Just in case there was any remaining doubt that he was a raving loony, Saparmurat Niyazov, President For Life of the Central Asian Republic of Turkmenistan after it won its independence from the Soviet Union, decided to ban the wearing of beards or long hair by men. (It is unclear whether or not women were still permitted to grow beards, but probably not.) Among other things, he also banned gold teeth, lip-synching during concerts and the wearing of make up by television newscasters.
Despite Niyazov’s death two years later of a heart attack, human rights in Turkmenistan remain very poor, with the nation running second only to North Korea in freedom of the press.
Saparmurat Niyazov was the first President of the independent republic of Turkmensistan following the break up of the Soviet Union in 1990. He was also, by anyone’s standards, a raving egomaniac. In fact, during the 15 years of his reign as President-for-Life, he was regarded as one of the world’s most repressive dictactors, and the propagator of a cult of personality whose any rival was Kim Il Jung.
One of the most visible of his monuments to himself was a literal monumemt: the Neutrality Arch in Ashgabat, the Turkmen capital. It was 75 metres tall, illuminated at night – and its uppermost 12 metres consisted of a solid gold statue of Niyazov that rotated to face the sun. Officially, it commemorated Turkmenistan’s offical political stance of neutrality. Unofficially, it appears that the major reason Turkmenistan was neutral is because even Niyazov wasn’t quite deluded enough to think he could take over the world. After Niyazov’s death in 2006, the monument was demolished by his successors, who wished to show the world the Turkmenisatan was sane again.