Thursday, August 1, 2019

If it weren't true, it would be a joke!

About a year ago, I wrote a blog about time, the origins of how we measure it and what we call its parts. You can read that blog here. Michael republished it a few weeks ago when I was on one of my 24-hour trips to and from Cape Town.

Even though I read any article I come across that deals with the topic, I still stumble across items that catch my attention, and often my incredulity. This happened last week.

Even though I try to keep up with what's happening in the world, the reality is I can't even scratch the surface. So, it's not entirely surprising I knew nothing of Saparmyrat Ataýewiç Nyýazow, known as His Excellency Saparmurat Türkmenbaşy, President of Turkmenistan and Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers. (Türkmenbaşy means Head of the Turkmen.)

Saparmyrat Ataýewiç Nyýazow

He was First Secretary of the Turkmen Communist Party from 1985 until 1991 and led Turkmenistan for 15 years after independence from the Soviet Unionin 1991 until his death in 2006. For all intents and purposes, he was a dictator, despotic and repressive in the extreme. Like so many others like him, he pilfered the treasury and exported billions of dollars that ended up in his account with Deutsche Bank.

As is so often true of people like this, he was an egomaniac and very eccentric - which brings me to the reason for writing about him. Like Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar before him, he decided to change the names of the months - not just one as each of the Caesars had, but all of them. As you can see, the new names are a mixture of personal and patriotic.

Ýanwar (January) became Türkmenbaşy, the new name Nyýazow gave himself.

Fewral (February) became Baýdak, meaning flag. TheTurkmenistan flagday is celebrated in February on Niyazow's birthday.

Mart (March) became Nowruz, the name of the traditional Persian new year, which is celebrated in March.

Aprel (April) became Gurbansoltan, the name of Niyazow's mother.

Maý (May) became Magtymguly, the name of Nyýazow's favourite poet.

Iýun (June) became Oguz, the legendary and semi-mythological founder of the Turkmen nation.

Iýul (July) became Gorkut, the hero of a Turkmen epic.

Awgust (August) became Alp Arslan, the name of second leader of the Seijuk Empire.
Sentýabr (September) became Ruhnama, the title of Niyazow's autobiography (see below).

Oktýabr (October) became Garaşsyzlyk, meaning independence.

Noýabr (November)became Sanjar, named after the last ruler of the Seijuk Empire.

Dekabr (December) became Bitaraplyk, meaning neutrality (Turkmenistan was proclaimed a neutral country),

Of course, once I started reading about the changing of the names of months, I had to find out more about Nyýazow himself.

Not only did Nyýazow change the names of the months, but he also required that his autobiography, titled Ruhnama, was required reading in schools, universities and governmental organizations. If that weren't bad enough, new government employees were tested on the book at job interviews. And, even more bizarrely, when you took the driving test in Turkmenistan, you had to pass a test on the contents of Ruhnama

He also closed down all rural libraries and hospitalsin a country where more than half the population lived in rural areas. He said that, "If people are ill, they can come to Ashgabat (the capital)." Under his rule, Turkmenistan had the lowest life expectancy in Central Asia.

He renamed the town of Krasnovodsk after himself, and renamed schools, airports and even a meteorite after himself and members of his family. He also erected a rotating, $12 million, golden statue of himself in the capital Ashgabat that always faces the sun.

It never ceases to amaze me how leaders like Nyýazow get away with what they do.

Anyway, all's well that ends well. Two years after Nyýazow's death, the Turkmenistan parliament voted to return to its traditional month names. 

Nyýazow's modest mausoleum
Maybe we'll see new month names appearing in the States soon:  Donald, Donald1, Donald2, Donald3, Donald4, Donald5, Donald6, Donald7, Donald8, Donald9, Donald10, Donald11.

My usually reliable sources tell me that Trump originally considered Me, Me1, Me2, etc, but decided that when someone else mentioned a month, it would draw attention away from him.

If you are saying 'Pshaw. It can't happen here!', just remember what you said two years ago: 'It can't get worse!'


  1. If you put this stuff in a novel, people would chuck it in the bin as so unbelievable.

  2. I prefer not to think about such things.

    Though the gold statue is a nice touch...especially compared to the other guy's gold plated accoutrements.