In 2001 the president of Turkmenistan - Saparmurat Niyazov published a book that immediately replaced virtually all other books in Turkmenistan. The book contains autobiographical parts, a version of Turkmen history and general advisory on behaviour in everyday circumstances.
The book became the standard textbook for most subjects at schools, replaced the Quran in mosques, libraries were considered non-turkmen and most were closed, the national libarary in Ashgabat being the only exception.
Saturday was renamed "Day of the Spirit" and devoted to reading the Ruhnama and so was September renamed "Month of the Ruhnama". By and large bookshops were closed and the few remaining shops are big on the Ruhnama and have little - if anything else - on offer.
The monument pictured here is a giant mechanical replica of the Ruhnama. At 8 pm the book opens and a sound and light show projected at the open page of the book presents contents from the Ruhnama.
In recent years literature published by the new president has begun replacing the Ruhnama. The new president's books have become schoolbooks, reading the Ruhnama has been reduced to 2 hours per week in school classes and most monuments and pictures of the Ruhnama in public street life have been removed or replaced by pictures of books the new president wrote.
But at least one Ruhnama is there to stay - or ... float: In August 2005 Russia released one copy of the Ruhnama to space. What was celebrated as a huge step forward in space-technology cooperation basically meant that Turkmenistan paid a staggering amount of money to Russia and thenupon Russia sent a rocket up and among other things, delivered this special parcel to orbit. There the Ruhnama is to stay, for a while or, were it after Turkmenbashi - for eternity.
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