ASHGABAT, August 1 (RIA Novosti) – The Rukhnama, or the "Book of Spirit" penned by Turkmenistan’s late autocrat Saparmurat Niyazov, has been pulled from the national school curriculum in the reclusive former Soviet republic, an education official said Thursday.
First published in 2001, the two-volume Rukhnama contains a mixture of philosophy, didacticism, revisionist history, autobiography and even Sufi poetry, and was intended to be a guidebook for life for the Central Asian nation of 5 million.
It became a literary pillar of Niyazov’s eccentric personality cult, and was required reading for schoolchildren, university students and government officials. Both September and Saturday were renamed after the book in Turkmenistan and every Turkmen was required to own a copy and use the adjective “holy” when mentioning it. An annual Rukhnama day was celebrated with public readings and festivities throughout Turkmenistan.
The Rukhnama was removed from the new public school curriculum developed by the Education Ministry, a ministry official told RIA on condition of anonymity. The official said the new curriculum will go into effect on September 1.
However, prospective university students will still have to study the Rukhnama for their entry exams, the official said.
The Rukhnama was translated into some 40 languages, including Zulu, and 2005 was declared the year of Rukhnama in Turkmenistan. Niyazov told university students in 2006 that they would have to read the Rukhnama three times if they wanted to go to heaven.
But after Niyazov's death in 2006, the Rukhnama’s role in Turkmenistan’s public life has been waning.
In 2008, the book was removed from the university curriculum – but was still taught for one hour weekly in public schools. That year, Turkmenistan also returned to old names for days and months, and the annual celebration of the Rukhnama became nominal.
Niyazov, who preferred to be called Turkmenbashi, or the Father of Turkmen, ruled the resource-rich nation since before the 1991 Soviet collapse.
Using his nation’s vast revenues from lucrative natural gas exports, he ordered bizarre construction projects such as a golden statue of himself in the capital Ashgabat that rotated to face the sun, and a cypress forest and artificial lake in the Karakum desert aimed at changing Turkmenistan’s arid climate.
He also outlawed any mention of infectious diseases such as cholera and AIDS, banned ballet, lip-synching and car radios and named bread after his mother who died in a devastating 1948 earthquake.