Megalomania 101

One criticism often levelled at writers is that we don’t get our villains right. They’re too evil – with not a single redeeming feature – or not evil enough. Or their motivation’s all wrong, or they’re a stereotype, or just not believable. Megalomaniacs like the Bond villains don’t exist in the real world.

Well, in defence of megalomania, I give you the true story of one Saparmurat Niyazov, the President of Turkmenistan from 1990 to 2006.

First, he changed his name to Turkmenbashi (Leader of all Turkmen) and to make sure the name stuck he renamed the capital city, several schools, an airport, a meteorite and even a month – Turkmenbashi.

Not to mention a planet in the Taurus constellation, a crater on the moon, a melon and a mountain peak.

Proving that once you start it’s difficult to stop, he then renamed April after his mother (who luckily wasn’t called May) and September after a book he’d written (equally luckily not called Oktober).

Really getting into the swing of the renaming kick, he then decided bread would taste far nicer if it was named after his mother. Imagine, if you can, the scene at Turkmenbashi’s family gatherings when siblings were asked ‘do you want jam on your mother or do you just want her lightly buttered?’

He then started a building program. First up was a useful 22-mile long concrete staircase up a mountain. Which, as I’m sure you were wondering, would become the venue of the annual ‘Walk of Health’ – an event where the Great Father would escort his government and thousands of civil servants to the foot of the stair case … and then take a helicopter up to the top to greet them all several hours later with a handshake and an oxygen tent.

Being a true megalomaniac, he also had to have a special palace built – a palace built entirely of … ice. Yes, dear reader, an Ice Palace … in a hot, dry desert country. Needless to say, this undertaking proved to be somewhat difficult and had to be abandoned. The ‘Puddle of Solitude’ was never finished.

Statues, however, were. Several of them – all of Turkmenbashi – were built throughout Turkmenistan. One was placed in the middle of a desert, miles from anywhere, and one huge one – 40 foot high, gold plated and rotating so that it always faced the sun (there was a curfew at night so no one found what it faced during the darker hours) was erected in the capital on top of a 246 foot high arch (pictured above).

He then banned ballet, opera, circus and lip-synch singing. And beards and gold teeth. Made all doctors swear an oath to him instead of the Hippocratic one and introduced a nine hour long addition to the standard driving test – a written test to ascertain how well they knew the Turkmenbashi’s book on morality (the one not called Oktober).

But he did solve the Turkmenistan pension crisis by renaming (it really is a panacea) and extending the official classification of adolescence to the age of 25, introducing a new ‘youthful’ band for the 26-37 year-olds and pushing the retirement age back to 85. Not surprisingly very few Turkmen qualified for the new pension.

And if anyone thinks I’ve made any of the above up – Google Turkmenbashi and prepare to be amazed.


Chris Dolley is an English author living in Chrisland (the country formerly known as France) with a frightening number of animals. His novel – Resonance (Baen) – can be downloaded for free here. More information about his other work can be found on his  BVC bookshelf .

Recently released from Book View Press: French Fried true crime, animals behaving badly and other people’s misfortunes. Imagine A Year in Provence with Miss Marple and Gerald Durrell.

International Kittens of Mystery. If you like a laugh and looking at cute kitten pictures this is the book for you. It’s a  glance inside the International Kittens of Mystery – the only organisation on the planet with a plan to deal with a giant ball of wool on a collision course with Earth. Forget  Bruce Willis and his team of miners. Send for the kitties!

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Megalomania 101 — 3 Comments

  1. Check out the First Emperor when you’re done. Someone who goes endlessly to war in order to chew up all the surplus so that no one thinks about eating well, or virtue, or art. . . .