Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow

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Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow
Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow (2017-10-02) 02.jpg
2nd President of Turkmenistan
Assumed office
21 December 2006
Acting to 14 February 2007
Vice PresidentRaşit Meredow
Preceded bySaparmurat Niyazov
Leader of the Democratic Party
In office
21 December 2006 – 18 August 2013
Acting: 21 December 2006 – 4 August 2007
Preceded bySaparmurat Niyazov
Succeeded byKasymguly Babaev
Vice-President of Turkmenistan
In office
1 March 2001 – 14 February 2007
PresidentSaparmurat Niyazov
Preceded byOrazgeldi Aýdogdyew
Succeeded byRaşit Meredow
Personal details
BornGurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç Berdimuhamedow
(1957-06-29) 29 June 1957 (age 61)
Babarap, Turkmen SSR, Soviet Union
Political partyDemocratic (Before 2013)
Independent (2013–present)
Spouse(s)Ogulgerek Berdimuhamedov
Alma materTurkmen State Medical Institute
Military service
RankGeneral of the Army

Gurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç Berdimuhamedow[a][b][c][d] (born 29 June 1957)[13] is a Turkmen politician who has served as the President of Turkmenistan since February 2007. Berdimuhamedow, a dentist by profession, served in the government under President Saparmurat Niyazov as Minister of Health beginning in 1997 and as Vice-President beginning in 2001. He became Acting President following Niyazov's death on 21 December 2006 and subsequently won the February 2007 presidential election. He faced no meaningful opposition in the vote and won by an overwhelming margin (89.23%).[14] In the February 2012 presidential election, he was re-elected with 97% of the vote. In the February 2017 presidential election, he was re-elected to a third term with 97.69% of the votes.[15][16]

Like with his predecessor, a personality cult is promoted around Berdimuhamedow. According to Human Rights Watch, Berdimuhamedow, his relatives, and his associates possess unlimited power and exercise total control over all aspects of public life.[17] He uses the honorific title Arkadag, meaning "protector".[18] He is the first dentist in the world to head a state or a government.[19]

Early years[edit]

Berdimuhamedow was born on 29 June 1957 in Babarap, in what is now the Geok Tepe etrap ("district") of Ahal Province, to Mälikguly Arciç Berdimuhamedow and Ogulabat Ataýewna Kürräýewa.[20] He is the only son in a family of 8 children. Berdimuhammedov's father worked as a senior Interior Ministry officer in a prison guard detachment. He retired as a Colonel of police.[21] Berdimuhammedov graduated from the Turkmen State Medical Institute in 1979 and entered a career in dentistry.[22] He also received a PhD in medical sciences in Moscow.[22] By 1992 he had become part of the dentistry faculty at the Medical Institute.

In 1995, during the rule of Saparmurat Niyazov, Berdimuhamedov became head of the dentistry center of the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry.[23] He was appointed to the government as Minister of Health in 1997, and he was additionally appointed as Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers (also referred to as Deputy Prime Minister, despite the lack of a Prime Ministerial post in Turkmenistan), a post akin to that of a Vice-President, in 2001.[24][25] In April 2004, Niyazov suspended Berdimuhamedow's salary for three months because healthcare workers were also not being paid.[23]

Berdimuhamedow with Russian President Vladimir Putin at Ashgabat Airport.

The Health Ministry was responsible for carrying out Niyazov's notorious order to close all hospitals outside of the capital city and major regional towns in 2005.[26]

President of Turkmenistan[edit]

Following Niyazov's death in December 2006, the State Security Council of Turkmenistan appointed Berdimuhamedow as acting president.[27] The Council stated in its announcement that Öwezgeldi Ataýew, who, as the Chairman of the Assembly of Turkmenistan was to become the acting president, was not appointed "in view of the fact that the prosecutor-general had instituted criminal proceedings against him".[28]

Berdimuhamedow with Ilham Aliyev.
Berdimuhamedow with Petro Poroshenko.

Article 60 of the Turkmen Constitution stipulated that the acting president "may not stand for election to the Presidency",[29] which would have barred Berdimuhamedow from running in the 2007 presidential elections. However, on 24 December 2006, the People's Council voted to remove this provision, making him eligible for the election as one of the six chosen candidates, all members of the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan.[30][31] Berdimuhamedov was supported by the political elite,[32] and the official results showed him as winning 89% of the vote.[14][33]

In his first presidential trip abroad, Berdimuhamedov visited Saudi Arabia in mid-April 2007. There he performed the Umrah pilgrimage and met with King Abdullah.[34] He then visited Russia and President Vladimir Putin at the end of the same month.

Berdimuhamedow with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the Third GECF summit

After taking office, Berdimuhamedow reversed several of Niyazov's more eccentric policies. Internet cafés offering free and uncensored Web access opened in Ashgabat,[35] compulsory education was extended from nine to ten years and classes in sports and foreign languages were re-introduced into the curriculum, and the government announced plans to open several specialized schools for the arts.[36] President Berdimuhamedow has called for reform of education, health care and pension systems, and government officials of non-Turkmen ethnic origin who had been sacked by Niyazov were allowed to return to work.[37] He also restored the pensions of 100,000 elderly people whose pensions Niyazov had slashed in the face of an unspecified budget crisis.[38] Later on, he reopened the Turkmen Academy of Sciences, which had been closed by Niyazov.[39]

Berdimuhamedow also took steps to curb the extensive personality cult surrounding his predecessor. He called for an end to the elaborate pageants of music and dancing that formerly greeted the president on his arrival anywhere, and said that the Turkmen "sacred oath", part of which states that the speaker's tongue should shrivel if he ever speaks ill of Turkmenistan or its president, should not be recited multiple times a day but reserved for "special occasions."[40] He also gave up his right to rename any landmarks, institutions, or cities,[41] restored the traditional names of the months of the year and days of the week (Niyazov had renamed them after himself and his mother, among other things),[42] and announced plans to move the infamous gold rotating statue of Niyazov from Ashgabat's central square.[43]

In February 2017, he was reelected President of Turkmenistan with 97% of the votes in his favor.[44] In October 2017, he offered a top Turkmen-bred variety of the Central Asian shepherd dog to Vladimir Putin.[45]

He was reelected as president of the National Olympic Committee of Turkmenistan on 22 April 2018.[46]

Accusations of totalitarianism[edit]

Image of Berdimuhamedow, on display outside the national horse-racing ground in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
External video
Turkmenistan's president announced the end to free gas, electricity, water, and salt
Turkmen president visits local village

It initially appeared that Berdimuhamedow's regime was more open than Niyazov's. He eased travel restrictions and reopened libraries in rural areas. However, he explicitly ruled out any move toward Western-style democracy.[47]

In 2008, he fired Akmyrat Rejepow, the longtime chief of the presidential security detail and one of the main proponents of Niyazov's personality cult.[48]

In July 2013, international pop singer Jennifer Lopez publicly apologized after singing Happy birthday! to Berdimuhamedow during a sponsored concert, stating she was not aware of the human rights issues in Turkmenistan prior to the show.[49] In August 2013, Berdimuhamedow suspended his DPT membership for the duration of his presidency in order to remain above partisan politics and promote a multiparty system.[50]

In 2015 a giant golden statue of Berdimuhamedow riding a horse atop a white marble cliff was erected in Ashgabat.[51] This statue resonated with his 2013 accident when he fell off his horse during a race, a fall that was censored on TV but leaked online, and a major dent in his propaganda strategy.[52][53]

According to most international observers, he now leads one of the most oppressive and closed regimes in the world. Freedom House has consistently ranked Turkmenistan near the bottom of its Freedom in the World rankings ever since Berdimuhamedow took office; in 2017, for instance, the country was one of 11 with the lowest aggregate scores for political and civil rights.[54] Human Rights Watch noted that Berdimuhamedow not only has complete control over public life, but presides over a regime that does not tolerate "alternative political or religious expression" and has complete control over the media.[55] Reporters Without Borders has ranked Turkmenistan near the bottom of its Press Freedom Index for most of Berdimuhamedow's tenure. In 2017, for instance, it ranked Turkmenistan 178th out of 180 countries surveyed--ahead of only Eritrea and North Korea. Besides noting the government's total control over the media, RSF noted that Internet access is heavily censored, and that satellite dishes--one of the few remaining ways to get independent news coverage--have been removed by government officials.[56]

In September 2016, the Turkmenistan Parliament abolished the age limit to run for presidency, which allowed Berdimuhamedow to run for a third term, and maybe keep the presidential seat for life.[57]

In January 2018, Berdimuhamedow ordered the impounding of black cars in the capital because he considered white to be lucky. Dark-colored vehicles were seized by police in Ashgabat and their owners told they must pay to have them repainted silver or white. The capital, known as the 'City of White Marble', holds the world record for the highest concentration of white marble buildings. Berdimuhamedow is a known lover of white, living in a white palace and travelling in white limousines.[58] In July 2018, he appeared in a rap video with his grandson. He had previously made the buzz lifting weights on camera, and also DJing. His repeated actions for online and international attention lead to the idea that his 2013 horse fall may have been a stunt.[59] In 2011, he had initially made the buzz by singing a romantic song on video posted on Youtube, with a music obviously stolen from another Youtube artist.[60]


Domestic awards[edit]

Foreign awards[edit]

Private life[edit]

According to a cable from the U.S. embassy in Ashgabat, Berdimuhamedow is married and has two daughters and a son. One of his sons-in-law, Yhlasgeldi Amanov, heads the Turkmen State Agency for Management and Use of Hydrocarbon Resources in London, and the other a diplomat living in Paris.[21]

According to the same leaked cables, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has a mistress, Marina, a Russian nurse that he supposedly met earlier in his dentist career. They have a 14-year old daughter together. Berdimuhamedow's wife has been living in London since 2007.[21][65]

His son Serdar Berdimuhamedow, is a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Armed Forces.[66]

His grandfather, Berdimuhamed Annayev, was a veteran of the Great Patriotic War and since 2018, a posthumous recipient of the Russian Order of Honour.[67] According to a biography of Berdimuhamedow's father published in 2012, Berdimuhamedow has five sisters: Durdynabat (born 1960), Gulnabat (born 1962), Mähri (born 1964), Guljamal (born 1969), and Oguljamal (born 1974).[20]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ [ʁurbɑnʁuˈlɯ berdɯmuxɑmeˈdoβ]
  2. ^ Evidently the names consist of a series of compounds.
    - The given name can be analysed as gurban ("sacrifice") (cf. Arab.-Pers. قربان ) and guly (from Pers. غلی [ghulī], an abbreviated form of Arab.-Pers. غلام [ghulām], "servant").
    - The patronymic consists of mälik (Arab.-Pers. ملک [malik], "king", "sovereign", Pers. غلی [ghulī], and finally the Russian patronymic suffix -евич).
    - The surname contains three elements: berdi ("servant", "slave") (from Pers. برده [bardah]), the name of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, and Russian -ов (the common Slavic suffix of origin/family).
  3. ^ or Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov, Berdymukhammedov; Although Gurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç Berdimuhamedow is the only Turkmen form, and Turkmen, written with Latin alphabet, is the only official language of Turkmenistan, Western sources generally use the Russian form "Гурбангулы" or "Курбанкулы Мяликгулыевич Бердымухам(м)едов," using various transcriptions.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11]
  4. ^ The English version of the website of the presidency uses a curious mixture of the Turkmen spelling with a transcribed ending: Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov[12]


  1. ^ "Turkmen Assembly Discussing Political Future". 26 December 2006. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  2. ^ "Acting Turkmen President Cleared To Run In February Election". 27 December 2006. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  3. ^ "Turkmenistan Registers Presidential Candidates". 28 December 2006. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  4. ^ "Turkmenistan country profile - Overview". BBC News. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  5. ^ "Asia-Pacific | Turkmen 'heir apparent' emerges". BBC News. 28 December 2006. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  6. ^ Than, Krisztina (9 February 2009). "Business & Financial News, Breaking US & International News |". Retrieved 5 September 2015.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Than, Krisztina (9 February 2009). "Business & Financial News, Breaking US & International News |". Retrieved 5 September 2015.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Than, Krisztina (9 February 2009). "Business & Financial News, Breaking US & International News |". Retrieved 5 September 2015.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "Turkmenistan Limits Election to Soviet-Style Slate". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  10. ^ "Turkmen Exile Urges Interim President to Step Down". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  11. ^ "Turkmenistan's interim leader crowned as heir apparent to late dictator". 26 December 2006. Archived from the original on 1 February 2009. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  12. ^ Turkmenistan: The Golden Age Archived 17 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ "Turkmenistan: New President Shows Shades Of 'Turkmenbashi'". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 3 July 2007. Retrieved 16 July 2007.
  14. ^ a b "New Turkmen President Sworn In". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 14 February 2007. Retrieved 6 March 2007.
  15. ^ Turkmen President Extends Rule In Tightly Controlled Vote Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty ( 13 February 2017. Retrieved on 24 February 2017.
  16. ^ "Turkmen president sworn in for second term".
  17. ^ "World Report 2014: Turkmenistan". Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  18. ^ "Turkmenistan: President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov is awarded the status of Arkadag – protector - Ferghana Information agency, Moscow". Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  19. ^ "Alvi is the second-ever dentist to assume a country's presidency". The News. 5 September 2018. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  20. ^ a b Türkmenistanyň Prezidentiniň Arhiw gaznasy (2012). Watanyň Wepaly Ogly. Ashgabat: Türkmen döwlet neşirýat gullugy.
  21. ^ a b c US embassy cables: Turkmenistan president 'not a very bright guy',, 2 December 2010
  22. ^ a b Luke Harding (22 February 2008). "And finally... how the march of a lone cockroach put 30 people out of work". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 February 2008.
  23. ^ a b "BBC NEWS - Asia-Pacific - Profile: Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov".
  24. ^ "Turkmenistan: Change Of Leadership Presents Many Dangers", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberties, 22 December 2006.
  25. ^ Archived 30 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine., 22 December 2006 (in Russian).
  26. ^ "Turkmenistan: President announces large-scale closure of hospitals" Archived 25 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine., Amnesty International, 24 March 2005.
  27. ^ [1][dead link]
  28. ^ "Turkmen Dpty PM Berdymukhammedov appointed acting president". ITAR-TASS. 21 December 2006.[permanent dead link]
  29. ^ "Legislationline" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 March 2009.
  30. ^ "Asia-Pacific | New Turkmen leader is inaugurated". BBC News. 14 February 2007. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  31. ^ Михаил Тищенко (26 December 2006). "Гурбангулы Бердымухаммедову поручили привести страну в светлое будущее: Бывший СССР". Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  32. ^ "Acting leader proposed as candidate for Turkmen president". Interfax. 26 December 2006. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007.
  33. ^ Turkmenistan Votes for Presidential Successor,, 11 February 2007
  34. ^ "BERDYMUKHAMMEDOV BURNISHES MUSLIM CREDENTIALS ON VISIT TO SAUDI ARABIA". Archived from the original on 26 September 2007.
  35. ^ "A crack in the isolation of Turkmenistan: Internet cafes". USA Today. Associated Press. 16 February 2007. Retrieved 26 April 2007.
  36. ^ "1 апреля в Туркмении откроются школы искусства" (in Russian). Gündogar. 21 February 2007. Retrieved 26 April 2007.
  37. ^ Leila (20 February 2007). "Internet in Turkmenistan: A sign of hope?". New Eurasia. Archived from the original on 16 May 2007. Retrieved 26 April 2007.
  38. ^ "New Turkmen president restores pensions to more than 100,000". International Herald Tribune. 19 March 2007. Archived from the original on 13 October 2008.
  39. ^ "Гундогар :: NEWS". Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  40. ^ "Turkmenistan moves to reduce cult". MWC News. 10 March 2007. Archived from the original on 13 March 2007. Retrieved 26 April 2007.
  41. ^ "Turkmenistan Restricts Presidential Prerogatives". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  42. ^ "Turkmen go back to old calendar". BBC News. 24 April 2008. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  43. ^ "Ex-Turkmen leader's statue moved". BBC News. 3 May 2008. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  44. ^ Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov wins poll with 98% of vote,, 13 February 2017
  45. ^ Tim Lister, Pup-lover Putin gifted new dog for birthday, CNN, 12 October 2017
  46. ^ "President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov is re-elected the Head of National Olympic Committee". Turkmenistan State News Agency. 22 April 2018. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  47. ^ "Fresh optimism in Turkmenistan". BBC News. 21 December 2007. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  48. ^ "Turkmenistan: New President Sacks Long-Serving Security Chief". 15 May 2007. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  49. ^ Jared Anderson, Jennifer Lopez Apologizes for Celebrating Resource-Rich Dictator,, 2 July 2013
  50. ^ "Turkmen president quits top party". The Japan Times.
  51. ^ "A horse, a horse … Turkmenistan president honours himself with statue". The Guardian. 25 May 2015. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  52. ^ Adam Taylor, Turkmenistan’s leader, infamous for falling off a horse, unveils a giant statue of himself riding a horse,, 25 May 2015
  53. ^ Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, Turkmenistan President, Falls Off Horse During Race (VIDEO),, 6 December 2017
  54. ^ Freedom in the World 2017
  55. ^ "World Report 2017: Turkmenistan". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
  56. ^ Turkmenistan at 2017 Press Freedom Index
  57. ^ Damien Sharkov, Turkmenistan votes to allow president rule indefinitely,, 14 September 2016
  58. ^ Burns, Iain (10 January 2018). "President of Turkmenistan 'bans black cars from his capital city because he believes white brings good fortune'". Daily Mail. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  59. ^ Turkmenistan's president performs in rap video with his grandson – video,, 11 July 2018
  60. ^ The Talented Mr. Berdymukhammedov,, 16 August 2011
  61. ^ "Official visit of Turkmenistan". Presidency of Republic of Turkey. 29 February 2012. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  62. ^ "Blic Online - Nikolić ordenja deli u tri smene". Blic Online.
  63. ^ "Press statements following Russia-Turkmenistan talks". President of Russia. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  64. ^
  65. ^ "Cable Viewer".
  66. ^ Бердымухамедов наградил своего сына медалью имени своего отца,, 30 October 2017
  67. ^ Sapar Muradov, Military school named after Berdimuhamed Annayev receives the Medal of Honour, which was awarded to the grandfather of President of Turkmenistan,, 27 September 2018

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Orazgeldi Aýdogdyew
Vice-President of Turkmenistan
Succeeded by
Raşit Meredow
Preceded by
Saparmurat Niyazov
President of Turkmenistan