Saparmurat Atayevich Niyazov was a Turkmen politician who served as President (later President for Life) of Turkmenistan from 2 November 1990 until his death in 2006. Turkmen media referred to him using the title "His Excellency Saparmurat Türkmenbaşy, President of Turkmenistan and Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers". His self-given title Türkmenbaşy
Foreign media criticized him as one of the world's most totalitarian and repressive dictators, highlighting his reputation of imposing his personal eccentricities upon the country, which extended to renaming months after members of his family, and recoining the Turkmen word for bread by the name of his mother.
Niyazov set about separating Turkmenistan from the dying Soviet Union. The Supreme Soviet declared Turkmenistan independent and elected Niyazov as the country's first president on October 27. On June 21, 1992, Niyazov was elected as the country's first popularly elected president; he was the only candidate. A year later, he declared himself "Türkmenbaşy," or "Leader of all Turkmen." In 1994 a plebiscite extended Niyazov's term to 2002 so he could oversee a 10-year development plan. The official results showed that 99.9% of voters approved this proposal. On December 28, 1999, Parliament declared Niyazov President for Life; parliamentary elections had been held a few weeks earlier in which all candidates were hand-picked by the president.
Niyazov made a personal attempt to create a cultural background for the new state of Turkmenistan by writing and promoting the Ruhnama, an autobiography meant to guide the people of Turkmenistan with his ideas and promote native culture (and by extension prohibiting foreign culture). He also took part in creating new holidays with a specific Turkmen nature and introduced a new Turkmen alphabet to replace Russian Cyrillic.
He renamed the town of Krasnovodsk "Turkmenbashi" after himself, and renamed schools, airports and even a meteorite after himself and members of his family.
The Neutrality Arch in Ashgabat featured a gold-plated statue of Niyazov which rotated 360 degrees every 24 hours so as to always face the sun.
September was renamed Ruhnama in honour of the book written by Niyazov (which he finished writing on 19 September 2001).
In February 2005 all hospitals outside Aşgabat were ordered shut, with the reasoning that the sick should come to the capital for treatment. According to the paper Neitralniy Turkmenistan physicians were ordered to swear an oath to the President, replacing the Hippocratic Oath.
All libraries outside of the capital were also closed, as Niyazov believed that the only books that most Turkmen needed to read were the Koran and his Ruhnama.
Niyazov banished dogs from the capital Ashgabat because of their "unappealing odor."
Niyazov requested that a "palace of ice" be built near the capital, even though Turkmenistan is a desert country with a hot and arid climate. The palace was built in 2008 and located near the new Turkmen State Medical University.
In February 2004 he decreed that men should no longer wear long hair or beards.
He also banned news reporters and anchors from wearing make-up on television, apparently because he believed Turkmen women were already beautiful enough without make-up.
Gold teeth were outlawed in Turkmenistan after Niyazov suggested that the populace chew on bones to strengthen their teeth and lessen the rate at which they fall out. He said: "I watched young dogs when I was young. They were given bones to gnaw to strengthen their teeth. Those of you whose teeth have fallen out did not chew on bones. This is my advice..."