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Īrān-o Tūran: On Iranian (and Quasi-Iranian) in the Ruhnama

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image of Iran and the Caucasus

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, political élites of some of the former Soviet republics, especially the Turkic-speaking ones, found themselves in ideological limbo. The first President of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov (Saparmyrat Nyýazow), has trodden his way out from the vacuum of legitimacy in the most original and interesting manner. In 2001, Niyazov, known also as Turkmenbashi (Türkmenbaşy), made public his book, Ruhnama, which later has been translated into about fifty languages.

The book, appealing to the Oğuz Turkic heritage of the Turkmen nation, to her remote Parthian past, and to vague Islamic cultural inheritance, was supposed to provide guidelines for nation-building and cohesiveness. Atatürk's Nutuk was one of the literary models of Niyazov's book. Having fixed the newly-invented national mythology in writing, Niyazov was not only shaping his society in the desirable manner, but also legitimising his own rule.

This paper analyses fragments of different—and not identical—versions of the first part of the work in several languages, mostly in Turkmen, Turkish, Russian, and English. The author suggests that the text of the Ruhnama was updated several times, with different translations reflecting different stages of fixing the original; the English text was translated faithfully from the elaborated Turkish translation, not from the Turkmen.

Affiliations: 1: Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan


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