Turkmenistan quickly emerged as the most repressive of the newly independent states after the fall of the Soviet Union. President Saparmurat Niyazov, the former head of the Turkmen Communist Party, took power in 1991, isolating the country, gutting formal institutions, muzzling the media, and creating an elaborate personality cult around himself, complete with a gold-plated statue in his image that revolved to always face the sun. Upon his death in 2006, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov took power and promised reforms, pushing through a new constitution and removing the statue, but the country remains a one-party state in which all aspects of political and civil life are strictly controlled. Above, a soldier stands guard at Niyazov's funeral.
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