In 2005, on his 65th birthday, Turkmenistan's former dictator Saparmurat Niyazov commemorated the occasion by issuing a set of coins featuring his family tree. A year later, Niyazov minted a set of gold and silver coins to honor his own poetry -- four collections and two volumes of a work he called the "Book of the Soul," which, according to the Guardian, offered "moral guidance, including respecting your elders, and giving lots of jewellery to women." (Children studied the book in school and convicts swore their allegiance to it upon release from jail -- that is, until Niyazov's successor released his own spiritual guidebook to replace it.)
Niyazov's birthday celebrations were lavish -- the mandatory festivities dominated the news and involved parades, "concerts, horse races, and children in national costume praising their leader's merits in both Turkmen and English." In 2005, Niyazov received a chestnut-colored stallion as a gift.
Upon assuming power after Niyazov's death in 2006, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov requested that his birthday not be celebrated as a lavish national gala and abolished the holiday honoring his predecessor's birthday, but he still knows how to throw a birthday party. In 2011, for instance, he performed a love song that he had written himself. (After the performance, state television announced that the guitar, now a "national asset and great treasure," would be preserved in a museum.) In 2012, festivities in the capital included elaborate musical numbers in Berdymukhammedov's honor.
Above, people walk past a poster of Berdymukhammedov during an Independence Day parade in Ashgabat on Oct. 27, 2008.