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Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow
2nd President of Turkmenistan
Assumed office
21 December 2006
Acting to 14 February 2007
Vice President Raşit Meredow
Preceded by Saparmurat Niyazov
Leader of the Democratic Party

In office
21 December 2006 – 18 August 2013
Acting: 21 December 2006 – 4 August 2007
Preceded by Saparmurat Niyazov
Succeeded by Kasymguly Babaev
Vice-President of Turkmenistan

In office
1 March 2001 – 14 February 2007
President Saparmurat Niyazov
Preceded by Orazgeldi Aýdogdyew
Succeeded by Raşit Meredow
Personal details
Born Gurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç Berdimuhamedow
29 June 1957(1957-06-29) (age 65)
Babarap, Turkmen SSR, Soviet Union
Political party Democratic (Before 2013)
Independent (2013–present)
Spouse(s) Ogulgerek Berdimuhamedov
Children 4
Alma mater Turkmen State Medical Institute
Military service
Rank General of the Army

Gurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç Berdimuhamedow[lower-alpha 1][lower-alpha 2][lower-alpha 3][lower-alpha 4] (born June 29, 1957)[13] IPA: [ʁurbɑnʁuˈlɯ berd̪ɯmuxɑmeˈd̪oβ], 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.[14] He faced no meaningful opposition in the vote and won by an overwhelming margin. 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% of the vote.[15][16] Like with his predecessor, a personality cult is promoted around Berdimuhamedow. According to Human Rights Watch, he and his relatives and associates receive unlimited power and total control over all aspects of public life.[17] He uses the honorific title Arkadag, meaning "protector".[18]

Early years

Berdimuhamedow was born on 29 June 1957 in Babarap, in what is now the Geok Tepe etrap ("district") of Ahal Province, to Mälikguly Berdimuhametowyç Berdimuhamedow and Ogulabat Ataýewna Kürräýewa.[19] Berdimuhammedov's father worked as a senior Interior Ministry officer in a prison guard detachment. He retired as a Colonel of police.[20] He graduated from the Turkmen State Medical Institute in 1979 and entered a career in dentistry.[21] He also received a PhD in medical sciences in Moscow.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23][24] In April 2004, Niyazov suspended Berdimuhamedow's salary for three months because healthcare workers were also not being paid.[22]

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.[25]

Private life

According to a cable from the U.S. embassy in Ashgabat, Berdimuhamedow is married and has two daughters and a son. His son Serdar Berdimuhamedow, is a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Armed Forces.[26] His wife lives in London. He has another daughter with his long-term Russian mistress.[27] 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).[19]

President of Turkmenistan

With President Dmitry Medvedev and President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev

Following Niyazov's death in December 2006, the State Security Council of Turkmenistan appointed Berdimuhamedow as acting president.[28] 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".[29]

Article 60 of the Turkmen Constitution stipulated that the acting president "may not stand for election to the Presidency",[30] which would have barred Berdimuhamedow from running in the 2007 presidential elections. However, on December 24, 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.[31][32] Berdimuhamedov was supported by the political elite,[33] and the official results showed him as winning 89% of the vote.[14] 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 US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama

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 with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the Third GECF summit

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] He also 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] However, in 2015 a giant golden statue of Berdimuhamedow riding a horse atop a white marble cliff was erected in Ashgabat.[44] 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.[45]

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.[46] 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.[47]

Berdimuhamedow with Russian President Vladimir Putin at Ashgabat Airport.

Berdimuhamedow with Ilham Aliyev.

However, 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.[48] 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.[49] 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.[50]


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. Berdymukhammedov is a known lover of white, living in a white palace and travelling in white limousines.[51]



Image of Berdimuhamedow, on display outside the national horse-racing ground in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Domestic awards

  • 1994 – Star of President Order

Foreign awards

See also

  • Politics of Turkmenistan

Notes and references


  1. Spelled with a double m in the Turkmen language (Berdimuhammedow) and the Russian language (Бердымухаммедов) until 25 June 2007 (see here an election sign dated February 2007 on the web site of Radio Free Europe). Since this date his last name is spelled with a single m in every official text or newspaper. This dispatch from tells about the Russian form of his name, but the same thing can be observed about its Turkmen form on every texts published on internet after this date, for example on the website of Turkmen Press agency.
  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 patronym 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". 2006-12-26. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  2. "Acting Turkmen President Cleared To Run In February Election". 27 December 2006. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  3. "Turkmenistan Registers Presidential Candidates". 2006-12-28. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  4. "Turkmenistan country profile - Overview". BBC News. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  5. "Asia-Pacific | Turkmen 'heir apparent' emerges". BBC News. 2006-12-28. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  6. Than, Krisztina (2009-02-09). "Business & Financial News, Breaking US & International News |". Retrieved 2015-09-05. [dead link]
  7. Than, Krisztina (2009-02-09). "Business & Financial News, Breaking US & International News |". Retrieved 2015-09-05. [dead link]
  8. Than, Krisztina (2009-02-09). "Business & Financial News, Breaking US & International News |". Retrieved 2015-09-05. [dead link]
  9. "Turkmenistan Limits Election to Soviet-Style Slate". Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  10. "Turkmen Exile Urges Interim President to Step Down". Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  11. "Turkmenistan's interim leader crowned as heir apparent to late dictator". 2006-12-26. Archived from the original on 2009-02-01. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  12. [1] Archived April 17, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. "Turkmenistan: New President Shows Shades Of 'Turkmenbashi'". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. July 3, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-16. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 "New Turkmen President Sworn In". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 2007-02-14. Retrieved 2007-03-06. 
  15. Turkmen President Extends Rule In Tightly Controlled Vote Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty ( February 13, 2017. Retrieved on 2017-02-24.
  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 2015-09-05. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 Türkmenistanyň Prezidentiniň Arhiw gaznasy (2012). Watanyň Wepaly Ogly. Ashgabat: Türkmen döwlet neşirýat gullugy. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 Luke Harding (2008-02-22). "And finally... how the march of a lone cockroach put 30 people out of work". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-02-22. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 "BBC NEWS - Asia-Pacific - Profile: Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov". 
  23. "Turkmenistan: Change Of Leadership Presents Many Dangers", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberties, December 22, 2006.
  24. Archived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine., December 22, 2006 (in Russian).
  25. "Turkmenistan: President announces large-scale closure of hospitals" Archived 2006-12-25 at the Wayback Machine., Amnesty International, March 24, 2005.
  27. "Cable Viewer". 
  28. [2][dead link]
  29. "Turkmen Dpty PM Berdymukhammedov appointed acting president". ITAR-TASS. 2006-12-21. [dead link]
  30. "Legislationline.". 
  31. "Asia-Pacific | New Turkmen leader is inaugurated". BBC News. 2007-02-14. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  32. Михаил Тищенко (2006-12-26). "Гурбангулы Бердымухаммедову поручили привести страну в светлое будущее: Бывший СССР". Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  33. [3] Archived September 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  35. "A crack in the isolation of Turkmenistan: Internet cafes". USA Today. February 16, 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-26. 
  36. "1 апреля в Туркмении откроются школы искусства" (in ru). Gündogar. February 21, 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-26. 
  37. "Internet in Turkmenistan: A sign of hope?". New Eurasia. February 20, 2007. Archived from the original on May 16, 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-26. 
  38. [4] Archived October 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  39. "Гундогар :: NEWS". Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  40. "Turkmenistan moves to reduce cult". MWC News. March 10, 2007. Archived from the original on March 13, 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-26. 
  41. "Turkmenistan Restricts Presidential Prerogatives". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  42. "Turkmen go back to old calendar". BBC News. April 24, 2008. Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  43. "Ex-Turkmen leader's statue moved". BBC News. May 3, 2008. Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  44. "A horse, a horse … Turkmenistan president honours himself with statue". Guardian. May 25, 2015. Retrieved June 9, 2015. 
  45. "Turkmenistan: New President Sacks Long-Serving Security Chief". 2007-05-15. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  46. "Fresh optimism in Turkmenistan". BBC News. December 21, 2007. Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  47. "Turkmen president quits top party". The Japan Times. 
  48. Freedom in the World 2017
  49. "World Report 2017: Turkmenistan". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 30 June 2017. 
  50. Turkmenistan at 2017 Press Freedom Index
  51. President of Turkmenistan 'bans black cars from his capital city because he believes white brings good fortune'. Daily Mail. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  52. "Official visit of Turkmenistan". Presidency of Republic of Turkey. 2012-02-29. Retrieved 2015-02-25. 
  53. "Blic Online - Nikolić ordenja deli u tri smene". Blic Online. 
  54. "Press statements following Russia-Turkmenistan talks" (in en). President of Russia. 

External links

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

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