Little known and even less studied, Turkmenistan has attracted the attention of international media mostly for the eccentricities and the personality cult of its late president Saparmurat Niyazov "Turkmenbaşy". The phenomenon Turkmenbaşy has been more often described than analyzed, and it has been usually reduced either to a psychopathological question or to a kind of Orientalist stereotyping that sees in Central Asian societies only the perpetuation of immutable power systems and hierarchies. This article tries to explain the cult by analyzing it in a constructivist perspective, as part of a process of nation and state-building pursued by a newly independent country which had not sought independence before attaining it. The conclusion is that the cult was deliberately and consciously devised and developed to be used as an ideological unifying tool for the elaboration and strengthening of a Turkmen state nationalism that could legitimize the country’s independence and Niyazov’s authoritarian regime.
Keywords: Turkmenistan, Niyazov, Nazionalismo, Culto della personalità