Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow

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Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow
Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow (2017-10-02) 02.jpg
Berdimuhamedow in 2017
2nd President of Turkmenistan
Assumed office
14 February 2007
Acting: 21 December 2006 – 14 February 2007
Vice PresidentRaşit Meredow
Preceded bySaparmurat Niyazov
Leader of the Democratic Party
In office
21 December 2006 – 18 August 2013
Acting: 21 December 2006 – 4 August 2007
Preceded bySaparmurat Niyazov
Succeeded byKasymguly Babaev
First Vice President of Turkmenistan
In office
1 March 2001 – 14 February 2007
PresidentSaparmurat Niyazov
Preceded byOrazgeldi Aýdogdyew
Succeeded byRaşit Meredow
Personal details
Gurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç Berdimuhamedow

(1957-06-29) 29 June 1957 (age 62)
Babarap, Turkmen SSR, Soviet Union
Political partyIndependent (2013–present)
Other political
Democratic (before 2013)
Spouse(s)Ogulgerek Berdimuhamedova
Children4, including Serdar
Alma materTurkmen State Medical Institute
Military service
Allegiance Turkmenistan
Branch/service Turkmen Ground Forces
RankGeneral of the Army

Gurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç Berdimuhamedow[a][b][c][d] (born 29 June 1957)[11] is a Turkmen politician who has been serving 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. He faced no meaningful opposition in the vote and won by an overwhelming margin (89.23%).[12] 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 97.69% of the votes.[13][14]

As with his predecessor, a personality cult is promoted around Berdimuhamedow. According to Human Rights Watch, Berdimuhamedow, his relatives, and his associates possess unlimited power and exercise total control over all aspects of public life.[15] He uses the honorific title Arkadag, meaning "protector" in the Turkmen language.[16]

Early years[edit]

Berdimuhamedow was born on 29 June 1957 in Babarap, in what is now the Geok Tepe etrap ("district") of Ahal Province, to Mälikguly Berdimuhamedowiç Berdimuhamedow and Ogulabat Ataýewna Kürräýewa.[17] He is the only son in a family of six children. Berdimuhammedow’s father worked as a senior Interior Ministry officer in a prison guard detachment. He retired as a Colonel of police.[18] Berdimuhammedow graduated from the Turkmen State Medical Institute in 1979 and entered a career in dentistry.[19] He also received a PhD in medical sciences in Moscow.[19] By 1992 he had become part of the dentistry faculty at the Medical Institute.

In 1995, during the rule of Saparmurat Niyazov, Berdimuhamedow became head of the dentistry center of the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry.[20] 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.[21][22] In April 2004, Niyazov suspended Berdimuhamedow's salary for three months because healthcare workers were also not being paid.[20]

Berdimuhamedow with Russian President Vladimir Putin at Ashgabat Airport.

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.[23]

President of Turkmenistan[edit]

Following Niyazov's death in December 2006, the State Security Council of Turkmenistan appointed Berdimuhamedow as acting president.[24] 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".[25]

Berdimuhamedow with Petro Poroshenko.

Article 60 of the Turkmen Constitution stipulated that the acting president "may not stand for election to the Presidency",[26] which would have barred Berdimuhamedow from running in the 2007 presidential elections. However, on 24 December 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.[27] Berdimuhamedov was supported by the political elite,[28] and the official results showed him as winning 89% of the vote.[12][29]

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.[30] He then visited Russia and President Vladimir Putin at the end of the same month.

Berdimuhamedow with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the Third GECF summit

After taking office, Berdimuhamedow reversed several of Niyazov's more eccentric policies. Internet cafés offering free and uncensored web access opened in Ashgabat,[31] 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 specialised schools for the arts.[32] 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.[33] He also restored the pensions of 100,000 elderly people whose pensions Niyazov had slashed in the face of an unspecified budget crisis.[34] Later on, he reopened the Turkmen Academy of Sciences, which had been closed by Niyazov.[35]

In February 2017, he was reelected to a third term as President of Turkmenistan (seven-year term) with nearly 98% of the votes in his favor and with an eligible voter turnout of 97%.[36][37] In October 2017, he offered a top Turkmen-bred variety of the Central Asian shepherd dog to Vladimir Putin.[38]

He was reelected as president of the National Olympic Committee of Turkmenistan on 22 April 2018.[39]


Accusations of totalitarianism[edit]

Image of Berdimuhamedow, on display outside the national horse-racing ground in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
External video
Turkmenistan's president announces end of free gas, electricity, water, and salt
Turkmen president visits local village

Upon taking office, Berdimuhamedow eased travel restrictions and reopened libraries in rural areas. He also took steps to curb Niyazov's extensive personality cult. 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] 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, he explicitly ruled out any move toward Western-style democracy.[44]

In 2008, he dismissed Akmyrat Rejepow, the longtime chief of the presidential security detail and one of the main proponents of Niyazov's personality cult.[45] In 2011, he sang a song on a video posted to YouTube.[46]

In July 2013, Jennifer Lopez publicly apologized for singing Happy birthday! to Berdimuhamedow during a sponsored concert, stating she was not aware of the human rights issues in Turkmenistan prior to the show.[47] In August 2013, Berdimuhamedow suspended his Democratic Party of Turkmenistan membership for the duration of his presidency, ostensibly to remain "above partisan politics" and "promote a multiparty system."[48]

In May 2013, he fell off his horse during a race. The fall was censored on TV but leaked online.[49] On 11 August 2019, an episode of HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver featured two clips of the incident. This was part of a long piece satirising the dictator, culminating in the unveiling of a 55 sq meter marble cake decorated with a giant image of the president falling off the horse.

In 2015, a golden statue of Berdimuhamedow riding a horse atop a white-marble cliff was erected in Ashgabat.[50][51]

According to international observers, Berdimuhamedow now leads "one of the most oppressive" and "closed" regimes in the world. Freedom House has consistently placed Turkmenistan near the bottom of its Freedom in the World rankings since Berdimuhamedow took office; in 2017, the country was one of 11 with the lowest aggregate scores for political and civil rights.[52] 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.[53] Reporters Without Borders has ranked Turkmenistan near the bottom of its Press Freedom Index for most of Berdimuhamedow's tenure. In 2017, RWB ranked Turkmenistan 178th out of 180 countries surveyed, ahead of Eritrea and North Korea. RSF noted that internet access is heavily censored in Turkmenistan, and that satellite dishes have been removed by government officials.[54]

In September 2016, the Turkmenistan Parliament abolished term limits for the presidency, which allowed Berdimuhamedow to run for a third term.[55] In July 2018, he appeared in a rap video with his grandson. He had previously lifted weights on camera, and also acted as DJ.[56]

By decree of Berdymuhamedov in January 2019, the government will gradually end state funding of the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan; it will be phased out in three years.[57]

Violation of individual rights[edit]

The Foreign Policy magazine named Berdimuhamedow the 5th of the 23 worst dictators in the world. In the Press Freedom Index (Reporters Without Borders), Turkmenistan ranks 176 out of 178.[58]

Turkmenistan leads in the number of political prisoners from all countries of the former USSR.[59]


The country's economy is under total state control. Numerous attempts to attract foreign investors into the country often end in lawsuits in international courts. In 2018, the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (arbitration, part of the World Bank group of organizations) received claims against Turkmenistan from Sece Inşaat (Turkey) and investment company Unionmatex Industrieanlagen GmbH (Germany).

In 2019, the Belarusian construction company Belgorkhimprom also filed a similar claim with the court, to which Turkmenistan should pay about $200 million.[60][61]

Investors talk about discrimination against the Turkmen authorities, politicized bureaucracy, and a high level of corruption.[62]

In the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, Turkmenistan ranked 161 among 180 countries in 2018. This is the lowest rating among countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.[63][64]

In 2019, Turkmenistan ranked 164th among 180 countries in the ranking of economic freedom.[65]


Domestic awards[edit]

Foreign awards[edit]

A specially handcrafted horse saddle given to him as a gift from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July 2015.

Personal life[edit]

According to a cable from the U.S. embassy in Ashgabat, Berdimuhamedow is married and has three daughters and one son. One of his sons-in-law, Yhlasgeldi Amanov, headed the Turkmen State Agency for Management and Use of Hydrocarbon Resources in London, was later assigned to the Turkmenistan Embassies in Berlin and London, and as of 23 November 2019 was Turkmenistan's consul general in Dubai.[70] The other son-in-law is also a diplomat, with a prior posting in Paris, but who is currently assigned to Brussels.[18]

According to the same leaked cables, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has a mistress, Marina, a Russian nurse that he supposedly met earlier in his dentist career. They have a 14-year old daughter together. Berdimuhamedow's wife has been living in London since 2007.[18][71]

His son, Serdar Berdimuhamedow, is a lieutenant colonel in the Armed Forces.[72] Serdar was appointed governor of Ahal velayat (province) in June 2019.[73]

At least three of Berdimuhamedow's grandchildren study in Switzerland: Kerimguly, Ogulbäbek, and Aýgül.[74]

His grandfather, Berdimuhamed Annayev, was a veteran of the Great Patriotic War and since 2018, a posthumous recipient of the Russian Order of Honour.[75] 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).[17]

During his spare time from being President, from his dentistry career and from his political career, he writes books that are popular in Turkmenistan according to Turkmen propaganda.[76][77][78][79] Aside from writing books, he is known for writing songs, DJing and engaging in health activities.[80]


On July 20, 2019, YouTube channel of a Turkmen opposition media announced that Berdimuhamedow had reportedly died while on holiday at the age of 61. He was said to have been on leave since July 15. These reports were published by multiple Russian media outlets on the next day.[81][82] Ambassador of Turkmenistan to Kyrgyzstan Shadurdy Mereov, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan denied these claims on 21 July. According to The Chronicle of Turkmenistan Berdimuhamedow went to Germany, because his mother was receiving medical treatment there, and her condition was critical.[83]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [ʁʊɾbɑnʁʊˈlɯ bɛɾdɯmʊxɑmɛˈdoβ]
  2. ^ Evidently, the names consist of a series of compounds:[original research?]
    • 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 patronymic 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]
  4. ^ The English version of the website of the presidency uses a curious mixture of the Turkmen spelling with a transcribed ending: Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov[10]


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  3. ^ "Turkmenistan Registers Presidential Candidates". 28 December 2006. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  4. ^ "Turkmenistan country profile - Overview". BBC News. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  5. ^ "Asia-Pacific | Turkmen 'heir apparent' emerges". BBC News. 28 December 2006. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  6. ^ Than, Krisztina (9 February 2009). "Business & Financial News, Breaking US & International News |". Retrieved 5 September 2015.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "Turkmenistan Limits Election to Soviet-Style Slate". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  8. ^ "Turkmen Exile Urges Interim President to Step Down". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  9. ^ "Turkmenistan's interim leader crowned as heir apparent to late dictator". 26 December 2006. Archived from the original on 1 February 2009. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  10. ^ Turkmenistan: The Golden Age Archived 17 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Turkmenistan: New President Shows Shades Of 'Turkmenbashi'". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 3 July 2007. Retrieved 16 July 2007.
  12. ^ a b "New Turkmen President Sworn In". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 14 February 2007. Retrieved 6 March 2007.
  13. ^ Turkmen President Extends Rule In Tightly Controlled Vote Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty ( 13 February 2017. Retrieved on 24 February 2017.
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  17. ^ a b Türkmenistanyň Prezidentiniň Arhiw gaznasy (2012). Watanyň Wepaly Ogly. Ashgabat: Türkmen döwlet neşirýat gullugy.
  18. ^ a b c US embassy cables: Turkmenistan president 'not a very bright guy',, 2 December 2010
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  20. ^ a b "BBC NEWS - Asia-Pacific - Profile: Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov".
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  24. ^ [1][dead link]
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  35. ^ "Гундогар :: NEWS". Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  36. ^ Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov wins poll with 98% of vote,, 13 February 2017 "Turkmenistan's ruling leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov bagged a fresh seven-year term with nearly 98 percent of a weakly contested vote, electoral officials following a preliminary count said. The election commission claimed at a news conference on Monday, in the capital Ashgabat, a turnout of more than 97 percent for the poll,"
  37. ^ "Turkmen President Re-elected with 98 Percent of Vote". Voice of America. 13 February 2017. Retrieved 8 July 2019. The president of Turkmenistan won re-election with nearly 98 percent of the votes, the country’s election commission reported. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov was elected to a third term which will last for seven years. He was first elected president in 2006. The election results were announced Sunday night by the Central Asian nation’s election commission. The commission said 97 percent of eligible voters turned out to vote.
  38. ^ Tim Lister, Pup-lover Putin gifted new dog for birthday, CNN, 12 October 2017
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  52. ^ Freedom in the World 2017
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  54. ^ Turkmenistan at 2017 Press Freedom Index
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  59. ^ "2014 OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Working Session 5, Wednesday 24 September 2014: Rule of Law 2".
  60. ^ Editor (1 February 2019). ""Туркменхимия" задолжала "Белгорхимпрому" более $150 млн за строительство Гарлыкского ГОКХроника Туркменистана". Хроника Туркменистана (in Russian). Retrieved 28 August 2019.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
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  70. ^ "В Дубае открылось туркменское консульство, которое возглавил зять Бердымухамедова" (in Russian). Хроника Туркменистана. 24 November 2019.
  71. ^ "Cable Viewer".
  72. ^ Бердымухамедов наградил своего сына медалью имени своего отца,, 30 October 2017
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  83. ^ "Embassy of Turkmenistan refutes media reports about death of Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov". 21 July 2019. Retrieved 21 July 2019.

External links[edit]

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