Sunday, November 26, 2017

Turkmenbashi Ruhy Mosque - Ashgabat

Before I get to the mosque, which was named after Saparmurat Niyazov, the president of Turkmenistan, I'm going to give a little history of Niyazov which puts the mosque in a different light. 

Saparmurat Niyazov was born February 19, 1940 in Gypjak, seven kilometers west of Ashgabat, in the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic.  His father died (a) either fighting Nazi Germany in WWII or (b) sentenced to death by a military court for dodging fighting (I have my suspicions that the less glorious end was his fate). His mother and siblings were killed in the October 6, 1948 7.3 or 10.0 magnitude earthquake (I've seen references to both - but the higher figure appears to be Turkmeni propaganda) that hit Ashgabat and killed about 110,000 (some articles say 176,000 - again the higher figure appears to be propaganda) people. Orphaned, he grew up in a Soviet orphanage. The Halk Hakydasy Memorial Complex  includes the Ruhy Tagzym Monument which is dedicated ostensibly to the survivors of the 1948 earthquake, but really appears to be a tribute to Niyazov. It is a bull holding the earth on its horns, giving it a good shake. The earth is full of dead people, and a woman is holding a baby up to save it. The baby stands out as it is all in gold leaf and is Niyazov being held up by his mother who died in the earthquake. 
The golden Niyazov in the hands of his mother. 
A side view of the same monument. 
Jumping forward, Niyazov became Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Turkmen SSR in 1990, the equivalent of president. On October 27, 1991, Turkmenistan declared independence from the failing Soviet Union and Niyazov was appointed as the first president. In June 1992 he was the sole candidate for president and become the first elected president of Turkmenistan. In 1999 Niyazov was declared President for Life by the Turkmeni Parliament. He was considered one of the world's most totalitarian and repressive dictators. 
There are lots of monuments to Niyazov. Here is a large gold one of his image. 
Niyazov wrote a book called the Ruhnama, which means the Book of the Soul, a first volume in 2001 and a second volume in 2004. It was about morals, philosophy and how to conduct one's life. In March 2006 Niyazov said that he had interceded with God to ensure that any student who read the Ruhnama three times would automatically get into heaven. The government required that it be prominently displayed in bookstores and government offices and even to be displayed as prominently in mosques as the Quran. Apparently some imams refused to comply, indicating the request was blasphemous, and a number of mosques were destroyed by the government as a result. In 2004 the teaching of physics, algebra and physical education stopped in Turkmenistan and students were encouraged to memorize the Ruhnama instead and chant slogans praising Niyazov. It was required reading in schools, universities and government organizations and questions about it were on the driving test and in government job interviews. There is a large statue of the Ruhnama in Ashgabat and each evening at 8:00 p.m. the cover opens and a recorded passage is read from the Ruhnama along with an accompanying video. 
The bizarre Rhunama monument with gold leaf images arrayed around the edges. 
We were not there for the 8:00 p.m. opening of the book. That would have been fun. 
Niyazov died on December 21, 2006 in his home village of Gypjak. He was buried in the pre-prepared mausoleum near the Turkmenbashi Ruhy Mosque, also known as the Gypjak Mosque, he built in his hometown, which opened in October 2004. Turkmenbashi was Niyazov's self proclaimed title. It means "Leader of all Turkmen." The name of the mosque means the mosque of the spirit of Turkmenbashi. It is touted as the largest mosque in Central Asia and the main mosque of Turkmenistan. It was built at a cost of $100 million and is built of white marble. It is a dome surrounded by four minarets. 
It looks like it stands alone. Photo taken from our bus. 
From the front. 
The name of the mosque over an entrance pillar. 
A view through the entrance pillar to the front entrance. 
The beautiful entrance door. 

An outer portal window. 
The prayer hall has a huge, handmade Turkmen carpet, large white pillars, and can hold 10,000 people. 
The huge prayer hall, looking toward the entrance.
Our group walking in gives some indication of the size.
The mihrab to the left, in the direction of Mecca, and a minbar to the right. 
Looking toward the mihrab with a glimpse of the ceiling.
A portion of the very large dome above. 
Portions of the rug are covered with another rug with individual prayer spaces marked out. 
Examples of some of the beautiful Turkmen carpet.

The inside of the front door. 
Underneath is an area where ablutions are performed. 
The Turkkmenbashi Mausoleum has Niyazov's body in the center and his mother and two brothers to his sides. Another has the name of his father, but it is empty as he is buried elsewhere. 
The Turkmenbashi Mausoleum. Photos were not allowed inside. There were armed guards at the entrance. 
The Mausoleum to the right and the mosque to the left. 
The mosque has been controversial because quotations from both the Quran and the Ruhnama are built into the walls. As a result, it is not recognized by many Muslims. At one of the entrance arches to the mosque, "The Ruhnama is a holy book" is carved in one side. The other side has carved, "The Quran is Allah's book". When we visited it was virtually empty. 

1 comment:

  1. Certainly one of the most bizarre figures we have learned about in our travels. He had such complete control, and yet we in the West were so completely unaware of him. Crazy.