School students in traditional dress dance in front of the big poster of Ruhnama (“The Book of Soul”). The book is written by Saparmurat Niyazov, former president of Turkmenistan, who labeled himself as Turkmenbashi (“The Head of the Turkmens”). It is a mixture of moral guidance and the President’s autobiography. It was mandatory for the Turkmens to read Ruhnama in schools, universities and governmental organizations. New governmental employees were tested on the book at job interviews. In 2006, Niyazov even said that he had interceded with God to ensure that any student who read the book three times would automatically get into heaven.

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, 2007

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