Absolute leader's name dropped from anthem

ASHGABAT Tue Dec 16, 2008 2:14pm EST

A member of the Halk Maslakhaty or People's Council holds a portrait of the late Turkmen leader Saparmurat Niyazov as delegates gather for a session of the council near the ancient city of Mary in southeastern Turkmenistan March 30, 2007. REUTERS/Michael Steen

A member of the Halk Maslakhaty or People's Council holds a portrait of the late Turkmen leader Saparmurat Niyazov as delegates gather for a session of the council near the ancient city of Mary in southeastern Turkmenistan March 30, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Michael Steen

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ASHGABAT (Reuters) - All references to Saparmurat Niyazov, the late autocratic leader of Turkmenistan, have been dropped from the Central Asian state's national anthem.

The parliament adopted a law changing the anthem Monday, but the new text has yet to be published in the official press and state television broadcasts still open and close with the old version.

In the revised anthem, all three references to "Turkmenbashi" -- Niyazov's title meaning "the head of all Turkmens" -- have been replaced with "the people," according to a text of the revised anthem obtained by Reuters.

Where the first line of the chorus of the previous version said "The great creation of Turkmenbashi" the new version says "The great creation of (my) people."

The change is part of President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov's campaign to expunge the legacy of Niyazov's 21-year ironfisted rule during which he surrounded himself with an elaborate personality cult.

Berdymukhamedov already has reversed other policies of Niyazov, who died in 2006, such as renaming months after his relatives, banning opera and closing hospitals everywhere, except in the capital Ashgabat.

(Reporting by Marat Gurt; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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