Since 1991, Niyazov has paid great attention to nation-building, with at its core the identification of the state of Turkmenistan with the Turkmen people, and a strong foe us on the history and achievements of the Turkmens. The iconography of the newly independent state of Turkmenistan is developed in Niyazov's books of poetry and, especially, in the two volumes of his hook Ruhnama.
The regime's nation-building programme has placed the figure of President Niyazov himself firmly at its heart, as the leader to have brought Turkmenistan to independence, and the Turkmen people to a new Glolden Age (Altyn Asyr). One of the most strongly emphasised cults of personality found anywheir in the world has been developed in Turkmenistan. Niyazov has adopted the title Turkmenbashy, 'The Father of the Turkmen', later amended to 'Beyik Turkmenbashy', thereby adding 'Great' to the title. The slogan 'Halk, Watan, Beyik Turkmenbashy' ('People, Homeland, Great Father of the Turkmen') is printed on billboards around town, written in whitewashed pebbles on hillsides overlooking roadways, and chanted by soldiers during military parades. Photographs of the smiling president beam down from office walls and billboards, adorn the cabins of every Turkmenistan Airlines aircraft and grace officially produced greetings cards. In one particularly favoured pose, Niyazov's chin cupped in his left hand, the president bears a notable resemblance to a mid-career Dean Martin. Golden statues of the president are everywhere.
The cult of personality in Turkmenistan has expanded its range to encompass Niyazov's parents. His father Atamurat is presented as a war hero, whose statue forms the centrepiece of the war memorials built since independence. His mother, Gurbansoltan Eje, is also depicted on numerous statues, her virtues those of motherly love and sacrifice for her children. The front covers of Niyazov's books are themselves pictured on many posters, and Ruhnama is the subject of book-shaped monuments, Cities, towns and even geographical features across Turkmenistan have been renamed in honour of President Niyazov and his family. The name Turkmenbashy has, for example, been allotted to the country's largest port, its highest peak, a brand of vodka and the month of January.
The developing cult of personality is such that some early post-independence renamings have now been deemed insufficiently guild. Thus in May 2003 the Mejlis decreed that Saparmurat Niyazov District in I.ebap Region would henceforth be renamed Saparmurat Turkmenbashy the Great District. The real and legendary historical figures identified in Niyazov's writings as representing past Golden Ages of the Turkmen people, from Oguz Han to Magtymguly, have also been commemorated in many renamings. Thus almost every Turkmen town seems to have one main street named after Niyazov/Turkmenbashy, usually intersecting with another named after Magtymguly.
President Niyazov's personal style of leadership, in which Cabinet meetings are frequently dominated by his homilies, has over the years given the Western media a rich source of copy. One story to tickle the tabloids came in April 2004 when, at a meeting at the Agricultural University, Niyazov noted the gold teeth in the mouth of one of the students. He informed young Selbijan that her teeth would look much better if they were white. His Minister of Health was a dentist, and Niyazov suggested that he could do the necessary work. Turkmens should look after their teeth by gnawing on bones, as a dog looked after by the young Niyazov had done. That dog had excellent teeth.
Niyazov has complained about beards sported by students, sacked his chief meteorologist for getting the weather forecasts wrong, and urged television cameramen to change the angle from which they were filming Turkmenistan's female singers, as they were making them look too fat. But international media excitement at Niyazov's announcement about the construction of an ice palace in this desert republic turned out to have been prompted by an error in translation. He had been talking about a skating rink.