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Placing a book in orbit, Turkmenistan aims for the stars
ASHKHABAD (AFP) Aug 26, 2005
The ex-Soviet Central Asian republic of Turkmenistan claimed to have joined the ranks of the world's space powers by sending a container into Earth's orbit carrying a spiritual guide written by the country's idiosyncratic leader, newspapers reported Friday.

"The book that conquered the hearts of millions on Earth is now conquering space," said the official daily Neitralnyi Turkmenistan.

"The sacred text of Rukhnama was chosen because it contains all the wisdom of the Turkmen people, thanks to its creator, Turkmenbashi," the article said, using the name the country's president, Saparmurat Niyazov, has given himself, meaning "Guide of All Turkmens".

The container was launched on Wednesday aboard a Russian Dnepr rocket that blasted off from the Russian launch facility at Baikonur in Kazakhstan on a mission to place two Japanese research satellites into orbit.

In addition to the Turkmenbashi's book Rukhnama, or Spiritual Guide, a Turkmen flag and a presidential standard were also placed in the container, a new "artificial satellite" for the planet, Neitralnyi Turkmenistan reported.

The project "confirms that Turkmenistan has joined the club of space powers," it added.

Rukhnama, a compilation of historical and philosophical textes officially revered in Turkmenistan as the country's "spiritual constitution," was produced in September 2001.

The anniversary of its first publication is celebrated each year with great fanfare in Turkmenistan, more than one million copies have been printed and it has been translated into a variety of languages, including English, Russian and French.

Niyazov, the object of a personality cult, has also penned several collections of poetry.

The president also holds the posts of prime minister, commander-in-chief of the armed forces and leader of the Democratic Party, the only legal political party in the country.

His birthday coincides with that of Turkmenistan's Flag Day, a national holiday.

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