[FOUNTAIN]Self-inflated supreme leaders

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[FOUNTAIN]Self-inflated supreme leaders

The First Emperor, or Shi Huangdi (B.C. 259-210), of the Qin Dynasty, Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (37-68), the fifth emperor of the Roman Empire, and Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin, (1879-1953), the Russian dictator, have many things in common. One of them is that they all had a penchant for art.

It is not easy to imagine these autocrats as art lovers. But they all utilized art and culture as the means for self idolization and wielded mighty political powers.

Nero loved extravaganza. He often appeared on the stage, singing songs. He even recited poems while Rome burned.

The First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty is well known for establishing stone monuments that extol his achievements across China.

The idolization project of Adolf Hitler, who erected grand buildings, extended to the theory of ethnic superiority.

Nikita Khrushchev's criticism of Stalin at the 20th Soviet Union Communist Party conference in February 1956 revealed self idolization as a characteristic of a dictator. The prototype of idolization for the leader of the party was formed in the days of Stalin, which influenced Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong-il in North Korea.

The foreign press recently printed news that made us question what we just heard: Saparmurat Niyazov, 62, president of Turkmenistan, is pressing ahead with renaming days and months after his name as part of his project of self-idolization.

January will be named after his official title, and April will be named after his mother's name. How could this kind of thing happen?

President Niyazov was the general secretary of the Communist Party of Turkmenistan in 1985, when Russia was still part of the Soviet Union.

He quickly changed into a nationalist after the Soviet Union collapsed. He was elected president in 1992, with 99.5 percent of the 99.8 percent of the voters who participated in the election casting their vote for him. Since he was the only presidential candidate, he was elected without contention. But the election was far from being a democratic one.

In addition, he became the president for life through a parliamentary vote in 1999.

Dictatorship, under which the people are forced to obey orders, has a long history, from Alexander the Great to Soviet leaders of the 20th century. President Niyazov seems to stand at the near end of the long line of autocrats who suppressed democracy and forced public subservience.

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Choi Chul-joo

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