updated 12/13/2005 10:20:57 AM ET 2005-12-13T15:20:57

Turkmen President Sapamurat Niyazov ordered construction of a university to be named after his book "Rukhnama," which is held as a sacred text in this ex-Soviet republic, the state television reported Tuesday.

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The new academic university will be completed in 2010 in the capital, Ashgabat, and will be able to admit 3,000 students to study various sciences and literature, Niyazov said Monday.

"This will have a positive impact on the development of Turkmen society and people's well-being," he said in remarks broadcast Tuesday.

In "Rukhnama," or "the Book of the Soul" in translation, the autocratic leader dispenses moral guidance for citizens of the Central Asian nation. It is mandatory reading for every Turkmen at schools and workplaces. Convicts must take an oath involving the book upon release from prison.

Parliament declared 2005 the year of "Rukhnama."

Niyazov, who has developed a sprawling personality cult, has banned all opposition and controls all branches of government and the media. Golden statues and busts of the president are scattered across the country, and his portrait is on every bank note and coin.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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