Shadow of the Holy Book

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Few Americans may have heard of it, but Turkmenistan qualifies as one of the most hellish countries in the world. A satellite nation of the former Soviet Union, it fell prey - following the collapse of the U.S.S.R. - to the mad doings of Sapurmurat Niyazov, a tyrannical dictator who governed the country with bizarre and oppressive proclivities that included renaming months of the year after his own family members, hoarding personal wealth at the expense of his populace's well-being, and severing the majority of outside contact with the western world. In 2001, Niyazov published a book entitled Ruhnama, or Book of the Soul, a tome full of far-flung myths, self-exaltations, and behavioral rules imposed upon his people. He died in late 2006, but his corruption both lives on and extends well beyond the confines of the country: Niyazov issued a stipulation indicating that any company willing to translate the Ruhnama into its native tongue could gain free access to Turkmenistan - and thus, its massive oil and gas reserves. Unsurprisingly, numberous corporations have capitulated to these demands. With Shadow of the Holy Book, documentarist Arto Halonen and an American journalist team up and go undercover to unveil the shameless complicity of these corporations, while also interpolating conversations with Turkmenistani exiles that provide insight into the country's sociopolitical situation and history.


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