Turkmenistan - Personal background
Saparmurad Niyazov was born on 19 February 1940 into a worker's family in Askhabad. His father died in battle in World War II and the remaining members of his family perished in Askhabad's massive earthquake of 1948. He was raised first in an orphanage and later in the home of his distant relatives. Niyazov graduated from the Leningrad Polytechnic Institute in 1966 with a degree in power engineering. He began his career in 1969 as an instructor at a geological prospecting worker's union. He joined the Communist Party in 1962. Niyazov became a foreman of a shop at the Bizmeyn district heat and power plant from 1967 until 1970, when he began full-time political work. As a promising young party official, he was invited to take part in the correspondence program of the Communist Party's Higher Party School in Moscow. Niyazov underwent major heart surgery in 1997, after which he quit smoking. He ordered all of his ministers to quit smoking as well, and banned smoking in public places. Niyazov and his wife have two children.