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State

Capital

Turkmenistan

Ashkabad

Turkmenia

Currency unit

Manat

Connections

Central Asia

Islam

Russia

Turkey

USSR

Xinjiang

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

History

One of the Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union, now sovereign.

The people of the area speak Turkish dialects, because this is the region from which Turks emerged to create the Seljuk and Ottoman Empires and rule many states in the Islamic world.

Turkestan was conquered by the Russians from the mid 19th century. In 1855 Meset on the Syr Daria was conquered; the Emirate of Tashkent in 1866; Bukhara in 1868 and Merv in 1884. The Russians ruled and settled. The settler population is beginning to return to Russia.

The total population is about 2.5 million.

A movement for a pan-Turkic association with Uzbekistan, Chinese Turkestan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkey seemed a possibility as the Soviet Union declined. However, the extreme cult of the Leader has probably put a stop to this.

The republic contains within its border some of the most important ancient Islamic cultural centers. Bokhara was a center of Islamic learning in pre-Russian times. There are many exile communities living outside the Soviet Union including some in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

Formal independence was declared in October 1991. However, Turkey is gaining cultural influence, but probably no political influence. The script is changing from Cyrillic to Latin as in Turkey.

Languages

Turki

Russian

Tajik (Persian)

 History

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

Politics

The government is still controlled by the Communist party (Renamed Democratic Party). The president was elected unopposed (if he had had less than 50% of the votes he would have been defeated). Reporters say that the apparatus of Communist rule remains in force. Opposition parties are prevented from organizing, though a Peasant Party sympathetic to the ruling party has been allowed. The whole atmosphere of the Brezhnev era remains: corruption, lack of democracy, KGB (local) plus Cult of Personality: leader called himself Turkmenbashi (Leader).

In short a Stalinist dictatorship.

Another unopposed election December 1999 and in fact the President then declared himself Turkmenbashi the Great, President for Life.

Could there be a revolution as has occurred in nearby Kyrgyzstan (Kirgizia)? It is less likely because the total brutal control exercised by the government.

The Turkmenbashi died at the age of 65 on 21 December 2006, apparently leaving no successor. Will there now be a democratic revolution? Not if Putin has anything to do with it. A successor was "elected" and conditions have somewhat improved, with some of the more lunatic chages being reversed - naming months after the Bashi and his family for example - and allowing foreign publications again. There is cautious optimism.

Interesting Reading

See Central Asia page

 History

 Politics

 Green

 Rights

Economics

It is said to have the strongest economy of the former Soviet Asian republics. Good supplies of oil and gas promise a standard of living comparable to the Gulf states, if they can be exploited with modern western technology and if a pipeline to the west via Iran and Turkey can be built. But rebuilding the Soviet industrial system is creating problems. Cotton was ordered by the Soviet system on land which is not perhaps suitable. Previously all this wealth went to Moskva and the republic was poor. But money now goes on prestige projects, rather than essentials.

There are discussions of building transport links - road or rail -through Afghanistan to Pakistan to reduce dependence on Russia. A rail link to Iran (Mashhad) opened in May 1996. This will open up the whole area and detach it from the influence of Russia.

An oil pipeline to China is now planned after contracts were signed in September 1997. This may change the balance of power in Central Asia.

Its importance to the rest of the world is that it controls one fifth of the world's gas supplies. There will be a competition between Russia, China and western interests to gain control of these assets. Thus the successor to Niyazov is important, but his policies as yet unknown.

None of the wealth of these industries reached the ordinary people as it was all syphoned off by the Dictator.

Largely a kleptocracy like most other post-Soviet states.

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Rights

Green/Ecology

Bad pollution from industry, especially the oil.

The health system collapsed as the Dictator refused funding for the state hospitals, and the mass of people cannot afford private medicine. Plague has been reported as well as many other infectious diseases. There is a danger that this state could become a source of infectious diseases threatening its neighbors. The successor regime is easing some of these lunatic policies but it takes time.

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

Human Rights

Secret police still in action and no freedom of association or expression. The situation is much worse than it was in the last days of the Soviet Union. Random arrests, executions, torture and general ill treatment is the policy of the Dictator. Will it improve after the Bashi has died? Everyone hopes so.

Climate effects

Last revised 4/11/11


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