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Turkmenistan - History


Like the other Central Asian republics, Turkmenistan underwent the intrusion and rule of several foreign powers before falling under first Russian and then Soviet control in the modern era. Most notable were the Mongols and the Uzbek khanates, the latter of which dominated the indigenous Oghuz tribes until Russian incursions began in the late nineteenth century.

Origins and Early History

Sedentary Oghuz tribes from Mongolia moved into present-day Central Asia around the eighth century. Within a few centuries, some of these tribes had become the ethnic basis of the Turkmen population.

The Oghuz and the Turkmen

The origins of the Turkmen may be traced back to the Oghuz confederation of nomadic pastoral tribes of the early Middle Ages, which lived in present-day Mongolia and around Lake Baikal in present-day southern Siberia. Known as the Nine Oghuz, this confederation was composed of Turkic-speaking peoples who formed the basis of powerful steppe empires in Inner Asia. In the second half of the eighth century, components of the Nine Oghuz migrated through Jungaria into Central Asia, and Arabic sources located them under the term Guzz in the area of the middle and lower Syrdariya in the eighth century. By the tenth century, the Oghuz had expanded west and north of the Aral Sea and into the steppe of present-day Kazakstan, absorbing not only Iranians but also Turks from the Kipchak and Karluk ethnolinguistic groups. In the eleventh century, the renowned Muslim Turk scholar Mahmud al-Kashgari described the language of the Oghuz and Turkmen as distinct from that of other Turks and identified twenty-two Oghuz clans or sub-tribes, some of which appear in later Turkmen genealogies and legends as the core of the early Turkmen.

Oghuz expansion by means of military campaigns went at least as far as the Volga River and Ural Mountains, but the geographic limits of their dominance fluctuated in the steppe areas extending north and west from the Aral Sea. Accounts of Arab geographers and travelers portray the Oghuz ethnic group as lacking centralized authority and being governed by a number of "kings" and "chieftains." Because of their disparate nature as a polity and the vastness of their domains, Oghuz tribes rarely acted in concert. Hence, by the late tenth century, the bonds of their confederation began to loosen. At that time, a clan leader named Seljuk founded a dynasty and the empire that bore his name on the basis of those Oghuz elements that had migrated southward into present-day Turkmenistan and Iran. The Seljuk Empire was centered in Persia, from which Oghuz groups spread into Azerbaijan and Anatolia.

The name Turkmen first appears in written sources of the tenth century to distinguish those Oghuz groups who migrated south into the Seljuk domains and accepted Islam from those that had remained in the steppe. Gradually, the term took on the properties of an ethnonym and was used exclusively to designate Muslim Oghuz, especially those who migrated away from the Syrdariya Basin. By the thirteenth century, the term Turkmen supplanted the designation Oghuz altogether. The origin of the word Turkmen remains unclear. According to popular etymologies as old as the eleventh century, the word derives from Turk plus the Iranian element manand , and means "resembling a Turk." Modern scholars, on the other hand, have proposed that the element man /men acts as an intensifier and have translated the word as "pure Turk" or "most Turk-like of the Turks."

The Seljuk Period

In the eleventh century, Seljuk domains stretched from the delta of the Amu Darya delta into Iran, Iraq, the Caucasus region, Syria, and Asia Minor. In 1055 Seljuk forces entered Baghdad, becoming masters of the Islamic heartlands and important patrons of Islamic institutions. The last powerful Seljuk ruler, Sultan Sanjar (d. 1157), witnessed the fragmentation and destruction of the empire because of attacks by Turkmen and other tribes.

Until these revolts, Turkmen tribesmen were an integral part of the Seljuk military forces. Turkmen migrated with their families and possessions on Seljuk campaigns into Azerbaijan and Anatolia, a process that began the Turkification of these areas. During this time, Turkmen also began to settle the area of present-day Turkmenistan. Prior to the Turkmen habitation, most of this desert had been uninhabited, while the more habitable areas along the Caspian Sea, Kopetdag Mountains, Amu Darya, and Murgap River (Murgap Deryasy) were populated predominantly by Iranians. The city-state of Merv was an especially large sedentary and agricultural area, important as both a regional economic-cultural center and a transit hub on the famous Silk Road.


Turkmenistan - Formation of the Turkmen Nation


During the Mongol conquest of Central Asia in the thirteenth century, the Turkmen-Oghuz of the steppe were pushed from the Syrdariya farther into the Garagum (Russian spelling Kara Kum) Desert and along the Caspian Sea. Various components were nominally subject to the Mongol domains in eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Iran. Until the early sixteenth century, they were concentrated in four main regions: along the southeastern coast of the Caspian Sea, on the Mangyshlak Peninsula (on the northeastern Caspian coast), around the Balkan Mountains, and along the Uzboy River running across north-central Turkmenistan. Many scholars regard the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries as the period of the reformulation of the Turkmen into the tribal groups that exist today. Beginning in the sixteenth century and continuing into the nineteenth century, large tribal conglomerates and individual groups migrated east and southeast.

Historical sources indicate the existence of a large tribal union often referred to as the Salor confederation in the Mangyshlak Peninsula and areas around the Balkan Mountains. The Salor were one of the few original Oghuz tribes to survive to modern times. In the late seventeenth century, the union dissolved and the three senior tribes moved eastward and later southward. The Yomud split into eastern and western groups, while the Teke moved into the Akhal region along the Kopetdag Mountains and gradually into the Murgap River basin. The Salor tribes migrated into the region near the Amu Darya delta in the oasis of Khorazm south of the Aral Sea, the middle course of the Amu Darya southeast of the Aral Sea, the Akhal oasis north of present-day Ashgabat and areas along the Kopetdag bordering Iran, and the Murgap River in present-day southeast Turkmenistan. Salor groups also live in Turkey, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and China.

Much of what we know about the Turkmen from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries comes from Uzbek and Persian chronicles that record Turkmen raids and involvement in the political affairs of their sedentary neighbors. Beginning in the sixteenth century, most of the Turkmen tribes were divided among two Uzbek principalities: the Khanate (or amirate) of Khiva (centered along the lower Amu Darya in Khorazm) and the Khanate of Bukhoro (Bukhara). Uzbek khans and princes of both khanates customarily enlisted Turkmen military support in their intra- and inter-khanate struggles and in campaigns against the Persians. Consequently, many Turkmen tribes migrated closer to the urban centers of the khanates, which came to depend heavily upon the Turkmen for their military forces. The height of Turkmen influence in the affairs of their sedentary neighbors came in the eighteenth century, when on several occasions (1743, 1767-70), the Yomud invaded and controlled Khorazm. From 1855 to 1867, a series of Yomud rebellions again shook the area. These hostilities and the punitive raids by Uzbek rulers resulted in the wide dispersal of the eastern Yomud group.


Turkmenistan - Incorporation into Russia


Russian attempts to encroach upon Turkmen territory began in earnest in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Of all the Central Asian peoples, the Turkmen put up the stiffest resistance against Russian expansion. In 1869 the Russian Empire established a foothold in present-day Turkmenistan with the foundation of the Caspian Sea port of Krasnovodsk (now Turkmenbashy). From there and other points, they marched on and subdued the Khiva Khanate in 1873. Because Turkmen tribes, most notably the Yomud, were in the military service of the Khivan khan, Russian forces undertook punitive raids against the Turkmen of Khorazm, in the process slaughtering hundreds and destroying their settlements. In 1881 the Russians under General Mikhail Skobelev besieged and captured Gokdepe, one of the last Turkmen strongholds, northwest of Ashgabat. With the Turkmen defeat (which is now marked by the Turkmen as a national day of mourning and a symbol of national pride), the annexation of what is present-day Turkmenistan met with only weak resistance. Later the same year, the Russians signed an agreement with the Persians and established what essentially remains the current border between Turkmenistan and Iran. In 1897 a similar agreement was signed between the Russians and Afghans.

Following annexation to Russia, the area was administered as the Trans-Caspian District by corrupt and malfeasant military officers and officials appointed by the Guberniya (Governorate General) of Turkestan. In the 1880s, a railroad line was built from Krasnovodsk to Ashgabat and later extended to Tashkent. Urban areas began to develop along the railway. Although the Trans-Caspian region essentially was a colony of Russia, it remained a backwater, except for Russian concerns with British colonialist intentions in the region and with possible uprisings by the Turkmen.


Turkmenistan - Soviet Turkmenistan


Because the Turkmen generally were indifferent to the advent of Soviet rule in 1917, little revolutionary activity occurred in the region in the years that followed. However, the years immediately preceding the revolution had been marked by sporadic Turkmen uprisings against Russian rule, most prominently the anti-tsarist revolt of 1916 that swept through the whole of Turkestan. Their armed resistance to Soviet rule was part of the larger Basmachi Rebellion throughout Central Asia from the 1920s into the early 1930s. Although Soviet sources describe this struggle as a minor chapter in the republic's history, it is clear that opposition was fierce and resulted in the death of large numbers of Turkmen.

In October 1924, when Central Asia was divided into distinct political entities, the Trans-Caspian District and Turkmen Oblast of the Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic became the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic. During the forced collectivization and other extreme socioeconomic changes of the first decades of Soviet rule, pastoral nomadism ceased to be an economic alternative in Turkmenistan, and by the late 1930s the majority of Turkmen had become sedentary. Efforts by the Soviet state to undermine the traditional Turkmen way of life resulted in significant changes in familial and political relationships, religious and cultural observances, and intellectual developments. Significant numbers of Russians and other Slavs, as well as groups from various nationalities mainly from the Caucasus, migrated to urban areas. Modest industrial capabilities were developed, and limited exploitation of Turkmenistan's natural resources was initiated.


Turkmenistan - Sovereignty and Independence


Beginning in the 1930s, Moscow kept the republic under firm control. The nationalities policy of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) fostered the development of a Turkmen political elite and promoted Russification. Slavs, both in Moscow and Turkmenistan, closely supervised the national cadre of government officials and bureaucrats; generally, the Turkmen leadership staunchly supported Soviet policies. Moscow initiated nearly all political activity in the republic, and, except for a corruption scandal in the mid-1980s, Turkmenistan remained a quiet Soviet republic. Mikhail S. Gorbachev's policies of glasnost and perestroika (see Glossary) did not have a significant impact on Turkmenistan. The republic found itself rather unprepared for the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the independence that followed in 1991.

When other constituent republics of the Soviet Union advanced claims to sovereignty in 1988 and 1989, Turkmenistan's leadership also began to criticize Moscow's economic and political policies as exploitative and detrimental to the well-being and pride of the Turkmen. By a unanimous vote of its Supreme Soviet, Turkmenistan declared its sovereignty in August 1990. After the August 1991 coup attempt against the Gorbachev regime in Moscow, Turkmenistan's communist leader Saparmyrat Niyazov called for a popular referendum on independence. The official result of the referendum was 94 percent in favor of independence. The republic's Supreme Soviet had little choice other than to declare Turkmenistan's independence from the Soviet Union and the establishment of the Republic of Turkmenistan on October 27, 1991.


Turkmenistan - Geography


Turkmenistan is the southernmost republic of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the loose federation created at the end of 1991 by most of the post-Soviet states. Its longest border is with the Caspian Sea (1,786 kilometers). The other borders are with Iran (to the south, 992 kilometers), Afghanistan (to the south, 744 kilometers), Uzbekistan (to the north and east, 1,621 kilometers) and Kazakstan (to the north, 379 kilometers). Turkmenistan is slightly larger than California in territory, occupying 488,100 square kilometers. That statistic ranks Turkmenistan fourth among the former Soviet republics. The country's greatest extent from west to east is 1,100 kilometers, and its greatest north-to-south distance is 650 kilometers.

Physical Features

Turkmenistan's average elevation is 100 to 220 meters above sea level, with its highest point being Mount Ayrybaba (3,137 meters) in the Kugitang Range of the Pamir-Alay chain in the far east, and its lowest point in the Transcaspian Depression (100 kilometers below sea level). Nearly 80 percent of the republic lies within the Turon Depression, which slopes from south to north and from east to west.

Turkmenistan's mountains include 600 kilometers of the northern reaches of the Kopetdag Range, which it shares with Iran. The Kopetdag Range is a region characterized by foothills, dry and sandy slopes, mountain plateaus, and steep ravines; Mount Shahshah (2,912 meters), southwest of Ashgabat, is the highest elevation of the range in Turkmenistan. The Kopetdag is undergoing tectonic transformation, meaning that the region is threatened by earthquakes such as the one that destroyed Ashgabat in 1948 and registered nine on the Richter Scale. The Krasnovodsk and Üstirt plateaus are the prominent topographical features of northwestern Turkmenistan.

A dominant feature of the republic's landscape is the Garagum Desert, which occupies about 350,000 square kilometers (see Environmental Issues, this ch.). Shifting winds create desert mountains that range from two to twenty meters in height and may be several kilometers in length. Chains of such structures are common, as are steep elevations and smooth, concrete-like clay deposits formed by the rapid evaporation of flood waters in the same area for a number of years. Large marshy salt flats, formed by capillary action in the soil, exist in many depressions, including the Kara Shor, which occupies 1,500 square kilometers in the northwest. The Sundukly Desert west of the Amu Darya is the southernmost extremity of the Qizilqum (Russian spelling Kyzyl Kum) Desert, most of which lies in Uzbekistan to the northeast.



Turkmenistan - Climate


Turkmenistan has a subtropical desert climate that is severely continental. Summers are long (from May through September), hot, and dry, while winters generally are mild and dry, although occasionally cold and damp in the north. Most precipitation falls between January and May; precipitation is slight throughout the country, with annual averages ranging from 300 millimeters in the Kopetdag to eighty millimeters in the northwest. The capital, Ashgabat, close to the Iranian border in south-central Turkmenistan, averages 225 millimeters of rainfall annually. Average annual temperatures range from highs of 16.8°C in Ashgabat to lows of -5.5°C in Dashhowuz, on the Uzbek border in north-central Turkmenistan. The almost constant winds are northerly, northeasterly, or westerly.


Turkmenistan - Rivers


Almost 80 percent of the territory of Turkmenistan lacks a constant source of surface water flow. Its main rivers are located only in the southern and eastern peripheries; a few smaller rivers on the northern slopes of the Kopetdag are diverted entirely to irrigation. The most important river is the Amu Darya, which has a total length of 2,540 kilometers from its farthest tributary, making it the longest river in Central Asia. The Amu Darya flows across northeastern Turkmenistan, thence eastward to form the southern borders of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Damming and irrigation uses of the Amu Darya have had severe environmental effects on the Aral Sea, into which the river flows (see Environmental Issues, this ch.). The river's average annual flow is 1,940 cubic meters per second. Other major rivers are the Tejen (1,124 kilometers); the Murgap (852 kilometers); and the Atrek (660 kilometers).


Turkmenistan - Environment


Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, environmental regulation is largely unchanged in Turkmenistan. The new government created the Ministry of Natural Resources Use and Environmental Protection in July 1992, with departments responsible for environmental protection, protection of flora and fauna, forestry, hydrometeorology, and administrative planning. Like other CIS republics, Turkmenistan has established an Environmental Fund based on revenues collected from environmental fines, but the fines generally are too low to accumulate significant revenue. Thanks to the former Soviet system of game preserves and the efforts of the Society for Nature Conservation and the Academy of Sciences, flora and fauna receive some protection in the republic; however, "hard-currency hunts" by wealthy Western and Arab businesspeople already are depleting animals on preserves.


According to estimates, as a result of desertification processes and pollution, biological productivity of the ecological systems in Turkmenistan has declined by 30 to 50 percent in recent decades. The Garagum and Qizilqum deserts are expanding at a rate surpassed on a planetary scale only by the desertification process in the Sahara and Sahel regions of Africa. Between 800,000 and 1,000,000 hectares of new desert now appears per year in Central Asia.

The most irreparable type of desertification is the salinization process that forms marshy salt flats. A major factor that contributes to these conditions is inefficient use of water because of weak regulation and failure to charge for water that is used. Efficiency in application of water to the fields is low, but the main problem is leakage in main and secondary canals, especially Turkmenistan's main canal, the Garagum Canal. Nearly half of the canal's water seeps out into lakes and salt swamps along its path. Excessive irrigation brings salts to the surface, forming salt marshes that dry into unusable clay flats. In 1989 Turkmenistan's Institute for Desert Studies claimed that the area of such flats had reached one million hectares.

The type of desertification caused by year-round pasturing of cattle has been termed the most devastating in Central Asia, with the gravest situations in Turkmenistan and the Kazak steppe along the eastern and northern coasts of the Caspian Sea. Wind erosion and desertification also are severe in settled areas along the Garagum Canal; planted windbreaks have died because of soil waterlogging and/or salinization. Other factors promoting desertification are the inadequacy of the collector-drainage system built in the 1950s and inappropriate application of chemicals.

The Aral Sea

Turkmenistan both contributes to and suffers from the consequences of the desiccation of the Aral Sea. Because of excessive irrigation, Turkmen agriculture contributes to the steady drawdown of sea levels. In turn, the Aral Sea's desiccation, which had shrunk that body of water by an estimated 59,000 square kilometers by 1994, profoundly affects economic productivity and the health of the population of the republic. Besides the cost of ameliorating damaged areas and the loss of at least part of the initial investment in them, salinization and chemicalization of land have reduced agricultural productivity in Central Asia by an estimated 20 to 25 percent. Poor drinking water is the main health risk posed by such environmental degradation. In Dashhowuz Province, which has suffered the greatest ecological damage from the Aral Sea's desiccation, bacteria levels in drinking water exceeded ten times the sanitary level; 70 percent of the population has experienced illnesses, many with hepatitis, and infant mortality is high (see table 5, Appendix; Health Conditions, this ch.). Experts have warned that inhabitants will have to evacuate the province by the end of the century unless a comprehensive cleanup program is undertaken. Turkmenistan has announced plans to clean up some of the Aral Sea fallout with financial support from the World Bank (see Glossary).

Chemical Pollution

The most productive cotton lands in Turkmenistan (the middle and lower Amu Darya and the Murgap oasis) receive as much as 250 kilograms of fertilizer per hectare, compared with the average application of thirty kilograms per hectare. Furthermore, most fertilizers are so poorly applied that experts have estimated that only 15 to 40 percent of the chemicals can be absorbed by cotton plants, while the remainder washes into the soil and subsequently into the groundwater. Cotton also uses far more pesticides and defoliants than other crops, and application of these chemicals often is mishandled by farmers. For example, local herdsmen, unaware of the danger of DDT, have reportedly mixed the pesticide with water and applied it to their faces to keep away mosquitoes. In the late 1980s, a drive began in Central Asia to reduce agrochemical usage. In Turkmenistan the campaign reduced fertilizer use 30 percent between 1988 and 1989. In the early 1990s, use of some pesticides and defoliants declined drastically because of the country's shortage of hard currency.


Turkmenistan - Society


Fundamental social institutions generally remained unchanged by the presence of Marxist dogma for over seventy years, although the presence of large numbers of Russians changed the distribution of the classes and the cultural loyalties of the intelligentsia. With some weakening in urban areas in the twentieth century, kinship and tribal affiliation retain a strong influence over the structure of Turkmen society.

National Traditions

Today's Turkmen have fully embraced the concepts of national unity and a strong national consciousness, which had been elusive through most of their history. The Turkmen have begun to reassess their history and culture, as well as the effects of Soviet rule. Some of the more notable changes since independence have been a shift from open hostility to cautious official sanctioning of Islam, the declaration of Turkmen as the state language, and the state's promotion of national and religious customs and holidays. For example, the vernal equinox, known as Novruz ("New Year's Day"), is now celebrated officially country-wide.

Interest and pride in national traditions were demonstrated openly prior to independence, particularly following the introduction of glasnost' by Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev in 1985. Since independence, the government has played a less restrictive and at times actively supportive role in the promotion of national traditions. For example, in a move to replace the Soviet version of Turkmen history with one more in harmony with both traditional and current values, President Niyazov formed a state commission to write the "true history of sunny Turkmenistan."

The Soviet period dampened but did not suppress the expression of prominent Turkmen cultural traditions. Turkmen carpets continue to receive praise and special attention from Western enthusiasts. The high sheepskin hats worn by men, as well as distinctive fabrics and jewelry, also are age-old trademarks of Turkmen material culture. The Ahal-Teke breed of horse, world-renowned for its beauty and swiftness, is particular to the Turkmen. Aside from a rich musical heritage, the Turkmen continue to value oral literature, including such epic tales as Korkut Ata and Gurogly .

Increased national awareness is reflected in modifications of the school curriculum as well. Among new courses of instruction is a class on edep , or proper social behavior and moral conduct according to traditional Turkmen and Islamic values. Officially sanctioned efforts also have been made to contact members of the Turkmen population living outside of Turkmenistan, and several international Turkmen organizations have been established.

<"11.htm">Social Structure
<"12.htm">The Spoken Language
<"13.htm">The Written Language


Turkmenistan - Social Structure


Although it is not a basis for political groupings, the rather vague phenomenon of tribal identity is a complex social phenomenon that retains important influence at the end of the twentieth century. The Soviet era added an element of cohesion to a previously loose and unassertive set of social loyalties among Turkmen.

Social Classes

Turkmen society recognizes a class structure, ideologically based on Marxist doctrine, composed of intelligentsia, workers, and peasants. In practical terms, the intelligentsia and peasantry consist of Turkmen, while the worker class is the domain of Russians. Power and some wealth are associated with the Western-oriented intelligentsia, who hold the key positions in government, industry, and education. Most intelligentsia are educated in Russian language schools, often complete higher educational institutions in Russia, speak Russian as their language of choice, and are concentrated in urban centers, especially in Ashgabat.

Although many members of the intelligentsia favor cultural revival, more support restricting nationalist manifestations and the role of Islam in society. Many who are atheists and have identified with Soviet ideals harbor anxieties that distance from traditional values and especially from the Turkmen language will limit their career potential in the post-Soviet era.


Before the Soviet period, the Turkmen were organized into a segmentary system of territorial groups that Western scholars loosely designate as tribes. These groupings featured little sharp social stratification within or strong unity among them. Tribal structure always has been complex, and the Turkmen-language terminology used to designate lineage affiliation sometimes is confusing. Generally, the largest groupings, which may be equivalent to what Western scholarship labels "tribes," are called khalk , il , or taipa in Turkmen. Smaller lineage groups are equivalent to Western terms like "clans," "subtribes," or "branches." The smallest affiliations are equivalent to subclans or lineages in Western terminology.

In the past, Turkmen tribes remained relatively isolated and politically independent from one another. All tribes possessed specific distinguishing features. Their dialects differed greatly, and in terms of material culture each large tribe had a unique carpet pattern, clothing, headgear, and brand of identification.

Although Soviet nationality policy was somewhat successful in diluting tribal consciousness, tribal identity remains a factor in present-day social relations. Except in such urban areas as Chärjew and Ashgabat, virtually all Turkmen have a knowledge of their parents' and consequently their own tribal affiliation. A Turkmen's tribal affiliation still is a reliable indicator of his or her birthplace, for example. Lineage still may play a role in the arranging of marriages in rural areas. In Soviet Turkmenistan, the membership of collective and state farms often was formed according to clan and tribal affiliation. Although kinship undoubtedly retains significance in contemporary Turkmen society, attempts to use tribal affiliation as the determining factor in such realms as current politics usually are not instructive.

Until the Soviet period, the Turkmen lacked paramount leaders and political unity. The Turkmen rarely allied to campaign against sedentary neighbors, nor did they form a unified front against the Russian conquest. Unlike other Central Asian peoples, the Turkmen recognized no charismatic bloodline. Leaders were elected according to consensus, and their authority was based on conduct. Raids and other military pursuits could be organized by almost any male, but the power he exercised lasted only as long as the undertaking. Turkmen tribal structure did include a leader or chief (beg ), but these positions, too, were mostly honorary and advisory, based on kinship ties and perceived wisdom. Real power was located among the community's older members, whose advice and consent usually were required prior to any significant endeavor. Although women rarely assumed prominent political rank and power, there were instances of influential female leaders in the nineteenth century.

The Family

Prior to Soviet rule, the extended family was the basic and most important social and economic unit among the Turkmen. Grouped according to clan, small bands of Turkmen families lived as nomads in their traditional regions and consolidated only in time of war or celebration. In most cases, the families were entirely self-sufficient, subsisting on their livestock and at times on modest agricultural production. For some groups, raiding sedentary populations, especially the Iranians to the south, was an important economic activity.

Although Soviet power brought about fundamental changes in the Turkmen family structure, many traditional aspects remain. Families continue to be close-knit and often raise more than five children. Although no longer nomadic, families in rural areas still are grouped according to clan or tribe, and it is the rule rather than the exception for the inhabitants of a village to be of one lineage. Here, also, it is common for sons to remain with their parents after marriage and to live in an extended one-story clay structure with a courtyard and an agricultural plot. In both rural and urban areas, respect for elders is great. Whereas homes for the elderly do exist in Turkmenistan, Turkmen are conspicuously absent from them; it is almost unheard of for a Turkmen to commit his or her parent to such an institution because grandparents are considered integral family members and sources of wisdom and spirituality.

The marriage celebration, together with other life-cycle events, possesses great importance in Turkmen society. In rural areas especially, marriages are often arranged by special matchmakers (sawcholar ). Aside from finding the right match in terms of social status, education, and other qualities, the matchmakers invariably must find couples of the same clan and locale. Most couples have known each other beforehand and freely consent to the marriage arrangement. Divorce among Turkmen is relatively rare. One important custom still practiced in Turkmenistan is the brideprice (kalong ). Depending on region and a family's wealth, the bride's family may demand huge sums of money from the groom in return for the bride's hand in marriage.

The role of women in Turkmen society has never conformed to Western stereotypes about "Muslim women." Although a division of labor has existed and women usually were not visible actors in political affairs outside the home, Turkmen women never wore the veil or practiced strict seclusion. They generally possessed a host of highly specialized skills and crafts, especially those connected with the household and its maintenance. During the Soviet period, women assumed responsibility for the observance of some Muslim rites to protect their husbands' careers. Many women entered the work force out of economic necessity, a factor that disrupted some traditional family practices and increased the incidence of divorce. At the same time, educated urban women entered professional services and careers.


Turkmenistan - The Spoken Language


Turkmen belongs to the family of Turkic languages spoken in Eastern Europe (Tatar, Bashkir, Chuvash), the Caucasus (Azeri, Kumik), Siberia (Yakut, Tuva, Khakas), China (Uygur, Kazak), Central Asia (Kazak, Kyrgyz, Uzbek), and the Near East (Turkish, Azeri). Its closest relatives are the languages of the Turks in northeastern Iran and the Khorazm Province of south central Uzbekistan (Khorasani), Azerbaijan (Azeri), and Turkey (Turkish), all of which belong to the Oghuz group of this language family.

In 1989 some 2,537,000 speakers of Turkmen lived in Turkmenistan, with 121,578 in Uzbekistan (the vast majority in the Khorazm region on Turkmenistan's north central border), 39,739 in the Russian Federation (including 12,000 in the Stavropol' region along Russia's southwestern border), 20,487 in Tajikistan, and 3,846 in Kazakstan. A high degree of language loyalty was reflected in the fact that some 99.4 percent of Turkmen in the republic claimed Turkmen as their native language in the 1989 census. At the same time, 28 percent claimed Russian as their second language--a figure that remained constant between the 1979 and 1989 censuses. More than half of the second category were part of the urban population. Only 3 percent of Russians in the republic spoke Turkmen.

The total number of Turkmen speakers in Europe and Asia has been estimated at between 4 and 4.8 million. These figures include the 2,517,000 Turkmen in the republic, 185,000 Turkmen in other Central Asian states and Russia, an estimated 700,000 Turkmen in Afghanistan, and 850,000 Turkmen in Iran who speak a closely related but distinct language called Khorasanli.


Turkmenistan - The Written Language


Beginning in the eighteenth century, Turkmen poets and chroniclers used the classical Chaghatai language, which was written in Arabic script and reflected only occasional Turkmen linguistic features. Famous poets who wrote in this language include Mammetveli Kemine (1770-1840), Mollanepes (1810-62), and the most honored literary figure, Magtymguly (1733?-90?), whose legacy helped mold Turkmen national consciousness. In the years 1913-17, periodicals were published in Chaghatai. Two reforms of this script undertaken in 1922 and 1925 were designed to reflect features of the spoken Turkmen language. From 1928 to 1940, early Soviet Turkmen literature was written in a Latin alphabet that accurately reflected most of its features. Since 1940, standard Turkmen has been written in the Cyrillic script.

In the mid-1990s, language policy in independent Turkmenistan has been marked by a determination to establish Turkmen as the official language and to remove the heritage of the Russian-dominated past. The 1992 constitution proclaims Turkmen the "official language of inter-ethnic communication." In 1993 English was moved ahead of Russian as the "second state language," although in practical terms Russian remains a key language in government and other spheres. That same year, President Niyazov issued a decree on the replacement of the Cyrillic-based alphabet with a Latin-based script that would become the "state script" by 1996. Some publications and signs already appear in this Latin script, but its full implementation will not occur until after the year 2000. The new alphabet has several unique letters that distinguish it from those of Turkey's Latin alphabet and the newly adopted Latin scripts of other republics whose dominant language is Turkic.

Other steps were taken to erase the Russian linguistic overlay in the republic. A resolution was adopted in May 1992 to change geographic names and administrative terms from Russian to Turkmen. As a result, the names of many streets, institutions, collective farms, and buildings have been renamed for Turkmen heroes and cultural phenomena, and the terminology for all governmental positions and jurisdictions has been changed from Russian to Turkmen.


Turkmenistan - Population


Turkmenistan's population is rather stable, with distribution between urban and rural areas and migration trends showing minor changes between censuses (see table 3, Appendix). The annual population growth rate, however, is rather high, and population density has increased significantly in the last forty years.

Size and Distribution

In 1993 Turkmenistan had a population of 4,254,000 people, making it the fifth most sparsely populated former Soviet republic. Of that number, Turkmen comprised about 73 percent, Russians nearly 10 percent, Uzbeks 9 percent, Kazaks 2 percent, and other ethnic groups the remaining 5 percent (see table 4, Appendix). According to the last Soviet census (1989), the total Turkmen population in the Soviet Union was 2,728,965. Of this number, 2,536,606 lived in Turkmenistan and the remainder in the other republics. Outside of the CIS, approximately 1.6 million Turkmen live in Iran, Afghanistan, and China (see The Spoken Language, this ch.).

Population density increased in the republic from one person per square kilometer in 1957 to 9.2 persons per square kilometer in 1995. Density varies drastically between desert areas and oases, where it often exceeds 100 persons per square kilometer. Within Turkmenistan, the population is 50.6 percent female and 49.4 percent male. In 1995 the estimated annual growth rate was 2.0 percent, and the fertility rate was 3.7 births per woman (a decline of 1.5 births per woman since 1979) (see table 2, Appendix). The population was demographically quite young, with 40 percent aged fourteen or younger and only four percent aged over sixty-four.

Migration Trends

In 1989 about 45 percent of the population was classified as urban, a drop of 3 percent since 1979. Prior to the arrival of Russians in the late nineteenth century, Turkmenistan had very few urban areas, and many of the large towns and cities that exist today were developed after the 1930s. Ashgabat, the capital and largest city in Turkmenistan, has a population of about 420,000. The second-largest city, Chärjew on the Amu Darya, has about 165,000 people. Other major cities are Turkmenbashy on the Caspian seacoast, Mary in the southeast, and Dashhowuz in the northeast. Because much of the Russian population only came to Turkmenistan in the Soviet period, separate Russian quarters or neighborhoods did not develop in Turkmenistan's cities as they did elsewhere in Central Asia. This fact, combined with a relatively small Slavic population, has led to integration of Turkmen and Slavs in neighborhoods and housing projects.

Apart from the outflow of small numbers of Russians immediately following Turkmenistan's independence, neither out-migration nor in-migration is a significant factor for Turkmenistan's population. In 1992 there were 19,035 emigrants from Turkmenistan to the Russian Federation and 7,069 immigrants to Turkmenistan.

Updated population figures for Turkmenistan.


Turkmenistan - Religion


Traditionally, the Turkmen of Turkmenistan, like their kin in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Iran, are Sunni Muslims (see Glossary). Shia Muslims (see Glossary), the other main branch of Islam, are not numerous in Turkmenistan, and the Shia religious practices of the Azerbaijani and Kurdish (see Glossary) minorities are not politicized. Although the great majority of Turkmen readily identify themselves as Muslims and acknowledge Islam as an integral part of their cultural heritage, many are non-believers and support a revival of the religion's status only as an element of national revival. They do not attend mosque services or demonstrate their adherence publicly, except through participation in officially sanctioned national traditions associated with Islam on a popular level, including life-cycle events such as weddings, burials, and pilgrimages.

History and Structure

Islam came to the Turkmen primarily through the activities of Sufi (see Glossary) shaykhs rather than through the mosque and the "high" written tradition of sedentary culture. These shaykhs were holy men critical in the process of reconciling Islamic beliefs with pre-Islamic belief systems; they often were adopted as "patron saints" of particular clans or tribal groups, thereby becoming their "founders." Reformulation of communal identity around such figures accounts for one of the highly localized developments of Islamic practice in Turkmenistan.

Integrated within the Turkmen tribal structure is the "holy" tribe called övlat . Ethnographers consider the övlat, of which six are active, as a revitalized form of the ancestor cult injected with Sufism. According to their genealogies, each tribe descends from the Prophet Muhammad through one of the Four Caliphs. Because of their belief in the sacred origin and spiritual powers of the övlat representatives, Turkmen accord these tribes a special, holy status. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the övlat tribes became dispersed in small, compact groups in Turkmenistan. They attended and conferred blessings on all important communal and life-cycle events, and also acted as mediators between clans and tribes. The institution of the övlat retains some authority today. Many of the Turkmen who are revered for their spiritual powers trace their lineage to an övlat, and it is not uncommon, especially in rural areas, for such individuals to be present at life-cycle and other communal celebrations.

In the Soviet era, all religious beliefs were attacked by the communist authorities as superstition and "vestiges of the past." Most religious schooling and religious observance were banned, and the vast majority of mosques were closed. An official Muslim Board of Central Asia with a headquarters in Tashkent was established during World War II to supervise Islam in Central Asia. For the most part, the Muslim Board functioned as an instrument of propaganda whose activities did little to enhance the Muslim cause. Atheist indoctrination stifled religious development and contributed to the isolation of the Turkmen from the international Muslim community. Some religious customs, such as Muslim burial and male circumcision, continued to be practiced throughout the Soviet period, but most religious belief, knowledge, and customs were preserved only in rural areas in "folk form" as a kind of unofficial Islam not sanctioned by the state-run Spiritual Directorate.

Religion after Independence

The current government oversees official Islam through a structure inherited from the Soviet period. Turkmenistan's Muslim Religious Board, together with that of Uzbekistan, constitutes the Muslim Religious Board of Mavarannahr. The Mavarannahr board is based in Tashkent and exerts considerable influence in appointments of religious leaders in Turkmenistan. The governing body of Islamic judges (Kaziat) is registered with the Turkmenistan Ministry of Justice, and a council of religious affairs under the Cabinet of Ministers monitors the activities of clergy. Individuals who wish to become members of the official clergy must attend official religious institutions; a few, however, may prove their qualifications simply by taking an examination.

Since 1990, efforts have been made to regain some of the cultural heritage lost under Soviet rule. President Niyazov has ordered that basic Islamic principles be taught in public schools. More religious institutions, including religious schools and mosques, have appeared, many with the support of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Turkey. Religious classes are held in both the schools and the mosques, with instruction in Arabic language, the Koran (Quran) and the hadith, and the history of Islam.

Turkmenistan's government stresses its secular nature and its support of freedom of religious belief, as embodied in the 1991 Law on Freedom of Conscience and on Religious Organizations in the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic and institutionalized in the 1992 constitution. That document guarantees the separation of church and state; it also removes any legal basis for Islam to play a role in political life by prohibiting proselytizing, the dissemination of "unofficial" religious literature, discrimination based on religion, and the formation of religious political parties. In addition, the government reserves the right to appoint and dismiss anyone who teaches religious matters or who is a member of the clergy. Since independence, the Islamic leadership in Turkmenistan has been more assertive, but in large part it still responds to government control. The official governing body of religious judges gave its official support to President Niyazov in the June 1992 elections.

On the other hand, some Muslim leaders are opposed to the secular concept of government and especially to a government controlled by former communists (see Centers of Political Power, this ch.). Some official leaders and teachers working outside the official structure have vowed to increase the population's knowledge of Islam, increase Islam's role in society, and broaden adherence to its tenets. Alarmed that such activism may aggravate tensions between Sunnis and Shiites and especially alienate Orthodox Slavs, the government has drawn up plans to elevate the council of religious affairs to ministry status in an effort to regulate religious activities more tightly.


Turkmenistan - Education


According to Soviet government statistics, literacy in Turkmenistan was nearly universal in 1991. Experts considered the overall level of education to be comparable to the average for the Soviet republics. According to the 1989 census, 65.1 percent of the population aged fifteen and older had completed secondary school, compared with 45.6 percent in 1979. In the same period, the percentage of citizens who had completed a higher education rose from 6.4 percent to 8.3 percent.

Education is free of charge, although introduction of fees is being considered by selected institutions. Formal schooling begins with kindergarten (bagcha ) and primary school (mekdep ). School attendance is compulsory through the eighth grade. At this point, students are tested and directed into technical, continuing, and discontinuing tracks. Some students graduate to the workforce after completing the tenth grade, while others leave in the ninth grade to enter a trade or technical school.

Education System

Although the education system in Turkmenistan retains the centralized structural framework of the Soviet system, significant modifications are underway, partly as a response to national redefinition, but mainly as a result of the government's attempts to produce a highly skilled work force to promote Turkmenistan's participation in international commercial activities. Reforms also include cultural goals such as the writing of a new history of Turkmenistan, the training of multilingual cadres able to function in Turkmen, English, and Russian, and the implementation of alphabet reform in schools.

Turkmenistan's educational establishment is funded and administered by the state. The Ministry of Education is responsible for secondary education and oversees about 1,800 schools offering some or all of the secondary grades. Of that number, 43.5 percent are operated on one shift and 56.5 percent on two shifts (primarily in cities). Secondary schools have 66,192 teachers who serve 831,000 students. Thirty-six secondary schools specialize in topics relevant to their ministerial affiliation. The primary and secondary systems are being restructured according to Western models, including shorter curricula, more vocational training, and human resource development.


The curriculum followed by schools is standardized, allowing little variation among the country's school districts. The prescribed humanities curriculum for the ninth and tenth grades places the heaviest emphasis on native language and literature, history, physics, mathematics, Turkmen or Russian language, chemistry, foreign language, world cultures, and physical education. A few elective subjects are available.

Although teaching continues to enjoy respect as a vocation, Turkmenistan's school system suffers from a shortage of qualified teachers. Many obstacles confront a teacher: heavy teaching loads and long hours, including Saturdays and double shifts; wholly inadequate textbooks and instructional materials; serious shortages of paper, supplies, and equipment; low salaries; and, at times, even failure to be paid. An estimated 13 percent of schools have such serious structural defects in their physical plants that they are too dangerous to use for classes.

Instruction in 77 percent of primary and general schools is in Turkmen, although the 16 percent of schools that use Russian as their primary language generally are regarded as providing a better education. Some schools also instruct in the languages of the nation's Uzbek and Kazak minorities. Especially since the adoption of Turkmen as the "state language" and English as the "second state language," the study of these two languages has gained importance in the curriculum, and adults feel pressure to learn Turkmen in special courses offered at schools or at their workplaces.

Higher Education

After completing secondary school, students may continue their education at one of the dozens of specialized institutes or at Turkmenistan State University in Ashgabat. Admittance into higher education institutions often is extremely competitive, and personal connections and bribes may play a role in gaining entry and later advancement. Prospective students must pass a lengthy, pressure-packed entrance examination. Like all the other tests and evaluations in the educational system, this examination consists of both written and oral parts.

Completion of a course of study in higher institutions may take up to five years. Attempts are being made to decrease the number of years one must study so that young women may finish their higher education by their twentieth or twenty-first birthday, by which time they are expected to be married. Graduate study is an option for outstanding students at the university or in one of the Academy of Science's many research institutes.

The recently formed Council of Higher Education supervises Turkmenistan State University, the republic's eight institutes, and its two pedagogical institutes; these institutes are located in Ashgabat, with the exception of a pedagogical institute in Chärjew. These higher education institutions served 41,700 students in 1991, of which 8,000 were enrolled in the state university. Some institutes that train professionals for specific sectors of the national economy fall under the aegis of the relevant ministries. An education committee also functions under the president of the republic.


Turkmenistan - Health


As under the Soviet system, health care continues to be universally available to all citizens without charge. The health care system that Turkmenistan inherited from the Soviet regime is fraught with deficiencies, however. On the whole, physicians are poorly trained, modern medical technologies are almost unheard of, and many basic medicines are in short supply. Although health care is available to most urban residents, the system is financially bankrupt, and treatment is often primitive. Only recently have some medical professionals been allowed to offer private medical care, and the state maintains a near monopoly of health care.

Structure of Health Care

Health and welfare institutions are administered by the ministries of health, culture, education, and social welfare. Various coordination committees also operate under the aegis of presidential advisers. Between 1989 and 1992, health care as a share of the state budget declined from 11.2 to 6.9 percent, leaving inadequate local budgets to bear the brunt of expenditures. The comparison of health care statistics before and after 1991 is somewhat misleading, however, because the statistics do not account for changes in health budgeting at the end of the communist era.

In 1989 the republic had about 13,000 doctors and 298 hospitals, totaling more than 40,000 beds (111 per 10,000 persons). Some industrial enterprises had separate clinics for their workers. The number of doctors reached 13,800 or (36.2 per 10,000 persons) in 1991; at that time, medical personnel numbered 40,600, or 106.9 per 10,000. Until the early 1990s, all health personnel were government employees.

Health Care Conditions

Despite the nominally universal availability of free health care, in the rural areas medical care often is deplorable by Western standards. In both rural and urban areas, undertrained physicians and staff, underequipped facilities, shortages of medicines and supplies, and chronic sanitation problems contribute to the system's inadequacy. For example, one study found that because 70 percent of the obstetricians and gynecologists in Dashhowuz Province lacked adequate surgical training, half of their patients died. A factor in the high mortality rate is the provision of piped-in water to only 15 percent of maternity clinics in the republic. Because of the disruption of trade at the end of the Soviet period, pharmaceuticals must be obtained with hard currency, making them even more scarce than before. Of particular concern are shortages of oral rehydration salts for children, syringes and needles, and vaccines, which previously had been imported from Russia and Finland. According to experts, current conditions of conventional medical care may prompt many Turkmen to turn once again to "traditional" medicine. Healers employing herbs and prayer are common, and in some rural areas this type of treatment may be the only medical attention that is available.

Health Conditions

According to health statistics, life expectancy in Turkmenistan (62.9 for males, 69.7 for females) is the lowest in the CIS. The relatively high rate of natural population growth (2.0 percent per year), is based on a birth rate of 29.9 per 1,000 persons and a death rate of 7.3 per 1,000 persons. In 1992 cardiovascular disease was the most common cause of death, followed by cancer, respiratory disease, and accidents (see table 5, Appendix). Poor diet, polluted drinking water, and industrial wastes and pesticides cause or exacerbate many medical problems, which are especially acute in the northeastern areas of the country near the Amu Darya and Aral Sea. Women in their child-bearing years and children appear to be in the poorest health and the most susceptible to disease and sickness. Of CIS countries, in 1991 Turkmenistan ranked first in infant mortality rate, with forty-seven deaths per 1,000 live births, and very high on maternal death rate, with fifty-five deaths per 100,000 births. Some specialists attribute high infant mortality to factors of diet and health care while others relate it to poor hygienic practices and lack of family planning.


Turkmenistan - Welfare


Under the conditions of independence in the early 1990s, the standard of living in Turkmenistan did not drop as dramatically as it did in other former Soviet republics. Thus, the relatively small population of the nation of Turkmenistan did not require extensive state investment for the basic requirements of survival as the nation attempted the transition to a market economy.

Living Standards

Although living standards have not declined as sharply in Turkmenistan as in many other former Soviet republics, they have dropped in absolute terms for most citizens since 1991. Availability of food and consumer goods also has declined at the same time that prices have generally risen. The difference between living conditions and standards in the city and the village is immense. Aside from material differences such as the prevalence of paved streets, electricity, plumbing, and natural gas in the cities, there are also many disparities in terms of culture and way of life. Thanks to the rebirth of national culture, however, the village has assumed a more prominent role in society as a valuable repository of Turkmen language and traditional culture.


Most families in Turkmenistan derive the bulk of their income from state employment of some sort. As they were under the Soviet system, wage differences among various types of employment are relatively small. Industry, construction, transportation, and science have offered the highest wages; health, education, and services, the lowest. Since 1990 direct employment in government administration has offered relatively high wages. Agricultural workers, especially those on collective farms, earn very low salaries, and the standard of living in rural areas is far below that in Turkmen cities, contributing to a widening cultural difference between the two segments of the population.

In 1990 nearly half the population earned wages below the official poverty line, which was 100 rubles per month at that time (for value of the ruble--see Glossary). Only 3.4 percent of the population received more than 300 rubles per month in 1990. In the three years after the onset of inflation in 1991, real wages dropped by 47.6 percent, meaning a decline in the standard of living for most citizens (see Labor, this ch.).


Prices of all commodities rose sharply in 1991 when the Soviet Union removed the pervasive state controls that had limited inflation in the 1980s. Retail prices rose by an average of 90 percent in 1991, and then they rose by more than 800 percent when the new national government freed most prices completely in 1992. The average rate for the first nine months of 1994 was 605 percent. As world market prices rise and currency fluctuations affect prices and purchasing power, consumer price increases continue to outstrip rises in per capita incomes. In 1989 the average worker spent about two-thirds of his or her salary on food, fuel, clothing, and durable goods, but that ratio increased sharply in the years that followed. As prices rose, the supply of almost all food and many consumer goods was curtailed. The introduction of the manat (see Glossary) as the national currency in November 1993 likely worsened the already deteriorating consumer purchasing power. The prices of forty basic commodities immediately rose 900 percent, and wages were raised only 200 percent to compensate.


In 1989 the state owned more than 70 percent of urban housing and about 10 percent of rural housing. The remainder of urban housing was owned privately or by housing cooperatives. The average citizen had 11.2 square meters of housing space in urban areas, 10.5 square meters in rural areas. In 1989 some 31 percent of housing (urban and rural areas combined) had running water, 27 percent had central heating, and 20 percent had a sewer line.

In 1991 nearly all families had television sets, refrigerators, and sewing machines, and 84 percent had washing machines. Only 26 percent owned cars, however, and the quality of durable goods was quite low by Western standards.

Government Welfare Programs

In 1992, President Niyazov announced "Ten Years of Prosperity," a government program that provides virtually free natural gas, electricity, and drinking water to all households in the republic; increases minimum wages and other social payments, confirms food subsidies and price liberalizations, and aims at giving families their own house, car, and telephone. In 1993 two-thirds of the state budgetary expenditures went toward such "social needs," and half of that amount for the subsidization of food prices. Social programs also accounted for 60 percent of the 1995 budget.

The pension system has two main types of expenditures: retirement and disability payments and children's payments. Employees pay 1 percent of their wages to their pension fund, and the employer's share totals 80.5 percent of the total payroll contribution. In industries, the payroll contribution is 37 percent of the total pension fund; in agricultural enterprises, it is 26 percent. Because pension fund expenditures always exceed their receipts at this ratio of contribution, additional funds are allotted from the state budget. The normal retirement age is sixty for men and fifty-five for women, but the age is five or ten years less for occupations classified as hazardous. In the early 1990s, the number of pensioners grew at a rate of 17,000 per year; in 1993 some 404,000 individuals were in this category.

In December 1994, President Niyazov issued an edict setting the minimum wage at 1,000 manat per month and the minimum old-age pension at up to 1,000 manat per month. Pensions set at 60 percent of wages will be given to men retiring at the age of sixty and women at the age of fifty-five if they have worked for twenty-five and twenty years, respectively. In 1995 pensions for invalids and war veterans were set at 3,000 manat per month. Pensions are indexed to increases in minimum wages and are funded by payroll taxes. Allowances are granted to households with children under age sixteen. Payments depend on the age of the children and the economic and marital status of their parents. In 1993 such payments ranged from 110 rubles to 270 rubles per month. That year payments were made for about 1.75 million children. Funding is from the general budget for children age six and older and from the pension fund for those younger than six.


Turkmenistan - The Economy


Turkmenistan's economy is predominantly agricultural. Agriculture accounts for almost half of the gross domestic product (GDP) and more than two-fifths of total employment, whereas industry accounts for about one-fifth of GDP and slightly more than one-tenth of total employment. In 1988 the per capita net material product (NMP) output was 61 percent of the Soviet average, fourth lowest of the Soviet republics. In 1991, 17.2 percent of the work force was engaged in private-sector occupations such as farming, individual endeavors, and employment on agreement; 0.7 percent worked in rented enterprises, and the rest worked for state enterprises, social organizations, and collective farms.

Macroeconomic indicators of the performance of Turkmenistan's national economy have differed widely in the late Soviet and early independence years, making precise assessment difficult. According to one source, the per capita GDP was US$2,509 in 1992, placing it higher than Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, but lower than Kazakstan and much lower than some of the other former Soviet republics. Another source lists a 17 percent increase in industrial output between 1991 and 1992. On the other hand, several sources agree that the NMP aggregate figure for 1992 was a 15 percent decline from the previous year. One source claims that GDP in Turkmenistan increased by 8.5 percent in 1993, while another regards as suspect the statistical methods applied to the data on which this figure is based.

<"20.htm">Natural Resources
<"24.htm">Economic Structure
<"26.htm">Foreign Trade


Turkmenistan - Natural Resources


Turkmenistan has substantial reserves of oil and gas, and geologists have estimated that 99.5 percent of its territory is conducive to prospecting. The republic also has deposits of sulfur, hydrocarbons, iodine, celestine, potassium salt, magnesium salt, sodium chloride, bentonite clays, limestone, gypsum, brown coal, cement, basalt, and dolomite. Its soils, which have been formed under conditions of continental climate, are mostly desert sands, with a variety of other types such as desert loess, meadow clays, and "irrigated" soils, in some regions. Under those conditions, large-scale agriculture must be supported by irrigation in nearly all areas.


Turkmenistan - Agriculture


Turkmenistan inherited the system of state and collective farms from the Soviet Union, with its command structure of production quotas, fixed procurement prices, and soft budget constraints. The state still controls marketing and distribution of agricultural produce through the Ministry of Trade in urban areas and the Cooperative Alliance in rural locales; the Ministry of Agriculture's Commercial Center has a monopoly on cotton exports. Turkmenistan is highly dependent upon external sources for its agricultural inputs, the price of which has escalated more that those for agricultural products since independence.

Structure of the Agriculture Sector

Instead of restructuring the agricultural economy, the government's "New Countryside" policy envisions only limited privatization of agricultural enterprises and expansion of grain production to reduce dependence on imports. The development of transportation is critical to agricultural reform in Turkmenistan.

In 1991 field and orchard crops accounted for 70.4 percent of the value of agricultural sales prices (computed in 1983 prices), while livestock raising accounted for the remaining 29.6 percent (see table 18, Appendix). Almost half the cultivated land was under cotton, and 45 percent of the land under grains and fodder crops. Livestock raising centered on sheep, especially for the production of Karakul wool. Whereas production of meat and milk rose substantially in the 1986-91 period (increases of 14,000 and 110,000 tons, respectively), actual production in 1991 of 100,000 tons of meat and 458,000 tons of milk represented a decrease from 1990. Production of meat in 1992 declined 21 percent from that of 1991. Fishing, bee-keeping, and silk-rendering occupy small areas of the agricultural sector.


Under the prevailing climatic conditions, irrigation is a necessary input for agriculture and has been developed extensively throughout Turkmenistan. Irrigation management is divided between the Ministry of Irrigation, which is responsible for operation and maintenance along the Garagum Canal and for interrepublic water management, and the Irrigation Institute, which designs, evaluates, and builds new projects. State farms and collective farms are responsible for operation and maintenance on their own farms, but they have no other autonomy. Because only 55 percent of the water delivered to the fields actually reaches the crops, an average of twelve cubic meters of water is expended annually per hectare of cotton.

As a result of the construction of irrigation structures, and especially of the Garagum Canal, the hydrological balance of the republic has changed, with more water in the canals and adjacent areas and less in the rivers and the Aral Sea. The largest of the republic's eleven reservoirs are the Sary Yazy on the Murgap River, which occupies forty-six square kilometers of surface and has a capacity of 239 million cubic meters, and the Hawuz Khan on the Garagum Canal, which occupies ninety square kilometers of surface and has a capacity of 460 million cubic meters.

In 1983 Turkmenistan had an irrigated area of 1,054,000 hectares. Its most developed systems are along the middle and lower course of the Amu Darya and in the Murgap Basin. The Garagum Canal, which flows 1,100 kilometers with a capacity of 500 cubic meters per second, accounts for almost all irrigation in Ahal and Balkan provinces along the northern reaches of the Kopetdag Range. The canal also supplies additional water to the Murgap oasis in southeastern Turkmenistan. The main canal was built in sections between 1959 and 1976, initially providing irrigation for about 500,000 hectares. Plans call for construction to continue until the canal reaches a length of 1,435 kilometers and a carrying capacity of 1,000 cubic meters per second, enabling it to irrigate 1,000,000 hectares.


At a rate of 300 kilograms per citizen, Turkmenistan produces more cotton per capita than any other country in the world. Among the Soviet republics, Turkmenistan was second only to Uzbekistan in cotton production. In 1983 Turkmenistan contributed 12.7 percent of the cotton produced in the Soviet Union. Four of the republic's five provinces are considered to be "cotton provinces": Ahal, Mary, Chärjew, and Dashhowuz. Convinced that cotton is its most marketable product, the post-Soviet government is committed to maintaining previous levels of cotton production and area under cultivation.

In accordance with the Soviet policy of delegating the Central Asian republics as the nation's cotton belt, the area under cotton climbed rapidly from 150,400 hectares in 1940 to 222,000 hectares in 1960, 508,000 hectares in 1980, and 602,000 hectares in 1991. Because independence brought fuel and spare-parts shortages, the cotton harvest declined in the first half of the 1990s, however.

Industrial inputs for cotton production such as harvesters, sowing machines, mechanized irrigation equipment, fertilizer, pesticides, and defoliants have become less available to cotton farms in Turkmenistan because the other former Soviet republics, which were the chief suppliers of such items, raised their prices sharply in the first years of independence.

For most Turkmen farmers, cotton is the most important source of income, although cotton's potential contribution to the republic's economy was not approached in the Soviet period. Experts predict that by the year 2000, Turkmenistan will process one-third of its raw cotton output in textile mills located within the republic, substantially raising the rate achieved in the Soviet and early post-Soviet periods. In 1993, the state's procurement prices were raised significantly for high-grade raw seeded cotton. State planners envision selling 70 percent of the crop to customers outside the CIS.

Other Crops

Since independence, Turkmenistan's agricultural policy has emphasized grain production in order to increase self-sufficiency in the face of a sharp decline in trade among the former Soviet republics. A 50 percent increase in the grain harvest in 1992 was followed by a rise of 70 percent in 1993, despite unfavorable climatic conditions. Production of vegetables declined in 1992 to 13 percent below the 1991 level, whereas that of potatoes rose by 24 percent. High-quality melons are grown in the lower and middle reaches of the Amu Darya and in the Tejen and Murgap oases. In addition to these crops, subtropical fruits and nuts, especially pomegranates, almonds, figs, and olives, are grown in the Ertek and Sumbar valleys.


Turkmenistan - Industry


Turkmenistan possesses a formidable resource base for industry, although that base was not utilized to build diversified industry in the Soviet period. In the post-Soviet period, extraction and processing of natural gas and oil remain the country's most important industrial activities.

Structure of Industry

Turkmenistan did not inherit a substantial industrial base from the Soviet Union. Beginning in the 1970s, Moscow made major investments only in the oil and gas production and cotton-processing sectors. As a result, industry is highly specialized and potentially vulnerable to external shocks. Well-developed cotton ginning, natural gas, and cottonseed oil dominate at the expense of other sectors, such as the petrochemical and chemical industries, cotton textile production, food processing, and labor-intensive assemblage, in which Turkmenistan has a comparative advantage (see table 19, Appendix).

The shocks of independence slowed industrial production in the early 1990s. In the first half of 1994, macroeconomic fluctuations caused by the introduction of the manat as the national currency and limitations placed on gas exports caused aggregate industrial production to fall to 68.3 percent compared with the same period in 1993 (see Fiscal and Monetary Conditions, this ch.). The price index for industrial producers was 858 percent, indicating runaway inflation in this sector.

Gas and Oil

Turkmenistan ranks fourth in the world to Russia, the United States, and Canada in natural gas and oil extraction. The Turkmenistan Natural Gas Company (Turkmengaz), under the auspices of the Ministry of Oil and Gas, controls gas extraction in the republic. Gas production is the youngest and most dynamic and promising sector of the national economy. Turkmenistan's gas reserves are estimated at 8.1-8.7 trillion cubic meters and its prospecting potential at 10.5. trillion cubic meters. The Ministry of Oil and Gas oversees exploration of new deposits. Sites under exploration are located in Mary Province, in western and northern Turkmenistan, on the right bank of the Amu Darya, and offshore in the Caspian Sea.

In 1958 Turkmenistan produced only 800,000 cubic meters of natural gas. With the discovery of large deposits of natural gas at Achak, Qizilqum, Mary, and Shatlik, production grew to 1.265 billion cubic meters by 1966, and since then the yield has grown dramatically. In 1992 gas production accounted for about 60 percent of GDP. As a result of a dispute with Ukraine over payments for gas deliveries, in 1992 gas production fell by 20 billion cubic meters to around 60 billion cubic meters. In the first eight months of 1994, transportation restrictions forced Turkmenistan to cut gas production to 26.6 billion cubic meters, only 57 percent of the production for the same period in 1993. An additional factor in this reduction was the failure of CIS partners, to whom Russia distributes Turkmenistan's gas, to pay their bills.

Most of Turkmenistan's oil is extracted from fields at Koturdepe, Nebitdag, and Chekelen near the Caspian Sea, which have a combined estimated reserve of 700 million tons. The oil extraction industry started with the exploitation of the fields in Chekelen in 1909 and Nebitdag in the 1930s, then production leaped ahead with the discovery of the Kumdag field in 1948 and the Koturdepe field in 1959. All the oil produced in Turkmenistan is refined in Turkmenbashy.

Oil production reached peaks of 14,430,000 tons in 1970 and 15,725,000 tons in 1974, compared with 5,400,000 tons in 1991. Since the years of peak production, general neglect of the oil industry in favor of the gas industry has led to equipment depreciation, lack of well repairs, and exhaustion of deposits for which platforms have been drilled.

Other Industries

Besides petrochemical processing at the Turkmenbashy and Chärjew refineries, the chemicals industry is underdeveloped in comparison with the potential provided by the republic's mineral and fuel resources. The industry has specialized in fertilizer for cotton at the Chärjew superphosphate plant and such chemicals as sulfur, iodine, ammonia, mirabilite, salt, and various sulfates at the Turkmenbashy facility.

Because of the ready availability of natural gas, Turkmenistan is a net exporter of electrical power to Central Asian republics and southern neighbors. The most important generating installations are the Hindukush Hydroelectric Station, which has a rated capacity of 350 megawatts, and the Mary Thermoelectric Power Station, which has a rated capacity of 1,370 megawatts. In 1992 electrical power production totaled 14.9 billion kilowatt-hours.

Turkmenistan's machine building capability has not developed significantly since the conversion of agricultural repair installations for that purpose in Ashgabat and Mary in the late 1960s. Goods produced at these plants include dough kneading and confectionery mixing machines, ventilators, centrifugal oil pumps, gas stove pieces, cables, and lighting equipment.

Construction has grown as a result of a shift in state investment toward housing, education, and joint enterprises. Since 1989, construction has accounted for around 10 percent of the GDP. Building materials produced in the republic include lime, cement, brick and wall stone, ferro-concrete structures, asbestos-concrete pipes, silicate concrete, lime, brick, slate, and glass.

Most food processing consists of rendering cottonseed oil and such related products as soap and grease from cotton plants. Because of the distance between plants and farms and an inadequate transportation infrastructure, only 8 percent of the fruits and vegetables grown in the republic are processed. Other processing capabilities include winemaking, brewing, baking, meat packing and processing, and production of table salt.

Turkmenistan's carpets are famous for their density, which reaches 240,000 knots per square meter in some traditional weaves. The Turkmenistan Carpet Production Association supervises ten carpet factories, but home looms account for a substantial share of production. Other traditional crafts include the fashioning of national clothing such as wool caps and robes, galvanized dishes, and jewelry in forms that state enterprises do not produce or supply. In the mid-1990s, other light industries provided secondary processing of cotton, wool, and silk for yarn, some finished textiles, and wadding.


Turkmenistan - Labor


The labor force comprised 1,923,000 people in 1991-92, of whom 1,571,000 (almost 46 percent of the population) were employed in the national economy. Over half of this number worked in state enterprises--a number that is expected to decline in general and to vary radically from sector to sector during the transitional phases of privatization.

In 1990, 37 percent of the workforce was in agricultural and 15 percent in industrial employment; however, one-fourth of industrial employment was in industries related to agriculture. Between 1970 and 1990, the percentage of the workforce employed in industry decreased slightly from 23.4 to 20.0 percent. The share of the agricultural sector within the workforce rose slightly in this period from 38.4 to 41.1 percent. In transportation and communications, the percentages were 7.0 and 6.3, respectively, while in the sectors of health, education, social services, arts and sciences, they rose from 16.5 to 18.6 percent. The state apparatus maintained a share ranging from 2.9 percent of the labor force in 1970 to 2.5 in 1989.

In 1989, some 62.5 percent of all workers were employed at state enterprises, 22.3 percent on collective farms, 1.1 percent in cooperatives (up from 0 in 1986), 0.1 percent in individual labor (a constant percentage since 1970), and 14.1 percent in private plots (up from 8.5 percent in 1970, largely at the expense of the collective farm percentage).

Figures from 1989 for the distribution of the populace according to source of sustenance show that of the entire population of Turkmenistan, 40.6 percent worked in the national economy, 1.9 percent held stipends, 10.9 percent were pensioners and others receiving state welfare, 46.5 percent were dependents and those employed only on individual supplemental endeavors, and 0.1 percent had other unspecified means of subsistence.

The percentage of women within the total work force of Turkmenistan was 41.7 in 1989, reflecting a near constant since 1970 (39.5). The percentage of women within the total number of specialists in the work force who have completed middle and upper special education rose from 44.0 in 1970 to 49.4 in 1989. Workers under thirty years of age who have completed a secondary general education accounted for 66.4 percent of Turkmenistan's work force in 1989; those with middle specialized education, 16.0 percent; those with an incomplete higher education, 1.6 percent; and those with a complete higher education, 8.7 percent.

The national minimum wage is a critical component of the macro-level "price-wage feedback" in inflationary processes; this wage is established by presidential decree. The basic wage structure is set by a cross-classification of occupations and physical exertion levels, which determines relative minimum wages for various sectors. After a negotiating process, minimum wages can be set above the national minimum in profitable sectors. Wages in agriculture and industry were similar until 1991, when agricultural wages declined relative to average wage.

Plans call for the Ministry of Labor to be replaced by a State Corporation for Specialist Training, with the bulk of the ministry's nontraining functions to shift to the Ministry of Economy, Finance, and Banking. Those functions include oversight of unemployment, salary administration and minimum wage determination, and labor protection. There is no independent labor union movement in Turkmenistan. Trade union leaders are appointed by the president, meaning that no true collective bargaining can occur.

Labor productivity is one of the major concerns of economic planners in Turkmenistan. According to Soviet statistics, for industrial enterprises this indicator grew at a rate of 6.3 percent per year in the period 1971-5; then it declined drastically to 0.1 percent per year in 1976-80 before reaching 3.2 percent in 1989. Similar changes occurred in agricultural labor productivity in the 1970s and the 1980s, moving from 2.6 percent growth in 1971-75 to negative 1.4 percent in 1976-80 and then to 4.0 percent in 1989.


Turkmenistan - Economic Structure


Although Turkmenistan's economic situation has deteriorated somewhat since 1990, the overall standard of living has not dropped as dramatically as it has in other former Soviet republics. Economic reforms have been modest, and the majority of businesses remain state-owned. Thanks to government subsidies, basic food products continue to be relatively affordable despite inflation. One of the most important modifications in economic policy took effect in early 1993 when President Niyazov decreed that natural gas, water, and electricity would be supplied virtually free of charge to all homes in Turkmenistan for an indefinite period. Gasoline and other fuels also remain cheap, relative to neighboring republics. Such economic stability has been possible because Turkmenistan has a comparatively small population and it is rich in important resources such as natural gas and oil.

The main blueprint for Turkmenistan's development is the Ten Years of Prosperity program, which was announced in December 1992. It calls for a ten-year transition to a market economy, with a first phase that maintains the Soviet system of planned management accompanied by extensive social protection programs. The program envisages development of Turkmenistan's natural resources and restructuring of industry to provide import substitution.


Turkmenistan - Privatization


One of the most important reforms of Turkmenistan's economic plan is privatization. Article 9 of the 1992 constitution guarantees citizens the right to own capital, land, and other material or intellectual property, but no law has stipulated the source from which land could be acquired. No fund of land available for private purchase has been established. A law on land ownership allows every citizen the right to own and bequeath to heirs plots smaller than fifty hectares, so long as they are continuously cultivated, and to obtain a long-term lease on up to 500 hectares. Such land may not be bought or sold, however. In 1993 only about 100 peasant farms were privately run, and they were leased rather than owned. Nevertheless, after the government announced the 1993 law allowing fifty-hectare plots, it soon received more than 5,000 applications.

In February 1993, a State Committee on Land Reform was established, with a goal of privatizing 10 to 15 percent of all agricultural land. Beginning in May 1993, the state began leasing land on the condition that 35 percent of the state procurement for cotton be surrendered, with no monetary compensation, as payment of rent. Estimates of the irrigated land since leased or under private ownership range from 3 to 12 percent. The state also intends to privatize all unprofitable agricultural enterprises.

The privatization process is managed by the Department of State Property and Privatization, which is part of the Ministry of Economy, Finance, and Banking. Short-term plans call for continued state control of the gas, oil, railway, communications, and energy industries and agriculture--sectors that combine to account for 80 percent of the economy. Laws on leasing, joint-stock companies, and entrepreneurship were adopted in the early 1990s. A general privatization law passed in 1992 describes the gradual denationalization of state property through a variety of methods.

In 1992 only 2,600 small enterprises--mostly individual ventures such as trading outlets and home-worker operations--were privately owned. Through the end of 1993, only a few small trade and service enterprises had moved to private ownership, mostly sold to foreign buyers. Plans called for conversion of large manufacturing firms into joint-stock enterprises by the end of 1994, and private ownership of all trade and service-sector enterprises with fewer than 500 employees by the end of 1995. However, the state would maintain a "controlling interest" in businesses that become joint stock companies and would retain control over profitable larger concerns.

A second important component of Turkmenistan's economic development plan is marketization. To promote this process, a decree was issued in March 1993 for the formation of a joint-stock bank, the granting of additional credits to the Agroindustrial Bank for the development of entrepreneurship, and the establishment of seven free economic zones. Agricultural entrepreneurs are to be granted special profits tax and land payment exemptions. Within free economic zones, companies with more than 30 percent foreign ownership are to receive special exemptions from profit tax and rental payments.


Turkmenistan - Foreign Trade


In the early 1990s, Turkmenistan's foreign trade remained completely under the control of the central government. During that period, the most important trading partners remained the former republics of the Soviet Union, with which the great majority of trade had been conducted during the Soviet era. Natural gas is the most profitable item available for foreign sale.

Trade Structure

In controlling Turkmenistan's trade sector, the main goal of government policy is to maintain and expand foreign markets for gas, fuel products, electricity, and cotton. Just prior to independence, trade with other Soviet republics accounted for 93 percent of Turkmenistan's exports and 81 percent of its imports. In the mid-1990s, the country's main trading partners (as they were in 1990) were Russia, Kazakstan, and Uzbekistan in the CIS and Germany and countries in Eastern Europe outside the CIS (see table 20, Appendix). In 1990 nearly 27 percent of exports were mineral products, 6 percent were chemical industry products, 46 percent were some form of cotton fiber, and 17 percent were processed food products.

In 1991 the largest components of Turkmenistan's imports were food (17 percent of the total), chemical products (6 percent), light industry products including textiles (22 percent), and machinery (30 percent). Among Western countries, Turkmenistan imported the most goods from Finland, France, and Italy in 1992.

In 1990, the overall trade deficit was US$500 million, which declined to $US300 million in 1991. In 1991 the trade deficit constituted some 13.9 percent of the net material product (NMP--see Glossary). In 1992 the deficit with Russia, Turkmenistan's main trading partner, was about US$38 million. That year the value of exports to Russia was 52.7 percent of the value of imports from Russia, the highest percentage among Russia's CIS trading partners. However, because it exports fuel, in the mid-1990s Turkmenistan maintained a positive trade balance at world prices with the CIS as a whole, making it the only republic besides Russia to do so.

In 1993 Turkmenistan's main CIS import partners were (in order of import volume) Russia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, and Tajikistan. The main CIS customers were (in order of export volume) Ukraine, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, and Georgia. In 1992 Turkmenistan had bilateral trade surpluses with Ukraine, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia.

Russia continues to trade with Turkmenistan in much the same way as in the Soviet era, although by 1992 trade with the other republics was curtailed by difficulties in collecting payments and other factors. Central Asian republics traditionally traded more with Russia than with each other; the conditions of the 1990s promote even less regional trade because several of the republics specialize in similar products. For example, cotton and gas are the chief export products of both Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Because of its specialization in cotton and natural gas, Turkmenistan imports a large percentage of the food it consumes. In 1991 the republic imported 65 percent of its grain consumption, 45 percent of its milk and dairy products, 70 percent of its potatoes, and 100 percent of its sugar--a profile typical of the Central Asian republics. In 1991 the trade deficit was 684 million rubles in food goods, compared with a deficit of 1.25 billion rubles in non-food goods.

Turkmenistan's cotton exports follow the pattern of other Central Asian republics. Governments of these countries have raised the price of cotton for trade with their Central Asian neighbors nearly to world market levels while discounting their cotton on the world market because of its relatively poor quality and less reliable delivery. Since 1991, Central Asian countries have more than doubled their exports of cotton to countries outside the CIS, accounting for 70 percent of West European cotton imports. Exports to the Far East and Mexico also have increased. In 1992 Turkmenistan cut its cotton export prices by 30 percent to stimulate sales. In response, the National Cotton Council of America refused to make subsidized shipments of cotton to Russia, where around 350 textile mills were threatened with closure because of insufficient imports, unless Central Asian republics reversed their aggressive stance in the world cotton market.

Natural gas, Turkmenistan's main export for foreign currency, accounted for an estimated 70 percent of its exports in 1993. Planners expected per capita earnings from sales of gas in 1993 to approach US$1,300, but Azerbaijan and Georgia failed to make payments. Turkmenistan, like Russia, has introduced a policy of cutting off gas supplies in response to such situations. In the case of Azerbaijan and Georgia, supply was curtailed until the bills were paid. In the mid-1990s, the practice of shutting off delivery was a thorny issue between Turkmenistan and Ukraine, which owns the main pipeline to Europe but has failed to pay for gas deliveries on many occasions (see Transportation and Telecommunications, this ch.).

CIS agreements on tariffs and customs have been worked out, but in reality a "legal vacuum" exists with regard to interrepublic economic ties. Technically, CIS members are not allowed to discriminate against one another in trade, but trade wars began to break out immediately upon independence. As a result, most republics have made a series of bilateral accords. A month before the major CIS agreement was worked out in 1992, Turkmenistan signed a customs union agreement with Russia and the other Central Asian republics. Later, it renegotiated its terms with Russia.

In a move toward trade liberalization in early 1993, Turkmenistan abolished import duties on around 600 goods, including all CIS goods. Imports from former Soviet republics outside the ruble zone (see Glossary) were prohibited. Tariffs for goods exported for hard currency have remained in place to increase government revenue and prevent capital flight; thus, for natural gas the tariff is 80 percent; for oil, 20 percent; and for chemicals, 15 percent. The state can fix the volume, price, and tariff of any export leaving Turkmenistan.

Beginning in November 1993, Turkmenistan stopped the Soviet-era practice of accepting goods in exchange for natural gas, restricting payments to hard currency, precious metals, and precious stones. However, this policy may not be successful because Russia buys gas from Turkmenistan and then redistributes it to CIS customers rather than to Europe. Under these conditions, some customers may turn to Uzbekistan, which sells its gas directly and at a much lower price. Turkmenistan found it necessary to negotiate barter agreements with certain nonpaying customers such as Azerbaijan and Georgia. Until the end of 1994, Kazakstan was the only CIS customer to pay in cash.

In 1993 gas constituted 66.2 percent of Turkmenistan's exports to non-CIS countries, cotton 26.1 percent, and other goods 7.7 percent. Turkmenistan barters large quantities of cotton for textile-processing equipment from Italy, Argentina, and Turkey. Almost half of cotton exports (more than 20 percent of total exports) have been diverted to non-CIS customers since 1992. An increase in barter trade with China and Iran partially offsets the collapse of interrepublic supply. In 1994 Iran bought 20,000 tons of cotton fiber, a volume expected to increase by five times in 1995. Turkmenistan also will sell surplus electrical power via Iran.

Despite payment problems, Turkmenistan's export position has improved substantially since independence. Its consolidated current account surplus rose from US$447 million to US$927 million between 1991 and 1992, so that the increase in gas and cotton exports has offset the increase in imports. By mid-1994, the United States Export-Import Bank extended US$75.7 million to insure Turkmenistan's trade deals, and the United States Department of Agriculture offered US$5 million in grain credits. Turkey's export-import bank extended a credit line worth $US90 million to Turkmenistan to help cover the growing volume of trade between these two countries. Japan's Eximbank allocated $5 million in trade credits for machinery.

Investments from Abroad

In November 1991, Turkmenistan officially opened its system to foreign economic activity by ratifying the laws "On Enterprises in Turkmenistan" and "On Entrepreneur Activity in Turkmenistan." Subsequent laws on foreign investment have covered protection against nationalization, tax breaks on reinvestment of hard currency obtained for profits, property ownership, and intellectual property rights protection to attract foreign investment, and the important 1993 decree allowing domestic enterprises to form joint ventures with foreign oil companies. The Ten Years of Prosperity plan envisages "free economic zones, joint enterprises, and a broadening of entrepreneurship."

Foreign investors have been attracted by the republic's calm and receptive atmosphere. In 1993 parts of the country took on the appearance of a huge construction site, with twenty-six foreign joint ventures operating there. Turkish joint ventures alone were building sixty factories for the processing of agricultural produce. Despite official discouragement of economic activity on the grounds of human rights violations in Turkmenistan, United States business people have been attracted by the republic's stable conditions, and they have invested in a number of significant projects. In the early 1990s, United States companies paid particular attention to the oil and gas industry, establishing investment agreements with the consultative aid of former United States secretaries of state Alexander Haig and James Baker.

Economic Agreements Abroad

In the formative phase following independence, Turkmenistan concluded several key agreements with trade partners. In December 1991, President Niyazov became the first Central Asian leader to secure cooperation agreements with Turkey on trade, rail and air links, communications, education, and culture. Turkmenistan also secured Turkey's agreement on a gas pipeline routed through its territory and assistance in the trading of petroleum, electricity, and cotton. Also in 1991, Turkmenistan established terms with Russia on cotton-for-oil trades, as well as for other industrial goods such as automobiles. In 1992 agreements with Iran established Iranian aid to Turkmenistan's gas and oil industry and its livestock raising, grain, sugar beet, and fruit sectors, in return for aid to Iran's cotton sector. At the same time, Iran pledged support for Turkmenistan's pipeline project through Iran to Turkey.

Since its initial agreement, Turkmenistan has pursued its trade relationship with Iran with great vigor. Agreements focus on the pipeline project that will bring gas from Turkmenistan to Europe via Iran and Turkey, transportation projects such as the Tejen-Saragt-Mashhad railroad link, whose construction was undertaken in 1993, and development of the oil and gas industries, including the establishment of a joint venture in Turkmenistan for the transport of petroleum products and construction of a plant to produce motor oil. Cooperation in mining and other fields also has been discussed.

At the beginning of 1992, Turkmenistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakstan formed the Caspian States Cooperation Organization to reach regional agreements on fishing, shipping, environmental protection, and cooperation among the member nations' oil and gas operations. Iran also has sought to gain support for a project, discontinued in 1979, that would replenish the sturgeon population of the Caspian Sea.

The participation of foreign companies in the development of Turkmenistan's oil industry is expected to triple extraction by the year 2000. In February 1993, the United States firm Vivtex designed a competition among oil companies to win contracts in Turkmenistan. The "winners" for three of the seven blocks put up for bid were Larmag Energy of the Netherlands, Noble Drilling of the United States, Eastpac of the United Arab Emirates, and the Bridas firm of Argentina. Just for holding the competition, Turkmenistan received an initial non-returnable "bonus" payment of US$65 million. The total investment of competition winners was to amount to US$160 million over the course of three years. Turkmenistan would receive between 71 and 75 percent of the profits from these joint enterprises.

In the mid-1990s, Turkmenistan has sought to establish a natural gas pipeline that would pass through Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China to reach Japan, as well as an interim rail line for liquefied gas through China until the pipeline is finished. President Niyazov visited Beijing in November 1992 for talks on the pipeline, at the same time securing credits of 45 million Chinese yuan to be repaid after two years. Niyazov then held talks with representatives of the Japanese firm Mitsubishi and the Chinese Ministry of Oil in December 1992. A delegation of Japanese experts visited Ashgabat in February 1993 to discuss prospects for aid. Declaring Turkmenistan the "most solvent" of the Central Asian republics, the delegation signed agreements for the development of oil deposits in the Caspian shelf, communications, and water desalinization.

In the mid-1990s, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) denied assistance to Turkmenistan on the grounds that Turkmenistan has not taken the required human rights steps for economic cooperation. However, in March 1993, the United States conferred most-favored-nation trading status on Turkmenistan.


Turkmenistan - Government


The post-Soviet government of the Republic of Turkmenistan retains many of the characteristics and the personnel of the communist regime of Soviet Turkmenistan. The government has received substantial international criticism as an authoritarian regime centering on the dominant power position of President Saparmyrat Niyazov. Nevertheless, the 1992 constitution does characterize Turkmenistan as a democracy with separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

Centers of Political Power

In 1994 members of the former Communist Party of Turkmenistan continued to fill the majority of government and civic leadership posts, and much of the ideologically justified Soviet-era political structure remained intact. Besides serving as head of the Democratic Party (as the reconstituted Communist Party of Turkmenistan is called) and chairman of the advisory People's Council and the Cabinet of Ministers, Niyazov also appoints the procurator general and other officers of the courts. In criticizing Turkmenistan's political leadership, experts have cited the single-party system, strict censorship, repression of political dissent, and the "cult of personality" that has formed around President Niyazov. Niyazov's name has been given to streets, schools, communal farms, and numerous other places; his portrait and sayings receive prominent public display; the country's mass media give him extensive exposure that always characterizes him in a positive light; and a law "Against Insulting the Dignity and Honor of the President" is in force.

At the same time, Western and Russian criticism generally has revealed misunderstandings and stereotypes of the political and social dynamics of the region that dilute the authority of such evaluations. Beneath the surface of the presidential image, political life in Turkmenistan is influenced by a combination of regional, professional, and tribal factors. Regional ties appear to be the strongest of these factors; they are evident in the opposing power bases of Ashgabat, center of the government, and Mary, which is the center of a mafia organization that controls the narcotics market and illegal trade in a number of commodities. Although both areas are settled primarily by Turkmen of the Teke tribe, factions in Ashgabat still express resentment and distrust of those in Mary for failing to aid the fortress of Gokdepe against the 1881 assault that led to Russian control of the Turkmen khanates (see Incorporation into Russia, this ch.).

Political behavior also is shaped by the technocratic elites, who were trained in Moscow and who can rely on support from most of the educated professionals in Ashgabat and other urban areas. Most of the elites within the national government originate from and are supported by the intelligentsia, which also is the source of the few opposition groups in the republic.

Tribal and other kinship ties rooted in genealogies play a much smaller role than presumed by analysts who view Turkmen society as "tribal" and therefore not at a sophisticated political level. Nonetheless, clan ties often are reflected in patterns of appointments and networks of power. Regional and clan ties have been identified as the bases for political infighting in the republic. For example, in the early 1990s power bases pitted the Mary district chieftain Gurban Orazov against the Ashgabat millionaire and minister of agriculture Payzgeldi Meredov, and the Teke clan's hold on power through Niyazov conflicted with the Yomud clan's hold on the oil and gas industry through minister Nazar Soyunov. In July 1994, Niyazov removed both Meredov and Soyunov from office on the basis of evidence that the two ministers had misappropriated funds obtained from the sale of state-owned resources. To correct such problems, a Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations was formed to handle exports and imports, and a Control and Revision Commission was established to review contracts with foreign firms.

According to a law passed in December 1992, all permanent residents of Turkmenistan are accorded citizenship unless they renounce that right in writing. Non-residents may become citizens if they can demonstrate that they have resided in Turkmenistan for the past seven years and that they have some knowledge of the Turkmen language. Dual citizenship with certain other former Soviet republics is permitted. The CIS summit held in Ashgabat in December 1993 resulted in an accord on dual citizenship between the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan, allowing Turkmenistan's 400,000 ethnic Russians to achieve that status.

In May 1992, Turkmenistan became the first newly independent republic in Central Asia to ratify a constitution. According to the constitution and to literature printed by the government, Turkmenistan is a democratic, secular, constitutional republic based on law and headed by a president. It is also termed a "presidential republic," one that is "based on the principles of the separation of powers--legislative, executive, and judicial--which operate independently, checking and balancing one another."

<"28.htm">Government Structure
<"29.htm">Political Parties
<"30.htm">Human Rights
<"31.htm">Foreign Policy


Turkmenistan - Government Structure


The government of Turkmenistan is divided into three branches--the executive branch headed by the president, the legislative branch consisting of the National Assembly (Milli Majlis), and the judicial branch embodied in the Supreme Court. A People's Council nominally has the ultimate power to oversee the three branches. A Council of Elders exists as an advisory body to the government, everyday affairs of which are conducted by a Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the president.


The office of president (türkmenbashi , "Leader of the Turkmen") was established in conjunction with the ratification of the 1992 constitution. The president functions as head of state and government and as commander in chief of the armed forces, serving for an elected term of five years. Presidential powers include the right to issue edicts having the force of law, to appoint and remove state prosecutors and judges, and to discontinue the National Assembly if it has passed two no-confidence votes on the sitting government (Cabinet) within an eighteen-month period. The government is administered by the Cabinet of Ministers, who are appointed by the president with National Assembly approval.

Niyazov, who was president of the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic at the time of independence, is a Turkmen of the Teke tribe who was born in 1940. Trained as an engineer, Niyazov rose through the ranks of the Communist Party of Turkmenistan, reaching the top of the party hierarchy as first secretary in 1985. During his tenure, Niyazov remained aloof from glasnost and perestroika , the reforms of CPSU First Secretary Mikhail S. Gorbachev, even terming Gorbachev's program "pseudo-reform." When Moscow hard-liners attempted to unseat Gorbachev in the coup of August 1991, Niyazov refrained from condemning the conspiracy until after its failure was certain. After his appointment as president of the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic in October 1990, Niyazov ran as an uncontested candidate in the republic's first presidential election in June 1991, winning over 99 percent of the vote. From that position, he presided over the declaration of independence in October 1991. The 1992 constitution of the independent Republic of Turkmenistan called for a new presidential election, which Niyazov won in June 1992. In January 1994, a referendum extended his presidency from a five-year term to a ten-year term that would end in the year 2002; of the 99 percent of the electorate that voted, officially only 212 voted against the extension.

Legislative Branch

The 1992 constitution provides for a legislative body called the National Assembly, a body that retains the structure and procedures of the Soviet-era Supreme Soviet. The body's fifty members are elected directly to five-year terms, and they are prohibited from holding other offices during their tenure. The National Assembly is charged with the enactment of criminal legislation and approving amendments to the constitution. It also ratifies legislative bills introduced by the president, the Cabinet of Ministers, and individual members of the National Assembly.

Supreme Court

Established by the 1992 constitution, the Supreme Court comprises twenty-two judges appointed by the president to five-year terms. Of the three branches of government, the judiciary has the fewest powers; its prescribed functions are limited to review of laws for constitutionality and decisions concerning the judicial codex or Supreme Law.

National Council

The 1992 constitution also established the National Council (Halk Maslahati) to serve as "the highest representative organ of popular power." Intended to unite the three branches of government, it comprises the president of Turkmenistan; the deputies of the National Assembly; members of the Supreme Court, the Cabinet of Ministers, and the Supreme Economic Court; sixty people's representatives elected from the districts specifically to the National Council; and officials from scientific and cultural organizations. Members of the National Council serve for five years without compensation. This body meets at the request of the president or the National Assembly, or when mandated by a one-third vote of its members. Functions of the National Council include advising the president, recommending domestic and foreign policy, amending the constitution and other laws, ratifying treaties, and declaring war and peace. In theory, its powers supersede those of the president, the National Assembly, and the Supreme Court. However, the council has been described as a kind of "super-congress of prominent people" that rubber-stamps decisions made by the other national bodies, in most cases the executive.

Council of Elders

In addition, the constitution created the Council of Elders, which is designed to embody the Turkmen tradition of reliance on the advice of senior members of society in matters of importance. According to the constitution, the president is bound to consult with this body prior to making decisions on both domestic and foreign affairs. The Council of Elders also is assigned the task of selecting presidential candidates. Its chairman is the president of Turkmenistan.


Turkmenistan - Political Parties


Although the constitution guarantees the right to form political parties, in fact the former Communist Party of Turkmenistan has retained the political control exercised by its predecessor. Opposition parties and other politically active groups have remained small and without broad support.

Democratic Party of Turkmenistan

At the twenty-fifth congress of the Communist Party of Turkmenistan held in December 1991, the party was renamed the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, and Niyazov was confirmed as its chairman. According to its new program, the Democratic Party serves as a "mother party" that dominates political activity and yet promotes the activity of a loyal political opposition. Following a proposal of Niyazov, a party called the Peasant Justice Party, composed of regional secretaries of the Democratic Party, was registered in 1992 as an opposition party.

The Democratic Party of Turkmenistan essentially retains the apparatus of the former communist party. Party propaganda aims at explaining the need for preserving stability, civil peace, and interethnic accord. Party publications boast that its primary organizations operate in every enterprise, organization, and institution, and that its membership includes over 165,000, whereas critics claim that most citizens hardly are aware of the party's existence.

Opposition Parties

The 1992 constitution establishes rights concerning freedom of religion, the separation of church and state, freedom of movement, privacy, and ownership of private property. Both the constitution and the 1991 Law on Public Organizations guarantee the right to create political parties and other public associations that operate within the framework of the constitution and its laws. Such activity is restricted by prohibitions of parties that "encroach on the health and morals of the people" and on the formation of ethnic or religious parties. This provision has been used by the government to ban several groups.

In the mid-1990s, Niyazov described opposition groups as lacking both popular support and political programs offering constructive alternatives to existing policy. He has cited these qualities in disqualifying groups from eligibility to register as opposition parties. Insofar as such groups have the potential to promote ethnic or other tensions in society, they may be viewed as illegal, hence subject to being banned under the constitution.

Given such an environment, opposition activity in Turkmenistan has been quite restrained. A small opposition group called Unity (Agzybirlik), originally registered in 1989, consists of intellectuals who describe the party program as oriented toward forming a multiparty democratic system on the Turkish model. Unity has devoted itself to issues connected with national sovereignty and the replacement of the communist political legacy. After being banned in January 1990, members of Unity founded a second group called the Party for Democratic Development, which focused on reforms and political issues. That party's increasing criticism of authoritarianism in the postindependence government led to its being banned in 1991. The original Unity group and its offspring party jointly publish a newspaper in Moscow called Daynach (Support), distribution of which is prohibited in Turkmenistan. In 1991 these two opposition groups joined with others in a coalition called Conference (Gengesh), aimed at effecting democratic reforms in the republic.


Turkmenistan - Human Rights


President Niyazov has stated his support for the democratic ideal of a multiparty system and of protection of human rights, with the caveat that such rights protect stability, order, and social harmony. While acknowledging that his cult of personality resembles that of Soviet dictator Joseph V. Stalin, Niyazov claims that a strong leader is needed to guide the republic through its transition from communism to a democratic form of government.

Although the Niyazov government has received consistent criticism from foreign governments and international organizations such as Helsinki Watch for its restrictive policies toward opposition groups, in general the government has not taken extreme steps against its political opposition. In 1993 no political prisoners, political executions, or instances of torture or other inhumane treatment were reported. The government has made conscious efforts to protect equal rights and opportunities for groups of citizens it considers benign. Such measures have been applied especially in safeguarding the security of Russian residents, who receive special attention because they offer a considerable body of technical and professional expertise.

Nevertheless, government control of the media has been quite effective in suppressing domestic criticism of the Niyazov regime. In addition, members of opposition groups suffer harassment in the form of dismissal from jobs, evictions, unwarranted detentions, and denial of travel papers. Their rights to privacy are violated through telephone tapping, electronic eavesdropping, reading of mail, and surveillance. United States officials have protested human rights violations by refusing to sign aid agreements with Turkmenistan and by advising against economic aid and cooperation.


Turkmenistan - Foreign Policy


Turkmenistan has declared "positive neutrality" and "open doors" to be the two major components of its foreign policy. Positive neutrality is defined as gaining international recognition of the republic's independence, agreeing upon mutual non-interference in internal affairs, and maintaining neutrality in external conflicts. The open- doors policy has been adopted to encourage foreign investment and export trade, especially through the development of a transport infrastructure. Turkmenistan gained membership in the United Nations (UN) in early 1992.


Pervasive historical and geopolitical factors shape Turkmenistan's foreign policy. With the removal of the protective Soviet "umbrella," the foreign policy tasks facing independent Turkmenistan are the establishment of independent national security and economic systems, while coping with the long legacy of existence in the empires of tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union. As of 1996, all of Turkmenistan's gas pipelines went north into the Russian Federation or other CIS states, thus subordinating sectors of its economic development to that of relatively poor countries. Because Turkmenistan lacks a strong military, independence depends on establishing military pacts with Russia and on developing balanced diplomatic and economic ties with Russia and neighboring countries (see Role of Russia and CIS, this ch.).

Turkmenistan's geographical location close to conflict-riven Afghanistan and Tajikistan also requires a guarded posture toward the irredentist and Islamic forces at play in those countries. Concern over border security was heightened by an incident in October 1993 when two Afghan jets bombed Turkmen territory, despite recent talks with Afghan officials aimed at ensuring equality and non-interference.

Turkmenistan's status as an Islamic state also affects Turkmenistan's relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia. Although in need of the foreign aid and developmental opportunities offered by these countries, Turkmenistan's government also endeavors to blunt any perceived threats to its secular status that arise from Muslim activists. The Turkic identity of the bulk of its population thus far has not proven to be a significant factor in foreign affairs because Turkmenistan must compete with other Central Asian Turkic republics for markets and for closer socioeconomic ties with Turkey.

An important historical factor in current policy is that prior to independence the Soviet government conducted Turkmenistan's foreign affairs. The only involvement of republic officials in international relations was in the form of ceremonial contacts aimed at showcasing Soviet nationality policy by presenting Turkmenistan as a developmental model for Third World countries.

<"32.htm">Foreign Relations Issues
<"33.htm">The United States
<"34.htm">Western Europe
<"35.htm">Asian Neighbors
<"36.htm">CIS Relations
<"37.htm">Caspian Sea Issues


Turkmenistan - Foreign Relations Issues


Since independence, Turkmenistan has taken major initiatives by making national security and economic development agreements. Security agreements have focused on military cooperation with Russia and on border security with Iran and Afghanistan. In the economic area, President Niyazov has concentrated on developing gas and oil exports and the pipeline transport infrastructure, especially in cooperation with Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan.

A recent transportation dispute underscored the urgency of Turkmenistan's finding a new pipeline route by which to send its natural gas to Europe through Iran and Turkey. From February through September 1992, Turkmenistan was engaged in a gas-transport price war with Ukraine that provoked the latter to withhold food shipments. In addition, Ukraine refused to transship 500 tons of Turkmenistan's cotton to Turkey, prompting an ambitious program to build Turkmenistan's railroad links with its southern neighbors.


Turkmenistan - The United States


Initial concern over human rights policy delayed United States recognition of Turkmenistan's independence until after February 1992, when alarms over Iran's ventures in Central Asia brought a reevaluation of United States policy. Relations declined in September 1993 when the United States cut trade credits to Turkmenistan to protest the arrest of four human rights activists. Generally, such human rights violations have not impeded relations between the two countries, however. Alexander Haig, former United States secretary of state, acting as consultant to President Niyazov, played a leading role in negotiating most-favored-nation trading status for Turkmenistan in 1993.


Turkmenistan - Western Europe


President Niyazov has visited European countries and received European delegations to promote foreign investments, diplomatic ties, and applications for membership in international aid organizations. During talks with officials of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO--see Glossary) in 1993, Niyazov stated that Turkmenistan would welcome NATO assistance in the creation of its national armed forces. In April 1994, French President François Mitterrand visited Ashgabat, where he signed agreements on investments, cultural exchange, and tariffs. At that time, France also allocated US$35 million in trade credits for the construction of a presidential palace. In November 1994, Niyazov toured Austria, Romania, and Slovakia to attract oil and gas investments.


Turkmenistan - Asian Neighbors


After the Russian Federation, Turkmenistan has established its closest relations with Iran, especially on issues of joint concern within the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO--see Glossary), but also on issues of border security, transport cooperation, cultural exchange, and business ventures. In 1993 the two countries signed a joint statement emphasizing territorial sovereignty and non-interference in Tajikistan. At the same time, Turkmenistan's diplomats conveyed concern over the controversial agreement between Iran and Russia to build a nuclear power plant near the Caspian Sea and the Turkmenistan border.

In January 1994, Niyazov made an official visit to Tehran, and the two countries held a second round of talks in Ashgabat in June to create an intergovernmental center for consultation and coordination on socioeconomic questions. According to bilateral agreements, Iranian specialists will aid in renovating the Turkmenbashy Oil Refinery and the Mary Cotton Processing Plant, building the Turkmenistan-Iran-Europe Gas Pipeline, and constructing the Ashgabat-Tehran, Mary- Mashhad-Turkmenbashy, and Gudurol-Gorgan highways. In January 1996, Niyazov signed agreements with Iran linking the two countries' electric power networks, a joint dam on the Hari River, and cooperation in oil, gas, and agriculture. A joint statement expressed concern about Azerbaijan's exploitation of Caspian Sea resources, although Turkmenistan generally has sided with Azerbaijan and Kazakstan, and against Iran and Russia, on resource rights in the Caspian.

Contrary to initial expectations that Turkey would play a "big brother" role in Turkmenistan's social and cultural development following independence, Turkmenistan charts its own course in such matters. An example is the adoption of a Latin script that owes little if anything to that used for Turkish. However, Turkey has played a prominent role in the development of Turkmenistan's economic potential. Turkish firms are constructing US$1 billion worth of enterprises, stores, and hotels in Turkmenistan. The Turkish Development and Cooperation Agency manages a slate of projects in agriculture, civil aviation, education, health care, minerals extraction, reconstruction of infrastructure, initiation of small enterprises, and construction of a complex of mosques and religious schools. Turkish high schools and universities are hosting more than 2,000 Turkmenistani students, and, in 1994, Turkey began daily four-hour television broadcasts to the republic.

Because of continuing fragmentation of political power in neighboring Afghanistan and concern that civil strife in that country could threaten the security of its borders, Turkmenistan's government pursued direct agreements with the northern Afghan leader General Abdul Rashid Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek. With the support of Uzbekistan's Karimov regime, Dostum had carved out an Uzbek domain controlling 600 of the 850 kilometers along the Afghan-Turkmen border. In July 1993, President Niyazov discussed border security with officials from northern Afghanistan, resulting in the establishment of consulates in the Afghan cities of Mazari Sharif and Herat. Talks in 1994 focused on building a railroad link and supplying electricity to Herat. A direct telephone communications line was completed connecting Ashgabat and Mary with Herat.

Besides initiatives taken under the aegis of the ECO, Turkmenistan signed a cooperation agreement with Pakistan in late 1991 and obtained a promise of US$10 million in credit and goods from Pakistan in 1992. The two countries signed memoranda in 1995 for the construction of a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan. The Bridas company of Argentina was engaged to do a feasibility study for the pipeline.


Turkmenistan - CIS Relations


Turkmenistan has been hesitant to sign economic agreements within the CIS framework. Niyazov has criticized the weakness of CIS mechanisms and proposed a new CIS structure that would be exclusively consultative in nature. As an example of its approach, Turkmenistan declined to attend the Surgut Conference with Russia and Kazakstan (1994), whose goal was to stabilize falling gas and oil output, stating that the domestic gas industry was sufficiently stable without CIS investment funds. At that time, Russian Federation deputy prime minister Aleksandr Shokhin declared that Turkmenistan must decide whether it is with the CIS countries or not. Despite such friction, Turkmenistan has maintained close bilateral economic and military ties with Russia.

Regional cooperation among Central Asian republics has not been as profound as anticipated upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In 1993 the other four Central Asian republics accounted for about one-fifth of Turkmenistan's imports and exports. Turkmenistan has followed its own path in all areas of post-Soviet reform, preferring bilateral to regional agreements in the economic sphere; for example, it has agreed to supply Kazakstan with electricity in return for grain. The decisions of all five republics to switch to Latin-based alphabets will not necessarily have the expected result of improving cultural ties because the romanization of distinct sounds in the respective languages will be far from uniform. Fragmentation is evident also in the introduction by all five nations of separate national currencies.


Turkmenistan - Caspian Sea Issues


An important goal of Turkmenistan's foreign policy is working in international groups to solve a range of issues involving the Caspian Sea. That body of water, which affords Turkmenistan a 500-kilometer coastline with numerous natural resources, including oil and fish, is threatened by extreme levels of pollution, as well as fluctuating water levels. In August 1993, Turkmenistani delegates attended a meeting in Moscow to discuss the status of international claims to jurisdiction over the Caspian Sea and its resources. Treaties between the Soviet Union and Iran dating from 1921 and 1940 gave each country free navigation and fishing rights within ten miles (sixteen kilometers) of the entire Caspian coastline, putting other coastal nations at a disadvantage. A second issue is the cartel formed by Turkmenistan, Kazakstan, Russia, Azerbaijan, and Iran to control sales of Caspian caviar on the world market as a means of preventing individual Caspian Sea states from selling too much to obtain hard currency. Thus far, however, the cartel lacks an enforcement mechanism. Turkmenistan is a member of the Caspian Sea Forum, which includes all the nations bordering the sea. Until 1995 that organization had not taken concrete action to limit pollution by oil extraction and shipping activities of the member countries, however. In late 1994, Turkmenistan joined Kazakstan, Azerbaijan, and Russia in forming the Caspian Border Patrol force for joint border security (see Military Doctrine, this ch.). In 1995 and 1996, friction increased among the Caspian states as Iran and Russia exerted pressure for the sea's resources to be divided equally among the group, a formula that would pervent the other three countries from taking advantage of their proximity to rich offshore oil deposits.


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(Various issues of the following periodicals also were used in the preparation of this chapter: Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Daily Report: Central Eurasia ; Jamestown Foundation, Monitor ; RFE/RL Research Report [Munich]; Transition ; and Washington Post .)


CITATION: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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