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  • 12/27/2003


Annexed byRussia between 1865 and 1885, Turkmenistan became a Soviet republic in 1925. It achieved its independence upon the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. President NIYAZOV retains absolute control over the country and opposition is not tolerated. Extensive hydrocarbon/natural gas reserves could prove a boon to this underdeveloped country if extraction and delivery projects can be worked out.


Location Central Asia, bordering the Caspian Sea, betweenIran and Kazakhstan

Geographic coordinates: 40 00 N, 60 00 E

Area: total: 488,100 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 488,100 sq km

Climate: subtropical desert

Coastline: 0 km; note - Turkmenistan borders the Caspian Sea (1,768 km)


Population: 4,775,544 (July 2003 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.82% (2003 est.)

Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.62 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2003 est.)

noun: Turkmen(s)
adjective: Turkmen

Ethnic groups: Turkmen 77%, Uzbek 9.2%, Russian 6.7%, Kazakh 2%, other 5.1% (1995)

Languages: Turkmen 72%, Russian 12%, Uzbek 9%, other 7%


Turkmenistan is largely desert country with intensive agriculture in irrigated oases and huge gas (fifth-largest reserves in the world) and oil resources. One-half of its irrigated land is planted in cotton, making it the world's tenth-largest producer. Until the end of 1993, Turkmenistan had experienced less economic disruption than other former Soviet states because its economy received a boost from higher prices for oil and gas and a sharp increase in hard currency earnings. In 1994, Russia's refusal to export Turkmen gas to hard currency markets and mounting debts of its major customers in the former USSR for gas deliveries contributed to a sharp fall in industrial production and caused the budget to shift from a surplus to a slight deficit. The sale of Turkmen gas to Russia and other CIS countries resumed in December 1999. With an authoritarian ex-Communist regime in power and a tribally based social structure, Turkmenistan has taken a cautious approach to economic reform, hoping to use gas and cotton sales to sustain its inefficient economy. Privatization goals remain limited. In 1998-2002, Turkmenistan suffered from the continued lack of adequate export routes for natural gas and from obligations on extensive short-term external debt. At the same time, however, total exports rose sharply because of higher international oil and gas prices. Prospects in the near future are discouraging because of widespread internal poverty, the burden of foreign debt, and the unwillingness of the government to adopt market-oriented reforms. However,Turkmenistan's cooperation with the international community in transporting humanitarian aid to Afghanistan may foreshadow a change in the atmosphere for foreign investment, aid, and technological support. Turkmenistan's economic statistics are state secrets, and GDP and other figures are subject to wide margins of error.

Industries: natural gas, oil, petroleum products, textiles, food processing

Agriculture products: cotton, grain; livestock


Telephones main lines in use: 363,000 (1997)

Telephones - mobile cellular: 4,300 (1998)

Television broadcast stations: 3 (much programming relayed fromRussia and Turkey) (1997)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1

Internet users: 2,000 (2000)


Railways: total: 2,440 km
broad gauge: 2,440 km 1.520-m gauge (2002)

Highways: total: 22,000 km
paved: 18,000 km (includes some all-weather gravel-surfaced roads)
unpaved: 4,000 km (these roads are made of unstabilized earth and are difficult to negotiate in wet weather) (1996)

Waterways: theAmu Darya is an important inland waterway for Turkmenistan, as is the man-made Kara Kum canal

Airports: 76 (2002)


Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form:Turkmenistan
local long form: none
former: Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic
local short form:Turkmenistan
Government type: republic

Capital: Ashgabat

Administrative divisions:5 provinces (welayatlar, singular - welayat): Ahal Welayaty (Ashgabat), Balkan Welayaty (Balkanabat), Dashoguz Welayaty, Lebap Welayaty (Turkmenabat), Mary Welayaty
note: administrative divisions have the same names as their administrative centers (exceptions have the administrative center name following in parentheses)

Independence: 27 October 1991 (from the Soviet Union)

Constitution: adopted18 May 1992

Legal system:based on civil law system

Executive branch:

chief of state: President and Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers Saparmurat NIYAZOV (since 27 October 1990, when the first direct presidential election occurred); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President and Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers Saparmurat NIYAZOV (since 27 October 1990, when the first direct presidential election occurred); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; election last held 21 June 1992 (next to be held NA); note - President NIYAZOV was unanimously approved as president for life by the Assembly on 28 December 1999); deputy chairmen of the cabinet of ministers are appointed by the president
election results: Saparmurat NIYAZOV elected president without opposition; percent of vote - Saparmurat NIYAZOV 99.5%
note: NIYAZOV's term in office was extended indefinitely on 28 December 1999 by the Assembly (Majlis) during a session of the People's Council (Halk Maslahaty)

Judicial branch: Supreme Court (judges are appointed by the president)

Political parties and leaders: Democratic Party of Turkmenistan or DPT [Saparmurat NIYAZOV]
note: formal opposition parties are outlawed; unofficial, small opposition movements exist underground or in foreign countries; the two most prominent opposition groups-in-exile have been Gundogar and Erkin; Gundogar was led by former Foreign Minister Boris SHIKHUMRADOV until his arrest and imprisonment in the wake of the 25 November 2002 assassination attempt on President NIYAZOV; Erkin is led by former Foreign Minister Abdy KULIEV and is based out of Moscow


Muslim 89%, Eastern Orthodox 9%, unknown 2%


Though never a goal in itself, the sun-scorched, barren land between theCaspian Sea and the Amu-Darya passed in ancient times from one empire to another as armies decamped on the way to richer territories. Alexander the Great established a city on his way to India, the Romans set up near present-day Ashghabat and, in the 11th century the Seljuq Turks used Alexander's old city, Merv, as a base from which to expand their empire into Afghanistan. Two centuries later, the heart of the Seljuq empire was torn out as Jenghiz Khan stormed down from the steppes into Trans-Caspia (the region east of theCaspian Sea) on his way to terrorise Europe.

While the empire-builders tussled, nomadic horsebreeding tribes of Turkmen drifted in through the cracks, possibly from the Altay Mountains, and grazed from oasis to oasis along the fringes of the Karakum desert and in Persia, Syria and Anatolia. With the decline in the 16th century of the Timurid empire, the region became a backwater dotted with feudal Turkmen islands. From their oasis strongholds, the Turkmen preyed on straggling caravans, pillaging and stealing slaves or skirmishing with other tribes. It was only when they started kidnapping Russians from the strengthening tsarist empire that the Turkmen fell into trouble. Military forces were sent to Trans-Caspia to rout the by now wildly uncontrollable tribes: In 1881 the Russians marched on the fortress of Geok-Tepe and massacred an estimated 7000 Turkmen. A further 8000 were cut down as they fled across the desert. Not surprisingly, the Russians met little more resistance and by 1894 had secured all Trans-Caspia for the tsar.

A group of counter-revolutionaries briefly held sway in Ashghabat when WWI and the Bolshevik revolution distracted the Russians. A small British force, dispatched from northern Persia to back up the provisional Ashghabat governemt, skirmished with the Bolsheviks but withdrew in 1919 and the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) was formed in 1924. Soviet attempts to settle the tribes, collectivise farming and ban religion inflamed the nomadic Turkmen and a guerilla war raged until 1936. More than a million Turkmen fled into the desert or into northern Afghanistan and a steady stream of Russian immigrants began settling in their stead to undertake the modernisation of the SSR. A big part of the plan was cotton: Massive irrigation works bled the Amu-Darya and theAral Sea all in the cause of crisp white shirts.

Turkmenistan was slow to pick up on the political changes in the other Soviet republics during the 1980s. The first challenge to the Communist Party (CPT) came in 1989 when a group of intellectuals formed Agzybirlik (Unity), a socially and environmentally progressive party. Agzybirlik was banned when it showed signs of garnering too much support, though the CPT did declare sovereignty in August 1990. In October 1990 Saparmurad Niyazov, unopposed and supposedly with the blessing of 98% of voters, was elected to the newly created post of president. One year later, upon the collapse of theSoviet Union,Turkmenistan became an independent country.

The years since independence have belonged to President Niyazov, authoritarian head of the Democratic Party (DPT), the new name judiciously adopted by the old (and in no way altered) CPT. With his statue on every available pedestal, a clutch of towns renamed after him and enough public portraits to fill the world's galleries, Niyazov is the focus of a personality cult that makes Lenin look shy and retiring. He's now adopted the modest title of Turkmenbashi (Head of all Turkmen); parliament has named him president for life, though Niyazov has said he will step down by 2010.

Opposition parties and newspapers are banned and, though there are grumblings of dissent, Niyazov genuinely does enjoy considerable popular appeal. The failure of oil and gas wealth to make an impact on empty shop shelves combined with rampant corruption may see this support erode.

Taken From: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/central_asia/tunisia/history.htm

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