Books on Turkmenistan
Update No: 291 - (29/03/05)
The new convert to democracy in Central Asia
Saparmurat Niyazov, the president of Turkmenistan, is a strange man. It is
peculiar how even the hardiest politicos can become subject to fashion. The
world is full of news of elections at the moment, whether in Ukraine or Iraq.
This has seemed to fire a new democratic zeal in an unlikely quarter, viz, the
president of Turkmenistan. He says he wants to see a presidential election in
his country in 2008 or in 2009.
Speaking on February 2nd at a parliamentary session, Niyazov said that the
election should have at least three candidates. He also told lawmakers that the
mandate of future presidents should be restricted to two terms, or 10 years in
office. "A presidential election will be held, God willing. We will have at
least three or four people [candidates] that will participate in the elections.
They have the right to serve two presidential terms, as it says in our supreme
law, in our constitution," Niyazov said.
He mentioned no specific date for the elections, all rather wisely.
Niyazov, on whom in 1999 was conferred the status of lifelong ruler of
Turkmenistan, regularly raises the issue of a presidential election, saying that
they should be held before his 70th birthday. Niyazov turned 65 on 19 February.
Niyazov is not of course a particularly intelligent or educated man. He would
clearly never have heard of the dictum of Voltaire that hypocrisy is the
obeisance that vice makes to virtue.
Profile of an oddball
He is, indeed, a strange man, who has delusions of grandeur. He was born on
February 19, 1940, into a worker's family in Ashgabat. His father died in battle
in World War II and the remaining members of his family perished in Ashgabat's
massive earthquake of 1948. He was raised first in an orphanage and later in the
home of his distant relatives. This traumatic event may well have contributed to
him becoming unhinged of late, plus of course absolute power.
Mr. Niyazov graduated from the Leningrad Polytechnic Institute in 1966 with a
degree in power engineering and began work at the Bezmeinskaya Power Station
In 1962 Mr. Niyazov became a member of the Communist Party. In 1985 he was
appointed Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Turkmenistan and was
subsequently elected First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist
Party of Turkmenistan, the highest state and party post. On January 13, 1990,
Mr. Niyazov became Chairman of the Supreme Soviet, the supreme legislative body
in the republic.
On October 27, 1990, Mr. Niyazov was elected the first president of the Turkmen
Soviet Socialist Republic. Under his leadership, on October 27, 1991,
Turkmenistan proclaimed its sovereignty from the Soviet Union. In a second
presidential election held on June 21, 1991, which was necessitated by the
adoption of the new constitution, Mr. Niyazov was elected President of the
Republic of Turkmenistan. Mr. Niyazov is also Chairman of the Cabinet of
Ministers and Chairman of the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan.
Following his election, one of the first resolutions to be adopted was a decree
on the free use of water, gas and electricity by the people of Turkmenistan.
As founder and president of the Association of Turkmens of the World, Mr.
Niyazov holds the official title of Turkmenbashi, Leader of all Ethnic Turkmens.
This arouses the scorn of other Turkic peoples.
Mr. Niyazov was awarded the Magtymguly International Prize for achieving the aim
of Magtymguly, the great Turkmen poet and philosopher: the establishment of an
independent state of Turkmenistan. He is interested in poetry, philosophy,
history and music. He has just published a volume of poetry, which is now
obligatory reading for Turkmen schoolchildren. It is not thought to be on the
level of Magtymguly, however.
He has other idiosyncrasies. He has banned beards and long hair since February,
an obvious move against devout Muslims. But then he is initiating a new religion
of his own, expounded in a two-volume work, also obligatory reading for the
young and for that matter any adult wishing to get ahead in the regime.
It involves a cult of his long-dead mother, after whom bread, the month of April
and the Ministry of Justice are now named. A new calendar has been introduced of
eight 45-day months. Clearly an original thinker!
Niyazov attends mournful ceremonies marking day of remembrance
Niyazov took part in mournful ceremonies on the occasion of Day of
Remembrance, the State news service (TDH) reports.
This horrible tragedy that happened on the night from October 5 to 6, 1948,
claiming lives of citizens of Ashgabat and nearby villages, became one of the
most tragic events in the history of the Turkmen people, the memory of which is
remembered by every Turkmen citizen. On that night, at 0112 hours, a powerful
earthquake razed the city to the ground in no time, killing hundreds of thousand
citizens of the Turkmen capital and nearby villages.
The head of state attended the ceremonies, who himself was involved as a child.
Saparmurat lost all his relatives in one moment - mother Gurbansoltan Eje and
two brothers, 10 year-old Niyazmurat and 6 year-old Mukhammetmurat, were lost.
Ashgabat, which has been rebuilt over the recent years and turned into a
beautiful city, became the best monument to the victims of the natural disaster.
Niyazov appoints new vice premier, envoy to turkey
Niyazov has signed decrees appointing a new vice-premier in charge of
transport issues and a new Ambassador to Turkey.
According to the document signed by the head of state, Minister of Railway
Transport of Turkmenistan Orazberdi Hudayberdiyev was appointed Deputy chairman
of the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan responsible for transport.
According to another decree of, Nurberdi Amanmyradov was appointed Ambassador
Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Turkmenistan to the Turkish Republic.
Nurberdi Amanmyradov was simultaneously conferred the diplomatic rank of
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Turkmenistan.
Nurberdi Amanmyradov has lately worked as Consul-General of Turkmenistan in
Burren Energy making the grade on world markets
Burren Energy, once a small company, has now become Turkmenistan's leading
investor. Apart from oil extraction at Burun field near the coastal zone in
western Turkmenistan, the company is exploring fields and extracting oil in
Congo and West Africa and has a cargo fleet of 11 tankers.
In December 2003 it placed shares on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and now
rates among British top 200 companies according to market capitalisation,
Burren energy has recently announced it will invest some US$95m in production of
oil on the Turkmen shelf of the Caspian Sea. The company participated in this
project as a shareholder since 1996 and as an independent operator since 2000.
"Burren Company started with oil shipments from Turkmenistan to Russia via
the Caspian Sea," Vedomosti newspaper quoted the head of Baring Vostok
Capital Partners (BVCP), manager of direct investment funds in Russia and other
CIS countries with assets totalling US$800m, Mickle Calvi, in an interview.
Answering a question about projects of BVCP's first fund, established
specifically for the CIS countries, Calvi said Burren Energy, which was set up
in 1992, was its chief project.
Turkmenistan, Afghanistan to speed up project
The Presidents of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, Saparmurat Niyazov and Hamid
Karzai, respectively, have agreed to speed up work on a
Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project, Turkmenistan.ru
Niyazov had a telephone conversation with the Afghan leader and the sides agreed
to meet to discuss details of the project.
According to the Afghan leader, India is showing an interest in the Trans-Afghan
project. Earlier this year, the Asian Development Bank provided the ministers
for oil, gas and mineral resources of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and
India with expert conclusions on the feasibility study report concerning the
construction of a gas pipeline worth 3.3bn Euro. The English company, Penspen,
made the project evaluation. Meanwhile, India is still not sure whether it
should give approval to Turkmenistan or Iran for the pumping of oil.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Israel and Turkmenistan discuss joint projects
Turkmen President, Saparmurat Niyazov, received the head of Israeli Merhav
Company, Yosef Mayman, recently, Turkmenistan.ru reported.
Both sides discussed issues of bilateral cooperation in the oil and gas field
and in agriculture, the press service of the president announced. Merhav, a
long-standing partner of Turkmenistan, has a proven track record precisely in
these fields. In particular, the Israeli company was the official representative
of the government in projects on modernisation and establishment of new
productions at the Turkmenbashi complex of oil refineries (former Krasnovodk oil
refinery). Taking into account this experience, Niyazov and Mayman discussed
prospects of Merhav's participation in a project on reconstruction of the
republic's other oil refinery, the Seidi refinery.
Ashgabat and Beijing target stronger bilateral relations
Turkmenistan and China held bilateral talks recently on issues related to
further development of mutually advantageous partnership during a visit of an
official delegation of China headed by Zhang Zhigang, China's deputy minister
for commerce (MOF-COM) to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.ru reported.
At the end of the discussion two documents were signed, including an
intergovernmental agreement on providing a 10m Yuan grant by the government of
China to the government of Turkmenistan to implement a project on training of
Turkmen technicians in China as well as 100m Yuan contract between Chinese
Huawei Technologies company and the Turkmen Ministry of Telecommunication
network providing the supply of digital telephone stations with a total capacity
of 140,000 lines.
A state of the art digital telephone station, ETS-460D, was recently installed
in Ashgabat by experts of the Turkmen Ministry of Communication and Huawei
Technologies Investment. This station has the facility to provide cellular
radiotelephone services in a new format - CDMA. A new system covering, Ashgabat
and its surrounding area makes it possible to engage 4,350 subscribers with CDMA
standard mobile terminals. Potential users were interested immediate interest in
the new system because of high quality of communication, fair prices for
services and easy use.
Turkmen communication workers have worked together with the same Chinese company
by implementing a project on expanding the Ashgabat telephone exchange to 20,000
numbers and installed another digital automatic telephone station in the Turkmen
capital for 12,000 numbers with the help of German Siemens company.
China and Turkmenistan noted that the signing of the two documents was an
instance of the growing mutual interest in speeding up a productive interstate
dialog supported by a whole number of investment projects implemented recently
in Turkmenistan with participation of Chinese companies.
Zhigang said Turkmenistan and China have a vast potential of cooperation in oil
and gas fields, textile industry, transport and telecoms spheres. Chinese
business sector was interested in cooperation with Turkmenistan stressing the
effectiveness of Chinese regions and enterprises establishing direct contacts
with their Turkmen counterparts. The Chinese western region of Xingjian that has
many common features with Turkmenistan was cited as an example.
This region accounts for 80% of China's external trade with Central Asian
countries. Construction of a silk and velvet plant in Ruhabat district with on
million metre per annum capacity was also discussed during the meeting. The
Chinese delegation programme also included sightseeing in the Turkmen capital
and visits to large industrial enterprises.
Turkmenistan to construct hotel on Caspian coast
Turkish Asist Inshaat ve Taahlut plans to build a hotel worth US$16m near the
town of Turkmenbashi on the Turkmen Caspian coast, New Europe reported recently.
It will be located in the place of Avaza at the side of Serdar Hotel. The
project will be financed at the expense of the State Fund for Development of Oil
and Gas and Mineral Resources Industry of Turkmenistan.
Turkmen president, Saparmurat Niyazov has signed a decree to this effect.
According to this document, the state concern Turkmenneftegazstroy is to sign a
contract with the Turkish company to build a hotel for 216 people on the
"turnkey" basis. Construction of the new hotel began in February and
should be completed by the end of June 2006.