Books on Turkmenistan
Update No: 303 - (27/03/06)
The dictatorship of the Didactic
The Turkmen Republic has one of the strangest rulers on the planet, in many ways
the weirdest, Saparmurat Niyazov.
He is apparently totally convinced that he is a religious genius of the highest
order - comparable to Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed. His religious wisdom has been
distilled into a 406-page work which is required reading for all Kyrgyz
schoolchildren and for such adults as want to get ahead. Kyrgyzstan is reckoned
to be one of the eight most repressive regimes in the world. Science studies are
being neglected in the schools for examination and exegesis of this imperishable
masterpiece. Truly, brainwashing is alive and well in Turkmenistan, as in North
Gems of wisdom
The Rukhmana is available on the internet at the following website, Rukhmana.
com ( the 'k' is optional). He maintains that it holds three keys to paradise.
"Anyone who reads (it aloud) three times will become more intelligent,
recognize the divine being and go straight to heaven."
"The Bible, the Koran and the most holy Rukhmana," says the title
page. My dear Turkmens! Respect your elders…..Love your juniors. Do not be
mean with emeralds for your daughters and wives."
"My philosophy is unity and togetherness. No other nation was divided into
so many tribes as the Turkmens." This fact is the justification of many a
despotism in the world. But of course it has its moment of truth.
The problem is the extravagance of the claims Niyazov makes. Gaddafi's Green
Book, even Mao's Little Red Book, are modest by comparison. In previous
pronouncements, summed up in the holy work, Niyazov had banned ballet and opera,
castigated gold teeth and named a range of items after himself, including a
city, an airport and a month (previously January). His book is also much
honoured, lending its name to a university and the month of September.
His mother has given her name to the month of April; she lost her life in saving
his own in an earthquake in 1948. There must be many a Turkmen who wishes that
she had failed.
The Turkmenbashi engineers a new gas crisis for Ukraine and Europe?
Turkmenistan may be a remote country, run by a megalomaniac; but it is
impacting on areas of the world much in the news at the present time, namely
Europe and Iran. This is by reason of the fact that it is the fourth largest
exporter of natural gas on the planet, with the third or fourth largest
On February 2nd, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov -- who goes by the
self-awarded title "Turkmenbashi," or "Father of the
Turkmen" - announced plans to cut pensions to the elderly and disabled,
thus encouraging the tradition of offspring caring for their aging parents. On
February 13th, eleven days later, Niyazov declared that by autumn he would raise
natural gas prices in his country to more closely reflect those of the world
market. Niyazov has apparently unquestioned authority in his country, and his
move is likely to affect not only Russia and Ukraine, but gas customers in
Europe as well.
It is clear from these two statements that Turkmenistan's economy is in some
trouble. Raising natural gas prices to market levels is one obvious remedy.
The prices Niyazov is proposing are certain to anger Ukraine, which was forced
to accept new terms for its energy purchases following the Jan. 1st-3rd gas
crisis caused by Russia. After Gazprom cut off supplies to Ukraine, RosUkrEnergo
(which is controlled in equal parts by Gazprom and the Austrian holding firm
Raiffeisen), (whoever in the end, they and their shareholders turn out to be)
struck a deal with Ukraine's Naftogaz -- forming a new company called
UkrgazEnergo, which will sell a mixture of Russian and Central Asian gas to
Turkmenistan currently contributes supplies to this venture at US$65 per
thousand cubic meters. Under terms of a certain clause, RosUkrEnergo can
initiate pricing changes if the cost of its own supplies shifts, and Kiev would
not be able to reject the increase.
Niyazov has proposed hiking Turkmenistan's prices to US$100 per thousand cubic
meters. Ultimately, that could cause Ukraine to siphon off more natural gas
supplies that are intended for customers in Europe -- and bring down the
continent's already considerable dissatisfaction upon Kiev. It's still quite
cold, and the Europeans at this point are feeling rather defensive about their
Of course, any business deal that relies on supplies from Turkmenistan, as
though Niyazov was a reliable and consistent partner entails trouble from the
beginning. The Turkmenbashi previously has cut off gas supplies to his country's
largest customer, Russia, with no signs of hesitation or guilt, and could be
expected to do so again if it serves his purposes.
Gazprom chief Alexei Miller visited Ashgabat on Feb 18th, at President Vladimir
Putin's request, to "negotiate" the possibility of a price increase in
Turkmenistan. But even though Russia is the country's chief trade partner and
protector, Niyazov may not necessarily acquiesce to Moscow's wishes.
Ukraine, of course, has been through this before. A third gas cutoff would
further damage its reputation in the Europe it so longs to join. But in this
case as the others, there's little Kiev can do to balance out the situation.
Europe, on the other hand, has sought to diversify its energy supplies, and
Niyazov's latest pronouncement should push it further toward that goal. At least
for Germany, the North European Gas Pipeline (NEGP), although several years off
completion, becomes a more viable alternative to the supplies currently being
sent via third parties. For others, reliance on nuclear power and other sources
will continue to be important.
In either case, it is likely that so long as their energy supplies remain at
least partially subject to the mystery that is the Turkmenbashi, the Europeans
will be ever more anxious to move away from natural gas shipments originating in
Still, in the interim they have no other choice but to deal with the Turkmens.
PM Yekhanurov expects to sign the intergovernmental gas agreement with
Turkmenistan is the largest gas exporter to Ukraine. In 2004, Ukraine bought
36 milliard c. m. of Turkmen gas which made up 45% of its needs. It is of vital
importance to Kiev to come to an understanding with the eccentric dictator of
Ashkabad, even to extending him the red carpet treatment any time soon.
PM Yuri Yekhanurov stated Ukraine does not yet have an intergovernmental
agreement on gas supply with Turkmenistan. "There is no intergovernmental
agreement with Turkmenistan, but it is necessary to have one in 2006," said
the Ukraine PM.
As a reminder, in December 2005 Ukraine and Turkmenistan signed the provisional
contract-2006 on 40 milliard c. m. of gas at US$44 per 1,000 c. m. At the end of
December 2005, PM Yekhanurov stated Ukraine would expect to sign an agreement
with Turkmenistan on gas supply until 2031.
"I have charged corresponding officials with preparation of documents for
the visit of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov. I think we will manage to
prepare the long-term agreement," said PM Yekhanurov.
Iran interested in purchasing more gas from Turkmenistan
Iran is in the spotlight of the world's media right now for pressing ahead
with a nuclear power programme. This seems to have a military logic, given that
it possesses huge oil reserves, the second or third largest in the world, while
it neighbours Turkmenistan that can provide it with an abundance of natural gas
at cheap rates, not to speak of potential hydro-electricity from Tajikistan.
During a telephone conversation on February 12th with President Niyazov, the
foreign minister of Iran informed him that his country was interested in
purchasing more natural gas from Turkmenistan.
Manouchehr Mottaki, foreign minister of Iran, told Niyazov that a high powered
delegation would soon visit Ashgabat to finalize the volumes and price of the
natural gas that Iran wants to buy in 2006.
At present Iran is purchasing 8 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas annually.
He confirmed that Iran had agreed to pay a higher price for Turkmen gas and the
necessary document would be signed in the near future when an Iranian delegation
Mottaki told him that his country was keen to expand broader cooperation,
especially in the energy sector, with Turkmenistan. He said that Iran would like
to substantially increase the volumes of gas it buys from Turkmenistan. The
sides are expected to sign an agreement of partnership in this sphere during the
proposed meeting of the heads of state in the spring.
Foreign firms to boost oil production in Turkmenistan
Foreign oil companies working under production sharing agreements in
Turkmenistan plan to increase production 30 per cent to three million tonnes in
2006. A source in the republic's Oil, Gas and Natural Resource ministry said
that this forecast is based on results in 2005, Interfax News Agency reported.
Last year oil production by foreign companies in Turkmenistan increased 30 per
cent from 2004 to over 2.3 million tonnes. In particular, British-Arabian Dragon
Oil, which is working at the Cheleken field, produced over 940,000 tonnes of oil
in 2005 and Britain's Burren Energy, which is working at the Nebitdag field
produced about 950,000 tonnes. In 2006 Dragon Oil plans to bring eight new wells
on-stream. Investment by the company at the contract zone this year is estimated
at 280 million Euro. By 2010 the company plans to increase annual production to
23.5 million tonnes. Burren Energy is currently only producing at one of the
five fields at the Nebitdag block. The company has drilled 10 new wells to date.
Malaysia's Petronas and Denmark's Maersk Oil are working in the Turkmen sector
of the Caspian Sea under production sharing agreements. Petronas plans to start
producing early oil in 2006. Maersk Oil completed a seismic research programme
in 2005 at the contract zone and is preparing to drill a first well at the joint
blocks 11 and 12 in the Mid-Caspian oil and gas basin. According to the
ministry, a total of over 1.2 billion Euro was invested in implementing oil PSA
in Turkmenistan since 1996.
Ashgabat, Tehran continue talks on gas supply
Turkmen President, Saparmurat Niyazov, on February 3rd received an Iranian
delegation headed by Foreign Minister, Manuchehr Mottaki. The representatives of
the neighbouring country arrived in Ashgabat on the instructions of Iran's
President, Mahmud Ahmadinezhad, as agreed during a telephone conversation
between the two presidents. Iran's ambassador to Turkmenistan, Gholamreza Ansari,
also attended the meeting.
According to the state news agency TDH, the meeting's participants expressed
confidence in finding mutually acceptable solutions, which would also serve as a
key factor in the further strengthening of the traditionally friendly and
neighbourly relations between the two countries. During the talks, both sides
agreed to continue discussing the terms for Turkmen gas supplies to Iran. The
central topic of discussion was the volume and cost of supplies, the Turkmen
presidential press service told Interfax News Agency.
The Iranian delegation asked for time to carefully study the terms put forward
by Turkmenistan and assured they would be ready to provide their corresponding
proposals by February 11th.
Based on the situation on international energy markets, Turkmenistan at the end
of 2005 decided to raise its prices on natural gas exports. It notified all its
buyers - Russia, Ukraine and Iran, of the decision in advance. A compromise was
found with Russia and Ukraine. Russia will buy 30 billion cubic metres of
Turkmen gas at 65 Euro per thousand cubic metres in 2006 and Ukraine will buy 40
billion cubic metres (experts put the price for Ukraine at 50 Euro per 1,000
cubic metres). An agreement with Iran, to which Turkmenistan expects to export
about eight billion cubic metres of gas in 2006, has not yet been reached.
Turkmenistan completes Trans-Karakum railway
Turkmenistan has built a 540 kilometres-long railway connecting Ashgabat and
Dashoguz (Trans-Karakum Railway), reducing the trip from the Turmken capital to
the administrative centre of Dashoguz region by 700 kilometres. The northern and
southern stretches of the railway were linked up at the 440th kilometres on
February 8th. It took Turkmen constructors more than five years to build a steel
track through the Karakum desert, Interfax News Agency reported.
Turkmen President, Saparmurat Niyazov, congratulated railroad constructors on
laying down the road's "golden link." In his address, Niyazov
expressed confidence that the Ashgabat-Karakum-Dashoguz railway will open new
opportunities for further development of this province and become an important
transit corridor from Europe, Asia and Far East to Persian Gulf. Turkmenistan's
Railways ministry told Interfax that the North-South transport corridor would be
officially inaugurated and put into service in March. The railway has three
bridges, various infrastructure, eight stations and nine railway junctions. It
is expected that a passenger train from Dashoguz would arrive in Ashgabat in 12
hours. From now on, the railway route between these regions will be 700
kilometres shorter. Over 1,500 workers of Turkmenistan's ministry of railway
transportation subsidiaries were engaged in construction of the
Ashgabat-Karakum-Dashoguz railway. Of them, 800 people worked in the desert.
Stowage of sleepers and rails was carried out by three road machine stations.
Workers of two construction trains laid down the groundwork and erected
buildings and engineering structures. The new trunk will be serviced by 500 rail