Books on Turkmenistan
Update No: 292 - (26/04/05)
No fall-out likely from Kyrgyz developments
The Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan raises the question of whether something
similar could happen in other Central Asian states. Not in Turkmenistan, one can
Turkmenistan's president, Sapurmarat Niyazov, now known by the title,
Turkmenbashi, has made himself president-for-life and has absolute control over
all media and law enforcement structures in the country. The situation makes it
simply impossible for any opposition to organize mass rallies and create a
If a change of government were to take place there it would be more likely to
happen in a palace coup than through a popular movement. An attempt of this kind
was made on his life in November 2003, but it failed.
Even more repressive measures can be expected from Niyazov, a very primitive
Everything in Turkmenistan depends on the export of two vital commodities, gas
and cotton. There are important developments impending as regards gas, of which
it has the world's fourth largest reserves.
The agreement to supply gas to Ukraine expires next year. This has been at very
low prices, around a quarter of world levels. With energy now so dear, Niyazov
will certainly want to jump the price.
This is especially so as he has lost out yet again in an effort to diversify the
export route, which is exclusively via Russia at present, a truly colonial
pipeline. A few years ago Turkmenistan was in negotiation with the Western
majors to build a gas pipeline under the Caspian Sea, permitting export to
Azerbaijan and beyond to Turkey, who had a major energy requirement then. It
fell through because of their disgust with his impossible negotiating attitude
and his arrogant demeanour. A tyrant he undoubtedly is, but a negotiator -
never. Absolute power has absolutely corrupted him.
Such considerations do not weigh with the present Iranian leadership. There were
talks with Tehran about a Turkmen pipeline through Iran to Pakistan and India.
This now looks likely to fall through. Iranian gas is now to be routed via
Pakistan to India after an agreement reached by President Musharraf of Pakistan
and prime minister Singh of India, in the conclusion of a cricket match between
their two countries in mid-April.
Another mooted pipeline from Turkmenistan was to have traversed Afghanistan to
Pakistan and onwards to India, but international finance to build the pipeline
was unable to justify the risks of such an investment in barely pacified
Afghanistan. So his vast supplies of gas are destined to be carried only by
Russia through their existing pipeline at a price that they know he has to
Can the loser survive?
Niyazov makes blunder after blunder, yet survives. Can it go on indefinitely?
The answer would appear to be 'Yes.' He is not going to make the ultimate
mistake of the Argentinian Junta, or the Greek colonels, or Saddam, and start
attacking anyone. The borders are hermetically sealed. The show will go on.
And a show is exactly what it is.
He is a very strange tyrant, who has delusions of grandeur, and shows signs of
having lost his marbles. He has embarked on a series of bizarre, but grandiose
building projects, such as a huge hippodrome (Turkmenistan does, indeed, have
splendid horses, one of which was given to John Major in the mid-1990s, who
handed it on to Princess Anne), vast public buildings, a giant ice-house in the
middle of the desert and other follies.
As founder and president of the Association of Turkmens of the World, Mr.
Niyazov holds the official title of Turkmenbashi, father of all ethnic Turkmen.
This arouses the scorn of other Turkic peoples, particularly in Turkey proper
whose own 'father of the nation,' Kemal Attaturk, properly has such a
Like all primitive types, Niyazov is in love with gilt and giganticism. A
20-foot high gilt statue of himself in the centre of his capital, is guarded by
soldiers 24 hours a day. It slowly rotates on its axis so that it is always
facing the sun. Huge portraits of Niyazov are everywhere; schoolchildren have to
intone devotional verses to their leader while looking at his image every
morning. The daily oath goes: "Turkmenistan, my beloved motherland.... At
the moment of my betrayal of my motherland, to her sacred banner, to Saparmurat
Turkmenbashi, let my breath stop."
In the late 1990s a grey-haired Niyazov said on television "we are a great
people and therefore it is important for us to have a handsome president. From
now on, I will dye my hair black." This involved a lot of retouching to
existing portraits. It was not a self parody but deadly serious. The man is in
fact humourless and deeply sinister.
Turkmenistan kicks off ecological projects
Under the Caspian Ecologic Programme, many new projects worth US$60m were
started in the western region of Turkmenistan, Turkmenistan.ru reported
The aim of the Caspian Ecologic programme is to improve ecology in the regions
adjoining the Caspian Sea, protection of environment and preservation of unique
biological resources of the Caspian Sea.
The United Nations Development Programme and the UN office for project services
provide funds for the winners of grant projects. The Programme of Small Joint
Grants has supported a project of artificial cultivation of Artemia crabs, the
valuable biomass for feeding whitebait fish, shrimps, crayfish and aquarium
fish, in the natural depressions of the Caspian Sea near Garabogazgol straits.
A newly set up farm of GarabogazArtemia closed joint stock company will produce
some 8-10 tonnes of high quality biomass for realisation inside the country and
export. The Programme of Small Joint Grants has offered US$30m to the Turkmen
Association of Environment Protection to solve the problem of water supply in
the village of Guyjik in the southwestern part of the Caspian region.
The project provides for the construction of the water demineraliser fitted with
modern equipment that would produce good drinking water for some 3,000
Several applications lined up for the next grants of the Caspian Ecologic
Programme are in progress. They are designed to promote rational use of the
natural resources of the Caspian region, create new sources of life support for
inhabitants of the sea region and enhance ecological education of people of
various walks of life.
Niyazov, Iranian ambassador discuss bilateral summit
Turkmen President, Saparmurat Niyazov, and Iran's Ambassador to Ashgabat,
Golamreza Ansary, met on March 28th to discuss issues related to the
Turkmen-Iranian summit scheduled for April 12th, Turkmenistan.ru quoted the
press service of the head of state as saying.
The next meeting between Niyazov and Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, was
timed for the inauguration of the largest joint project, a dam with symbolic
name "Dostluk" (Friendship) on the border river of Tejen. The water
reservoir is designed to play a major role in the successful development of
agriculture in the border areas of Turkmenistan and Iran. The head of the
diplomatic mission of Iran presented the president of Turkmenistan with the
official letter from the ex-President of Iran, Hashemi Rafsanjani, who currently
heads the consultative council of Iran.
Pakistan targets strategic partnership with Turkmenistan
Pakistan regards Turkmenistan as an important strategic partner on a bilateral
and regional scale, Pakistan Ambassador to Turkmenistan, Raana Rahim, said
recently. The ambassador said that relations between the two countries "can
exemplify the successful mutually advantageous cooperation." While
stressing the importance of realisation of the Trans-Afghan gas pipeline
project, Rahim underlined that the implementation of this large-scale project
would enhance both the economic prosperity of peoples in the region and
strengthen political stability. She added that full mutual understanding and
confidence had been were established between the leaders of both countries and
this fact predetermined a great deal in their relations.
Turkmenistan foreign trade turnover reaches US$632m
Turkmen foreign trade turnover amounted to US$632m in January 2004, up 7.2%
year-on-year, leaving a foreign trade surplus at US$104m, the national institute
of statistics and information said recently, Turkmenistan.ru reported.
Turkmenistan's exports stood at US$368m in January, up 1% on the same period of
last year. Turkmenistan exported to 35 countries; exports to Iran and the United
States increased in the reported period. Meanwhile, Turkmenistan imported from
63 countries. Turkmenistan's imports accounted for US$264m in the first month of
2005, an increment of 17% over the last year.