Books on Turkmenistan
Update No: 316 - (26/04/07)
In the giant shadow of Niyazov
Turkmenistan is still stunned by its deliverance from its nutty fruitcake of a
dictator, Saparmurat Niyazov, who perished in December just before Christmas. A
splendid Christmas present, one might think, except that the Turkmen are of
Niyazov was trying to deflect them from the faith of their fathers, at least to
the extent of making each new generation read The Rukhnama, a collection of his
sayings, musings and verses that was required reading at school in place of
science. The poor Turkmen, having been harassed for seven decades by Marxism,
then had to endure Niyazovism in effect.
They still formally do. The new government cannot change things overnight. They
fear unrest in the transition period. But that things will now change is
certain, the cult of personality being wound down.
What Turkmenistan really needs is a Khrushchev to settle accounts with the
dictator. But it is unlikely to get one soon.
Turkmenistan President combined his first foreign visit with hajj
Still in a most significant departure the new man made his first foreign trip to
- Saudi Arabia. At the end of March Turkmen President received an invitation
from the leader of Saudi Arabia to make an official visit to the country at any
convenient time by April 20.
On April 12, the terms of the first foreign visit of Turkmenistan President
Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedow became known: he was to make the first official visit
at the post of the head of the state to Saudi Arabia from April 13 to April
16th, which he duly did, along with the hajj. The symbolism cannot have been
lost on any Turkmen.
The parties discussed projects of bilateral agreements about cooperation in fuel
and energy, trade and economic; humanitarian spheres. While visiting United Arab
Emirates Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedow made a hajj to the relics of Islam - Mecca
President visits Russia
President Berdimuhammedov made an official visit to Moscow on April 23-24 at
the invitation of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, a very predictable
event. But it was Moscow after Saudi Arabia, a clear symbolism.
This was the first visit of Turkemenistani president to Russia. According to the
Russian leader's press office, the meeting's agenda included talks on bilateral
relations between the two countries, as well as a comparison of Russia and
Turkmenistan's standpoints on a series of international and regional problems.
But further than that was not divulged.
President pushes ahead with education and agricultural reform
Turkmenistan's president has made clear signs that there will be changes at
home, not before time. He announced a salary hike for teachers as he pushes
ahead with an overhaul of a deteriorated education system and announced plans to
reform the country's ailing agricultural sector.
Introducing a 40 per cent pay rise for teachers and 40 per cent increase in
scholarships for students, effective from 1 September, Turkmen President
Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov said better pay would allow teaching staff to
concentrate on their core work. Until now, low wages in Turkmen schools and
universities have forced many teachers to find ways to supplement their incomes.
Dr Dennis Soltys, a lecturer in Comparative Education at the Kazakhstan
Institute of Management, Economics and Strategic Research, said on Wednesday
that Turkmenistan's new leadership was aware of the need to reform the country's
appalling education system.
"[President Berdymukhammedov] might be sophisticated and pragmatic enough
to know that if you want a modern functioning economy you do need a modern
education system," Soltys told IRIN in the Kazakh commercial capital of
Almaty. "There might be modernising economic interests in
At a meeting on 30 March of the People's Council, Turkmenistan's top legislative
body, Berdymukhammedov said his priority was to improve the lives of ordinary
Turkmen. "If we can ensure people a worthy life, raise their wellbeing,
this will be a good engine for reform in all directions," he told more than
2,500 assembled delegates gathered in the southern city of Mary.
The salary rise comes on top of education reforms announced earlier in March,
including a reduced workload for teachers, school class sizes capped at 25,
schooling expanded from eight years to 10, and the abolition of a work
experience requirement that had restricted access to higher education.
Under former Turkmen President Saparmyrat Niyazov's regime, in order to be
accepted for a university programme, secondary school graduates had to have at
least two years work experience in the field they were planning to study - a
requirement difficult to fulfil given the lack of employment opportunities in
Central Asia's most reclusive state.
Niyazov, known as Turkmenbashi, fostered a cult of personality that extended to
education, with teaching centred round his quasi-spiritual guide, the Rukhnama.
This bred a generation of students ill-equipped to function in a modern economy.
The realisation that this policy could be damaging to the economy may be behind
education reforms, Soltys said.
Agriculture topped the People's Council agenda, with Berdymukhammedov
calling for bottom-up reform. Outdated agricultural methods are putting the
brakes on development, he said.
Three new laws aimed at stimulating agriculture were passed at the session,
while Berdymukhammedov ordered local authorities to draw up a strategy to reform
rural life, including the construction of social facilities in remote areas.
Central Bank chief Geldimyrat Abilov pledged to raise the prices at which wheat
and cotton are purchased from farmers to an unspecified level, expand
agricultural loan opportunities and ensure that farmers receive payments on
time. Payments are often delayed by the state, creating cash flow problems for
Amid scepticism among observers, Turkmenistan has claimed bumper grain harvests
since 2003. However, in November 2006, Niyazov accused officials of falsifying
figures after failing to meet targets. Bread shortages were reported in late
With agriculture accounting for 26 percent of GDP and a source of livelihood for
54 percent of Turkmen, according to World Bank figures, the sector is a key to
the success of Turkmenistan's economy, and to Berdymukhammedov's pledge to raise
living standards for ordinary people.
ADB estimates Turkmen GDP growth at 8.5%
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) recently published economic outlook for 2008
after reconsidering prospects of GDP growth in a number of Caucasian and Central
Asian states in 2007, New Europe reported.
According to this report, the growth of Central Asian economies will be robust
in 2007-2008. The growth rate for Turkmenistan in 2007 has been increased from
6.5 per cent to 8.5 per cent. GDP growth estimates for 2008 also stand at 8.5
per cent. It is reported that potential discovery of new gas fields, social and
economic reforms and Turkmenistan's cooperation with the world community was
also considered. As regards economic performance in 2006, the GDP growth (nine
percent by ADB estimates) was determined by gas prices hike and increase in
exports. The GDP growth outlook for Armenia in 2007 was upgraded from six per
cent to 10 per cent; in Azerbaijan - downgraded from 30 per cent to 25 per cent;
in Kazakstan - downgraded from nine per cent to 8.6 per cent; in Kyrgyzstan -
downgraded from 5.5 per cent to four per cent. GDP growth for Tajikistan in 2007
was increased from six per cent to 7.5 per cent; Uzbekistan - from six per cent
to 7.4 per cent. Next year, GDP growth in Armenia will total nine per cent, in
Kazakstan - 8.9 per cent, in Kyrgyzstan – five per cent, in Tajikistan and
Uzbekistan - 7.1 per cent, according to ADB estimates. The Asian Development
Bank was established in 1966 to promote economic growth in Asia and Far East.
Turkmenistan joined ADB in 2000.
LUKoil, Stroytransgaz may join Turkmen projects
Russia's LUKoil and Stroytransgaz are interested in participating in energy
projects in Turkmenistan, Russian Ambassador to Turkmenistan Igor Blatov said.
"Russia and Turkmenistan are holding talks on expanding cooperation
throughout the oil and gas sector, Interfax News Agency reported.
Together with Gazprom, which is not a newcomer on the Turkmen gas market, LUKoil,
Stroytransgaz and other leading Russian oil and gas companies want to
participate in energy projects in Turkmenistan," Interfax News Agency
quoted him as saying.
The Russian-language newspaper Neitralny Turkmenistan (Neutral Turkmenistan)
published the ambassador's speech, given on April 8th to celebrate 15 years of
diplomatic relations between Turkmenistan and Russia.
Partnership in the fuel and energy sector is a priority task for Russia, the
ambassador said. Together with traditional partnership in gas, economic
relations between the two countries are expanding in other areas.
More than 1,000 Kamaz vehicles were supplied to Turkmenistan in 2006 and Mobile
TeleSystems (MTS) customers in Turkmenistan doubled to 160,000, the news agency
quoted Blatov as saying.
Power Machines completed an energy unit upgrade at and supplied parts to Mary
Power Plant. Opportunities are being considered for further cooperation between
the St. Petersburg engineering consortium and Turkmenistan. The Russian airline
began making regular flights to Ashgabat in February 2006, the ambassador said.
Russia is one of Turkmenistan's leading foreign trade partners. Turkmen exports
to Russia made up 47 per cent of the total in 2006 and Russia accounted for 9.5
per cent of imports, he said.
Two gas compressor stations inaugurated in Dashoguz
Two gas compressor stations, Deryalyk and Yylanly, were inaugurated on April 6th
in Dashoguz province by Turkmen President, Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov,
Turmenistan.ru reported on April 7th.
The stations have been built by the Ukrainian partners, specialists of Sumskoye
machine construction scientific-industrial association named after MV Frunze on
orders of Turkmengas state concern. The total cost of facilities is US$180
million. The Deryalyk gas compressor station stands at the tail end of the
interstate main. It is the last compressor station in the territory of
Turkmenistan through which gas is exported to CIS and European countries. Each
station is capable to increase export throughput by 33 billion cubic meters a
year. At the inauguration the State News Service (TDH) quoted Berdimuhammedov as
saying: “Today, by launching these new facilities, we want to emphasise that
Turkmenistan is committed to the contracts signed with our partners, making big
investments in modernisation of equipment and developing industrial
infrastructure. There are speculations in a number of foreign mass media as to
the reliability of information about Turkmen natural gas reserves. Thus, our
country's reputation as an honest and trustworthy partner who strictly fulfils
all its international agreements is doubted."