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Turkmenistan

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Turkmenistan
Türkmenistan
Flag Emblem
Anthem: Independent, Neutral, Turkmenistan State Anthem
"Garaşsyz, Bitarap Türkmenistanyň Döwlet Gimni"
Capital
(and largest city)
Ashgabat
37°58′N 58°20′E
Official language(s) Turkmen
Language of interethnic
communication
Russian
Ethnic groups (2003) Turkmen 85%
Uzbek 5%
Russian 4%
other 6%
Demonym Turkmen
Government Presidential republic Single-party state
 -  President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow
Independence from the Soviet Union 
 -  Declared 27 October 1991 
 -  Recognized 25 December 1991 
Area
 -  Total 491,210 km2 [1](52nd)
188,456 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 4.9
Population
 -  2009 estimate 5,110,000[2] (112th)
 -  Density 10.5/km2 (208th)
27.1/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $36.047 billion[3] 
 -  Per capita $6,627[3] 
HDI (2010) 0.669[4] (medium) (87th)
Currency Turkmen new manat (TMT)
Time zone TMT (UTC+5)
 -  Summer (DST) not observed (UTC+5)
Drives on the right
ISO 3166 code TM
Internet TLD .tm
Calling code 993
Turkmenistan (Listeni/tɜrkˈmɛnɨstæn/ or Listeni/tɜrkmɛnɨˈstɑːn/; Turkmen: Türkmenistan), formerly also known as Turkmenia (Russian: Туркмения), is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (Turkmen SSR). Turkmenistan is one of the six independent Turkic states. It is bordered by Afghanistan to the southeast, Iran to the south and southwest, Uzbekistan to the east and northeast, Kazakhstan to the north and northwest and the Caspian Sea to the west.
Turkmenistan's GDP growth rate of 11% in 2010 ranks 4th in the world, but these figures are subject to wide margins of error.[5] It possesses the world's fourth largest reserves of natural gas resources. Although it is wealthy in natural resources in certain areas, most of the country is covered by the Karakum (Black Sand) Desert.
The Turkmen government operates as a single-party system.[6] Turkmenistan was ruled by President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov (called "Türkmenbaşy" — "leader of the Turkmens") until his sudden death on 21 December 2006. Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov was elected the new president on 11 February 2007.

Contents

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[edit] History

The territory of Turkmenistan has a long and checkered history, as armies from one empire after another decamped there on their way to more prosperous territories. The region's written history begins with its conquest by the Achaemenid Empire of ancient Persia, as the region was divided between the satrapies of Margiana, Khorezm and Parthia.[citation needed]
Alexander the Great conquered the territory in the 4th century BC on his way to Central Asia, around the time that the Silk Road was established as a major trading route between Asia and the Mediterranean Region.[citation needed]
Approximately 80 years later, Persia's Parthian Kingdom established its capital in Nisa, now in the suburbs of the capital, Ashgabat. After replacement of the Parthian empire by Persian Sassanids, another native Iranian dynasty, the region remained territory of the Persian empire for several centuries.[7]
In the 7th century AD, Arabs conquered this region, introducing Islam. The Turkmenistan region soon came to be known as the capital of Greater Khorasan, when the caliph Al-Ma'mun moved his capital to Merv.[citation needed]
In the middle of the 11th century, the Turkoman-ruled Seljuk Empire concentrated its strength in the territory of modern Turkmenistan in an attempt to expand into Khorasan (modern Afghanistan). The empire broke down in the second half of the 12th century, and the Turkmen lost their independence when Genghis Khan took control of the eastern Caspian Sea region on his march west.
For the next seven centuries, the Turkmen people lived under various empires and fought constant inter-tribal wars. Little is documented of Turkmen history prior to Russian engagement. However, from the 13th to the 16th centuries, Turkmen formed a distinct ethnolinguistic group[citation needed]. As the Turkmen migrated from the area around the Mangyshlak Peninsula in contemporary Kazakhstan toward the Iranian border region and the Amu Darya basin, tribal Turkmen society further developed cultural traditions that became the foundation of Turkmen national consciousness.[citation needed]
Between the 17th and 19th centuries, control of Turkmenistan was fought over by the rulers of Afghanistan, Persian Shahs, Khivan Khans and the Emirs of Bukhara. During this period, Turkmen spiritual leader Magtymguly Pyragy reached prominence with his efforts to secure independence and autonomy for his people. In 1885, the Russian forces seized the Afghan territory of the Panjdeh oasis (around modern-day Serhetabat in Turkmenistan) during the Panjdeh Incident.
According to Paul R. Spickard, "Prior to the Russian conquest, the Turkmen were known and feared for their involvement in the Central Asian slave trade. The neighboring rural villages of Persia and Afghanistan were the main victims of Turkmen raids, in which groups of armed men on horseback would carry away captives to be sold in the slave markets of Khiva, Bukhara, and Mari."[8][9]
At this time, the vast territory of Central Asia including the region of Turkmenistan was largely unmapped and virtually unknown to Europe and the Western world. Rivalry for control of the area between the British Empire and Tsarist Russia was characterized as The Great Game. Throughout their conquest of Central Asia, the Russians were met with the stiffest resistance by the Turkmen. By 1894, however, Russia had gained control of Turkmenistan and incorporated it into its empire.

[edit] Soviet Union

The rivalry officially concluded with the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. Slowly, Russian and European cultures were introduced to the area. This was evident in the architecture of the newly formed city of Ashgabat, which became the capital. The October Revolution of 1917 in Russia and the subsequent political unrest led to the declaration of the area as the Turkmen SSR, one of the six republics of the Soviet Union in 1924, assuming the borders of modern Turkmenistan.
A Turkmen man of Central Asia in traditional clothes. Photo by Prokudin-Gorskii between 1905 and 1915.
The new Turkmen SSR went through a process of further Europeanization. The tribal Turkmen people were encouraged to become secular and adopt European-style clothing. The alphabet in use for the Turkmen language was changed from the traditional Arabic script to Latin and finally to Cyrillic (Niyazov later changed the alphabet back to a Latin-based one). However, bringing the Turkmens to abandon their previous nomadic ways in favor of communism was not fully embraced until as late as 1948. Nationalist organizations in the region also existed during the 1920s and the 1930s. The Ashgabat earthquake of 1948 killed over 110,000 people, amounting to 2/3s of the city's population.[10] The nation policies of the Soviet Union, particularly in the 1920s and 1930s, actually promoted "the invention of turkmen traditions".[11] Turkmen was enjoying preferable treatment in the Soviet administration and educational system and during the Stalin years the republic had become more national in form; Turkmen became the official language for example.[11]

[edit] Independence

When the Soviet Union began to collapse, Turkmenistan and the rest of the Central Asian republics first heavily favored maintaining a reformed version of the state, mainly because they needed the economic power and common markets of the Soviet Union to prosper. Nevertheless, Turkmenistan declared independence on 27 October 1991,[12] albeit one of the last Soviet republics to secede. Turkmenistan gained official recognition on 25 December 1991, a day before the final dissolution of the Soviet Union. Turkmenistan joined the U.N. the following year.
In 1991, Turkmenistan became a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, an international organization of former Soviet republics. However, Turkmenistan reduced its status in the organization to "associate member" in August 2005. The reason stated by the Turkmen president was the country's policy of permanent neutrality.[13]
The former leader of the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic, Saparmurat Niyazov, remained in power as Turkmenistan's leader after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Under his post-Soviet rule, Russian-Turkmen relations greatly suffered.[citation needed] He styled himself as a promoter of traditional Muslim and Turkmen culture (calling himself "Türkmenbaşy", or "leader of the Turkmen people"), but he became notorious in the West for his dictatorial rule and extravagant cult of personality. The extent of his power greatly increased during the early 1990s, and in 1999 he became President for Life.
Niyazov died unexpectedly on 21 December 2006.
In an election on 11 February 2007, Berdimuhamedow was elected president with 89% of the vote and 95% turnout. He was sworn in on 14 February 2007.

[edit] Politics

After 69 years as part of the Soviet Union (including 67 years as a union republic), Turkmenistan declared its independence on 27 October 1991.
President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov, a former bureaucrat of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, ruled Turkmenistan from 1985, when he became head of the Communist Party of the Turkmen SSR, until his death in 2006. He retained absolute control over the country after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. On 28 December 1999, Niyazov was declared President for Life of Turkmenistan by the Mejlis (parliament), which itself had taken office a week earlier in elections that included only candidates hand-picked by President Niyazov. No opposition candidates were allowed.
Since the December 2006 death of Niyazov, Turkmenistan's leadership made tentative moves to open up the country. His successor, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, repealed some of Niyazov's most idiosyncratic policies, including banning opera and the circus for being "insufficiently Turkmen". In education, Berdimuhamedow's government had increased basic education to ten years from nine years, and higher education had been extended from four years to five. He has also increased contacts with the West, which is eager for access to the country's natural gas riches - but fears were mounting[when?] that the government would revert to Niyazov's draconian style of rule.[citation needed]
The politics of Turkmenistan take place in the framework of a presidential republic, with the President both head of state and head of government. Under Niyazov, Turkmenistan had a single-party system; however, in September 2008, the People's Council unanimously passed a resolution adopting a new Constitution. The latter resulted in the abolition of the Council and a significant increase in the size of Parliament in December 2008. The new Constitution also permits the formation of multiple political parties.
The former Communist Party, now known as the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, has been the only one effectively permitted to operate. Political gatherings are illegal unless government sanctioned.

[edit] Human rights

Turkmenistan has been widely criticised for human rights abuses and has imposed severe restrictions on foreign travel for its citizens.[14] Discrimination against the country's ethnic minorities remain in practice. Universities have been encouraged to reject applicants with non-Turkmen surnames, especially ethnic Russians.[15] It is forbidden to teach the customs and language of the Baloch, an ethnic minority. The same happens to Uzbeks, though the Uzbek language used to be taught in some national schools.[16]
According to Reporters Without Borders' 2011 World Press Freedom Index, Turkmenistan had the 3rd worst press freedom conditions in the world, behind North Korea and Burma. It is considered to be one of the "10 Most Censored Countries". Each broadcast under Niyazov began with a pledge that the broadcaster's tongue will shrivel if he slanders the country, flag, or president.[17]

[edit] Administrative divisions

Balkan Province Dasoguz Province Ahal Province Lebap Province Mary ProvinceA clickable map of Turkmenistan exhibiting its provinces.
About this image

Turkmenistan is divided into five provinces or welayatlar (singular welayat) and one capital city district. The provinces are subdivided into districts (etraplar, sing. etrap), which may be either counties or cities. According to the Constitution of Turkmenistan (Article 16 in the 2008 Constitution, Article 47 in the 1992 Constitution), some cities may have the status of welaýat (province) or etrap (district).
Division ISO 3166-2 Capital city Area[18] Pop (2005)[18] Key
Ashgabat City
Ashgabat 470 km2 (180 sq mi) 871,500
Ahal Province TM-A Anau 97,160 km2 (37,510 sq mi) 939,700 1
Balkan Province TM-B Balkanabat  139,270 km2 (53,770 sq mi) 553,500 2
Daşoguz Province TM-D Daşoguz 73,430 km2 (28,350 sq mi) 1,370,400 3
Lebap Province TM-L Türkmenabat 93,730 km2 (36,190 sq mi) 1,334,500 4
Mary Province TM-M Mary 87,150 km2 (33,650 sq mi) 1,480,400 5

[edit] Climate

It is one of the driest deserts in the world, some places have an average annual precipitation of only 12 mm (0.47 in). The highest temperature recorded in Ashgabat is 48.0 °C (118.4 °F) and Kerki, an extreme inland city located on the banks of the Amu Darya river, recorded 51.7 °C (125.1 °F) in July 1983, although this value is unofficial. 50.1C is the highest temperature recorded at Repetek Reserve, recognized as the highest temperature ever recorded in the whole former Soviet Union.[citation needed]

[edit] Geography

Map of Turkmenistan
Dust storm over Turkmenistan
At 488,100 km2 (188,500 sq mi), Turkmenistan is the world's 52nd-largest country. It is slightly smaller than Spain and somewhat larger than the US state of California. It lies between latitudes 35° and 43° N, and longitudes 52° and 67° E.
Over 80% of the country is covered by the Karakum Desert. The center of the country is dominated by the Turan Depression and the Karakum Desert. The Kopet Dag Range, along the southwestern border, reaches 2,912 meters (9,553 ft) at Kuh-e Rizeh (Mount Rizeh).[19]
The Great Balkhan Range in the west of the country (Balkan Province) and the Köýtendag Range on the southeastern border with Uzbekistan (Lebap Province) are the only other significant elevations. The Great Balkhan Range rises to 1,880 metres (6,170 ft) at Mount Arlan[20] and the highest summit in Turkmenistan is Ayrybaba in the Kugitangtau Range – 3,137 metres (10,292 ft).[21] Rivers include the Amu Darya, the Murghab, and the Tejen.
The climate is mostly arid subtropical desert, with little rainfall. Winters are mild and dry, with most precipitation falling between January and May. The area of the country with the heaviest precipitation is the Kopet Dag Range.
The Turkmen shore along the Caspian Sea is 1,768 kilometres (1,099 mi) long. The Caspian Sea is entirely landlocked, with no access to the ocean.
The major cities include Aşgabat, Türkmenbaşy (formerly Krasnovodsk) and Daşoguz.

[edit] Economy

The country possesses the world's fourth-largest reserves of natural gas and substantial oil resources.[22] In 1994, the Russian government's refusal to export Turkmen gas to hard currency markets, and mounting debts of its major customers, in the former Soviet Union, for gas deliveries, contributed to a sharp fall in industrial production, and caused the budget to shift, from a surplus to a slight deficit. Half of the country's irrigated land is planted with cotton, making the country the world's tenth-largest cotton producer.[citation needed]
Turkmenistan has taken a cautious approach to economic reform, hoping to use gas and cotton sales to sustain its economy. In 2004, the unemployment rate was estimated to be 60%.[5]
Between 1998 and 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, the value of total exports has risen sharply because of increases in international oil and gas prices. Economic prospects in the near future are discouraging because of widespread internal poverty and the burden of foreign debt.[citation needed]
President Niyazov spent much of the country's revenue on extensively renovating cities, Ashgabat in particular. Corruption watchdogs voiced particular concern over the management of Turkmenistan's currency reserves, most of which are held in off-budget funds such as the Foreign Exchange Reserve Fund in the Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt, according to a report released in April 2006 by London-based non-governmental organization Global Witness.
According to the decree of the Peoples' Council of 14 August 2003,[23] electricity, natural gas, water and salt will be subsidized for citizens up to 2030. In addition car drivers are entitled to 120 litres of free petrol a month. Drivers of buses, lorries and tractors can get 200 litres of fuel and motorcyclists and scooter riders 40 litres free. On 5 September 2006, after Turkmenistan threatened to cut off supplies, Russia agreed to raise the price it pays for Turkmen natural gas from $65 to $100 per 1,000 cubic meters. Two-thirds of Turkmen gas goes through the Russian state-owned Gazprom.[24]

[edit] Natural gas and export routes

The latest study in May 2011 stated that the South lolotan gas field is now easily as the world's second-largest gas field in terms of gas-in-place. The estimated reserves at South lolotan was about 21 trillion cubic metres.[25] The Turkmenistan Natural Gas Company (Türkmengaz), under the auspices of the Ministry of Oil and Gas, controls gas extraction in the country. Gas production is the most dynamic and promising sector of the national economy. In 2010 Ashgabat started a policy of diversifying export routes for its raw materials.[26] China is set to become the largest buyer of gas from Turkmenistan over the coming years as a pipeline linking the two countries, through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, reaches full capacity.[27] In addition to supplying Russia, China and Iran, Ashgabat took concrete measures to accelerate progress in the construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan and India pipeline (TAPI). Turkmenistan has previously estimated the cost of the project at $3.3 billion. On 21 May, president Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov unexpectedly signed a decree stating that companies from Turkmenistan will build an internal East-West gas pipeline allowing the transfer of gas from the biggest deposits in Turkmenistan (Dowlatabad and Yolotan) to the Caspian coast. The East-West pipeline is planned to be around 1,000 km long and have a carrying capacity of 30 bn m³ annually, at a cost of between one and one and a half billion US dollars.[26]

[edit] Oil

Most of Turkmenistan's oil is extracted by the Turkmenistan State Company (Concern) Türkmennebit from fields at Koturdepe, Balkanabat, and Chekelen near the Caspian Sea, which have a combined estimated reserve of 700 million tons. The oil extraction industry started with the exploitation of the fields in Cheleken in 1909 (by Nobel brothers) and Balkanabat in the 1930s, then production leaped ahead with the discovery of the Kumdag field in 1948 and the Koturdepe field in 1959. Big part of the oil produced in Turkmenistan is refined in Turkmenbashy and Seidi refineries. Also, oil is exported by tankers through Caspian Sea to Europe via canals.[28]

[edit] Energy

Turkmenistan is a net exporter of electrical power to Central Asian republics and southern neighbors. The most important generating installations are the Hindukush Hydroelectric Station, which has a rated capacity of 350 megawatts, and the Mary Thermoelectric Power Station, which has a rated capacity of 1,370 megawatts. In 1992, electrical power production totaled 14.9 billion kilowatt-hours.[29]

[edit] Agriculture

Half of the country's irrigated land is planted with cotton, making the country the world's tenth-largest producer.[citation needed]

[edit] Demographics

Most of Turkmenistan's citizens are ethnic Turkmens with sizeable minorities of Uzbeks and Russians. Smaller minorities include Kazakhs, Tatars, Ukrainians, Armenians, Azeris, and Balochis. The percentage of ethnic Russians dropped from 18.6% in 1939 to 9.5% in 1989.[30]
The CIA World Factbook gives the ethnic composition of Turkmenistan as 85% Turkmen, 5% Uzbek, 4% Russian and 6% other (2003 estimates).[5] According to data announced in Ashgabat in February 2001, 91% of the population are Turkmen, 3% are Uzbeks and 2% are Russians. Between 1989 and 2001 the number of Turkmen in Turkmenistan doubled (from 2.5 to 4.9 million), while the number of Russians dropped by two-thirds (from 334,000 to slightly over 100,000).[31]

[edit] Language

Turkmen is the official language of Turkmenistan (per the 1992 Constitution), although Russian still is widely spoken in cities as a "language of inter-ethnic communication". Turkmen is spoken by 72% of the population, Russian 12%, Uzbek 9%, and other languages 7%.[5]

[edit] Religion

The Ärtogrul Gazy Mosque in Ashgabat named after the father of Osman Ghazi, the founder of the Ottoman Empire
According to the CIA World Factbook, Muslims constitute 89% of the population while 9% of the population are followers of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the remaining 2% religion is reported as non-religious.[5] However, according to a 2009 Pew Research Center report, 93.1% of Turkmenistan's population is Muslim.[32] Islam came to the Turkmen primarily through missionary activities. Missionaries were holy men and they often were adopted as patriarchs of particular clans or tribal groups, thereby becoming their "founders." Reformulation of communal identity around such figures accounts for one of the highly localized developments of Islamic practice in Turkmenistan.
In the Soviet era, all religious beliefs were attacked by the communist authorities as superstition and "vestiges of the past." Most religious schooling and religious observance were banned, and the vast majority of mosques were closed. However, since 1990, efforts have been made to regain some of the cultural heritage lost under Soviet rule.
Former president Saparmurat Niyazov ordered that basic Islamic principles be taught in public schools. More religious institutions, including religious schools and mosques, have appeared, many with the support of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Turkey. Religious classes are held in both schools and mosques, with instruction in Arabic language, the Qur'an and the hadith, and history of Islam.[33]
President Niyazov wrote his own religious text, published in separate volumes in 2001 and 2004, entitled the Ruhnama. The Turkmenbashi regime required that the book, which formed the basis of the educational system in Turkmenistan, be given equal status with the Quran (mosques were required to display the two books side by side). The book was heavily promoted as part of the former president's personality cult, and knowledge of the Ruhnama is required even for obtaining a driver's license.[34]
The history of Bahá'í Faith in Turkmenistan is as old as the religion itself, and Bahá'í communities still exist today.[35] The first Bahá'í House of Worship was built in Ashgabat at the beginning of the twentieth century. It was seized by the Soviets in the 1920s and converted to an art gallery. It was heavily damaged in the earthquake of 1948 and later demolished. The site was converted to a public park.[36]

[edit] Culture

Education is universal and mandatory through the secondary level, the total duration of which was earlier reduced from 10 to 9 years; with the new President it has been decreed that from the 2007–2008 school year on, mandatory education will be for 10 years.[citation needed]

[edit] Heritage

Turkmenistan in the list of World Heritage Sites
Image Name Location Notes Date added Type
Cyark merv 3.jpg Ancient Merv Mary a major oasis-city in Central Asia, on the historical Silk Road 1995 Cultural[37]
KonyeUrgenchMinaret.jpg Köneürgenç Köneürgenç unexcavated ruins of the 12th-century capital of Khwarezm 2005 Cultural[38]

Parthian Fortresses of Nisa Bagyr, Ahal Province one of the first capitals of the Parthians 2007 Cultural[39]

[edit] Mass media

There are a number of newspapers and monthly magazines published in Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan currently broadcasts 6 national TV channels through satellite. They are Altyn asyr, Yashlyk, Miras, Turkmenistan(in 7 languages), Turkmen Owazy and Ashgabat. There are no commercial or private TV stations. Articles published by the state-controlled newspapers are heavily censored and written to glorify the state and its leader.
Internet services are the least developed in Central Asia. Access to internet services are provided by the government's ISP company "Turkmentelekom". It is estimated that in 2010 there are 80,400 internet users in Turkmenistan or roughly 1.6% of total population.[40][41]

[edit] See also