Turkmenistan: the North Korea of Central Asia

Turkmenistan: the North Korea of Central Asia
Posted on 29-01-2022

darwaza gas crater in

turkmenistan a man-made abyss that the

soviets in their quest for oil

accidentally opened in the karakum

desert as a result of a gas leak a

crater that since 1971 has been engulfed

in flames without ever extinguishing for

a single day so turkmenistan

turkmenistan is a mix of contrasts of

beauty and mess this is what you can

find online when you search for

turkmenistan turkmenistan is one of the

most remote and accessible land in the

world it's a forgotten nation not to

mention its history what's its capital

don't look on wikipedia i give you three

seconds to answer

azkabad you got it awesome you're going

to go like as a reward what many of you

might not know is that turkmenistan was

and is still today one of the most

unusual dictatorship ever but let me

explain how they got there it's history

time turkmenistan isolation needs to be

seen in its geopolitical context the

country is bordered to the south by iran

and afghanistan to the north by

kazakhstan to the northeast by

uzbekistan and to the west by the

caspian sea the karakum desert dominates

almost all of the country about 90

percent of the territory while in the

south a series of mountain ranges form a

natural border with iran and afghanistan

in the north the border with uzbekistan

is partly divided by the amudaria river

one of the most important water

resources in central asia turkmenistan's

river valleys have sustained its

civilization since ancient times

although the region was dominated for

many centuries by turkmen tribes

turkmenistan as a political entity only

emerged in the last century during the

soviet period the country was an

underdeveloped socialist republic for

the soviets turkmenistan served as a

supplier of raw materials starting from

raw cotton fiber oil and natural gas its

main resources for the rest the country

was supported by the meager economic aid

from the ussr in boosting cotton

production there was an intense

development of the irrigation system

which however produced very serious

damage to the surrounding environment

the flow of the amudaria was redirected

to the main desert farms these only

contributed to the drying up of the aral

lake on the border between kazakhstan

and uzbekistan an environmental disaster

that among other things fueled

disagreements among central asian

nations over the consumption of natural

resources and waterways with the end of

subsidies the fall of soviet union and

the country's independence in 1991

pretty much everything non-related with

the gas industry went bankrupt

unemployment arose among the highest in

the world more than 60 percent and this

led the country to export gas at

competitive prices in order to face the

hegemony of russia in the area once

independent turkmenistan began

celebrating a policy of neutrality this

monument in ashgabat was the symbol of

such neutrality and served the

government as a way to create favorable

diplomacy with its central asian

neighbors hopefully this tower was also

created to attract the attention of

foreign investors turkmenistan after all

needed money that's basically what

everyone needs come on it needed money

to revitalize the gas industry and

establish an emirates state just like

kuwait did before with approximately 2.7

trillion cubic meters of natural gas

reserves turkmenistan was in fact the

second largest producer in the formed

soviet union and is currently the ninth

largest producer globally a share that

could let turkmenistan achieve

incredible economic development

in an ideal world however after

independence the government of

turkmenistan was never eager to

implement serious reforms for example by

liberalizing prices and allowing a real

private sector to emerge despite some

improvements in recent years a large

part of the population still lives below

the poverty line and the economy is

fragile and stagnant contrary to the

claims of the country's former president

for life the so-called turkmen bashi a

title which means literally father of

all turkmens according to

turkmenbashian's annual reports the

national growth rate was 20

in august 2006.

i smell something rotten in here based

on the official versions the president

died of a heart attack a few months

later according to others he was

poisoned what's certain is that he had

no way of appreciating the benefits that

this alleged 20 percent growth rate

would have had on the country but the

real question is who's supermeriat nyaz

and why is it so important for all of us

well maybe not all of us was he a

megalomaniac dictator a liar a madman in

power a shrewd calculator who leveraged

national symbolism but he is not a porn


to answer these questions all it takes

is a simple


let's see why every single year on

september 12th the citizen of

turkmenistan gathered to celebrate

runamade the national holiday honoring

the runama literally the book of the

soul a work of spiritual teachings

addressed to the nation and written by

the president himself or by one of his

fellow's ghost writers but never say

never nihazov was a poet after all and a

dictator in 2002 in the capital ashgabat

a massive statue of the book was raised

and every evening at eight o'clock the

cover was raised and opened to the

public the main square an audio

recording of sam passages together with

a video projected on the page of the

book was broadcasted building huge

stages was one of turkmen bash's main

obsessions even better if these huge

statues were covered in gold and were

dedicated to him and recently also to

his dog

yep this fixation was so strong that

turkmenbashi imposed that they were

spread in all the cities of the nation

referring to this obsession niyazov

repeatedly stressed that it wasn't due

to reasons of megalomania but simply

because it was the turkmen people who

wanted them all over the country reverse

psychology at its finest another

interesting case of nyazov mentality was

the new year's eve of 1999 when every

citizen of ashgabat was given a watch

with a picture of the president himself

our berlusconi did the same in italy in

1999 when he gave us a calculator to

calculate the euro lira exchange rate i

see no difference at all mias of strange

policies served as a way to emphasize

the turkmen national symbolism to the

point that many foreign commentators

described turkmenistan under nyazov as a

fascist state inserted in a post-soviet

space nyazov transferred soviet ideology

to secure the narrative of a turkmen

national superiority in his runarma

miazov argued that turkmen national

development began more than 5 000 years

ago and as he said turkmenistan can now

live separate and isolated from other

states while maintaining its traditions

and customs this was the turning point

for turkmenistan when it began to look

more like north korea than russia in

every place the words and the most

striking quotations of the glorious

leader as it was called were inscribed

on walls plates and billboards a series

of great public monuments exalted its

virtues cities dams roads libraries and

schools all named and built in izana

knowledge of the main chapters of runama

was demanded not only from government

officials but also from ordinary people

for instance people were required to

repeat some of the runama quotes when

taking the driving license test to

ensure that turkmen would not lose sight

of their glorious leader in their daily

activities turkmenbashi invented another

way to remind citizens of his presence

he declared that every month of the year

should be renamed january was named

turkmenbashi in his honor while april

was named in memory of his mother gurban

sultan yeah i know it sounds weird but

in turkmenistan worshipping family

members was and still is in fact one of

the hallmarks of the regime much more

than in other neighboring countries

before becoming known as turkmenbashi

and as the spiritual father of the

country nyazo was one of the many

faceless grey and anonymous local party

bureaucrats a staunch supporter of the

soviet ideology in turkmenistan yet as

the union unraveled nyazov switched

political flags shifting surprisingly

quickly in favor of turkmen nationalism

a case in point was when at the end of

the last formal meeting of the party

after lunch nyazov gathered the same

members in the same hall to fund the

democratic party of turkmenistan we are

the communist party

oh never mind we are not the communist

party anymore by consolidating control

over all aspects of society economy and

government turkmenbashi exploited what

remained of the skeleton of the soviet

system to create a political machine

based on constraint fear nepotism and

patronage in taking advantage of the

weakness of what was considered a de

facto country made up of tribal chief

and herding clans turkmenbashi installed

a hybrid system where quote unquote

traditional elements of tribal society

were combined with modern elements of

the typical soviet power hierarchy but

how was it that nyazov a single man was

able to take control of turkmenistan by

himself well one single word can be

enough monopolization monopolization of

the country's vast reserves of natural

gas from which turkmenistan didn't

benefit at all during the soviet period

by extracting and shipping gas through

the pipelines to russia the country

earned meager revenues from the sale of

its primary commodity and years of

exploited denationalization of gas and

took control of all the industrial

plants but sadly for the population the

brokerage companies that operated on his

behalf would have done nothing but

commercialized turkmen gas and channeled

the revenues into the president's bank

accounts revenues that served as his

main source of income to give a

semblance of general economic

improvements turkmenbashi undertook a

series of day-ring state projects this

was done to consolidate its consensus

among a population that at that time do

remember registered a high literacy the

capital ashgabat from an underdeveloped

village became a showcase for foreign

investors made of majestic public

buildings in white marble sumptuous

parks and white streets which are still

today almost empty water scarcity was a

daily issue and yet more than a thousand

fountains were built behind the

glittering facade of public buildings

turkmenistan remained a country marked

by isolation poverty and the systematic

suppression of freedom of speech the

only applicable law was that of nyazov

himself who besides controlling the

information and media deprived courts

and parliamentary institution of their

power years of justified the absence of

pro-democratic reforms due to what he

called the turkmen mentality there is a

mentality that was at odds with

pro-western democracy miazov banned

everything that was not part of the

turkmen culture these included video

games car radios

belay and opera long hair and beards for

men and last but not least dogs because

according to him when walking down the

streets of the capital dogs gave off a

bad smell tuchmanistan became a sort of

big brother managed by a single man the

term bread was changed to his mother's

name doctors instead of swearing to

hippocrates as were to him the cyrillic

alphabet was replaced with the turkmen

alphabet similar to the latin one and

any exam could be passed only after

passing a morality test as well oh yeah

and among other extravagances nyezov

suggested to the old people to chew

chicken bones a bit like dogs too saying

that in this way they would avoid all

dental problems who needs implants

anyway contributing to the isolation was

the systematic dismantling of school

libraries and cultural clubs after all

it's much easier to keep control over an

ignorant and uneducated population isn't

it the mass media and even the police

force were corrupted with bribes as

stated by a journalist who fled the

country for the past 12 years

turkmenbashi plunged the country into a

neo-stalinist nightmare although the

country had adopted shortly after

independence a constitution conforming

to international standards it didn't

actually have the basic structure to

defend any single civil liberties

basically the constitution became just

scrap paper that turkmenbashi punctually

reshaped his own will another nice

aspect of nyasa were his big lies by

exaggerating the country's progress and

insisting that turkmen citizens were

lucky to live in a country with advanced

freedoms and privileges nyazo exalted

and justified not only his own position

as the country father's defender but

also his attacks on anyone who

questioned the country's progress

attacks that were condemned as

accusations made by supporters of

foreign powers whether it be american

russian or european he has repeatedly

said that turkmenistan was free of

crimes of any kind and that no rights

had ever been violated in the country in

november 2002 however following an

assassination attempt against him the

president seized the opportunity to cast

suspicion on some ministers who were

openly against him including the

ex-foreign minister boris sheikh muradov

nyoza also accused the utzbeck minority

in the country and the uzbek government

of being involved in the matter a way to

highlight once again at the expense of

the uzbek minority how special turkmens

were support to nyazov came from those

who ran the country's key sectors namely

the energy banking and agricultural

sectors corruption and political

compromise did the rest it was either

unconditional loyalty to the great

leader or elimination as nyazov often

declared in his public rallies there was

no opposition in turkmenistan i think we

should trust him and not see this as a

subtle threat the country's predominant

religion itself islam had to pass

through the filter of propaganda in one

of the sessions of the people's council

miazov proclaimed himself as the new

prophet muhammad he went even beyond

when he claimed that his book

was the equivalent of the quran

according to niyazov whoever read the

runama aloud three times a day would go

straight to heaven as you can well

understand islam underwent a strong

ideological control in order to limit

its potential impacts on the population

islam could have been an alternative

choice and potentially a political mean

to foster opposition after all what's

the point of reading quran when you

already had runama by the time nyazov

passed away the country was in a pitiful

state with the economy completely

paralyzed lacking internal and external

investments with the gas and oil route

at stake between russia and china with

no monetary aid either from the big

international funds or from domestic

bank insurances with the new president

gurban guli berdi muhammed there has

been a very small change of direction


oh yeah i see there are still big

inequalities think of the average

salaries an average turkmen don't get

more than 20 dollars per month and

that's the sad reality of turkmenistan

we'll probably have to wait a long time

before one of the most famous quotes

from ronama can come true for real our

country is not only for the turkmen

people but for all those people who want

to lead turkmenistan into a golden