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Russian rule

Present-day Turkmenistan is the last part of Central Asia to be conquered by the Russian Empire in 1881. In 1924, Turkmenistan was named the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic, but that did not mean that there was a national Turkmen identity. Tribal traditions and Islam remained important determinants of culture. Until the death of Stalin in 1953, Russians held the key positions in Turkmenistan, after which more Turkmen entered the top ranks of the local Communist Party. Loyalty to Moscow went hand in hand with widespread corruption and fraud in the decades that followed, especially in cotton production.

In 1991, the political elite fought to remain with Russia. A somewhat fraudulent referendum in March 1991 showed that 95% of the population wanted to stay with Russia. In October of that year, after some turbulent political developments in Moscow, a referendum suddenly showed that 95% of the population wanted independence. As a result of that referendum, the independent Republic of Turkmenistan was proclaimed.

Period Nijazov

In the mid-1980s, Saparmoerat Nijazov came to power as the leader of the Communist Party. On 21 December 2006, Nijazov died of a heart attack. Nijazov was 66 years old. The National Security Council met in the capital, Ashgabat, to "ensure the stability of the country". According to the constitution, parliamentary speaker Ovesgeldi Atayev was given power until new elections were held.

The lifelong president and 'Father of Turkmen' ruled Turkmenistan with an iron hand for 20 years. Human rights organisations described his rule as one of the most repressive in the world. Elected administrations had no say in the matter and administrators were regularly dismissed and replaced by Niyazov, who had himself honoured everywhere, including in statues and by naming months or places.

Nijazov used the income from the export of gas for the construction of many grand buildings and projects.

Period Berdymukhamedov

On 14 February 2007, Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov was elected as the new president. In September 2008, a new constitution was adopted, which promised a multi-party system with greater parliamentary influence. In December 2008, the first new elections were held under the new constitution. The elections continue to be dominated by pro-government candidates. In April 2009, Turkmenistan is accused of sabotage of the oil pipeline, Russia denies the accusations. In December 2009 and January 2010, oil pipelines were opened with China and Iran respectively. In February 2012, President Berdymukhamedov was re-elected with 97% of the vote. In September 2012, the census process begins. This is very difficult due to the many remote and difficult to reach areas in Turkmenistan. In November 2014, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Turkmenistan decide to operate an oil pipeline. In January 2015, Turkmenistan devalues its currency by 19%. In November 2015, construction begins on a gas pipeline to carry Turkmen gas to the south. In September 2016, constitutional amendments were made which, among other things, extended the term of office of the president to seven years. In February 2017, Berdymukhamedov is elected president for a third term.

Turkmenistan is seeking new export markets for its vast hydrocarbon and natural gas reserves, which are not yet fully exploited. By the end of 2021, Turkmenistan will export most of its gas to China and smaller quantities to Russia. Turkmenistan's dependence on gas exports has made the economy vulnerable to fluctuations in the world energy market and economic hardship.


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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