Drawing on Russian and Western sources as well as fieldwork, PONARS Eurasia member Sebastien Peyrouse in his new book, Turkmenistan: Strategies of Power, Dilemmas of Development (M.E. Sharpe, 2012), examines the political, social, economic, and geopolitical dimensions of contemporary Turkmenistan and considers the prospects for its emergence as a political and economic factor in the twenty-first century world.
On Oil and Gas:
"The vast hydrocarbon riches that Turkmenistan enjoys are second in Central Asia only to Kazakhstan."
"But while there are many potential customers, Turkmenistan has not managed to play its geostrategic cards well so far. Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, by contrast, are well on their way toward integration into the global hydrocarbon market."
"In 2010, the geopolitical map of gas exports changes: Ukraine disappeared as a direct buyer, Russia increased its imports in theory but limited them in reality, and China took hold of a share of the market."
"If Turkmenistan really wants to embark on an unprecedented gas boom, it will have to acquire international partners and set up new export routes: those to Russia are outdated; the one to Iran has limited capacity; that to China is still young; and that to the West presently exists on paper only."
"As in the rest of Central Asia, it appears as though China will become the privileged partner of Turkmenistan in the decades to come."
"The Sino-Central Asian gas pipeline, inaugurated in December 2009, draws from the Turkmen reserves of Samandepe … In 2011, the two sides announces that by 2015, Turkmenistan would deliver 60bcm of gas to China."
"At the hour of great debates about the energy dependency of European countries, the European Union regards Berdymukhammedov’s sensible reopening toward foreign countries as a historic opportunity."
"Russian colonization in the late nineteenth century is regarded as a long period of enslavement that prevented Turkmenistan’s entry into a new golden age. At school the entire Soviet regime is passed over in silence and courses devoted to contemporary times are almost nonexistent."
"Turkmenistan established its borders, created its literary language, and developed its nation in the twentieth century, but official historiography vehemently condemns Russian and Soviet “colonialism,” which provided the country with its fundamentals."
"The Soviet regime is described as something imposed from abroad, while in fact Turkmen elites were partly able to control the system and adapt it to their own interests and perspectives."
"The authorities have engaged in isolationist policies since independence, and yet claim at the same time to look out for the interests of several million Turkmen living in neighboring countries and the Middle East." "… its wealth and its role as a crossroads of the Silk Roads enabled the flowering of Islamic art…"
"Turkmenistan’s first fifteen years of independence were intrinsically linked to the megalomaniacal personality of President [Saparmurat] Niyazov (1940-2006)."
"After 1991, the first post-Soviet generation of Turkmen citizens grew up entirely within a context marked by a cult of personality, a lack of state institutions other than that of the president, an absence of independent media, restricted access to the outside world, and a cultural sphere dominated to a large degree by the works of the “leader of the Turkmen people” (or “Turkmenbashi”)."
"… it will be difficult to deconstruct the “father of the nation,” even if the regime is liberalized."
"One of the challenges facing the country is to take stock of the first fifteen years of Independence, and to reappraise the Niyazov regime without calling into question the experience of Independence."
"Niyazov liquidated the educational system and academia. “All subjects, including mathematics, were focused around “Niyazov the Great” and [his book] the Ruhnama." "Having long suffered from a heart condition, President Niyazov died suddenly on December 21, 2006."
"Slogans from the Ruhnama are inscribed on the walls of the mosque built in Niyazov’s hometown, a fact that many Muslims consider blasphemous. Imams were obliged to give praise to the president during their Friday sermons, read excerpts from the Ruhnama, and place the book beside the Koran, since it was supposed to respond to the spiritual needs of the Turkmen people."
On Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov:
"According to the constitution, the interim presidency should have been given to the president of parliament, lawyer Ovesgeldy Ataev; however, power was transferred to the vice president of the ministerial cabinet, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov … Niyazov’s personal dentist."
"Berdymukhammedov enjoyed the essential support of the state security services and the circle of the president’s close advisers, known as the “men of December 21."
"The domination of the secret services over political succession—like the selection of Yuri Andropov after Leonid Brezhnev in 1982, and of Vladimir Putin after Boris Yeltsin in 1999—is consistent with a general trend in all post-Soviet states, where the power ministries, especially the secret services, have regained their position."
"One of the only visible differences between Niyazov and the political regime of his successor concerns the influence of the family and of the presidential clan. Whereas Niayzov worked in a very isolated fashion … Berdymukhammedov has surrounded himself with his own family members. The monopolizing of wealth is henceforth carried out more in line with the Central Asian model, where those close to the president take possession of profitable sectors."
"Between 2008 and 2009, the portraits of Niyazov were gradually removed from public spaces, new bank notes were issued without the face of the first president, and the official cult of the Ruhnama was quietly shelved."
"…Turkmenistan will be unable to cast itself as a Central Asian “emirate” unless it bets on its human capital. Its gas riches and low population are not sufficient for sustainable growth; it is necessary to invest in its primary wealth, that is to say, human beings."