In his new Briefing, Alexey Malashenko writes about the post-Soviet development of Turkmenistan, the current situation in this Central Asian country, and its prospects.
- In contrast to other CIS states, Turkmenistan is characterized by a tribal culture and the fact that under the first president, Saparmurat Niyazov, a totalitarian regime had been established there.
- After a certain liberalization carried out under the second president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the current regime still remains the most authoritarian of all Central Asian states. However, recent changes have led to the establishment of a multi-party system, the abolishment of Niyazov’s personality cult, and holding at least formally free elections.
- Islam did not play a political role in Turkmenistan until the 1990s, when Niyazov attempted to monopolize religion in order to strengthen his own power. However, this tendency has faded away under Berdymukhamedov.
- The country’s economy, regime stability, and success of its populist ideology depend on the availability of financial resources coming from the sales of gas. The aggravation of relations with Moscow in 2008 led Ashgabat to change the direction of its gas exports from the north to the east (China, India, and Pakistan) and south (Iran).
- Opinions among experts on how long Berdymukhamedov will stay in power differ, yet most of them agree that society in Turkmenistan is not ready for mass protest.