Turkmenistan. According to COUNTRYAAH, Turkmenistan has a population of 5.851 million (2018). The gloss of deceased dictator Saparmurat Nijazov fell further during the year. Turkmenbasji the Great, as he was called, had his gold statue dismantled. His successor, President Gurbanguli Berdimuchammedov, ordered the 15-meter-high rotating gold statue to be removed from the 75-meter plinth in the capital city of Ashgabad.
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But Berdimuchammedov had at the same time created a cult of personality around himself and gathered power in his own hands. When local elections were held at the end of the year, some polling stations were adorned with portraits of the single president.
Turkmenistan, which has the world’s fourth-largest gas reserves, expanded its oil and gas exports during the year to reduce dependence on the Russian market. In January, a new gas pipeline was opened from Turkmenistan to Iran, which was expected to more than double gas deliveries to Iran. In August, a number of foreign oil companies were offered concessions for oil extraction in the Caspian Sea, three US and one from Dubai. China’s state energy company CNPC has also been awarded a contract on the South Ioiotan field, and Turkmenistan hopes for increased economic cooperation with China.
In October, the head of the state gas company Turkmengaz was dismissed, the largest of its kind in Central Asia. The dismissed was accused of serious failure.
In 2012, the Electoral Act was amended, so that in 2013 for the first time in the country’s history elections were held for parliament with the participation of several parties. The election was held in December 2013. The ruling TDP got 47 of the parliament’s 125 seats, while the Party for Industrial and Business People got 14. The country’s LO got 33 seats, the Women’s Organization got 16 and the Youth Organization 8. Finally, civic groups got the remaining 7 seats. OSCE and Amnesty International criticized the election for not giving way to the country’s opposition.
In April 2015, the country launched its first TV satellite, TurkmenSat 1. That same month, the regime banned all private satellite antennas. It happened as part of the establishment of a total news monopoly.
In September 2016, a new constitution was adopted that extended the presidential term from 6 to 7 years and removed an age restriction on eligibility.
According to softwareleverage, Turkmenistan is considered by human rights organizations to be one of the world’s most repressive states. In 2016, journalists without the border placed the country at the bottom of the list of countries in terms of freedom of the press, and on the Press Freedom Index the country was in third place. However, the EU has good relations with the country. Turkmenistan must supply gas to the EU to reduce its dependence on Russian gas. Likewise, the United States is particularly subdued in its criticism of the dictatorship.
Demography and economic geography. – Central-western Asian state. Among the Central Asian states, Turkmenistan is one of the largest, but it is also one of the least populous, counting 5,307,171 residents (less than Lazio), according to an estimate by UNDESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs) of 2014. The great desert of Karakum makes almost 80% of the territory inhospitable: all the important cities are located on the margins, along the southern border (such as the capital, Ashgabat, near the Irān) or along the northern border along the course of the Amudar᾽ja River which flows into the Aral Sea. The capital was completely rebuilt after the 1948 earthquake and during the reign of President Saparmurat Niyazov it was the subject of a continuous series of urban interventions; in 1990 it counted 416,000 residents, today more than doubled (1,031,992). This expansion is mainly due to the high birth rate and partly also to the improved life expectancy: more than 55% of the population is under 15 years old, and only 4% is over 64 years old. A very significant part of the population is still rural (between 50% and 60%, depending on the criteria adopted), distributed in small towns or villages, experiencing situations of sometimes very serious economic backwardness. In recent years the ethnic composition has changed, due to the departure of most of the Russians, who were still massively present in 1990, especially in the production areas of natural gas and cotton: in 25 years they have gone from 9.7% at 3.2%. Meanwhile, the Turkmen ethnic group (almost all located within the Turkmenistan with no minorities in the other states) has increased from 72% to 80%, in the presence of almost stable percentages of Uzbeks (9%), Kazakhs (2, 5%), Tatars (1.1%), Armenians (0.8%), Ukrainians (0.8%), Azeris (0.8%).
The vast plains of the Turkmenistan are mainly intended for the cultivation of cotton (subtracting land from food crops), of which it is one of the largest producers in the world: in the second half of the twentieth century drastic interventions were made on the water network that supplied the Aral Sea, precisely to increase the overall production of cotton, and Turkmenistan was interested in it for the construction of the great Karakum canal, which crosses the desert of the same name. In recent years, the disastrous effects of those choices on climate and pollution have been manifesting.
The subsoil of the Turkmenistan is rich in natural gas and oil, subjected to intensive extraction since the Soviet era. The oil is concentrated in the Caspian Sea area, of which the Turkmenistan controls a large part of the east coast, countering the claims of neighboring countries. The importance of hydrocarbon exports is reflected in the choices of Turkmenistan in the geopolitical field, with diplomatic agreements mainly focused on the opportunities to build direct gas pipelines to China or to the Euro-Mediterranean area.