NewEurasia received this communiqué, which makes us wonder how many people in Turkmenistan, who were members of other Soviet republics when the Union collapsed and got trapped inside the new Turkmen state, are officially registered with the government as “stateless”? (The photograph of the passport has been anonymized to protect the identity of its owner.)
I am so upset, actually angry. How much do you know about the temporary passports of Turkmenistan non-citizens?
A friend of mineis struggling to get out of country and she finally got a (useless) certificate, after so many years of writing to the President and waiting for a decision to get any sort of document that will allow her to go study abroad, and come back, since she also has her mother living in Turkmenistan.
My friend was not originally a Turkmenistani citizen. During Soviet times, they didn’t have to acquire any sort of special exit passport, just the standard Union common passport, and they were registered with a different SSR. But after independence, they had to give up their other citizenship and apply for the Turkmenistani passport — and they are still waiting for it.
In the meantime, they’ve received a temporary passport for non-citizens. And you know what’s written on it? “Stateless person certificate“.
Hello again Western investor,
Perhaps my last letter was too harsh. Turkmenistan does need your money; all of our sectors are so poor — natural gas, textile, fishing, agriculture, water. Still, I have one request when you come here to invest: hire local Turkmen talent, and I don’t just mean as grunts. Don’t import your people for the best jobs; use ours.
But maybe I ask for the impossible, not from you, but from us. A foreign employer means only one thing for many of us: not “money”, not “future”, not “adventure” or “opportunity”, but risk, and if there is one thing we have become averse to, it is risk. We even have an expression, puly ýassygyň astynda saklamak, “keeping the money under the pillow”: it means don’t invest, don’t trust institutions.
In this article, Alex Ulko wants to challenge the current mainstream perceptions of the origin, role and function of so-called ‘national values’ in the region
Like the sun and the moon rising and setting over the Garagum çöli (Karakum desert), Turkmen life is characterized by cycles — and noontime is marked by the wedding. When a Turkmen man comes back from army duty and officially begins adulthood, he is married off by his parents. Or, when a family purchases a new house, they shall often host a wedding, as a way of celebrating the change.
Marriage is an industry in our country: wedding facilities to conduct wedding ceremonies and wedding saloons for wedding parties with wedding singers, and even wedding palaces that have all of these functions under one roof. Weddings can also take place in and around cars (quite popular in Turkmenistan and Iran’s Turkmen Sahra) or in schools.
The wedding process goes like this: (1) the owner of the house or the head of the household calls together all of the aksakals, a gathering called “ýaşuly”. Then (2) they all pray to Allah, supplicating for blessings. Next (3) everyone shifts to a feast in front of the house, or to a restaurant. This latter part is really more intended for the young Turkmen, because the aksakals have spent the daylit hours praying and then go home to rest. Needless to say, stage three is when the fun begins — and make no mistake, Turkmen wedding parties are fun.
Although we’re a Muslim country, don’t be surprised to see copious amounts of alcohol at the party. The irony in this is that weddings are supposed to be about bringing people together in the context of a genuine emotional encounter. All that alcohol complicates things, gives a kind of an illusory perception of each other. For this and other reasons, people are becoming more conscientious about serving alcohol, or even having any at all, at their wedding parties.
Actually, in a way, weddings could be kind of like our post-Marxist opiate of the masses, because who doesn’t love to have fun? Certainly not the Turkmen. And as soon as there’s any kind of social hiccup, well, announce a gala wedding, with singers and all! Perhaps that’s why we have been rated one of the world’s happiest countries? But then, when the party’s over and reality sets back in, we quickly slip into our other status as also one of the world’s most miserable countries.
Dear Western investor,
You might have a Turkish colleague who is trying to convince you to invest in Turkmenistan, but should you believe him?
The picture looks nice. Turkish firms ran 63 projects in 2011 worth ~3.27 billion USD, and in 2010, ~4.5 billion USD. Such numbers at the height of the Great Recession are really amazing. And your Turkish colleague is probably hungry for more: the total business volume of Turkish construction firms in Turkmenistan is over 30 billion USD since 1991, and there are, right now, 1,500 Turkish-run construction projects in Turkmenistan worth 32 billion USD.
But look closer.
These days, state television in Turkmenistan is ablaze with talk of the president’s economic and cultural “commandment” to his country to develop and promote national tourism. The government has recently drawn up new tourist maps of the country (click photograph above).
The center of the buzz, of course, is Avaza, a tourist zone on the Caspian Sea (about which I’ve written here. In the hope of developing a vibrant hotspot of tourism, all manner of plans for new hotels and facilities (such as a water amusement park and a convention center) in the resort area are now hurriedly underway.
Allow the facepalming to begin. EurasiaNet.org’s David Trilling
visited Avaza in 2010. In the port town of nearby Turkmenbashi, he found only intense poverty, and ENVSEC released a map in 2011 showing all of the pollution just south of the Avaza tourist zone in the period 2006-2008, including radioactive waste and abandoned and flooded oil wells. Sounds like a good time on the beach to me.
NewEurasia’s Annasoltan has become somewhat well-known in media studies because of her work on Turkmenistan’s mediascape. I’ve been reading some of the things she’s written, like “State of Ambivalence: Turkmenistan in the Digital Age” (which I think ended up being cited by Freedom House) and her really cyberutopian (but very inspiring) post “OtherTube, PseudoBook, and the fate of the world in Turkmenistan”. The Americans always say they want to add their “two cents” to an issue; I want to add my two teňňesi.
It is my belief that, of all the factors which contribute to the development of a country, media is the most important because of its far-reaching impact on society. Specifically, development is aided by a media which is committed to the truth, honest about its subjectivity, advocates on behalf of the public, and supports society’s cultural and scientific advancement. Any media which makes government approval its priority or is closed to the public fails to satisfy these needs. That is because independent, private media and democracy move along parallel tracks.
There’s a German philosopher named Jürgen Habermas who has written about the emergence of the public sphere in the West, which became the basis for democracy and which was fostered by media. In brief, history seems to suggest that countries with developed private media outlets tend to be more democratic than countries without sufficient private media. Public government-owned media, on the other hand, typically shrouds its message in an unfair bias for government agendas. As one reviewer puts it,
“[Cf.] Habermas’s 1963 book, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, [in which he] examined the rise of public opinion and print culture in the eighteenth century. Habermas recognized that the explosion of the print industry—newspapers, pamphlets, and books—began to exert a powerful influence on political life separate from the traditional ruling agency exerted by the king, the aristocracy, and the parliament. For Habermas, it was not simply the growth of publishing that created the public sphere—it was the simultaneous dawn of a kind of consciousness that the public could be systematically addressed through a pamphlet as if a group of strangers were gathered together in a giant auditorium. Habermas saw this imaginary ‘public sphere’ as a potential democratic utopia where individuals could discuss national issues and come to common consent in public.”
The Central Asia was infected with Harlem Shake virus! Watch our special compilation with best Harlem Shakes from our region! Kazkahstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistam, Turkmenistam and Uzbekistan are going mad!
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I want to share with you impressions of the many contrasts in Turkmenistan by citizen-journalists I know. Except for two from Flickr (but I’m reassured are under Creative Commons licensing), I publish these photos with explicit permission from their owners, who must stay anonymous.
Photo #1:Ashgabat is forever under construction, and everything is glistening marble. Always new government ministries everywhere, and elite apartments for the government coterie that cost cost around 100,000-200,000 USD (!). There are some rumors these days that even the pedestrian walkways in the main quarters shall be re-paved with marble. This is all to impression of lightning-fast development in the “era of happiness of the stable state”. But it is false impression, mis-spending money that could be used to increase living standards, healthcare, education, etc.
Photo #2: Only a few blocks away from marble facade are vast colonies of crumbling Soviet-era residential blocs. Many of these are in process of being bulldozed to make way for more marble extravaganza. Kicked-out residents are given new homes in the outskirts of the city. A sharp contrast exists between the center and the periphery. It was always sort of there, even during the Soviet days, but now much more visible, much more pronounced. You notice that the same people of one city live completely different lives and are faced everyday with different realities.