Turkmen impressions: the older and the younger generation
One of the most striking things about Turkmenistan is the difference between the older and the younger generation. Unlike in Western countries, it is not so much the way they behave, dress or spend free time that distinguishes the young from the old ones. Naturally, such differences are visible, but not as much as for example in Russia or countries of Eastern Europe.
The main difference between the middle-aged or older Turkmen and the younger generation is the way they perceive the world. While for the young people Turkmenistan is the entire world, for the older ones it is the former Soviet Union, where they were born and grew up. The latter know a bit about Ukraine, they have been to Moscow, spent their holiday in Crimea, served in the army in Poland or East Germany, whereas young people have no idea about what the world looks like outside Turkmenistan.
When talking to young people, one notices the consequences of brainwashing they were subject to during Turkmenbashi’s rule (mainly at schools). Unable to think independently, they almost never criticize the government. What’s more, they consider the late Turkmenbashi one of the greatest men in the history of Turkmenistan and think that his policy was the only just one. Sometimes it is embarrassing to listen to all the clichés. What’s even worse, they really believe it; it is not that they are affraid or pressed to say it. The only exception are the people who have traveled abroad, at least to Russia: their horizons are much broader.
Surprisingly, it is easier to talk to the „Soviet” people who criticize the government much more freely, especially when talking to a foreigner. This makes Turkmenistan an exception in the post-Soviet region, because, as a rule, it is the younger people who are more open, less suspicious and more eager to make contact with foreigners.
It is not so much the increased income from gas sales and foreign investments that the Turkmen people need in order to develop and keep the country away from falling into a complete stagnation. First of all, they need exit visas to be abolished, borders to be opened and the Ruhnama to be withdrawn from the school curricula. Despite the hopes expressed by many observers and journalists, it is not very likely to happen in the near future.