THE PROSPECTS FOR INTERNAL UNREST IN TURKMENISTAN

Stalin’s Disneyland?
The widely publicised attempt on Turkmenistani President Saparmurat Niyazov’s life on 25 November 2002, and the subsequent arrest in the capital Ashgabat of an exiled, leading opponent to the Niyazov regime, dispelled the notion that any rumours of attempted palace coups against the Turkmenistani government were exaggerated. Although the facts of the affair so far remain impossible to verify, there is, as will be shown, at least circumstantial evidence to suggest that
Turkmenistan has a history of planned, if not actually carried out, coups against Niyazov.
It is difficult to be truly objective about Turkmenistan and her president. Where but in Turkmenistan can one find a twelve-metre high, gold-plated statue of the country’s leader which is not only covered in 26 kilograms of precious metals but also slowly revolves on top of the 75-metre high Neutrality Arch so that the president always faces the sun? Where else is a CD with songs about the president always on top of the hit parade? Where but in Turkmenistan will every computer sold in the country not only include the standard Microsoft baggage but also special software with speeches by the president? Where else have all government ministries built increasingly extravagant residences for the president, collectively known in the diplomatic corps as Stalin’s Disneyland? Even serious news reporting seems unable to penetrate further than to state that “Turkmenistan is bombastic, bizarre, a combination of the Gulag Archipelago and Absurdistan”. While a lack of objectivity may be understandable, this detracts from serious analysis of what, so far, is one of the few relatively orderly states in Central Asia. Turkmenistan’s authoritarian regime and largely homogeneous ethnic population have combined to produce what on the surface appears to be the politically most stable of the former Soviet Central Asian republics…

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