Turkmen authorities have recently outlawed the import of foreign literature to the republic
The republic of Turkmenistan has been left unnoticed against the background of events, which took place on the territory of the former Soviet Union during the recent 1.5 years. There is an impression that nothing has been happening in Turkmenistan at all. The regime of the incumbent Turkmen President, Saparmurat Niyazov, has won the reputation of one of the most odious regimes on the post-Soviet space. However, the republic is not mentioned even on the list of candidates for another revolution.
Turkmenistan is absolutely isolated from the rest of the world. Turkmen authorities are being suspicious even about their border states - Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The self-isolation of Turkmenistan can be referred to as absurd. The local government has recently banned the import of foreign literature in Turkmenistan - newspapers and magazines, first and foremost. The Turkmen president, who is known in the republic as Turkmenbashi (The Father of All Turkmen) ordered to close all libraries in the republic in the beginning of the current year. The president decided to enact such a law because “nobody goes to libraries anyway.”
The blatant abuse of power in Turkmenistan does not seem to be a problem to anyone else outside the Turkmen territory. There is no organized opposition in Turkmenistan either. There are opponents of Niyazov's regime, of course, but they are very few in number, and they prefer to live abroad, in European countries mainly. One of such groups is called the public and political movement Vatan. The group has recently distributed a letter, which was addressed to members of the Group of Eight. The authors of the letter wrote that Turkmenistan is experiencing a humanitarian catastrophe. G8 members probably paid attention to the letter, although they gave no sign of that. The letter, however, caused great concerns to the Turkmen president.
According to the Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the president was on the verge of hysteria. Saparmurat Niyazov urgently called US Ambassador to Turkmenistan, Tracey Ann Jacobson, to his office and reported the American official about democratic achievements that his country had accomplished during his stay at power.
The Turkmen president is obviously afraid of the fact that he might fall victim of another revolution. The fact of no serious opposition force in the countries does not really matter: a “revolutionary” might come out of the president's team. Saparmurat Niyazov has been ruling Turkmenistan for 20 years already. When he became the first secretary of the republic's Communist Party in 1985, he repeatedly conducted “cleansing procedures” among his closest companions. The number of malcontents is more than enough, although they prefer to keep their resentment inside so far. The father of all Turkmen is therefore not ensured against a local revolution.
On the other hand, the eyes of fear see danger everywhere, as they say. The head of Turkmenistan has not been enjoying much attention recently. More importantly, Turkmenistan has been guaranteeing uninterrupted natural gas deliveries for years already. The President of Turkmenistan is free to be original as much as he wants to.
It is noteworthy that Saparmurat Niyazov is trying to stick to certain rules. Turkmenbashi stated during his recent meeting with the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Slovenia, Dimitrij Rupel, that he would not run for the president during the next presidential election in 2009. Niyazov also added that he was going to minimize his powers of the Turkmen president too. The power will be vested to the parliament, in which Mr. Niyazov is the lifetime chairman.
Mr. Rupel did not have a harsh reaction to the Turkmen style of the forthcoming political reform. The official simply said that Mr. Niyazov promised the OSCE to continue following democratic principles.