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Independence declared: 27 October 1991

Population: 5.5 million

Capital: Ashgabat

President: Saparmurat Niyazov (since 27 October 1990)

 Country profile


Itís got worse. Before, we could go where we wanted during the summer - to the Baltics, to the Georgian coast, or to the Caucasus. Now we have to either stay in Ashgabat or go to the Caspian coast because we need visas and we donít have enough money.

Kurban Mamedov, taxi-driver

Itís a shame that the Soviet Union has collapsed. I studied in Moscow, and then worked in Turkmenistan. But my children canít go to study in Russia, Belarus or Ukraine, as theyíve become foreign countries. We used to go to visit friends. My husband served in Kamchatka when you could still get there. Relations between people have got more complicated too. Everyoneís become mean.

Amangozel Berdyeva, housewife

Introduction 4. Lithuania 8. Georgia 12. Uzbekistan
1. Russia 5. Belarus 9. Armenia 13. Tajikistan
2. Estonia 6. Ukraine 10. Azerbaijan 14. Kyrgyzstan
3. Latvia 7. Moldova 11. Turkmenistan 15. Kazakhstan

The Presidential Palace in Ashgabat/AP
Power is concentrated in the hands of the president/ AP

Ten years after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Turkmenistan remains isolated from the outside world.

President Saparmyrat Niyazov, whom the parliament has granted presidency for life, enjoys a personality cult unrivalled in Central Asia. His portrait decorates the walls of every office building in the country, and the main port, roads and mosques in every town are named after him.

He has taken the title of Turkmenbashi (Father of all Turkmen), and has been hailed as a prophet by his spokesman. He effectively runs a one-party state, and has driven most of the main opposition activists out of the country.

There are no independent media. He says he will step down by 2010, after reaching the age of 70.

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