Impoversihed during Soviet rule, Turkmenistans economy driven by huge natural gas reserves has adjusted well to independence. The country however has not been so fortunate in other areas. Currently led by the egomaniac of a president Saparmurad Niyazov under whom, political parties, independents media, academic meetings, the teaching of foreign languages, foreign education, the internet, Christian and Hindu sect leaders, are all banned. The president has been asked by his puppet parliament to stay on for life but he has turned down this offer opting to step down in 2010. The regime is described by Amnesty International as secretive, repressive and intimidating. While the economic potential is huge, this potential cannot be fulfilled until a stable government comes to power.
· Annexed by Russia between 1865 and 1885, Turkmenistan became a Soviet republic in 1925. It achieved its independence upon the dissolution of the USSR in 1991.
· 488,100 sq km
· border countries: Afghanistan 744 km, Iran 992 km, Kazakhstan 379 km, Uzbekistan 1,621 km
· 37.88% under 14
· Backgrounds: Turkmen 77%, Uzbek 9.2%, Russian 6.7%, Kazakh 2%, other 5.1%
· Languages: Turkmen 72%, Russian 12%, Uzbek 9%, other 7%
· Religion: Muslim 89%, Eastern Orthodox 9%, unknown 2%
· Originated in the Altai region of eastern Central Asia
· Built reputation as formidable raiders and warriors attacking caravans on silk route
· Fought as mercenaries for Persian, Turkic, Afghan an Central Asian rulers
· Made up of 20 different tribes
· President Saparmurad Niyazov
· Brought up in communist orphanage
· Leads most represseive and dictatorial regime in the world
· Has been asked to stay on as president for life by his puppet parliament
· Announced that he will step down in 2010
· Has made his own code of conduct which he compares to the Quran and the bible
· Proven oil reserves of 546 million barrels
· 260 trillion cubic feet of gas making it the fifth largest gas reserves in the world
· three quarters of the country is covered by the Kara-Kum Desert which is irrigated from the Amu Darya River to grow cotton, 10th largest producer in the world.
· Below poverty line 58%
· suffered from the continued lack of adequate export routes for natural gas and from obligations on extensive short-term external debt.
· Prospects in the near future are discouraging because of widespread internal poverty and the burden of foreign debt.
· IMF assistance would seem to be necessary, yet the government is not as yet ready to accept IMF requirements.