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A little information about Turkmenistan



                   A Little information about Turkmenistan

                                 An Essay By

                               Mekan Melyayev

                           English Composition 121

                              January 30, 2002

      What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you hear the
word Turkmenistan? Is it "Gee, I don't even know where it is"?  Or if you
know the location do you have questions?  "Does your country harbor
terrorists?  Does you country have roads?  Are all women covered in your
country?  Does your country chop off peoples' hands for robbery?"
      The history of Turkmenistan indicates that the Turkmens were nomadic
people who lived on their own, never trying to conquer any land. In the 8th
century Turkmens were forced to accept Islam by the Arabs. The Muslim
influence lasted till the late 18th century.  In the early 19th century
Russians invaded the Turkmen lands, and Turkmens were forced to join the
Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics. Then in 1925 Turkmens formed the
Republic of Turkmenistan.
      It is bordered on the south by Afghanistan and Iran, on the north by
Kazakhstan, on the northeast by Uzbekistan, and on the West by the Caspian
Sea.  At present it is an independent and neutral country. It has a
population of less than 5 million, and a land size slightly large than
California. It is oil rich country with about 100 trillion cubic meters of
oil reserves, and it's a 10th largest cotton producer in the world.
      During my stay in Colorado, I've noticed that very few people know
about my country.  I've witnessed quite often that about people I talk to
have misconceptions about Turkmenistan.  Probably about 80% of the people
I've talked to have some kind of misconception.  The most common
misconception they have is viewing Turkmenistan as a Muslim state.
Whenever I tell them about the location of Turkmenistan, they start
thinking of a Muslim ruled state; a state that doesn't allow women to dress
openly, that chops off peoples' hands for robbery.  There are many
questions they might want to ask of a person representing an uncivilized
Muslim state.
      But Turkmenistan is completely different from what most people think.
 Even though Turkmens were forced to receive Islam as their primary
religion, they didn't fight for Islam.  The respected elders of the Turkmen
community tried to inspire people to defend their country, rather than
defend their religion.  In their poems they talked about Heaven as
something that no one has seen, or been inside, and that they would rather
stay on earth instead of going to Heaven.
      Another example of this could be a Turkmen mythical story, almost like
of venerable Bede's "Beowulf".  But unlike Bede's writing in which he
describes monster Grendel as something God has sent, the Turkmen story
called "Gorogly (son of the grave)" has no mention of a God who is in
charge of everything that is happening on earth.  It does have some
creatures like dragons and monsters with one eye.  The main point of the
story is not to inspire people to believe in God, but to awaken their
patriotic feelings.
      On the other hand I would be wrong to say Turkmenistan doesn't
interact with its neighbors. We have 125 diplomatic missions abroad
including 2 consulates in Afghanistan. We import gas and electricity to
Iran and Afghanistan.  All these relationships are based on mutual economic
benefits only. Turkmenistan receives some help in training of its military
personnel from Pakistan. The United Nations allows this type of basic
training for a neutral country. The training is meant only for defense of a
country, not an attack or spying on any country.
      Another misconception, mainly held by people with a higher level of
awareness about current events in the area, is that Turkmenistan doesn't
allow the U.S. military to use its air space or territory for retaliation
against Afghanistan, even though Turkmenistan would be the second best
place to carry out U.S. attacks, after Pakistan. The rules set by United
Nations on neutrality status don't allow Turkmenistan's territory to be
used for military actions.  It can only be used for humanitarian aid.
Turkmenistan is allowing humanitarian aid to pass through its territory, it
is allowing airplanes of humanitarian aid to land and take off from its
airport.
      Another misconception that I have a hard time explaining is that
Turkmenistan is not Russia, even though it used to be part of the Soviet
Union for 70 years. When I tell people that Turkmenistan was part of the
Soviet Union, they still think of Turkmenistan as Russia, and therefore I
am usually asked a questions that they would ask a native Russian.  "Does
your country have nuclear bombs? Why were you guys making nuclear weapons
against the United States? Were your parents Communists?"
      I have to explain that Turkmenistan doesn't have any nuclear weapons
because Russia reclaimed all of its nuclear weapons after the collapse of
the Soviet Union.  In answer to the question of whether my parents were
communists or not, I just say that the all people in the Soviet Union were
communist, and citizens of that country had no other choice but to be one.
People were prosecuted for having different ideas or beliefs about the
government during the Soviet era. Of course the Soviet Union made nuclear
weapons against United States, because the United States built the same
weapons against the Soviet Union.  Was the United States the biggest enemy
of the Soviet Union, or was it the other way around?  Or was it both ways
at once?
      In the Cold War, the KGB of the Soviet Union and the CIA of the United
States both spied on each other, and unfortunately the practice is still
continuing.  But this time the practice is just between Russia and the
United States.  As a neutral country Turkmenistan is not involved in it.
The United Nations knows all the military power Turkmenistan has.  It would
be naive to believe that neither the United States nor Russia have spies in
Turkmenistan, but it seems to me very unlikely that Turkmenistan has spies
in the United States.  Of course that is only my own opinion, based largely
on the fact that I'm not a spy myself.  (Only a few people have asked me
whether I am, but sometimes I think more people wonder about it.)
      Turkmenistan is a country with an annual growth of 9% in the Gross
Domestic Product over the past 10 years. Economically Turkmenistan still
relies heavily on Russia because of the industry of gas exportation. The
only gas pipelines that were built during the Soviet era passed through
Russia, and Turkmenistan has to rely only on those pipelines now. But if
the war finishes in Afghanistan, a new pipeline will be built through
Afghanistan to Europe.  This pipeline would be the most beneficial for
Turkmenistan.
      Turkmenistan is still not fully awakened from the Soviet Laws and
regulations. The country doesn't have a complete democracy, but
Turkmenistan has just starting growing, and democracy comes with time.
      With the ongoing war in that region now, I hope this piece of
information helps to better understand the stance of Turkmenistan.  As for
explaining what it is like to be a member of the tiny subculture of Turkmen
students in the United States, the best explanation I can give is that it
would be handy for me to carry a copy of this essay with me daily.



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