According to the expert, despite the worst starting positions after leaving the USSR, the country managed to achieve tremendous success in the economy.
One of the greatest historians Nikolai Karamzin called independence the most important state treasure. In Turkmenistan, these have a direct connotation. In an interview to CentralAsia.news a senior researcher at the Institute of History and Archeology of the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan, Ph.D. Juma Orazklychev told about the changes that have taken place in the Central Asian country over the past 30 years.
Image of dependent
In Soviet times, Turkmenistan, like many other republics of the USSR, had an image of a dependent. Officially, this thesis was voiced by the chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR Alexei Rykov back in the late 1920s. He stated that he considered it unacceptable that other peoples «live by the expense of Russian man». He was accused of being an imperialist, demoted, and later fired altogether, but the thought he formulated took deep roots, which, unfortunately, still exist.
Donor for the republics of the Soviet Union
In the book «The Fall of the Empire», former Prime Minister of Russia Yegor Gaidar stated that Turkmenistan was not a dependent, but was a donor concerning other republics like Russia. The same conclusion was made by Academician Alexander Granberg and Corresponding Member Viktor Suslov, who published the results of their research in a joint article «Inter-republican economic relations on the eve of the collapse of the USSR.» In 1989, one resident of Russia «invested» 209 rubles in other republics, and every resident of Turkmenistan — 11 rubles.
But even these figures do not reflect the real state of affairs, since the calculations were made based on Soviet, i.e., directive prices. A different picture is seen if we use real-world prices. According to the data of the Ministry of Economy of the USSR for the 1900 year, the surplus of Russia and Turkmenistan at world prices was the same amount — 1 billion dollars. But in Russia, the population in 1990 was 148 million, and in Turkmenistan — 4 million. So, in per capita calculations and without a calculator, it becomes obvious which of the 15 republics was the main locomotive, pulling the entire echelon.
Worst starting positions
Independence made it possible to get rid of heavy burdens and from now on we could dispose of our treasures on our own. But of all the republics of the former USSR, we had the worst starting positions. Turkmenistan, rich in resources, found itself in a «geographic bag» locked up in the south of the USSR, and the danger of getting from one bondage, Soviet, to another, market one, was more than real. In addition, among the 15 republics of the Soviet Union, the population of Turkmenistan, according to the conclusions of the World Bank experts, was the poorest.
In grocery stores, the shelves were not empty; they all had only one product — identical bags of cheap sweets. To buy bread, the line was formed at 6 a.m.! Now, with the current abundance of goods, this is hard to believe. A generation has already grown up that does not know what it means to go around several stores and return home with an empty bag. Uncontrollable inflation was one of the troubles as well. According to the World Bank, prices increased 16 times in the first year of independence!
Entering the world market
Turkmenistan was either not paid at all for its gas and cotton, or was paid at reduced prices. To survive, it was necessary to break through to the world market. In October 1991, Turkmen specialists began negotiations in the ports of the Black Sea on the delivery of goods for further shipment to importers. At the same time, preparations for the construction of the Tejen-Serakhs-Mashhad railway with access to the Persian Gulf started.
The work was carried out in all spheres. The central newspaper of the country «Turkmenskaya Iskra» has turned, figuratively speaking, into the newspaper of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, since the leading pages were taken by reports on state visits, treaties, and protocols. Information about the establishment of diplomatic relations and the entry of Turkmenistan into international organizations was interspersed with information about meetings and agreements with foreign partners.
How difficult these years were for the young country can be judged by the fact that one of the members of the Presidential Council, answering a question from a journalist of Turkmenskaya Iskra, said: «Returning to the issue of the concerns and doubts of our fellow citizens, I would like to ask them not to worry, to keep calm and faith in the Turkmen land and its people».
Results of Independence
Thirty years have passed. And here are the results: the country maintains trade ties with more than a hundred countries, including Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, China, and Russia. Last year foreign trade turnover of Turkmenistan amounted to 17.9 billion dollars and according to data released by the Library of Congress, the national economy is one of the fastest-growing in the world. In terms of the pace of construction of power plants, Turkmenistan has long been among the leaders and has made electricity and hydrocarbon raw materials, one of the most important products of its export.
During the years of independence, industrial facilities have grown. Their production lines are based on the latest world-class technologies. Here are just two examples. In 2007, representatives of the French company Lafarge, a world cement producer, arrived in Turkmenistan. At a meeting with the then Minister of Energy and Industry, they proposed to modernize the cement plant in Abadan, colorfully describing the advantages of their technologies. The minister, politely listening to the guests, smiling, said: «Go to the plant, take a look, and then, if you wish, we will talk.» Imagine the amazement of the French when they saw the most modern automated production. The emotions that the French experienced when visiting the factory can be described in one word — shock!
Today’s Turkmenistan has changed so much and here the words of Vladimir Lukin, the former Russian ambassador to the United States must be recalled. He said: «In the past, Russia saw itself at the head of Asia, behind Europe. However, then Asia started to develop at a faster pace … and we found ourselves not so much between „modern Europe“ and „backward Asia“ as occupying a somewhat strange intermediate space between the two Europes».
Light of a glorious history
In the political sphere, Turkmenistan has become the first country in the world whose neutral status was recognized by the United Nations. We follow the path formed by our ancestors because the Parthians have already fixed the neutral status of their state in a treaty with Rome for 2090 years.
In 1991, the Turkmen people, having 50-century experience of statehood, continued the path of their ancestors. The talent not only to create successful states but also to organize the international space, has entered the genotype of the Turkmen nation, one of the most ancient in the world. In the book «History of Ancient Astronomy» French academician Jean-Sylvain Bailly indicated the exact date where the history of the Turkmen people starts — 2924 BC.
The Turkmens founded the powers that consistently occupied the world leadership — the Parthian, Oguz, and Great Seljuk empires. Thanks to them the world lived in an unprecedented international system of economic and cultural integration for one and a half thousand years, and it was called the Great Silk Road. Throughout its history, the nation has demonstrated its commitment to peace, as evidenced by the Orkhon inscriptions, which immortalize the words of Emperor Kul Tegin: «I forced the peoples living on the four cardinal directions to peace, made everyone peaceful, non-hostile.» The Parthian postulate «It is beneficial to be peaceful in this world» is eternal, it does not lose its relevance now.
30 years of independence
Albert Einstein used to say «I never cease to admire the perfection of the world» because everything that happens around has its pattern, there are no accidents. Is it by chance that the UN declared the year of the thirtieth anniversary of Turkmenistan’s independence as the International Year of Peace and Trust on the initiative of our country? It is no coincidence that the Consultative Meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asia, held this year, on August 6, in Turkmenistan gave birth to a new geopolitical strategic format of the G-5. All of this confirms that we are steadily following the path of our glorious history.
Isaac Newton said, «I only stand high because I stood on the shoulders of giants». These words could be proudly said today by every Turkmen citizen who celebrates the 30th anniversary of the independence of his Motherland. The successes of Turkmenistan are, of course, the result of the labor of the living generations, but we stand on the shoulders of giants, and it is not for nothing that the Monument of Independence in Ashgabat is bordered by sculptures of giants, our great ancestors. They are now looking at the achievements of their descendants with an approving smile. The geopolitical star of Turkmens has returned to the world sky!