Accessibility links

Breaking News

Turkmen Report: April 15, 2001

15 April 2001
Pentecostal Pastor Loses Appeal Against Church Confiscation

12 April 2001

The city court in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat ruled on 4 April that the house used as the city�s Pentecostal church should be confiscated without compensation, upholding the 14 March decision of the Kopetdag District Court. Pastor Viktor Makrousov, who owns the house, told Keston News Service from Ashgabat on 12 April that he is preparing an appeal to the Supreme Court of Turkmenistan, but that the church could be confiscated at any time.

Another source in Ashgabat told Keston on 11 April that the court did not take into account the defendant�s claim that the previous court hearing had been conducted with serious violations of proper court procedure. The prosecutor maintained the previous position -- that Makrousov purchased the house for illegal religious purposes and never intended to live there.

Asked about the legality of religious meetings in private houses, a further source told Keston by telephone from Ashgabat on 12 April that such gatherings were not against the law. Yet in court it was claimed that Pastor Makrousov had repeatedly been warned not to hold "illegal" religious meetings. Makrousov said that he felt his character as a law-abiding citizen was being called into question.

The congregation has not been meeting in the church since November, Pastor Makrousov said, and they would have to celebrate Easter elsewhere. (Keston News Service)

Caspian Sovereignty Issue No Obstacle To Oil Projects

12 April 2001

A U.S. diplomat said on 12 April that lack of agreements between littoral states on sovereignty over the Caspian Sea was not an obstacle to energy projects in the region.

Elisabeth Jones, adviser on Caspian issues, was answering questions in Washington by reporters in Almaty, Ankara, Baku, and Tbilisi during a video news conference from Washington. She said Russian efforts toward a sovereignty deal, especially Russian talks with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan on sea borders, had brought progress.

She also said the United States, which considers the Caspian an area of strategic interest, planned no immediate changes to its Caspian policy.

Among other things, Jones commented on the recent Turkish statement that after the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) launches its pipeline, which will connect the Caspian to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, oil tankers may have difficulty passing through the Bosphorus strait.

According to Jones, the statements reflect a desire to comply with an international convention on the Black Sea straits. But the Bosphorus would be unable to handle all the ships when the CPC comes into service anyway, Jones said. So the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline project could help solve the problem.

Jones said the Baku-Ceyhan and CPC projects should not be seen as rival plans. She said she had made big efforts to put the CPC project into reality, that U.S. companies were involved in both projects and that the CPC pipeline was to carry Kazakhstan oil and the Baku-Ceyhan one Azerbaijani oil.

She also cited a recent statement by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev that the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline would carry in 2005 the first oil of the Kazakh Caspian shelf, currently being explored by the Offshore Kazakhstan International Operating Company (OKIOC).

OKIOC, which has been involved in exploratory drilling on the Kashagan field since 1999, is to produce its first oil in 2005 under a 1997 production-sharing agreement with Kazakhstan.

Jones was unable to say how big Caspian oil reserves must be to guarantee the viability of the Baku-Ceyhan project. She said she did not know the results of OKIOC's exploration but added that the Caspian was expected to contain a large amount of oil.

Meanwhile, Russia's Caspian envoy, Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Kalyuzhny, said on 12 April there would not be enough oil until 2015 to fill the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. The main reason, he told a news conference in Moscow, was that the CPC pipeline is to come into service late this year. The pipeline will link the Tengiz field in Kazakhstan with Novorossiisk.

The first section of the CPC pipeline to come into use will be able to carry 28.2 million tons of oil a year. But the amount is to increase to 67 million tons. This would meet the export needs of Kazakhstan, which produces between 30 million and 35 million tons of oil a year. Experts believe that, if this happens, the country will be unlikely to make use of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline for the next few years. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)

Russian Currency Regulations Create Problems For Caspian Consortium

12 April 2001

The Caspian Pipeline Consortium that is completing the construction of an oil pipeline from western Kazakhstan to Novorossiisk, a Russian port on the Black Sea, has run into problems created by Russian currency regulations.

Presidential special envoy in the Caspian countries, Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Kalyuzhny, told a news conference in Moscow on 12 April that these problems came up for discussion during his meeting with Chevron Overseas president Peter Robertson.

The consortium has signed 1,400 contracts in the framework of the project, Kalyuzhny said. The Bank of Russia issued the consortium a license for borrowing a total of $1.7 billion in hard currency for a period of over 90 days. Investments in the project total $2.6 billion.

The consortium asked the Bank of Russia during the winter to increase the ceiling of borrowing under the license that would expire on 15 April from $1.7 billion to $2.2 billion so as to bring the construction to a conclusion and start the export of oil. Kalyuzhny was confident that all problems would be resolved because of the importance of the problem.

The pipeline is 1,580 kilometers long. Its maximum capacity is 67 million tons of oil a year. The first stage, with a capacity of 28.2 million tons of oil a year, must be commissioned at the end of 2001. The pumping of oil into the pipeline has begun. The consortium's oil is expected to fill the first tanker in Novorossiisk in June.

Russia owns 24 percent, Kazakhstan 19 percent, and Oman 7 percent of the consortium's stock. The remaining 50 percent is divided up between Chevron Caspian Pipeline Consortium, a U.S. company (15 percent), Mobil Caspian Pipeline Co. (7.5 percent), Oryx Caspian Pipeline L.L.C. (1.75 percent), Russian-U.S. LUCARCO B.V. (12.5 percent), Russian-British Rosneft-Shell Caspian Ventures Ltd. (7.5 percent), Italy's Agip International (N.A.) N.V. (2 percent), British BG Overseas Holdings Ltd. (2 percent), and Kazakhstan Pipeline Ventures L.L.C. (1.75 percent). (Interfax)

Caspian States' Deputy Foreign Ministers To Meet In Baku In May

12 April 2001

There will be a deputy foreign minister-level meeting of the working group for defining the Caspian Sea's legal status in Baku next month.

The Caspian's five littoral states -- Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Iran -- will be represented.

Diplomatic sources told Interfax on 12 April that preparations for the "Caspian Five" summit expected this fall will be on the meeting's agenda. The heads of state summit has already been postponed twice now. It had initially been suggested that the summit be held in the city of Turkmenbashi at the beginning of March, but Iran asked that it be pushed back to April and it was later set tentatively for 14 and 15 April. This time it was Turkmenistan that requested the meeting be pushed back again, the sources noted. (Interfax)

Russian Diplomat Regrets Postponement Of Caspian Summit

12 April 2001

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and presidential envoy for the Caspian Viktor Kalyuzhny has expressed regret over the delay of the Caspian summit of Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Iran until the fall.

The working groups defining the Caspian Sea's status, which are made up of deputies of the five foreign ministers, have reached a phase where the summit is a must, the diplomat said at a press conference in Moscow on 12 April. The declaration to be signed at the summit is 90 percent ready, he remarked.

The summit was initially planned to be held in Turkmenbashi in early March. The summit was delayed until April by a request from Iran. The approximate date for the summit was set for 14-15 April. Then it was decided to have the summit in the fall.

Azerbaijan requested that Turkmenistan delay the summit because Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev had to attend the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement talks in the United States, Kalyuzhny said. Turkmenistan, the summit organizer, tackled all the problems of the summit delay.

Russia wants the summit to be held as quickly as possible because it is interested in the fast definition of the Caspian's status, Kalyuzhny said. (Interfax)

Not Enough Oil To Fill Baku-Ceyhan Until 2015

12 April 2001

There will not be enough oil to load the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline until 2015, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and special presidential envoy to the Caspian Viktor Kalyuzhny told a press conference in Moscow on 12 April.

This can be explained, in particular, by the commissioning of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium at the end of this year, which will connect the Tengiz oil field in western Kazakhstan with the Russian port of Novorossiisk, Kalyuzhny said.

The capacity of the first stage of the consortium will be 28.2 million tons of oil per year, and it will later be increased to 67 million tons, which will provide Kazakhstan with necessary services for exports and, according to experts, will make it unlikely for Kazakhstan to join to the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline in the coming years.

Russia is interested that as much as possible Caspian oil be transited via its territory, Kalyuzhny noted. To this end, Moscow should create favorable conditions for oil owners in other Caspian countries. (Interfax)

Turkmen President Visits Balkan Region

11 Apr 2001

During his brief working visit to the country's oil-rich but water-poor western Balkan region on 11 April, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov told local officials and elders that the "big powers" are monitoring the state of crops in Turkmenistan by satellite and use this data for "developing mutual relations." During his meeting with local officials upon his arrival, broadcast by Turkmen television the same day, he told them that it was better to work harder then to complain about water shortages.

"Why are you in a rush? You want heavy snow in the winter and rain on every spring day? Do you want anything else?" Niyazov questioned rhetorically.

He said that the economic growth of the region is good, for in the first quarter of this year the overall economic output was 5 percent up on the same period of last year. "This is a very good sign because your population has increased up to 450,000," Niyazov said.

Concerning the reasons for postponing the Caspian littoral state leaders' summit, scheduled to be held in mid-April in the town of Turkmenbashi, Niyazov said: "due to the fact that [Azerbaijani President Heidar] Aliyev was slightly ill and currently is undergoing post-surgery treatment in the United States, the meeting has been postponed until the autumn [2001]," the television reported.

Then Niyazov turned his attention to the current state of planting crops, and said: "Your grain crops seem not too bad this year, is it not so? Some foreign countries, big powers, let me not mention them, are taking photos of the planet. And they have observed the current growth of wheat in the Balkan region, which we are expecting, with God's blessing, Turkmens can get very good harvest this year. This is good news. So not only us but even outsiders are observing our crops. This way they predict which areas can expect famine and which areas would be well provided for. That is why any state, be it big or small, if it has enough capacity, tries to watch everything from space and using this data, they can develop mutual relations."

After the meeting at the airport, Niyazov traveled to the Turkmenbashi Oil Refinery to inaugurate the new fuel-producing unit, the television reported. (Turkmen TV)

Turkmen Leader To Attend Turkic Summit in Istanbul, Visit Ukraine

10 April 2001

According to the Ashgabat correspondent of, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov said at the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers that at the end of April he would visit Turkey for a summit of the leaders of the Turkic countries and in May he would pay an official visit to Ukraine.

A long-term agreement on Turkmen natural gas supplies is being drafted and will be signed during Niyazov's visit to Kiev. The agreement is expected to be signed for five years and it will provide for an increase of the volume of Turkmen gas supplies to Ukraine.

This year Niyazov is also expected to visit Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Russia -- these countries' leaders have invited the Turkmen president to pay an official visit to their capitals.(

Turkmen President Criticizes Corruption, Officials' Poor Management Skills

10 April 2001

A meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers chaired by President Niyazov of Turkmenistan was held on 10 April.

After detailing his plans to visit western Turkmenistan, attend a summit of Turkic-speaking leaders in Turkey, and visit Ukraine in coming weeks, Niyazov criticized certain state bodies for their decisions.

"The State Border Service, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Defense Ministry, all of them in together, have hired a total of 11,000 people on contract.... Who has allowed you to pay these 11,000 men from the state resources? Just imagine - 11,000 men and all of them paid from the state budget! I already told you to put the servicemen themselves in charge of these duties.

"I also issued an order to close down all evening and nonresidential education institutes for this type of education does not give proper education. Let us close down all correspondence-education, for these establishments do not give any education. However there are hundreds of our people, who despite everything, try to take such courses in other CIS states. For instance, as I am aware, there is a group of nine people in the Supreme Court who enrolled in Kislovodsk [southern Russia] at a law faculty of the Moscow University. Huge money is paid out by them to visit this site and pay for so-called 'education.'"

Niyazov also expressed his concerns about flour distribution: "there is a lot of dishonesty in Turkmenistan as half of the flour or even more, about two-thirds of it, does not reach its destination. Despite my repeat warnings you always fail to prevent such acts of dishonesty." (Turkmen TV)

Caspian Summit Put Off Until Fall

9 April 2001

The summit meeting of the five Caspian Sea countries (Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Iran) has been put off from the spring until the fall of 2001 with the consent of all the countries, diplomatic sources in Moscow told Interfax on 9 April. This is the second postponement of the summit initially proposed by Turkmenistan. It was originally supposed to be held in the city of Turkmenbashi early in March, but then put off at an Iranian request to 14 and 15 April.

The postponement is attributable to changes in the schedule of certain heads of state.

"The experts will continue working for the summit in a most active way," the sources said.

The working group on the status of the Caspian Sea may meet at the level of deputy foreign ministers very shortly, they said. (Interfax)

New Turkmen Body Set Up To Supervise TV, Radio

9 April 2001

The Turkmen president has adopted a resolution on setting up the Coordination Council for Television and Radio under the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan.

The document approves the following composition of the Coordination Council for Television and Radio at the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan: Kakajan [Kakadzhan] Ashyrov, chairman of the Coordination Council for Television and Radio under the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan; Eduard Redzhepov [Rejepov], deputy chairman; Akmurad [Akmyrat] Hudayberdiyev, deputy chairman; and Kakamyrat Ballyyev, press secretary of the president of Turkmenistan and chairman of the Turkmendovlethabarlary [Turkmen state news] service. (Turkmen State News Service)

Turkmen National Dress Obligatory For All Schoolgirls, Regardless Of Ethnic Origin

7 April 2001

At the beginning of April, 2001, in school No.21 of Dashoguz city (provincial center in the north of Turkmenistan) a parental meeting was held, at which the management of the school announced that as of that day all the schoolgirls, regardless of their nationality, must wear traditional Turkmen dresses and of one color as far as possible. Parents were told that for sewing of dresses they should use the length of material given to the girls on 8 March (Women's Day), and that girls in other dress would not be allowed into class. Reportedly, similar meetings were held in the other city schools. Previously, demands had been limited to not wearing miniskirts or skirts with slits.

Privately, representatives of non-Turkmen ethnic groups expressed indignance that their children, in defiance of their traditions, would be forced to wear Turkmen dress. In addition, an order for sewing of the national dress is regarded as rather expensive for most of the families. Parents of children, however, have refrained from making public protests, fearing repression from the authorities.

According to a 1995 census, non-Turkmen ethnic groups made up 37 percent of the population of Dashoguz Velayat (of whom Uzbeks were over 80 percent). (Information Center for Human Rights in Central Asia)

Turkmen Official Encourages Investment

6 April 2001

Charymamed Gaibov, the director of the State Commodities and Raw Materials Exchange (CRME) of Turkmenistan, encouraged U.S. investors to put their fate (and money) in Turkmenistan's economy.

He spoke at an informal breakfast meeting in the headquarters of Eurasia Group in New York, an organization promoting understanding, development, and investment in the states of Eurasia.

Gaibov repeatedly emphasized that Turkmenistan's laws for foreign investments are on a par with foreign investment legislation in the developed Western countries.

He further said that export-import exchange between Turkmenistan and the U.S. reached $80 million in 2000 compared with only $1 million in 1997. He added that 67 U.S. companies are represented in Turkmenistan and there are 34 economic agreements between the two countries.

As a great success for his government's economic policy, Gaibov pointed to the increase of the price of natural gas, of which Turkmenistan is a major producer. He said that since November Turkmenistan sells gas only for hard currency and through so-called "pre-paid" plans. This is a major departure from previous policy, when a significant part of the gas contracts were signed on a barter basis, Gaibov said. Ukraine, Russia, and Iran are the three largest gas purchasers from Turkmenistan today, Gaibov said, and that gas is now sold at a fixed price of $40 per one thousand cubic meters. (RFE/RL)

Final History Exams At Turkmen Schools

6 April 2001

Recently, schoolteachers in Ashgabat distributed questions for the final examinations on history. Even superficial study of the list of questions testifies to the full degradation of the educational system in Turkmenistan. Of the 57 questions, only 22 concern the history of the country before 1992. Nine questions are connected to events from the period of independence, and also with the description of existing political and legal systems.

The other 26 questions are called to check pupils' knowledge of various political, economic, and ideological concepts of President Saparmurat Niyazov, and also the ability to explain the "historical role" of the state's present head. (RFE/RL)

Turkmen Head Raises Alarm Over Water Supplies

6 April 2001

On 6 April Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov held an itinerant meeting attended by a number of deputy chairmen of the Cabinet of Ministers and other senior officials.

At the foot of the Kopetdag mountains [bordering on Iran], in a picturesque spot in the foothills, the head of state held a serious and demanding conversation about the responsibility for preserving the unique natural landscape which has from time immemorial adorned the Turkmen land. Unfortunately, Niyazov declared, it has to be said that there are serious miscalculations and shortcomings in this sphere, which could inflict irreversible damage upon the beauty endowed by the Almighty. This beauty is already spoiled by unprepossessing buildings that essentially belong to nobody. It is obvious to everybody that these are absolutely unnecessary, but nobody thinks to clear them away. This should have been done long ago, without waiting for special instructions, the leader stressed.

"Whilst I am on that subject," Niyazov commented, "many senior officials suffer from a lack of initiative, yet it is upon them that the adoption and implementation of decisions depend. This vice must be categorically eradicated."

The leader then went on to give eloquent examples in confirmation of his reproach. None of the senior officials of the hydrogeology department has any concern for monitoring the state of and use of the wells and boreholes, which supply the capital with drinking water. Yet the entire package of responsibilities, including regular observations of the level of water and the measurement of underground reservoirs should be part of their daily professional duties. The Turkmen leader demanded that these matters be put in order immediately. (Turkmen State News Service)

New EU-TACIS Project Begun In Turkmenistan

6 April 2001

The British-Dutch consortium NIAB/DANAGRO has begun the implementation of a new agricultural project as part of the TACIS program. According to the public news service Turkmendovlethabarlary, it is the first program of the European Union directed to the development of cotton growing in the country, providing for the mastering of high technology in the selection of cotton plants.

Currently under way in the Turkmen agrarian sector under the EU-TACIS program, besides British-Danish project, is the project "Integrated support of an agriculture and food-processing industry," carried out by the Irish-Swedish alliance TDI/SwedeAgree. This program is directed at the acceleration of economic reforms pertinent to farming development, perfecting control methods in conditions of market economy, increasing production of the plant yield, cattle breeding and processing, and maintenance of the agricultural income growth. (

Why Did The Turkmen President Shut Down The Opera and Ballet?

By Nadir Devlet

13 April 2001

When Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov met with cultural leaders on 3 March 2001, he announced that he had closed down the main opera and ballet theater in Ashgabat. The Makhtumkuli National Music and Drama Theater has replaced the opera and ballet theater.

When Afghanistan destroyed the ancient Buddha statues, the world community reacted very strongly. Some Western governments tried to influence the Afghan government, even though most of them do not recognize the Kabul regime officially. Such a world reaction could be judged as the right response. Because such historical monuments could not be recognized just as religious artifacts, but they should be also recognized as works of art, which should belong to all mankind.

But sometimes a country's economic needs lead it to destroy historical monuments. In such cases, the international community or organizations try to find some solution. When the Aswan dam construction started in Egypt, UNESCO organized a campaign to rescue old Egyptian pyramids and many statutes were moved to other places. But less-known historical monuments had to be sacrificed for economic development. Sometimes, as in Afghanistan's case, historical monuments are sacrificed because of religious interpretation. Foreign countries may also be responsible for such a development, because they put the Kabul regime totally into political and economical isolation.

But Turkmen President Niyazov's recent decision to close down the opera and ballet theater could not be interpreted as an offense or a sin against mankind. Maybe therefore there was no serious reaction against Niyazov's decision in the foreign press. But still such a cultural decision could be interpreted as a weird decision. Niyazov's arguments for his decision can be seen in his speech. He said : "How can one instill love for ballet in the Turkmens if they have no ballet in their blood. One cannot implant a form of art that arose in another place; one should develop one's own national art. I don't understand ballet. What use is it to me? Our spectators remain indifferent at times to the sufferings of the characters, who express their artificial feelings in trills and not always modest dances."

Certainly, an ordinary Turkmen could be feeling like their president. Opera, ballet, and classical western music are strange for Central Asian, Middle Eastern, and lot of other people. In Turkey there is a common joke. One day by the decision of Ankara the state symphony orchestra was sent to an Anatolian town. The mayor ordered his staff to fill city hall with the citizens. So lots of people were forcefully brought to city hall and many were attending such a concert for the first time in their lives. After the concert a TV correspondent, who also came from Ankara, wanted to do an interview about the concert with the local people. When he asked an elderly gentleman about his impression, he answered: "Our city has never seen such cruelty, beginning from its foundation." This is also understandable, because if you didn't receive a Western musical education, you will not enjoy such a performance. To introduce such Western music and fine arts in non-Western societies, you should train or educate people with patience. But still some would like it, some not. Therefore you should leave the choice to the people.

But in non-democratic countries like Turkmenistan, the people have no free choice; they are obliged only to obey the decisions of the "Leader of Turkmens." Because he knows what is "right" and what is "wrong" for his nation. His last decision to forbid opera and ballet is one of such "heavenly" decisions.

Since he was brought up in the Soviet environment and certainly attended many concerts, he surely has at least some knowledge about Western performing arts and opera and ballet performances. It is also correct that a lot of Turkmens have become opera singers, ballet dancers, and musicians because of Soviet education. Maybe, as a person, Niyazov dislikes Western culture and its fruits, maybe he thinks that Russians have implanted something artificial to the Turkmen nation, but still he could respect Western art and performing arts. Because even a tiny minority of Turkmens who like such performances should have the freedom to enjoy it.

If Niyazov had used the argument that the cost of ballet and opera was too high, and the government not able to afford it, then there would be no opposition to his decision, even it would be considered a false excuse. But in a country such as Turkmenistan, where nobody has the right to say his opinion freely, lots of such decisions will come in the future, too.

For creating a high standard of Turkmen art or to develop national art, as President Niyazov says, the right way is certainly not to ban Western art, because different cultures affect each other and gain something from each other. If you insist only on your local art, it will stay a primitive, underdeveloped art. But in our world, in which the telecommunication facilities are so developed, you will not be able to isolate yourself from foreign influences. In short, what President Niyazov wants is not clear, even though he makes some arguments which sound logical for some. (RFE/RL)

Turkmen Authorities Withdraw Books 'Incorrectly Interpreting' History

8 April 2001

According to reports from Ashgabat, recently the public and school libraries of Turkmenistan received oral orders from the ministries of Culture and Education about the withdrawal from the library funds of books of 19 Turkmen writers, historians, and poets. The "black list" includes A. Velsapar (currently abroad), M. Durdiyev, T. Dzhumageldiyev, A. Haidov, and others. Classic works of Turkmen literature from the Soviet period by H.Derjaev were also prohibited.

In the opinion of the Turkmen officials, in the majority of the withdrawn works "the history of Turkmen people during the October Revolution and during the Soviet state construction is incorrectly interpreted.". "Wrong" from the point of view of official ideology are, in particular, any descriptions of internal problems at the beginning of the century in traditional Turkmen society, as well as positive evaluations of the consequences of Turkmenistan's entry into the Russian empire. The books' withdrawal is the third such action in the last 12 months.

In March of 2000, 40,000 copies of the two-volume translation of the Koran in the Turkmen language were withdrawn and burnt, after the translation's author, Hodja Ahmed ahun, was suspected of political disloyalty to the chief of state.

In the beginning of October 2000, by instruction of President Saparmurat Niyazov, 25,000 copies of the new textbook "The History of Turkmenistan" for grade four, written by historian N. Rakhimov, were quickly withdrawn from school libraries and destroyed. The statement by the TDH governmental agency emphasized that the textbook "perverts our glorious past," and that further in the history works "it is unessential to specify the names of authors" and text should be prefaced by words that "the book is prepared on the basis of the ideas and advice of the first President of independent Turkmenistan Saparmurat Turkmenbashi by scientific employees of the History Institute."

After the break-up of the Turkmenistan Academy of Sciences at the end of 1998, the Institute of History was directly subordinated to the Cabinet of Ministers. Turkmen historians in their publications have to follow the "new concept of national history," proclaimed by Niyazov, which proves the Turkmen indigenousness, denies the migration of Oguz-Turkic tribes to Central Asia from Altai, dates the time of the formation of the Turkmen people to the third millennium B.C., instead of the Middle Ages, and declares the regress of the Turkmen nation in the structure of Russia and the USSR.

In Rakhimov's textbook some of these key postulates were ignored; moreover, the author placed a photo of "fighter against Russian colonialism" Makhtumkuli-khan in the uniform of a Russian Cossack army officer with Georgian crosses as the illustration, which as it�s asserted, has caused special irritation to Niyazov.

According to a letter received from Turkmenistan, the destiny of the withdrawn books of the 19 authors is still unclear, but they probably will be destroyed -- as well as the translation of the Koran and Rakhimov's textbook.

It is expected that library funds will be subjected to further cleaning this year. According to some data, the opportunity of inclusion to the "black list" of works of other writers and scientists, including the outstanding writer of the Soviet period B. Kerbabaev, the author of the known historical trilogy "Deciding Step" is being considered.

Local observers note the direct relation between the preparation for approval by the National Council of Niyazov's book "Rukhname," and the sharp toughening of ideological censorship.

Withdrawal from circulation of tens of thousands of literary and historical works is only one display of the general degradation of the whole system of science, education, and culture in Turkmenistan. Under Niyazov's rule, such unprecedented steps as the abolition of the Academy of Sciences, the reduction of school and high school training, the dismissal of 10,000 teachers, the break-up of the National Library, the destruction of historical buildings, and more have been taken.

In a letter from Ashgabat received by "Memorial," the politics of Turkmen authorities in the humanitarian sphere is described as "medieval obscurantism." In this connection, the authors of the letter emphasize that Turkmen authorities not only have not condemned the destruction by the Taliban in adjacent Afghanistan of the two Buddha statues, but have also forbidden any publication in the local mass media critical of this barbarous act. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations -- Remedial Center "Memorial")

Pakistan's Strong Support For Taliban

By Charles Recknagel

5 April 2001

As spring comes to Afghanistan, both the ruling Taliban militia and opposition alliance are preparing for the annual surge of fighting that accompanies the onset of warmer weather.

Both sides have received substantial new supplies and technical help during the winter from the foreign powers that back them.

Russia, Iran, and India are reported to have channeled through Tajikistan arms and ammunition to the Northern Alliance force led by commander Ahmed Shah Masood, who this week is in Western Europe seeking additional support.

Pakistan has provided new supplies of ammunition to the Taliban, plus the skilled technicians needed to refit the militia's aging Soviet-era tanks and aircraft for battle.

The heavy involvement of outside powers in the Afghan conflict has prompted repeated calls from UN peacemakers to stop stoking the conflict with military aid.

Yet, even though all of Afghanistan's neighbors are officially part of the UN-led peace process -- along with the U.S. and Russia -- Afghanistan is now set to experience its 12th consecutive year of fighting since the Soviet Union withdrew in 1989.

None of the outside powers admit publicly to giving more than moral support to Afghanistan's warring factions. But all say that they have important stakes in the conflict's outcome.

Russia and several of the Central Asian states say they want to assure the Taliban's brand of militant Sunni Islam does not spread beyond Afghanistan and endanger the region's stability. Iran says it wants to guarantee the security of its Afghan Shiite co-religionists, whom the Taliban consider beyond the pale of true Islam.

Pakistan, the Taliban's chief supporter, has been even more precise in explaining its role. Chief executive General Pervez Musharraf last year said it was in Pakistan's national interest to support Afghanistan's Pashtuns, the nation's largest ethnic group, from which the Taliban draws its strength. Musharraf also called on the Taliban to create a more representative government in Kabul that would include minority Tajiks, Shiia and Uzbeks -- all of whom oppose the militia.

The Pashtuns make up 40 percent of Afghanistan's population and have historically dominated its governments. Pakistani analysts say that Islamabad backs them for several strategic reasons.

One reason is a desire to secure a strong ally on Pakistan's western flank against arch-enemy India. Islamabad accuses New Delhi of having sought to turn Afghanistan against it -- particularly during the Soviet occupation of the country, when Moscow and New Delhi enjoyed good relations.

Another concern is that an unfriendly Pashtun government in Kabul might back territorial claims against Pakistan. Historically, Kabul has insisted Pakistan's semi-autonomous Pashtun tribal belt in its Northwest Frontier Province and Baluchistan should be allowed to opt either for independence or to join Pakistan or Afghanistan. That stance led to border clashes between the two states in the 1950s and 1960s.

Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema, head of the private Islamabad Policy Research Institute, says that Pakistan views the Taliban as the first regime in Kabul in many decades that is sympathetic to Islamabad.

"This is probably the first [Afghan] regime which is sympathetic to Pakistan. I am not even using the word 'friendly,' but [rather] which is sympathetic to Pakistan. This is the first time in the entire history of Afghanistan that they are sympathetic to Pakistan and Pakistan feels slightly safer in terms of its backyard."

He continues: "Previously there was always a danger because [the Afghans] were very close to the Indians and the Indians had propped up all kinds of issues. One of the major ones [was the idea of a greater] Pashtunistan, and Pakistan was always feeling sandwiched between Afghanistan [and India] and then came Soviet-controlled Afghanistan and again it was the same situation because the Soviets were close to India."

Cheema says that Pakistan also wants a close ally in Afghanistan in order to gain what military analysts call "strategic depth" in any future confrontation with India, a country with which it has already fought three wars. He says being able to count on a friendly Afghanistan to shelter Pakistani warplanes or even give them operational bases is particularly important now because Islamabad's other traditional allies in the region, notably Iran, cannot be counted upon to do so. Cheema:

"In the 1965 [India-Pakistan] war, Pakistan was helped by the Iranians in the sense that most of our planes were [sent there] because Pakistan was not all that [well placed] in terms of [strategic] depth. So many of the planes were taken out of here and they were stationed in Iranian airports. I can't expect that if now the crunch comes that Pakistan will be easily able to convince the Iranians to allow them to station their aircraft there, whereas I would expect that the Afghanis would probably do it."

At the same time, Islamabad counts on the Taliban to allow Pakistani militant groups to operate military camps in Afghanistan, where they train fighters to take part in the guerrilla war in India's Muslim-majority province of Kashmir. The militant groups -- to which Islamabad says it provides only moral support -- are battling New Delhi in support of indigenous demands to secede.

But there are economic reasons, too, for Pakistan to hope the Taliban will eventually win the endless fighting in Afghanistan.

Ahmed Rashid is the Islamabad correspondent for the Hong Kong-based "Far East Economic Review" and the author of a book on the Taliban. He says that many in Islamabad hope that a Taliban victory would trigger a much-postponed Western interest in building energy pipelines from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan.

"There is a belief in official circles that once the Taliban conquers the whole country there is going to be instant recognition for the Taliban, especially from the Central Asian states, and somehow this will allow the Western oil companies to set up pipelines as they wanted to do in the mid-[19]90s. Afghanistan offers the shortest route for Turkmenistan to reach the vast markets of India and Pakistan for its gas as well as the oil, and Karachi would provide a very good oil outlet for Turkmenistan."

Islamabad sees such pipelines as an economic bonanza that would earn Pakistan profitable transit fees and supplement its own rapidly dwindling energy reserves. Pakistan's gas field reserves are reported to be running out, and the country could face shortfalls in production by 2010.

Western oil companies, including the U.S.-based Unocal, have explored pipeline options through Afghanistan. But in recent years they have been frightened away by widespread U.S. and international condemnation of the Taliban's repression of women and sheltering of suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden.

With the Taliban currently under UN sanctions to force the Taliban to turn bin Laden over for trial, Pakistan today is more alone than ever in its continued support for the militia. Only two other states, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, recognize the Taliban. All others regard the government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani -- ousted by the Taliban more than four years ago -- as still representing the country.

That diplomatic impasse leaves both Pakistan and the countries backing the anti-Taliban alliance to hope that this year finally brings a battlefield solution to their problems. It also guarantees that the new spring campaign season will be as hard fought as all those which have preceded it. he might become president after that date. (RFE/RL)