Saturday, October 20, 2007

PUBL.- Sebastien Peyrouse, Turkmenistan: Un destin au carrefour des empires

Distrib. by: Central-Eurasia-L - Announcement List for Central Eurasian Studies

PUBL.- Sebastien Peyrouse, Turkmenistan: Un destin au carrefour des empires

Posted by: Sebastien Peyrouse <>

Book: Sebastien Peyrouse, "Turkmenistan. Un destin au carrefour des
empires" [Turkmenistan. A Destiny at the Crossroads of Empires],
Paris, Belin and La Documentation Francaise, 2007, 184 p.

In the world, there exist some obscure countries which, by their
history and the position that they are called to fill in the 21st
century, draw considerable interest. Turkmenistan is without a doubt
one of these places. Who in the broad public is now familiar with this
country, situated on the southern border of the former Russian empire
and cast into the shadow of its Slavic big brother for many decades
after its integration into the Soviet Union? Yet even before drawing
the eyes of an expansionist Russia, the territory that is today
Turkmenistan had a prestigious ancient history, which saw the
procession of all great empires and conquerors of the famous Silk
Road. From Parthia to Gengis Khan, from Alexander the Great to
Tamerlane, the history of the country resembles a colorful tale that
recounts the most epic moments of the old continent. With numerous
archaeological relics and natural riches, the future most likely holds
the development of a tourist market.

Yet the Turkmen territory and its population have most often
constituted the periphery of great empires, and not their centers.
Were future Turkmen passive subjects under the influence of their
neighbors more than actors from their own history? Or does this vision
only reflect ancient historiographical prisms that do not allow for
the unity of Turkmen history? Does being in the heart of the old
continent necessarily signify being in its political and cultural
center? The late construction of the Turkmen nation, under the
influence of radical social and political processes installed by the
Soviet regime, increases the complexity of a reflection on the
identity traits re-elaborated in a retroactive and instrumental
manner. How did the little-known Turkmen nation constitute itself,
having mixed with diverse populations through the centuries Persian
then Turkic and contradictory cultural contributions from Iran on the
south, from Transoxiana and Siberia on the east, and from Russia on
the north? How did it specify its great historical figures and
moments, often common to the entire Central Asian region, and inscribe
them into the national pantheon? What place is Russian-Soviet heritage
destined to occupy, which in spite of its denunciation remains
significant for any visitor to the country? Finally, what role will
Islam, regional and clan divisions, and national minorities play?

In 1991, Turkmenistan gained an independence for which it did not ask.
The dissolution of the Soviet Union by the three Slavic presidents was
seen as abandonment by Moscow, which was urged to give up the
peripheral republics for their own. Notwithstanding, the future of the
country seemed promising. With a population of less than five million
people, the new state, declared the "Kuwait of Central Asia", knew it
was rich in hydrocarbons in an energy-hungry world. Despite the
constant insistence of the authorities that the 21st century would be
the one in which Turkmenistan finally realized its destiny, reality
proved more somber than expected. The Soviet economic system was
largely maintained, but lost its logic once the republican entities
became isolated from one another. As the Turkmen state was already one
of the least developed in the Soviet Union, two decades of
independence viciously impoverished the population. Examples include
the domination of cotton farming, quasi-absence of a private sector,
ecological problems, and the elimination of public services. The
political system turned out to be a sad reprise of Stalinist themes,
such as personality cults, quasi-complete cultural autarky,
international isolation, nationalist megalomania in the public
discourse, enormous state architectural projects, massive corruption
in administrative organs, and attempts to reshape nature.

However, Turkmenistan's place on the international stage is strategic.
The Caspian Sea is predicted to become a rising energy zone, Russia
continues to dominate the economy of the region, and new neighbors
allow for once-unthinkable alliances. Iran, like China a faithful
partner to Turkmenistan, is increasingly present. Even Pakistan and
India announce how much Central Asia remains an incontrovertible place
for the rising Asian powers. The environment of the still-unstable
Afghanistan, like that of Uzbekistan, seen as the "caldron" of Central
Asia, invites a reevaluation of the regional role Turkmenistan could
play if the country ends its harmful isolation. The death of
Saparmurat Niyazov in December 2006 and the assembling of a new
government more open to foreign governments clarified the
international stakes and reopened the energy "Great Game" for



Premiere Partie. Espace, Histoire et Culture

Chapitre 1. Le territoire turkmene, unite et diversite
Chapitre 2. De l Antiquite aux khanats, une histoire riche en soubresauts
Chapitre 3. L'impact sans precedent de la modernisation russo-sovietique
Chapitre 4. La construction de la nation turkmene

Deuxieme Partie. Politique et Societe

Chapitre 5. Une independance modelee par la megalomanie de S. Niazov
Chapitre 6. Contre-pouvoirs et changements politiques
Chapitre 7. Societe et culture : les enjeux de la reconstruction

Troisieme Partie. Penser de Nouvelles Strategies de Developpement

Chapitre 8. Economie, ecologie et sante publique
Chapitre 9. Le Turkmenistan, futur "Koweit" de l Asie centrale ?
Chapitre 10. Trouver sa place sur la scene internationale



Central-Eurasia-L mailing list

No comments: