After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the theoretical
perspectives for Central Asian studies became less capable to explore the
region. The new republics of the region cannot be politically considered
any more as a part of Soviet studies. They cannot be ideologically
examined as socialist countries either. Some scholars have tended to
survey Central Asian republics as a part of the Muslim world. However, the
radical secularist political and bureaucratic structures of these
republics, in addition to the weaknesses of the Islamic institutions
(except Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), have complicated an Islam-based
theoretical framework. The rising (particularly official) nationalism in
these countries is also claimed to be an alternative window to analyze the
region. However, nationalism is used very instrumentally by the
governments of these countries, and moreover, does not have an
institutionalized popular basis. Therefore, nationalism cannot be an
independent tool of analysis. So, what might be the new theoretical
perspective for Central Asian studies?
I argue that the rentier state
model based on the natural gas and oil politics is the best analytical
tool to analyze the newly independent republics of Central Asia. Natural
gas and oil politics essentially affects both socio-economic and political
structures of those countries, in a similar way that it has shaped the
rentier states of the Middle East and North Africa. Furthermore, natural
gas and oil politics has an eminent impact on Central Asian republics'
foreign policies and their intra-regional relations, similarly to the
explanations proposed by the rentier state model.
This paper will
analyze Turkmenistan, as a representative case of the region, through the
lens of the rentier state model. The first part of the paper will examine
Turkmen domestic politics. I will begin with the relationship between the
rentier economy and the colonial legacy. Then I will compare Turkmenistan
and Libya as two rentier states. Next, I will examine Turkmenbashi's
authoritarian rule. The second part will survey Turkmen foreign policy in
light of the rentier state model in three issues: (1) Turkmen policy on
the Central Asian integration, (2) Turkmenistan's neutrality status, and
(3) Turkmen natural gas and oil policy based on multi-optional pipeline
The Rentier State Model and Turkmen Domestic Politics
The Rentier Economy and The Colonial Legacy
definition of a 'rentier state' is 'a state reliant not on extraction of
the domestic population's surplus production but on externally generated
revenues, or rents, such as those derived from oil.(1) In this
perspective, a rentier state is based on a rentier economy 'in which
income from rent dominates the distribution of national income, and thus
where rentiers wield considerable political influence.(2) Since the rent
(i. e., the income derived from the gift of nature(3) ) dominates the
significant amount of the GDP, a rentier state generally lacks a
productive outlook. In the literature some other terms, such as
'allocation state'(4) and 'distributive state,'(5) are used
interchangeably with 'rentier state.' Those alternative terms emphasize
the functions of state (allocation and distribution), instead of its
source of revenue (the rent).
The rentier states are mainly located in
the Middle East and North Africa. Lisa Anderson adds Venezuela to the list
of rentier states, which includes Libya, S. Arabia, Iran, and Nigeria,
among others.(6) In addition to the rentier economy, many of these states
share an historical institutional legacy. State structures in these
countries began to be consolidated after colonization and the territorial
boundaries 'had been created by outside powers before state-building
Along the same vein, the borders of today's Turkmenistan
were drawn by Moscow in 1924 by the foundation of Turkmenistan Soviet
Socialist Republic. The 'Turkmen nation' was designed by meeting Stalin's
four criteria of nationhood: unity of language, territory, economy, and
historical culture.(8) Turkmen nation-building, however, was not
consolidated in the Soviet era. During that period, the Turkmen nation has
continued to be 'a tribal confederation rather than a modern nation',
mainly because of the persistence of endogamy and dialects between
tribes.(9) Turkmenistan declared sovereignty in 1990 and independence in
the following year. Since that time it has been in transition from
socialism to a rentier economy.
The Turkmen economy depends on the
revenues from natural gas, which constitute major portion of the GNP.
According to data of January 1999, natural gas constituted 70 per cent of
Turkmenistan's total export, cotton fiber - 12,8 per cent, and crude oil
and oil products 9 per cent.(10) As this data shows, Turkmenistan's oil
production is less important than that of natural gas. The state has a
monopoly on the property of natural gas and oil reserves, their revenues,
and the distribution of those revenues. The state aims to use natural gas
revenues to consolidate its institutional structure. It also seeks to gain
popular support by providing free housing, electricity, water, and bread.
Similar to other rentier states,(11) Turkmenistan's political legitimacy
remains quite low and is bound to the state's ability to continue these
The former socialist system and current rentier
state structure in Turkmenistan have some similarities. Both systems
generally bring in an unproductive and huge number of government
employees.(12) Moreover, they both provide social services and subsidies.
However, the meanings of those policies differ in socialist and rentier
regimes. While the former implements those policies as a result of
socialist mode of production and state-based property system, the latter
use these policies as welfare programs and distribution of external
capital flow while possessing a capitalist economy.
In rentier states,
the combination of the rentier economy and the colonial legacy results in
two general problems. Economically, colonial exploitation is an impediment
for industrialization. After independence the new state is supposed to
initiate an industrialization policy. However, the rentier economy
encourages short-term expenditure rather than long-term investments. In
other words, the rentier revenues become a source of shortcoming, instead
of an opportunity, for economic development. The second problem is
political. The colonial power systematically diminishes sources of
resistance, including traditional social institutions. Following
independence, society needs to rehabilitate the oppressed social
institutions and associations. Nevertheless, the state becomes too
powerful in comparison to the society due to the rentier revenues. The
state, analogous to colonial policies, regards social institutions and
associations as sources of political resistance and oppresses them. The
result, in many rentier states, is weak society in short-term and weak
state in long-term.
Turkmenistan has faced the economic and political
problems caused by the Soviet colonialism and the rentier economy. Between
1961-1980 more than 500 billion cubic meters natural gas were produced in
Turkmenistan SSR.(13) Moscow exploited that production and did not invest
in the native country. Currently, Turkmenistan lacks an industrial
infrastructure at any level. Following independence the state has spent
the natural gas revenues to the luxurious consumption rather than to the
long-term infrastructure. Similarly, the Soviet Union created an
institutional vacuum in the Turkmen society by destroying the social and
religious institutions. On the other hand, the bureaucracy is a benefit
provided by the Soviet Union to Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan
bureaucratic structure from the Soviet Union like other Central Asian
republics, which is hard to find in many Middle Eastern rentier states.
Since independence the Turkmen state has established a monopoly on
political, economic, and even social life using natural gas revenues. The
state does not allow the development of social forces and systematically
weakens them to preserve its own hegemony. As a result, the rentier
economy consolidates authoritarianism in Turkmenistan.
between Turkmenistan and Libya
The rentier state is financially
depends on international capital inflow. The external revenues free the
state from the need of taxation. '[W]henever the state essentially relies
on taxation the question of democracy becomes an unavoidable issue, and a
strong current in favor of democracy inevitably arises'.(14) On the
contrary, the political principle in a rentier state is 'no representation
without taxation'. Moreover, since oil production is a capital-intensive
industry, it results in a lack of organized labor through unions and
leftist opposition while supporting centralized state structure. For these
reasons, the rentier state structure is essentially is incompatible with
democracy. It is well-matched with various kinds of authoritarian regimes.
In S. Arabia, the rentier state structure co-exits with a monarchy, in
Iran with a theocracy, and in Algeria with an oligarchy.
is neither a monarchy nor a theocracy nor an oligarchy. Libya is the
rentier state that is most similar to Turkmenistan in terms of political
regime. Both countries are ruled by leaders who created personal cults
(Turkmenbashi and Kaddafi).
Dirk Vandewalle's analysis of Libya is
insightful to compare these two countries through a rentier state
perspective. Turkmenistan does not fit Giacomo Luciani's rentier state
model in two issues. Vandewalle's explanations on Libya are helpful to
solve these two problems. First, Luciani claims that in a rentier state
individuals seek their interests within the system that is in charge of
distribution. Therefore, 'Loyalty is to the system, not to individuals in
power.'(15) That contradicts Turkmenbashi's personal rule. Vandewalle,
however, revises this model claiming that 'as particular in Libya, a
careful and deliberate association of the two [the distributive system and
the leader] can yield a high political payoff, especially if it involves a
Second, Luciani argues that a rentier state
'does not need to refer a national myth and, as a matter of fact, will
usually avoiding so.' 'A national myth,' for Luciani, 'may be interpreted
as a basis to claim a say'(17) for the sections of the population that are
excluded from the allocation process. Turkmenistan, however, is not a
patrimonial state like Gulf monarchies. It has a tribal structure, but the
state is by no means captured by a single tribe. The state claims to
represent the nation as a whole and promotes several national myths to
unify the nation. The media and schools indoctrinate those national myths
to the people. Vandewalle's explanations on Libya are, again, helpful to
solve the contradiction between the rentier state model and the Turkmen
case. Vandewalle stresses 'In Libya, particularly, we find its leader
employing a powerful combination of ideology, charisma, reliance on moral
persuasion and religious symbols, and invented national myths
to instill a
sense of community and create political allegiance where formal mechanisms
are absent or meaningless.'(18)
Turkmenistan and Libya have also some
other similarities, which are typical features of rentier states. First of
all, they both have political structures based on colonial legacy and the
luxury of oil and natural gas.(19) Second, they have small populations
(Turkmenistan 5 millions, Libya 2 millions) and huge hydrocarbon reserves.
That encourages migration, especially worker transfer, from neighboring
countries. Third, the distinction between public and private goods is
often blurred in both countries, like many other rentier states.(20) It is
hard 'to distinguish treasury from pocket' of the leader in Libya.(21) So
does in Turkmenistan. Finally, both states are pursuing nation-building
policies to strengthen national identities vis-à-vis supranational ones
(Islam, pan-Turkism, and pan-Arabism). In the following section, I will
focus on the nation-building and other policies of Turkmenbashi to see the
relationship between the rentier state structure and authoritarian regime
Turkmenbashi's Authoritarian Rule
Niyazov, elected as the first president in 1990 and the president for life
in 1999, has ruled Turkmenistan for a decade with an authoritarian
regime.(22) He was given
the name of 'Turkmenbashi' (the head of
Turkmens) following the independence. The legislative bodies, The Mejlis
(Parliament) and Halk Maslahaty (People's Council), only rubber-stamp his
decisions. The ministers do not have real power and they are frequently
humiliated and sometimes fired by the President in live TV broadcasts.
Military/civil bureaucrats also cannot limit Turkmenbashi's charismatic
authority. Turkmenbashi's most significant policy, '10 Yyl Abadancylyk'
(10 Years Stability), was declared in December 1992.(23) This policy aims
to preserve political stability and socio-economic development avoiding
opposition and political crisis. Following the declaration of
independence, two opposition parties were constituted: Agzybirlik
(Solidarity) and the Democratic Party. These parties have been suppressed
and are now banned. The Peasant Party was planned as a non-opposition
party. Although it was registered, this party became inactive. As a
result, Turkmenbashi's Democratic Party of Turkmenistan (formerly the
Communist Party of Turkmenistan) is the only political party.
the direction of Turkmenbashi, the Turkmen State initiated the
nation-building policy to fill the ideological vacuum, to maintain the
source of legitimacy for the new nation-state, and to adapt to the
inter-national system. The governmental nation-building policy has two
main goals, the unity of Turkmen tribes and gradual socio-cultural
de-Russification of Turkmenistan. These goals are pursued through
promoting Turkmen as the vernacular language, using history writing and
propaganda, controlling education, and channeling the media to transmit
symbols and narratives. The development of Turkmen as the vernacular
language both helps to maintain national homogeneity as a 'national glue'
extinguishing differences between tribal dialects and to weaken the
influence of the Russian culture.
Tribal identities, especially the
five biggest ones, Teke, Yomut, Ersary, Salyr, and Saryk, are still
influential in social life. The lack of a hierarchical mechanism and
leadership within the tribes is a historical legacy,(24) which weakens the
current political roles and influences of the tribes. Although
Turkmenbashi is from the Teke tribe, his tribal loyalty is not strong
since he grew up in an orphanage. He does not seek the dominance of the
culture of Teke, the biggest tribe which was politically effective during
the Soviet period.(25) Turkmenbashi's goal is to create a shared Turkmen
The Turkmen society has a very limited role in the political
life. The dearth of civil associations, a free media, a bourgeoisie class,
and political parties result in the weakness of society vis-à-vis the
state. The rentier state policies of Turkmen state (e.g., free
electricity, water, and natural gas supplies) based on natural gas income,
instead of the tax of the citizens, consolidate this uneven relation
between the state and the society. The bureaucratic nomenclatura try to
preserve the rentier state regime, depending on the profits of natural gas
like many Middle Eastern countries. On the other hand, the new generation,
especially 4000 young Turkmens currently being trained in 24 countries
abroad,(26) may strengthen Turkmen society in the future.
The Rentier State Model and The Turkmen Foreign
The Turkmen Policy on the Central Asian
In 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, the leaders
of Central Asian countries met in Ashgabat and discussed common problems.
However, they could not formulate a shared strategy and each country took
its own way. After that, Turkmenistan set up bilateral relations with
other Central Asian countries. Turkmenbashi has opposed the Central Asian
integration since the early 1990s.(27)
Several factors, such as the
threat of Russian re-intervention to their independence, intra-regional
minority and border tensions, and ecological problems, encouraged Central
Asian republics to a regional integration. Those countries have strong
religious (Sunni Islam), linguistic (Turkic with the exception of
Tajikistan), and ethnic ties. The term 'Turkestan'(28) was used to define
Central Asia as a unit entity symbolizing these ties. In early 1994,
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan signed an agreement to create a common economic
space. In May 1994, Kyrgyzstan joined this agreement and the Central Asian
Economic Union (CAEU) was founded.(29) In 1999, Tajikistan became the
fourth member. This organization's initial objectives were the free
movement of goods, services, capital, and labor among the members. The
CAEU has been partially institutionalized; it has a permanent executive
committee, a planning committee, a bank for cooperation and development,
and an interstate council which meets once a quarter.(30) In the summit of
Central Asian countries in July 1998, Turkmenistan refused the invitation
of other members to join to the CAEU. Turkmenbashi re-emphasized that
Turkmenistan would go its own way.
Some analyses attempt to explain
Turkmenistan's reluctance toward the Central Asian integration in light of
its nation-building process. They claim that although Turkmenistan has
cultural, historical, and ethnic ties with other Central Asian republics,
it avoids a common Central Asian or Turkestan identity because that may
challenge the construction of its own national identity. (31)
Nevertheless, Uzbekistan, though it also seeks a nation-building policy,
is very enthusiastic toward the Central Asian unity. Therefore, it is very
difficult to explain the different policies of these two countries through
lens of nationalism. The rentier state model, especially Luciani's model
on regional integration, has more explanatory power in this issue.
Luciani categorizes states in the Middle East in two groups:
allocation and production states. The term 'allocation state' is used
interchangeably with 'rentier state.' Both of these terms define a state
where rent is earned and allocated by the government. In the words of
Luciani, allocation states are 'states whose revenues derives
predominantly (more than 40 per cent) from oil or other foreign resources
and whose expenditure is a substantial share of the GDP.'(32) The
production state, on the other hand, is not based on oil or natural gas,
but on the other rent-like sources, such as migrant workers' remittances,
transit fees, and aids.(33) Foreign aids and military supports to
production states can be provided by both neighboring allocation states
and global super powers.
According to Luciani, S. Arabia is an
allocation state and Egypt is a production state par excellence. Luciani
claims that oil and natural gas revenues became sources of frustration and
envy among Arab countries. For that reason, allocation and production
states have different attitudes toward pan-Arab integration. 'The
production states are aiming at a kind of regional cooperation that will
regulate migration, liberalise trade and financial flows within the region
and establish protection vis-à-vis the rest of the world.'(34) Egypt, for
example, with its huge population and economic needs, seeks a pan-Arab
unity in which it can gain financial benefits at the exchange of its
military capacity. Allocations states, however, focus on the survival of
their sovereignty and refrain from a regional integration:
are structurally dependent on imports for almost all consumption and
investment goods, they are extremely reluctant to give preferences to any
other country and attach priority to being able to shop freely. For the
same reason, they wish to be able to invest their surplus funds anywhere
in the world. De Facto they need labour, but do not wish to formally
acknowledge this by signing treaties with the countries of origin. In
their present investment plans, access to the markets of industrial
countries is much more important than protected access to a regional
S. Arabia and other Gulf monarchies, as typical
allocation states, avoid a pan-Arab unity. In their perspective, '[t]he
pan-Arab national myth
becomes the ideological cover that legitimizes a
certain degree of interference in the domestic affairs of other countries
in exchange for grants and subsidies.'(36)
Luciani's model has also
explanatory power in the integration of the Central Asian republics.
Through the lens of this model, Uzbekistan is a production state that
hopes to benefit from regional integration. It aims regional regulations
via supranational institutions. Uzbekistan has the biggest population of
the region (22 millions) with a moderate natural gas production and
pursues a regional hegemony to benefit from its neighbors' hydrocarbon
reserves. Turkmenistan, however, is a typical allocation state that
refrains from supranational integration. It would like to be free from
formal constraints about investment and labour migration issues.
Turkmenistan wishes to consolidate its sovereignty and is jealous against
any intervention to its domestic issues.
Turkmenistan has huge natural
gas reserves, which is the fourth biggest in the world (after Russia, the
US, and Canada). Turkmenistan considers itself as financially
self-sustainable and does not wish to share the wealth of the natural gas
with its neighbors. Moreover, Turkmenistan needs to attract foreign
investments to rehabilitate the disastrous Soviet legacy of economy and to
be industrialized. Foreign trade is also vital for Turkmenistan, which
depends on imported manufactures. Therefore, it does not give preferences
to any other country and aims to pursue an 'Open Doors Policy' to broaden
the range of countries that it has economic relations. For these reasons,
Turkmenistan rejects not only the Central Asian integration, but also any
kind of regional integration; it declared the neutrality status as well.
Turkmenistan's Neutrality Status
Turkmenistan, as an allocation
state, wishes to restrict its sovereignty for neither Central Asian
Economic Union, nor Turkic speaking countries summit, nor Commonwealth of
Independent States. It would like to be free in its natural gas policy and
to benefit from its reserves alone. To refrain from any supranational
integration, it declares the permanent neutrality (baki bitaraplyk)
The neutrality status was formalized in the Turkmen
Constitution. According to the Constitution, Turkmenistan committed not to
start military conflict or war except in self- defense; not to participate
in military pacts; not to maintain, produce, or transfer weapons of mass
destruction; to refrain from political, diplomatic, or other moves that
might lead to armed conflict or to take side in a conflict; and to refrain
from leasing its territory to foreign military bases (Articles 5-6).
Turkmenistan claims to constitute peaceful, amicable and beneficial
relationships and dialogue with other countries, to refuse to participate
in any economic sanctions, to support world community in its effort to
prevent wars, and to esteem mutual respect, shared benefits, and
non-intervention into domestic affairs.(37)
In July 1992, in the
meeting of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe,
Turkmenbashi articulated neutrality for the first time as a foreign policy
principle. In 1995, the Economic Cooperation Organization and the
Non-Alignment Movement recognized the neutrality status of
Turkmenistan.(38) Finally, the permanent neutrality of Turkmenistan was
accepted by the UN with the unanimous support of 185 countries on 12
December 1995.(39) Given the neutrality status, Turkmenistan refuses to
take part in any integration of the Central Asian countries, of the Turkic
states, of the Muslim countries or of the former Soviet republics.
Turkmenbashi always emphasizes that Turkmenistan accepts only
bilateral and reciprocal relations based on self-interest: 'No postulates,
favoring the common language, culture, territory or resources will
convince us of the necessity of integration on a centralized basis.'(40)
Many countries appreciate Turkmenistan's neutrality status. This status,
for instance, is convenient for India, which fears the constitution of an
Islamic bloc in Central and South-Eastern Asia, including Pakistan.(41)
Additionally, this status is very favorable for US interests, which oppose
any hegemonic power (e.g., Russia) in Central Asia and support the
adoption of the international free trade and de-nuclearization in this
As I mentioned earlier, Turkmen state creates various
national myths to unify the nation. The permanent neutrality became one of
the widespread myths and narratives that aim to promote a sense of
national pride and consciousness. TV channels and radios frequently repeat
this phrase: 'The first country which was accepted as permanently neutral
by the UN, is our fatherland Turkmenistan. All Turkmens have the right to
be proud of their fatherland. Therefore, it is compulsory for all of us to
serve our fatherland.' TV and radio broadcasts, poems, songs, and speeches
praise garassyz, baki bitarap (independent and permanently neutral)
Turkmenistan and its merhemetli (merciful) President. The day that the UN
recognized the neutrality status of Turkmenistan, December 12, is accepted
as the Day of Neutrality, the second most important national holiday in
Turkmenistan after the Independence Day. In addition to this mythical
aspect, neutrality status has significant pragmatic dimensions.
Turkmenistan primarily expects that the neutrality status facilitate its
natural gas and oil policy.
The Turkmen Natural Gas and Oil
The natural gas and oil policy shapes, even determines,
Turkmenistan's relationship with other countries. Turkmenistan has
estimated 21 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, and 6.8 billion tons of
oil reserves.(43) In spite of the vital position of natural gas export for
Turkmenistan, it could not sufficiently benefit from its huge resources.
Turkmenistan sells natural gas to Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Armenia and
Georgia, but has price and payment problem with most of the customers,
except Iran. Turkmenistan has periodically threatened to terminate natural
gas export to several of these countries as a sanction, and sometimes
stopped natural gas export.(44) For that reason Turkmenistan's natural gas
export has decreased, annually, from 1992 to 1998, as follows (billion
cubic meters, respectively): 51.8; 55.9; 26.1; 22.6; 24.3; 6.5; 1.8.
(45)In 2000, Turkmenistan partially solved this problem by a new export
agreement signed with Russia.
Turkmenistan aims to reach several
natural gas customers through various alternative transportation projects
to raise its bargaining power, to maintain export stability, to augment
the amount of natural gas export, and to decrease its dependence on
Russia. Russia is the world's biggest natural gas producer (550-600
billion cubic meters in a year)(46) and a competitor of Turkmenistan. In
this regard, the most important objective of Turkmen natural gas policy is
to have a multi-option gas pipeline network to by-pass Russia.
Turkmenistan still exports its natural gas mainly by the Russian gas
pipeline, Central Asia - Center. In December 1997, Korpedje-Kurt-Kui
pipeline was opened between Turkmenistan and Iran and became the first
Turkmen gas pipeline to by-pass Russia.(47) This pipeline has much less
capacity than the Russian one has. Therefore, Turkmenistan pursues four
new gas pipeline-projects: to Turkey and Europe via the Caspian Sea
(Trans-Caspian), to the same countries via Iran (Trans-Iran), to Pakistan
via Afghanistan, and to China and Japan via Uzbekistan and
In October 1998, Turkmenistan and Turkey signed an
agreement to export Turkmen natural gas to Turkey and then to Europe via
the Trans-Caspian pipeline. This 2000 km pipeline will cost $ 3 billion.
Russia opposes this project, because that will end the Russian monopoly on
the transportation of Turkmen natural gas and that may also stop the
export of Russian natural gas (with the Bluestream project via the Black
Turkey. The second project is 1400 km Trans-Iran gas pipeline,
which will extend from Turkmenistan to Turkey via Iran. Turkey and Iran
decided this project by the treaty signed in April 1996.(49) Although Iran
has constructed the parts of that pipeline in its own territory, Turkey
has suspended this project because of the resistance of the US and the
anti-Iranian actors in Turkish domestic politics. Iran strongly opposes
the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline project since it would impede the
Trans-Iran pipeline project.
pipeline is planned to be 1,500 km. An international consortium, Centgas,
is still working on this project.(50) It is uncertain yet the implications
of the US bombing of Afghanistan on this plan. The last alternative
pipeline plan is the China-Japan project. A consortium constituted by
Exxon, the Chinese national Petroleum Corporation, and Mitsubishi has been
working on this project since 1995. Natural gas market in China is
expected to be 100 billion cubic meters in 2010.(51) This pipeline is
planned to be 6700 km and to provide 30 billion cubic meters of natural
gas in a year.
The materialization of some of these projects is
crucial for the orientation of Turkmen foreign policy. Turkmenistan
chooses its friends and enemies concerning the competition in the natural
gas and oil markets. For example, the relationship between Turkmenistan
and Azerbaijan broke down because of those countries' disagreement on the
status of some overlapping oil reserves in the Caspian Sea. Similarly,
Turkmenistan was cooperating with Taliban expecting to hasten the
Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline project. Identities (i.e.,
Turkestani, Turkic, or Islamic) have minor
impacts on Turkmen foreign
policy in comparison to the factors related to natural gas and oil issues.
In the debate about the legal status of the Caspian Sea and the oil
reserves in the Caspian Sea basin, for instance, Turkmenistan supported
the opinion of Russia and Iran (considering the oil benefits) against that
of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan (ignoring its shared cultural identity with
these countries).(52) In sum, the natural gas and oil policy, including
the pipeline projects, is the main decisive factor for Turkmen foreign
The rentier state model has the
explanatory power in both Turkmenistan's domestic politics and foreign
policy. The rentier economy supports the continuity of Turkmenbashi's
authoritarian regime. Similarly, the rentier state structure shapes
Turkmen outlook toward the regional integration in Central Asia and
encouraged the declaration of the neutrality status. The natural gas and
oil politics is the main pillar of the Turkmen foreign policy. The rentier
state model also has explanatory power in the intra-regional relationship
between Central Asian countries (e.g., Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan). It
might be an effective theoretical tool for the analysis of other natural
gas or oil-rich countries of the region (i.e., Kazakhstan) as well.
The rentier economy shapes state-society relations in Turkmenistan.
The Turkmen state subordinates the society mainly because it has financial
autonomy and a relatively 'modern' institutional structure while the
society lacks an institutional network. The Turkmen state, so far, has
achieved unifying the tribes and maintaining political stability without
any internal tension.(53) The short-term stability, however, does not
guarantee the long-term survival for the authoritarian regime. Silence
does not mean consensus. In the future, several groups may claim political
articulation in the public sphere, although today they act 'as if'(54)
they are loyal to the regime. Furthermore, after Turkmenbashi's personal
rule, economic problems might ignite tension between tribal loyalties in
the worst-case scenario. As Kiren Chaudry stresses in her analysis of S.
Arabia, strong rentier states face hard times in economic crises.(55)
Turkmenbashi and his cadre justify the authoritarian regime with the
threat of political instability. On the contrary, strong society and
social participation are vital for maintaining long-term stability.
* Ph.D. Candidate, University
(1)Lisa Anderson, "Policy-Making and
Theory Building: American Political Science and the Islamic Middle East",
in Hisham Sharabi (ed.), Theory, Politics and The Arab World: Critical
Responses (New York: Routledge, 1990), p. 61.
Rethinking Middle East Politics (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994),
(3)Hazem Beblawi, "The Rentier State in the Arab World", in
Giacomo Luciani (ed.), p. 85.
(4)Giacomo Luciani, "Allocation vs.
Production States: A Theoretical Framework", in Luciani (ed.).
Vandewalle, Libya Since Independence (Ithaca: Cornell University Press,
(6)Anderson, p. 61.
(7)Vandewalle, p. 31.
Lemercier-Quelquejay, 'From Tribe to Umma', Central Asian Survey, Vol. 3,
No. 3, 1985, p. 21.
(9)Alexander Benningsen and S. Enders Wimbush,
Muslims of the Soviet Empire: A uide (London: C. Hurst and Company, 1985),
pp. 95, 98.
(10)Turkmenistan News Weekly, 5 April 1999.
Vandewalle, p. 27.
(12)Beblawi, p. 91.
"Turkmenian Oil and Gas", Caspian. Official Publication of TIOGE '96,
(1996), pp. 2-5.
(14)Luciani, p. 75.
(16)Vandewalle, p. 26.
(17)Luciani, p. 77.
29; emphasis added.
(19)See for Libya Vandewalle, p.
(20)Beblawi, p. 91.
(21)Vandewalle, p. 27.
(22)See for the
authoritarian regime in Turkmenistan: Semih Vaner, "Le Turkmenistan:
Pouvoir Personnel et Ressources Energetiques', Defense Nationale, Vol. 55,
No. 8-9, 1999, pp. 139-141; John Anderson, "Authoritarian Political
Development in Central Asia: The Case of Turkmenistan", Central Asian
Survey, Vol. 14, No. 4, 1995, pp. 509-527.
Weekly, 11 November 1998.
(24) See: Mehmet Saray, The Turkmens in the
Age of Imperialism: A Study of the Turkmen People and Their Incorporation
into the Russian Empire (Ankara: TTK, 1989).
(26)Turkmenistan: Today and Tomorrow, edited by Muhammed H.
Abalakov (Ashgabat, 1999), p. 101.
(27)Quoted in Anderson, p.
(28)Turkestan has been the name of the land placed between Caspian
Sea, Great Wall of China, Kazak Steppes, and Indian Mountain. Today,
eastern Turkestan is located in China (the Xinjang region).
Sungur, 'Yeniden Yapılanma Sürecinde Orta Asya Türk Cumhuriyetleri ve
Geçiş Dönemi Sorunları', in Büşra Ersanlı Behar (ed.), Bağımsızlığın İlk
Yılları (Ankara, Kültür Bakanlığı, 1994), pp. 240-241.
Pomfret, 'Trade Initiatives in Central Asia: The Economic Cooperation
Organization and the Central Asian Economic Community', in Renata Dwan and
Oleksandr Pavliuk (eds.), Building Security in the New Sates of Eurasia:
Subregional Cooperation in the Former Soviet Space (New York, M .E.
Sharpe, 2000), p. 21.
(31)See R. Freitag-Wirminghaus, 'Turkmenistan's
Place in Central Asia and the World', in Mehdi Mozaffari (ed.), Security
Politics in the Commonwealth of Independent States: The Southern Belt (New
York, Macmillian Press, 1997), p. 76.
(33)Bromley, p. 95.
(34)Luciani, p. 82.
(36)Luciani, p. 83.
(37)Foreign Policy of Neutral Turkmenistan:
Speeches, Statements and Interviews by Turkmenbashi (Ashgabat, The
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, 1997), pp.
(38)See Boris O. Shikmuradov, 'Positive Neutrality as the
Basis of the Foreign Policy of Turkmenistan', Perception, Vol. 2, No. 2,
(39)Turkmenistan: Today and Tomorrow, p. 15.
Policy of Neutral Turkmenistan, p. 35.
(41)Madan Mohan Puri, 'Central
Asian Geopolitics: The Indian View', Central Asian Survey, Vol. 16, No.
2,1997, p. 251.
(42)Stephen Blank, 'Energy, Economics and Security in
Central Asia: Russia and its Rivals', Central Asian Survey, Vol. 14, No.
3, 1995, p. 397. See also Graham E. Fuller, 'Central Asia: The Quest for
Identity', Current History, Vol. 93, No. 582, 1994, p. 149.
For American Business: Energy Markets of Europe, Russia, & The NIS,
The US Commercial Service/US Department of Commerce, (September 1997), p.
(44)See: Turkmenistan Country Overview, TDA Crossroad of the World
Conference, p. 7.
(45)Special Survey. Official Publication of TIOGE
'99, p. 199.
(46)Caspian. Official Publication of TIOGE '97,
(47)Special Survey. Official Publication of TIOGE '99, p.
(48)See Frederic Grare, 'La Nouvelle Donne Energetique Autour de
la Mer Caspienne: Une Perspective Geopolitique', Cahiers d'etudes sur la
Mediterranee orientale et le monde turco-iranien, Vol. 23,
(49)Turkmenistan News Weekly, 31 August
(50)Turkmenistan: Today and Tomorrow, p. 71.
News Weekly, 29 March 1999.
(52)Between 1995-98, Turkmenistan, Russia,
and Iran argued that Caspian Sea was technically a lake and they supported
condominium principle in the governance and participation of the Caspian
Sea resources. On the other hand, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan insisted to
benefit their coastal reserves without the intervention of other littoral
(53)See: David Nissman, 'Turkmenistan (Un)transformed', Current
History, Vol. 93, No. 582, 1994, p. 186.
(54)For acting 'as if' in an
authoritarian country see Lisa Wedeen, Ambiguities of Domination:
Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria (Chicago: The
University of Chicago Press, 1999).
(55)Kiren Aziz Chaudry, "The Price
of Wealth: Business and State in Labor Remittance and Oil Economies",
International Organization, Vol. 43, No. 1, 1989, pp.