Turkmenistan, one of the five Central Asian republics to emerge from the break-up of the Soviet Union, has experienced unprecedented changes since its independence some twenty years ago. Beginning in 2007, moreover, under new president Gurbanguly Berdimuhummedov, the pace of Turkmenistan’s economic transformation has only accelerated. Indeed, Turkmenistan was the third-fastest growing country in the world, by GDP, for the first decade of the 21st century.
The Turkmen people are proud of their new identity as an independent nation. A visit to Turkmenistan today will show you a people who embrace their traditions, celebrate their customs, and seek a “Turkmen” way of joining the global community while still holding onto their culture. A glance at Turkmenistan’s list of national holidays will reveal sources of particular pride for the Turkmen people: carpets of unique beauty, traditional singers, poets and poetry, and exquisite horses, among others.
Much of Turkmenistan’s economic progress is built on revenues flowing from stateowned gas fields, and recent geological discoveries show that the country will have natural gas as a source of wealth for decades to come. The capital, Ashgabat, which means “city of love,” is a place so transformed by new construction over the last two decades that it is hard to deny the accuracy of its moniker, the “city of white marble.”
The people of Turkmenistan are not all Turkmen-although the majority is-they are also Uzbek, Kazakh, Armenian, Azeri, Tajik, Russian, and more. The majority of Turkmenistan’s citizens are Muslims, however, they practice their faith in a way unique from that practiced in Arabia or Southeast Asia.
The Turkmen were historically nomadic. Today’s Turkmenistan sits along the old Silk Road and civilizations even more ancient. The remains of Merv, in the south, and Kone-urgench, in the north, are just two examples of what was the “Golden Age” of Central Asia, which took place during Europe’s medieval period. Historically connected to the world, the Turkmen people now seek to establish that connection once again.
And it is in this heady mix of national identity, economic opportunity and global connection that the Turkmenistan Youth and Civic Values Foundation has identified a critical need for the resources and programs we provide.
The Turkmen people by and large welcome the West, and seek to know more about the West’s people and culture. There is a tradition of respect of foreign guests among the Turkmen. Indeed, there is a well-known saying, mhyman atadan uly, which means, essentially, that the guest is given the highest honor. (The literal translation is "the guest is of a higher position than the grandfather.").
At the same time, there are tremendous barriers to accessing knowledge of and from the West, especially for young Turkmen. Turkmenistan remains a place with limited access to the rest of the world and vice versa. Because TYCVF is the result of collaboration between Turkmen and peoples of the world, we bri ng a vision of development that is both culturally respectful and effective. Our success is rooted in the pride that Turkmen feel working with us for a better Turkmenistan.
Learn more by checking out our Reading List on Turkmenistan