School duty was introduced under Soviet rule, and illiteracy was virtually eradicated. It is now 9 years of compulsory schooling from the children is 7 years. The primary school is divided into a child stage (3 years) and a youth stage (6 years). 2-year upper secondary schools are under construction, as well as 1- to 2-year vocational schools. Most schools teach Turkish in the national language, but it is also taught in Russian, Uzbek and Kazakh. Until the beginning of the 1990s, teaching in higher education institutions was in Russian, while efforts are now being made to expand the teaching program in Turkmen. One university and several institutes offer higher education. In May 2001, oil exploration in the Caspian Sea led to a conflict with Azerbadjan exploring fields claimed by Turkmenistan. Negotiations between experts from the two countries did not resolve the conflict, and in June Turkmenistan withdrew its ambassador from Baku.
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Up until the US war on Afghanistan in October 2001, Turkmenistan as a neutral country refused to allow its airspace to be flown by North American bombers. But Niyázov allowed humanitarian aid to reach the country via the Imam-Nazar border crossing. In late October, the World Food Program used this transition to send dozens of food trucks into northern Afghanistan. UNICEF also used the transition to operate in Afghanistan.
Throughout 2001, the rotation of government posts, which had already begun in 2000, continued. By the end of 2001, therefore, only a few ministers had held the same post for over 1 year. One of the key changes was the concentration of power in the hands of the chairman of the National Security Committee, who was appointed Deputy Prime Minister in charge of defense, the implementation of legislation, foreign affairs and, in addition, the President’s special adviser on judicial matters.
In late 2001 and early 2002, Turkmenistan hoped that the new situation in Afghanistan would favor Turkmenistan’s oil exports to new markets. Possible stabilization of Afghanistan would allow Turkmenistan to carry its oil through pipelines to the Pakistani coast and the Indian Ocean. The country’s slow economic development is due, among other things, to Russia’s reluctance to allow Turkmenistan’s gas to transport to more competitive markets. Nevertheless, the Turkmen government is striving to maintain good relations with Moscow.
In addition to the presence of oil and gas deposits, the country’s strategic location – on the old Silk Road from Europe to the East – is a further incentive for foreign investors.
In November 2002, the president escaped unscathed from an assault with machine guns on his wagon. He accused exiled Turkmen of planning the assassination attempt. Former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov, along with 40 activists, were arrested and sentenced to life in prison for conspiracy.
During Niyázov’s visit to Moscow in April 2003, the two countries signed an agreement on annual sales to Russia of $ 60,000 million. cubic meters of gas. However, the diplomatic relations between the two countries were aggravated by the president’s decision to abolish the possibility of dual citizenship, which was the result of a 1993 agreement.
At the beginning of 2004, a number of laws on «hygiene» were passed, making it a pleasure for the authorities to demand hair and beard clipping – also with foreigners. Another law imposes foreigners who want to marry a Turkmen woman to pay a special tax.
At the annual meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva in April 2004, the human rights situation in Turkmenistan was criticized. Among other things, made charges of political murders to extend President Niyázov’s tenure.
In August, Niyázov ordered the building of an ice palace initiated in the mountains of the Karakum desert on the outskirts of Ashjabad. The head of state, internationally regarded as one of the most megalomaniacs and eccentric in the world, declared that the palace was necessary for the country’s children to learn to ski and snowboard. Niyázov added that restaurants and cafes can also be built in the area where temperatures often reach -50 ° C.