FROM COMMUNISM TO NATIONALISM BY GRADUAL ECONOMIC REFORM Among all the former centrally planned economies, Turkmenistan is regularly ranked last by transition indicators measuring speed of reform or degree of economic liberalization. As far as the local leadership was concerned, however, the primary goal was not economic liberalism but economic independence, and by this criterion the transition (from Communism to Nationalism) was smooth and rapid. Nationhood was embodied in the leader, Saparmurat Niyazov, who, after the metamorphosis from First Secretary of the Turkmen Soviet Republic to President of Turkmenistan, assumed the name “Turkmenbashi ”- leader of the Turkmen. This paper analyses the evolution of the economic system and Turkmenistan’s economic development since independence in 1991, but that can only be understood in the context of the primary foreign policy goal of positive neutrality and of the domestic political reality of an omnipotent leader. From the start, Turkmenistan viewed the Commonwealth of Independent States as a consultative grouping and nothing more. 1 It has remained outside all projected regional trade arrangements within the former USSR, and the only regional trade grouping of which it is a member is the Economic Cooperation Organization, which has bee
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