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Turkmenistan: Update to TMT32579.E of 2 September 1999 on the treatment of Russians

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 3 February 2003
Citation / Document Symbol TMT40492.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Turkmenistan: Update to TMT32579.E of 2 September 1999 on the treatment of Russians, 3 February 2003, TMT40492.E, available at: [accessed 19 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population estimates dating from 1993 report that 9.8 per cent of the Turkmen population or 419,000 people, were Russian (Europa 2002 2002, 3999). The International Crisis Group (ICG) recently noted that since independence in 1991, more than half of the Russians in Turkmenistan have migrated to Kazakhstan or Russia (ICG 17 Jan. 2003, 22). This trend is evident from 1999 survey results published by Nezavisimaya Gazeta, which reported 240,000 Russians in Turkmenistan (RFE/RL 8 Aug. 2001) compared to the approximately 150,000 remaining Russians in 2000 (AFP 3 Aug. 2000).

Agence France Presse (AFP) has characterized Turkmenistan's discrimination against ethnic Russians as being the worst of any Central Asian state (ibid.). The "Turkmenization" program promoting the Turkmen language and culture (RFE/RL 20 Apr. 2001; UTO 2002), according to a Russian community leader, is limiting the employment or promotion possibilities of ethnic Russians (AFP 3 Aug. 2000). In January 2003, the ICG observed that participation in the country's administrative structures was denied to Russians and that they had only limited economic or entrepreneurial opportunities (ICG 17 Jan. 2003, 22-23). A 2000 Eurasianet Insight article however noted that very few members of the Russian community have been politically active (10 Mar. 2000)

While replacing Russian with Turkmen as the national language and emphasizing Turkmen language skills among citizens, authorities have closed Russian language schools (ibid., 23) and reduced Russian-language instruction in recent years (ITAR-TASS 31 Aug. 2002; HRW 2003). In mid-July 2002, Russian media outlets claimed that Turkmen authorities had stopped delivery of all Russian periodicals and the telecast of Russian television programs produced by Ren-TV (HRW 2003). A series of measures undertaken in 2000 suppressed elements of Russian culture by closing Russian-language libraries, the Academy of Science and the ballet (ICG 17 Jan. 2003, 23). Government decrees have also forced minorities to wear Turkmen national dress (UTO 2002) and headdresses (RFE/RL 18 June 2001).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 3 August 2000. Sergei Morgunov. "Turkmen President Cracks Down on Russian Speakers." (NEXIS) 10 March 2000. Insight. Rustem Safronov. "Turkmenistan's Exile Community: Voices of Protest." [Accessed 3 Feb. 2003]

Europa World Year Book 2002. 2002. Vol. 2. London: Europa Publications.

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 2003. "Turkmenistan." In Human Rights Watch World Report 2003. [Accessed 21 Jan. 2003]

International Crisis Group (ICG). 17 January 2003. ICG Asia Report No. 44. "Cracks in the Marble: Turkmenistan's Failing Dictatorship." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2003]

ITAR-TASS [Moscow, in English]. 31 August 2002. "No More Russian Schools in Turkmenistan." (BBC Monitoring 31 Aug. 2002/NEXIS)

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). 8 August 2001. Newsline. Paul Goble. "Russian Presence in Former Republics Declines." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2003]

_____. 18 June 2001. Turkmen Report. "Turkmenistan Students Obliged to Wear National Headdress." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2003]

_____. 20 April 2001. Features. Bruce Pannier. "Turkmenistan: Country Setting Out on Its ‘Own Path.'" [Accessed 31 Jan. 2003]

United Turkoman Opposition (UTO). 2002. "About the Situation at Schools in Turkmenistan." [Accessed 31 Jan. 2003]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases

Internet sites, including:

Amnesty International

European Country of Origin Information Network

Human Rights Watch

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights

UNHCR, WriteNet Paper Turkmenistan: An Overview (June 2002)

World News Connection

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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