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Perestroïka et glasnost : les nouvelles formes de culture et de discours politiques de la fin des années quatre-vingt en Asie centrale

Turkmenistan at the Last Stage of Perestroika. Determinants of an Authoritarian Path

Le Turkménistan à la dernière étape de la perestroïka. Les déterminants d’une voie autoritaire
Туркменистан на последнем этапе перестройки. Факторы авторитарного пути
Slavomír Horák
p. 29-49


This article focuses on the power shifts in Turkmenistan between the rule of Muhammetnazar Gapurov, the long-term First Secretary of the Turkmen SSR Communist Party and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The special focus is on the transformation of the elite, power structures and political culture under Saparmurat Niyazov and the emergence and struggle of the alternative groups trying to challenge the order established under the last First Secretary. It argues that Niyazov developed the political culture set up under Gapurov, adding his personal character to the process. These factors determined the largely unsuccessful attempt of the alternative and opposition groups to change the Turkmen SSR in the last stages of perestroika. The political culture established in these and the first subsequent years within independent Turkmenistan also determined the character of the Turkmen regime and the composition of the elite for many years ahead, with significant impact on the system under the second president Berdimuhamedov.

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Full text document will be published online on November 2017.


Intra-Elite Struggles in the Turkmen SSR and its Consequences Before Perestroika
The Rise of Niyazov
Perestroika in Turkmenistan. The Last Chance for an Alternative to Authoritarianism?
Conclusion: Perestroika as Unsuccessful Attempt to Change Turkmen Political Culture

First lines


The last two years of Turkmenistan within the USSR clearly demonstrated a tendency of transformation from Soviet style to another form of authoritarian development, in this case under the guidance of one single person. Despite the fact that the First Secretary Saparmurat Niyazov was selected to his position as a supporter of perestroika, his steps inside the Soviet republic rather slowed down the process. His negative attitude towards perestroika and glasnost was fully confirmed by his steps after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The transition became one of the core paradigms for the analysis of the trajectories of post-Soviet states. As Thomas Caroters, the critique of the concept, pointed out, the transformation from the Soviet system assumed an inevitable shift towards liberalisation or democracy with a key role being played by the election processes (Caroters, 2002, pp. 6-9). Caroters, however, did not research the historical specifics of each “transition” countr...

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Bibliographical reference

Slavomír Horák, « Turkmenistan at the Last Stage of Perestroika. Determinants of an Authoritarian Path », Cahiers d’Asie centrale, 26 | 2016, 29-49.

Electronic reference

Slavomír Horák, « Turkmenistan at the Last Stage of Perestroika. Determinants of an Authoritarian Path », Cahiers d’Asie centrale [Online], 26 | 2016, Online since 01 November 2017, connection on 19 September 2017. URL :

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About the author

Slavomír Horák

Slavomír Horák is a research fellow at the Department of Russian and East European Studies of the Institute of International Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University in Prague. He focuses on contemporary political, social and economic issues in Central Asia with special focus on Turkmenistan’s domestic issues, especially informal politics and state- and nation-building. Contact:

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