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Historical Introduction

The territories of the Turkmen tribes, which have been the target of numerous foreign invasions over the years, were conquered by Russia at the beginning of the 1880s. Of all the Central-Asian tribes, the Turkmens put up the strongest resistance to the Czarist expansion. From 1916 onwards, this mainly manifested as an anti-Czarist rebellion, in the course of which Russian officials and citizens were slaughtered in Tejen. The Turkmen people were rather indifferent to the revolutionary movement in 1917, and in December the same year, Bolsheviks assumed power in the politically splintered Trans-Caspia and formed the Turkistan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. The temporary government of Trans-Caspia, formed by the anti-Communist opposition in July 1918, was overthrown in the course of the Russian Civil War in 1919 by the invasion of the Red Army. The armed resistance of the Turkmens against Soviet power was part of a larger Basmachi Revolt in Central-Asia, which lasted until the 1930s (in some parts) and boasted at least 20 000 fighters. Hundreds of Turkmens lost their lives during this struggle. The Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic, which formally joined the Soviet Union and its party system in 1925, had to endure Stalinist repressions (collectivization, denomadization and Russification) from the 1920s. During the NKVD's mass repressions of 1937-1938 (known as the Great Purge), 13 259 people were found guilty (of which 4037 were executed) in the 1 300 000 population state. The NKVD Troika operation from August 1937 to September 1938 was targeted at kulaks, criminals and other anti-Soviet (criminal) elements.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Turkmenistan declared its independence in October 1991. The former communist party leader Saparmyrat Nyazow assumed power and his autocratic regime based on a Stalinist personality cult lasted until 2006, when Nyazow passed away. Nyazov maintained political and economic stability thanks to the rich natural resources of Turkmenistan and ran the country with an iron fist, which was a legacy of Soviet times. The regime was repressive and riddled with human rights violations. The Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, formed from the remnants of the former communist party, was the only party allowed in the country where political and basic freedoms of its citizens were limited. According to Reporters Without Borders, Turkmenistan is the world's second worst violator of press freedoms. Turkmenistan places 167th on that list, followed only by North-Korea.