Hacker News

Turkmenistan on the brink of collapse?(edition.cnn.com)

106 pointsTomte posted 5 months ago112 Comments
xrd said 5 months ago:

It really feels like the modern world should be able to expose dictatorships and their propaganda machines much easier than in the past. Is this an example of that truth coming out and destroying a corrupt state, or just the loss of oil revenues?

I always believed Tim O'Reilly's statements that sunlight is the best disinfectant but it seems like the propaganda machines are faster than the truth. Maybe "a lie is halfway around the world before the truth has its pants on" is more "truthful."

My mom visited this place last year and she talked about the marble palaces.

emilsedgh said 5 months ago:

Coming from a dictatorship country (Iran), my personal understanding is not that dictatorships are not "exposed".

At least in my case it seemed that everybody knows whats going on. It's just that there are socio-economics in place that keep the balance of power, somehow, despite the fact that everyone is completely aware of the situation.

said 5 months ago:
tmtempaccount said 5 months ago:

Agreed. Turkmens never had a "united country" for centuries before Russians conquered (1880th). Soviet gave us "education" but, also made people more obedient to the government with strong KGB system. It is still running the country.

trilila said 5 months ago:

It’s almost as if members of the society support dictatorships, making governments a reflection of those societies. I am originally from a former communist society and 30 years after communism fell people still vote strongmen in power.

emilsedgh said 5 months ago:

Absolutely. After all these years, a humongous chunk of Iranian society would be more than happy to have another King/Leader/Dictator who is on the same page with them "right now", not understanding that the whole concept of a single person holding power is flawed, not the current policies of the current dictator.

anovikov said 5 months ago:

Maybe it's wrong for civilized nations and OK for not so civilized?

Also, Iran is nowhere like a dictatorship. Mr Ahmadinejad who was labelled as a dictator by the west, just lost an election one day. Can a dictator possibly ever lose an election? As for the Ayatollah, they aren't really politicians. More like Kings in the constitutional monarchies or say Japanese emperor - a figure of authority who has a big weight in taking decisions, but not an everyday ruler.

msoad said 5 months ago:

President doesn’t hold much power in Iran. It’s the supreme leader that has all the power and has been in power since the previous supreme leader died.

emilsedgh said 5 months ago:

Iran is a hybrid. It's not democratic because:

1. Supreme Leader has all the power and President's power is very limited.

2. Candidates are "vetted" by the regime. Therefore, people can elect but the choices are limited to a few people regime has accepted.

3. During Ahmadinejad, even the vetted candidate who was popular and got the vote wasn't really acceptable by the regime so they completely ignored the vote and just named Ahmadinejad as the winner.

Basically, the real government is the IRGC. Elected goverment is the one who does the legwork and also the blame because officially they are in charge but practically they are not.

It's like you have a boss who delegates you all the responsibility but none of the authority. You will be responsible but you cannot make any calls.

everdrive said 5 months ago:

I'm not sure that Ahmadinejad was ever credibly called a dictator. Most analyses out there measured his power based on his standing with the supreme leader.

pjc50 said 5 months ago:

It went the other way: corrupt dictatorships started buying advertising, politicians, and media in the West. To the point that half the population now no longer know which way is up.

The Telegraph, who employ the Prime Minister, managed to get a push poll claiming over 50% support for suspending democracy in the UK.

seanmcdirmid said 5 months ago:

This doesn’t apply to the dictators of North Korea or Turkmenistan, who are still doing their dictatoring the old fashioned way. Heck, the authoritarians of China are still stuck using methods from the 1960s and aren’t expected to modernize until after Xi.

jobigoud said 5 months ago:

I thought the social credit score thing coupled with facial recognition and ubiquitous online monitoring was fairly modern.

yorwba said 5 months ago:

It's certainly intended to be modern, but the implementation is very different from how people imagine it to be.

The "social credit system" is far from being automated; all current pilot projects involve officials leaving remarks on someone's file. The only novelty is that the file is digital and the remark may have a point value assigned.

Every time a new issue blows up on social media, the "ubiquitous online monitoring" (read: thousands of people whose job it is to remove objectionable content) takes days to clean up the outraged comments posted in a few hours.

Facial recognition is maybe the most futuristic, but unless they magically achieve higher precision than anyone else, filtering the results is still going to require lots of manual work. Otherwise they might accidentally offend someone with connections: https://www.scmp.com/tech/innovation/article/2174564/facial-...

seanmcdirmid said 5 months ago:

That’s in subjugation, not propaganda or controlling public sentiment, which is still very primitive by the standards of how western politicians do it much more subtly.

tmtempaccount said 5 months ago:

Actually, it is happening.

There are several European construction companies in Turkmenistan. Country is in crisis for past 3-4 years but, construction projects are going on. Siphoning lots of money for pro-government lobbying in Europe.

inflatableDodo said 5 months ago:

>managed to get a push poll claiming over 50% support for suspending democracy in the UK.

Also, they didn't, they are just lying about that -


SuddsMcDuff said 5 months ago:

One garbage publication with an agenda criticizing another garbage publication with an agenda.

benj111 said 5 months ago:

I'll add another 'garbage publication' to tip the balance if it makes you feel better?


SuddsMcDuff said 5 months ago:

Why would it make me feel better? Why are my feelings even a relevent topic here? There is absolutely no shortage of grandstanding in both camps.

Since you care about my feelings you might like to know that the thing that upsets me most is the almost complete lack of rational debate surrounding this issue. If you could link to a non-partisan, fact based article designed to actually impart information and enable people to make up their own minds, rather than an article designed solely to sway opinion, that might make me feel better.

inflatableDodo said 5 months ago:

If you are looking for factual reporting, why did you personally take the time to create FUD around a sourced fact in one article, regarding the Telegraph lying about a poll in another?

'The New Statesman' is hardly my cup of tea either, but the article included the details of the original poll to back up the allegation, so irrespective of tone, it was one of these fact based articles designed to actually impart information, that you claim to be looking for.

edit - If you are looking for as non partisan as I can find, a magazine website for people working in the consumer research industry has taken note of the Telegraph's bullshit - https://www.research-live.com/article/news/telegraph-brexit-...

>Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos Mori, tweeted: "Telegraph reporting taking the piss by ignoring "don't knows" to present an apparent majority."

SuddsMcDuff said 5 months ago:

Thanks, but I didn't need convincing that the Telegraphs article was bullshit. I already knew that and acknowledged them as a "garbage publication" in my first post.

The link you posted is a far better example of journalism imo. I wonder how many views they get compared to the usual clickbait?

inflatableDodo said 5 months ago:

>Thanks, but I didn't need convincing that the Telegraphs article was bullshit. I already knew that and acknowledged them as a "garbage publication" in my first post.

The issue is, that you are showing more discernment than other media, such as the BBC, which have gone on to repeat the claim by the Telegraph, without pointing out that is bullshit. And so lies quickly become 'common knowledge' by a large swathe of the population, especially if they are not called out.

And if you go back through, you can see that I posted the article in response to the lie being presented as common knowledge. I wasn't trying to convince you that the Telegraph's article was bullshit. I was pointing it out to someone else, who had already erred in taking the rag at face value.

You may dislike the source I used to do this, or other things they write, but surely you support the calling out of a lie, especially one that has already made the way into general discourse as an accepted fact?

benj111 said 5 months ago:

Your comment seemed to indicate that one article balanced out the other, I was tipping the balance for you.

Both linked articles include the original question, vote percentages and how the Telegraph got to it's percentage, more than enough for an informed if not rational debate.

If you would like non partisan the New Statesman helpfully links to the survey (below), that seems about as impartial as we are likely to get.


inflatableDodo said 5 months ago:

One of them lied about a poll and the other pointed it out. Whatever the agenda, that is pretty cut and dry.

SuddsMcDuff said 5 months ago:

I don't think it's so cut and dry. The Telegraph stupidly exaggerated the results of the poll in order to generate a click-baity headline, which was completely un-necessary. Then you have publications like the New Statesman who then exaggerated the transgression by the Telegraph, calling them "Lies, damned lies", as if 99% of the mainstream media don't exaggerate things in exactly the same way, all whilst injecting a bit of their own unfounded hysteria into the mix ("empty shelves and lorry queues and punch ups outside pharmacies that will inevitably follow").

The media is spiralling out of control. Each trying to out-do the other with ever more outrageous claims and deceitful exaggerations until the whole thing has escalated to tribalistic warfare. Casualty #1: rational debate.

inflatableDodo said 5 months ago:

>you have publications like the New Statesman who then exaggerated the transgression by the Telegraph, calling them "Lies, damned lies"

Ahh, I think you may have completely missed the context there.

As the article is about polling, they are referencing the old phrase 'There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.' that was first popularised by Twain, who attributed it to Disrali. Is a sardonic framing, not an ernest entreaty.

said 5 months ago:
said 5 months ago:
Aperocky said 5 months ago:

From my point of view the Jedi are evil!

moksly said 5 months ago:

Haven’t we become a lot less apt at exposing manipulation? There isn’t a history of what you see in your social media feed or in your search results, and there is no record of who paid for it to look the way it did on that particular day. Facebook and others offer a view into the total advertising spending, but not on what or to whom. So while it’s probably better than nothing, it’s really far from being transparent.

I’m not into the field of communication or advertising, but I know from our own communications benchmarking that Social Media campaigns work better than almost anything. We use it to raise awareness on his feeding ducks with bread is a terrible idea, but you could be using it for anything really.

Advertising has certainly always been damaging to society, but in 2019 it’s now also the strongest political weapon of anyone with money and interest, and it seems to be leas transparent than ever before. Maybe it only seems that way because I’m not old enough to know what it was like 50 years ago. But I do know that we don’t currently have the tools to out it to the sunlight, because the records and the data behind it are locked away.

roenxi said 5 months ago:

> It really feels like the modern world should be able to expose dictatorships and their propaganda machines much easier than in the past.

It is easier, but you might not have realised just how bad the situation was in the past. In the grand old days, propaganda machines were orders of magnitude harder to detect and challenge.

Consider how much we know about what is going on inside China in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Tibet, etc, etc. Compare that to the old Soviet sytem where an academic could stand up on stage, say "This communism seems like a good idea" and be taken seriously.

I mean, even today, the American press on the left and right are both clearly running what are basically propaganda operations for the major parties. The easy availability of transcripts, raw recordings, etc, allow an interested denizen in a foreign country to peer behind the veil in a way that they couldn't 50 years ago.

vkou said 5 months ago:

> It really feels like the modern world should be able to expose dictatorships and their propaganda machines much easier than in the past.

We can't even figure out the difference between fact and blatantly false propaganda in free nations, where you're not going to be killed or imprisoned for talking about uncomfortable truths.

What makes you think that people in nations that don't take such freedoms for granted are going to be any successful at this?

The fact is that when it comes to the marketplace of ideas, lies have no difficulty winning. Whether or not the truth prevails is a complete toss-up, that has more to do with the charisma of the participants, or worse - which version of reality serves the listener better.

matthewmcg said 5 months ago:

I’ve usually seen the phrase attributed to Louis Brandeis in a 1914 book. He wrote of disclosure-based securities regulation: “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”

oh_sigh said 5 months ago:

Exposing Arkadag and his propaganda will do absolutely zero to affect change in Turkmenistan. People don't follow him because they are lied to - people follow him because, as a general rule, for a little person it is almost always a safer, more lucrative decision to be on the strongman's side than against him.

The situation within Turkmenistan has been well reported on for 10+ years. It's not like the outside world couldn't know what was happening inside Turkmenistan.

dmix said 5 months ago:

If you're smart and able leader as a citizen in that country you have three options: 1) leave to a better country (easy), 2) fight the system politically (really difficult), 3) ignore your morals and engage in graft directly as a politician or indirectly via enriching yourself via connections/bribes in gov as a private enterprise (semi-difficult since you're still competing with all of the less smart people who are smooth talkers or have entrenched/hereditary influence) or 4) violent revolutionary behaviour (almost impossible outside of external situations like war or regional conflict which can create the anarchy/power vacuums necessary for this to work).

1) and 3) are the biggest hurdles for these countries since most people never even try and just live their life. 3) is often the only path to any change as it continually generates new power players, while greasing the existing wheels as to not stop their momentum, and it's entirely possibly incrementally lesser evil people could take this route. Especially as education improve and economic difficulties create pressure on old broken systems/models which the next grafter might be less inclined to continue.

So if it's not going to be from the inside then it's only going to be external pressure - by other countries. Most foreign countries couldn't be bothered by a small, non-economically or militarily (state or Guerrilla) important country so few would make much of a risk intervening locally. Plus most of the surrounding countries in that region are very tolerant of dictators, so there will likely be more of the opposite pressure in the other direction, even if the west did care enough to counter it.

Then there's the whole immoral nature and high risk of backfiring of foreigners bumbling into a country without understanding local culture, glossing over the power of smaller ethnic tribes (unexpected if you're used to stable democratic government power), or often not building enough trust to legitimate offer the long-term commitment changing-seeking locals need to not face persecution later (as we repeatedly have seen in the Middle East and Africa for the last century).

It's a very difficult problem. A power vacuum after such a 'collapse' could work in their benefit. It could also just result in a worse situation depending on a whole bunch of circumstances. But it's still a better opportunity than hoping some smart guy tries to change the system from within, without getting chewed up and spat out first.

tmtempaccount said 5 months ago:

1) That's what a lot of educated people do. Leave for better country.

2) Impossible. Anti-government people near to nonexistent inside country. Killed, jailed, tortured - dead.

3) Very difficult and long term project. There are several influential people which are managing the president of Turkmenistan. Wiktor Hramow, Aleksandr Žadan, Wladimir Umnow - all of them are jewish "dark" people. (Source: https://www.azathabar.com/a/24338115.html) They already have a system in place for electing or killing the president. I don't know too much details but they are the one designing political agenda of the country.

4) It is not possible without external support. Turkmen people are very mildly mannered.

Personally I do not support but 4 seems like only option.

Sniffnoy said 5 months ago:

Minor note, the phrase "sunlight is the best disinfectant" is due to Louis Brandeis. (Although, according to this webpage[0], it's paraphrasing an earlier statement by James Bryce.)

[0] https://aroberts.us/2015/03/01/where-brandeis-got-sunlight-i...

davidw said 5 months ago:

> "a lie is halfway around the world before the truth has its pants on"

I also like the version of this known as the 'bullshit asymmetry principle':


wmf said 5 months ago:

It sounds like everyone has known all along what was going on there. But who's going to do anything about it? All their money comes from Russia and China who don't give a shit.

tmtempaccount said 5 months ago:

I wish someone gave shit.

Situation in the country is so bad that, over 2mln people left abroad to support their family.

Sick people go to Turkey, India to have proper treatment. The ones who can't afford dies or survives.

Government only sends students to "approved universities" which is overly expensive for average turkmens. (latest news)

said 5 months ago:
sb057 said 5 months ago:

I think it's more of a case that no one gives a shit about some former Soviet wasteland in the middle of Asia that will never affect them (as far as they know, at least).

MaxBarraclough said 5 months ago:

> It really feels like the modern world should be able to expose dictatorships and their propaganda machines much easier than in the past.

Interesting timing. The most recent Last Week Tonight episode covers the Turkmenistan dictatorship.

tmtempaccount said 5 months ago:

Lately, I started to see a lot of activities on anti-government media. It barely existed in the country. Azatlyk was the only one.

Western media picked up (HBO, newspapers),number of social media pro and anti government "trolls" increased.

First time after the independence of Turkmenistan - singers, actors (the only influential people after president) talked about politics on social media channels (instagram, twitter). All of them had strikingly similarly outlined pro-government speech on "fake death of president".

said 5 months ago:
JauntTrooper said 5 months ago:

If you really think about it, sunlight is a terrible disinfectant.

derefr said 5 months ago:

Eh, I dunno. Sunlight (UV radiation, mostly) kills a great amount of simple life. Admittedly, complex life (where even bacteria are "complex life", having things like cell walls and the ability to survive dehydration without DNA degradation) has mostly adapted to protect itself against the UVA and UVB found in regular sunlight.

But UVC (i.e. "sunlight from areas around holes in the ozone layer") is still pretty effective: http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2018/06/uv-light-...

TheSpiceIsLife said 5 months ago:

I believe the parent comment was trying to point out that, as a result of being in the goldilocks zone the Earth is completely infected with life.

conistonwater said 5 months ago:

Do you think maybe the phrase comes from a time before widely available disinfectants? Like before water purification plants?

danharaj said 5 months ago:

Disinfectants were widely available for a very long time, and often used in effective if not optimal ways even without the understanding of germ theory.

xeeeeeeeeeeenu said 5 months ago:

Note that the president is no longer hiding, just after the CNN's article was published, he gave the opening speech at the caspian economic forum: https://www.rferl.org/a/gurbanguly-berdymukhammedov-turkmeni...

tmtempaccount said 5 months ago:

Right. He did show up. But he wasn't healthy. It is told that his speech was recorded.

Check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OerjiALcPq4

said 5 months ago:
nnq said 5 months ago:

...some parts of the world desperately need the modern equivalent of "regional empires", it's clear that lots of small nation states have a tendency to degenerate into these kinds of dystopias. Some Central Asian Federation could sort out lots of issues and drastically increase the quality of life and freedoms of such people.

The ironic things is that we seem to recognize it and try and do this exactly in the places where it's not really needed: take the "European Federation" ideal, it probably wouldn't be a net plus since almost all European nations produce basically functional states and provide OK levels of individual freedom. Otoh something like a Middle-Eastern Federation and a Central Asian Federation could solve a ton issues and really be useful. A bunch of mega-states would surely improve lives of people in most of Africa too.

Dunno why we're so taboo ridden and afraid to be open-minded when it comes to geo-politics on a planetary scale, we're stuck with these two horrible ideas of (1) independent nation-states and (2) general-globalism, that are neither any good, and we're totally afraid to think outside the box...

zyngaro said 5 months ago:

There isn't a single definition of empire in the dictionary that looks like something that would improve the situation of people living in those countries. Indeed there is an empire in that area of the world. It's called Russia. And speaking of empires, Russia isn't the only one. The U.S is an empire. Try to ask south Americans about it. We still live in an age of empires.

nnq said 5 months ago:

I'm usually Russia-phobic, but would you rather live in Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan etc., or in Russia? And mega-states like U.S. and Canada and Australia clearly provide a decent standard of living and good wide labour market to thrive on for the people living in them...

And south American w.r.t. the U.S.: I'm really not that knowledgeable about geopolitics in this part of the world.

scardine said 5 months ago:

Well, regarding South America there is a generation that grew up reading "Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent" (even the author Eduardo Galeano has criticized his own work).

Blaming all the region problems on the "imperialists" and stuff like that is a line of thought still very alive and kicking around here - it is way easier to blame some imaginary entity than taking responsibility for your present situation. It is very inline with the current "outrage porn" culture.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Open-Veins-Latin-America-Centuries/dp...

zyngaro said 5 months ago:

That’s not my point. I am not blaming anything on imperialism (without quotes). The world geopolitics are to these days structured and governed by empires. We don’t have emperors but there are still empires. If you happen to be a citizen of a country that is in the vicinity of a powerful and big state (size matters a lot too) then you are out of luck. What I said regarding Russia, America also applies to China, Europe (guess why the European Union was created) and to lesser degree Turkey and Iran.

zyngaro said 5 months ago:

Azerbaïdjan and Afghanistan are two very different countries on a lot of levels.

topher515 said 5 months ago:

The primary goal of the European “Federation” is not to create a “better” super-state, but to prevent war amongst the states by creating a common economic dependence and by aligning mutual interests.

nnq said 5 months ago:

Yeah... this is sort of a dangerous idea, constant but "restrained" (like in "let's be gentlemen and don't kill millions or hundreds-of-thousands, instead mostly keep it up to tens-of-thousands") interstate conflict was probably the catalyst for the rapid advances of European culture and civilization. EU needs to catalyze internal economic competition/warfare as a replacement of violent conflict imo, we're too addicted to some kind of violence to just go dry on it, so we need to move most of this violence into economy, culture, education etc.

igorkraw said 5 months ago:

While I find the way you expressed this disgusting (the "restrained" aspect of what you refer to only extended to the aristocracy, the common folk was treated about as well as cattle on average, sometimes better sometimes worse), the little kernel of good idea in this comment is exactly what confederations of states like the EU enable: link the economies, make freedom of movement possible, break down all obstacles to market competition while preserving regional identities and diversity.

Note that empires do NOT do this, as they need to force stability,unity and legitimacy from the top, while confederations of democratic states get their legitimacy from the bottom (if designed well. There is lots of improvement left in the road towards democratization of the EU).

chr1 said 5 months ago:

It's not really clear that large empires are better than national states: two nearby countries that ended up in an empire, xinjiang and tibet, are not really in a much better state, and the previous empire that contained turkmenistan, was pretty dystopian too, at least at times. On the other hand some of the national states that broke off from USSR are better off now, than they would have been if they stayed with Russia.

nosestuff said 5 months ago:

The word you are looking is Soviet Russia. It's not a panacea. European Union countries would likely be as developed if they were in a single market union. Governments have the control on the population that they can afford. Poorer societies are more prone to crime, less law compliant. Poorer societies can't afford a police state.

benj111 said 5 months ago:

So you're claiming the one area that has tried "federation" doesn't need it because they're all functional governments? Do you not think there might be a cause and effect there?

a2tech said 5 months ago:

I certainly hope not--personally my wife and I had an exchange student from Turkmenistan stay with us for a year and she lives in the capital and could easily be harmed by any sort of violent collapse. But even setting aside my personal feelings, a collapse in Turkmenistan could cause further chaos in an already chaotic region as hordes of poorly trained refuges poor into surrounding countries that are already struggling with their own populace.

dmitrygr said 5 months ago:

He showed up for the opening of the Summit: https://www.dailysabah.com/energy/2019/08/12/first-caspian-e...

deftnerd said 5 months ago:

I know this might seem controversial, but I feel that dictatorships and monarchies give the possibility of multi-decade or even multi-generation projects that would otherwise be impossible.

Modern government gets replaced every few years, and each seems to suffer from 'not legislated here' behavior that makes them cancel slow-growth projects created by their predecessors (especially in times of financial crisis)

There are huge downsides to monarchies and dictatorships, but that's one of the few upsides that I haven't been able to see in Democratic systems.

With huge problems facing our civilization regarding our ecosystem and climate, the solutions might require multi-generational solutions.

Also, does anyone else think that a democracy might not work on a multi-generational interstellar ship?

Alinax said 5 months ago:

It gives the impression that it can build multi-decade or multi-generation projects, but in reality it only works for vanity projects that are at the epicenter of the leader (and key players) as long as it is perceived as valuable to them.

It also tends to have a strong upstart, only to slow down and crawl to a point lower than democracies when looking at it in the longer span of time. Democracies and its derivatives tend to create a smaller varience between the ups and downs when it stabilizes while dictatorships tend to oscilate (read volatile) more, in part due to internal struggles.

biggio said 5 months ago:

Yes, true but it is only beneficial to citizens if they get a smart dictator. Not like Berdimuhammedov. I have the impression that he is a clown who doesn't know what they are doing.

lkjhdcba said 5 months ago:

This view is not controversial at all in HN where techno-libertarian crowds abound, and these are often adjacent to more authoritarian circles (see NRx/Moldbug et al.). It's also wrong. If it were true, modern democracies would not have built anything lasting more than 10-odd years since their inception. Multi-generational and even trans-national projects do exist, but perhaps they have been less publicized than other news and you haven't heard of them.

hamilyon2 said 5 months ago:

I cannot help but feel this piece is itself propaganda.

It is just too similar to what I see on TV and news on Russia every day: half-truth, scary numbers, lack of context, and general "look how bad it is abroad!" message.

Situation is order of magnitude more complex then it is presented.

agumonkey said 5 months ago:

Every month a country is said to be about to collapse.. yet none have done so.

Medias should resist the urge it seems.

codingdave said 5 months ago:

It depends on how you define "collapse". If you mean they turn into a dystopian image of burned-out buildings, and a population looking like the Mad Max movies, then no, there has been no collapse. (At least not on a national level.) But if you define it via metrics related to the economy, employment, healthcare, quality of life, etc... then you get a different story.

agumonkey said 5 months ago:

there was Greece, then spain, I think I've heard Ireland at some point in time.. of course UK had its share of potential collapse recently

Venezuela is on the verge of collapse for a while now

now Turkmenistan

9nGQluzmnq3M said 5 months ago:

Venezuela effectively collapsed quite some time ago: well over half the population has insufficient food and 4 million refugees have fled the country.

agumonkey said 5 months ago:

fair point, even though to me collapse would be way more than this situation, but that's semantics

said 5 months ago:
9nGQluzmnq3M said 5 months ago:

There was a recent article in Radio Free Europe claiming that almost 2 million people (a third of the population) have fled Turkmenistan in recent years:


said 5 months ago:
dekken_ said 5 months ago:

John Oliver's serendipitous take https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9QYu8LtH2E

pilsetnieks said 5 months ago:

I mean this guy is NK's Kim level of crazy but you should see who he replaced: the previous president-for-life Niyazov is known for:

- renamed months and days of week to references to his own autobiography;

- banished dogs from the capital;

- banned lip syncing at concerts;

- banned recorded music at any public event and on television;

- built a palace of ice in the desert near the capital, so people could learn to skate;

- after quitting smoking himself, banned smoking and chewing tobacco for the entire country;

- outlawed opera, ballet, and circus because it's un-Turkmen-like;

- banned long hair and beards for men;

- banned makeup for news reporters;

- discouraged gold teeth and suggested that people should chew on bones like dogs to improve dental health;

- changed Turkmen language to rename bread (as in actual bread) and the month of April to Gurbansoltan, his mother's name.

mikekchar said 5 months ago:

Just because I'm in a playful mood, I've always wondered if Kim is actually mentally unstable in the way many people suggest. Just reading through the Wikipedia page, it seems that he grew up in Switzerland and loves basketball. He was said to be shy and unassuming. His half brother was always supposed to inherit the "throne" (probably there is a better word for it), but was caught trying to go to Disneyland in Japan and lost favour. Kim Jong-un was then made the hasty replacement.

According the the Wikipedia page, Kim Jong-un is on record as having questioned the lavish lifestyle he had. His then-ousted brother was actually downright rude suggesting that the Chairmanship should not be inherited but rather democratically elected (this from a Japanese news report I heard -- I can't really vouch for its veracity, but interesting if true).

I remember when Kim Jong-un came to power and there were reports that hardliners in the party really hated him because they thought he was too soft. When he took over, he did do a lot of thing differently, like going to a pop concert with his then wife.

But then, suddenly: His wife is executed. His uncle's entire family line is eradicated. His elder brother is assasinated. And we hear no more about Kim Jong-un's "softer" approach to running the country. Any time I look at video from about 2012 to 2016 he looks like a deer with its eyes caught in the headlights. Lately it looks like he's got his feet under him and I figure it's because he's learned how to play ball.

I don't know. Like I said, I'm really just being playful, but western governments like their "Axis of Evil". You need the mad, evil villain to justify whatever they decide must be done (Wikipedia page mentions an attempted CIA led assassination...) What if it really was the case that Kim Jong-un is as much a victim as everyone else. Forced to take power. Forced to execute his wife, his uncle, his entire uncle's family and even his older brother. The entire country really being run by a brutal bureaucracy that doesn't care who they steamroll. That would be pretty craptastic.

kombucha11 said 5 months ago:

Just so you know Ri Sol-ju is totally alive.

zemnl said 5 months ago:

Correct. And even his ex-girlfriend (the singer) turned out to be alive: there were rumors about her execution but they were fake.

mozey said 5 months ago:

Evil is a spectrum, we're all on it

mda said 5 months ago:

Banality of this comment...

mozey said 5 months ago:

Interesting word choice, maybe. Consider the "banality of evil". We like to think of it as something sensational, perpetrated by outlier individuals or small groups of extremists. In fact, it's everyday acts that cause greater harm in the long run. Buying a product that destroys the environment. Or yourself. Tolerating a system that burdens individuals and even entire countries with unrepayable debt. And so on. All quite banal.

seanmcdirmid said 5 months ago:

> - built a palace of ice in the desert near the capital, so people could learn to skate;

This doesn’t seem weird, they aren’t actually that far south, and are very inland, so winters should still be pretty cool even if arid. (And doesn’t anyone remember watching spies like us in the 80s?)

MikusR said 5 months ago:

- banned lip syncing at concerts;

- after quitting smoking himself, banned smoking and chewing tobacco for the entire country;

How are these two things bad?

lidHanteyk said 5 months ago:

I did not expect to come away with a newfound suspicion of Guinness World Records.

Scoundreller said 5 months ago:

Here's 23 minutes more suspicion from Planet Money if you like:


With a bit about Georgia (the country, not peaches).

davidkuhta said 5 months ago:

One word for those interested: Horses

Thrymr said 5 months ago:

It looks a bit like the CNN article was written after watching John Oliver's show (which aired August 11, the date on this piece).

grecy said 5 months ago:

> A <removed> nation ruled by an egomaniac. Is <it> on the brink of collapse?

I feel like we could use that same headline on a lot of countries right now, including the so called best ones.

AnimalMuppet said 5 months ago:

Yes and no. Yes, it seems like a lot of countries are ruled by egomaniacs. Maybe this was always true, and we're just more aware of it now due to better media.

But no, that does not mean the countries are equivalently on the brink of collapse. While you could reasonably ask if the US or UK are on the brink of collapse, they aren't on the brink in anything like the way that Turkmenistan is.

adventured said 5 months ago:

> While you could reasonably ask if the US or UK are on the brink of collapse

No, in fact you can't reasonably ask that. It's a very unreasonable premise in both cases. It's hyperbolic.

There is zero risk of collapse right now in either the US or UK. Financially, politically, socially, militarily: zero risk of collapse in either case. Nations having problems doesn't constitute a risk of collapse.

To seriously discuss collapse in eg the US, a person has to take a problem that isn't remotely collapse-threatening (eg student debt or partisan anger), and amplify it artificially 10x-100x to mean the end of the world. The sort of headlines & stories that a site like ZeroHedge specializes in 24/7 in the financial sphere (the world is ending every day of the week there, the next great recession has been about to start for a decade now). In general it requires a very high level of avoiding using reason and logic to assess risk, and falling back to emotional-based statements derived from what are actually modest, controllable problems. The same is true in the context of the UK, brexit or no brexit.

sb057 said 5 months ago:

In the words of BJ Campbell[1] the US is currently undergoing increasing partisanship[2], civil disorder[3], coup rhetoric[4], a widening wealth gap[5], a further-entrenching oligarchy[6], dysfunctional governance[7], the rise of Nazism[8] and Communism[9], violent street protests[10], people marching and dressing like Blackshirts[11], attempts at large-scale political assassination[12], and I'll add to that a widespread (~35% among both lay people and experts) expectation of a looming civil war[13][14]. And it's true people have been saying the sky that is the economy has been falling for a decade now, but pretty much everyone is in agreement the status quo is completely unsustainable.

[1] http://freakoutery.com/2018/07/the-surprisingly-solid-mathem...

[2] http://www.people-press.org/2017/10/05/the-partisan-divide-o...

[3] https://www.usnews.com/opinion/civil-wars/articles/2017-02-1...

[4] https://www.thenation.com/article/are-we-witnessing-a-coup-o...

[5] http://money.cnn.com/2017/11/03/news/economy/wealth-gap-amer...

[6] http://www.businessinsider.com/major-study-finds-that-the-us...

[7] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/03/business/economy/trump-el...

[8] http://www.dw.com/en/us-neo-nazi-groups-on-the-rise-under-pr...

[9] https://www.peoplesworld.org/article/communist-party-members...

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unite_the_Right_rally

[11] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/29/style/black-bloc-fashion....

[12] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHM73eJCa7k

[13] http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/gene...

[14] https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/03/07/will-we-have-a-2nd-civi...

checktheorder said 5 months ago:

Ah, but most other countries don't share a border with Iran. Wouldn't it be a funny old coincidence if Turkmenistan's economy just happened to completely collapse, and the US saved the day with some generous aid packages coughandsomemilitarybasescough? A funny old coincidence.

ptidhomme said 5 months ago:

Despite the downvotes, I think this is a likely scenario.

threesmegiste said 5 months ago:

West want a new country to destroy in the mask of freedom

turk73 said 5 months ago:

If true, very interesting. There have been investigations done that expose how Turkmenistan has a city or cities built for much larger populations than actually exist in them. There is speculation that the area was supposed to become the global capitol. It is probably bullshit, but the architecture there is pretty diabolical. Very occult-heavy stuff.

GregoryPerry said 5 months ago:

Who cares, who cares, who cares. Why in the fuck do I care about Turkmenistan. Why is this an article. Why is this a thing. Why should I in any way, shape, or form be interested in the plight of Turkmenistan. In the top 5 articles for news.ycombinator.com. Really?

heroHACK17 said 5 months ago:

Wow, I guess John Oliver's world record-breaking marble cake really did end up having an affect on things over there!

spookyuser said 5 months ago:

After the episode I was hoping there would be a Wikipedia list of large cakes or something that would rightfully acknowledge their record, but it doesn't seem there is :(

phantom_oracle said 5 months ago:

I always reference [1] when I see sensationalist headlines that end in questions.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betteridge%27s_law_of_headline...

droithomme said 5 months ago:

Turkmenistan since independence has been a reclusive benevolent welfare state. They have universal basic income there, one of a small number of countries and states.

They are compared to North Korea but it's not a fair comparison since they threaten no one and their people are not oppressed. They are restricted, and strongly encouraged to pursue traditional tribal activities and eschew the western world. But not oppressed, despite outside claims.

The capital city's architecture is among the most bizarre and fantastic in the world and worth a visit if you can get in, which is very hard. You have to be invited to visit. Some tourism agencies can arrange this but it's not for the average traveler.

a2tech said 5 months ago:

Its far from a pleasant place. My wife and I had an exchange student from there and while she was a firm believer in the system (you don't get to leave the country without some serious trust from the authorities) but even she could tell you that buying things from the government shops was fraught with fraud, poor quality goods, and lines. Everyone shops at the non-government bazaars and you can buy smuggled goods there for inflated prices--but the goods are of a much higher quality than what you find in the government stores. You can also buy US dollars in the bazaar, which is what everyone does because the local currency (the manat) is essentially worthless and the value fluctuates wildly.

A 'fun' story about our exchange student and goods--she would save her pocket money (allowance, some small money she would make by doing errands for people) all month so she could buy a kg of Turkish salt. See the Turkmen salt you could buy in the store is made from the Caspian sea (distilling salt from the water) and their filtration is crap. So the salt you buy is brownish in the bag, and is filled with small rocks and other clumps of junk. So when you buy a bag of Turkmen salt, you have to carefully clean it before use. Otherwise you bite into your rice pilaf and break a tooth on a stone--which is what happened to her mom. Thats what finally pushed her to take the small amount of money she had and spend it on buying salt for her little family.

gingabriska said 5 months ago:

All the things you mentioned, any exchange student from India will also tell you same and India is a democracy.

You can't hold USD in your account, government ration shops have corruption issue. Quality is also questionable.

It just tells you one thing that the US seems far better from their perspective.

mkl said 5 months ago:

Do you have a source on basic income? The only result claiming such on Google's first page for ["turkmenistan" "basic income"] is your comment, and DDG has nothing. The following comprehensive-seeming Wikipedia article also has no mention: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_income_around_the_world

> their people are not oppressed. They are restricted, and strongly encouraged to pursue traditional tribal activities

Sounds like oppression to me.

I don't think you need to be invited to visit - I know someone who went there last year. Unless "invitation" is code for tourist visa or something? Wikipedia only talks about visas, and doesn't mention invitations.

tmtempaccount said 5 months ago:

Government removed all "free amenities" such as electricity, gas, etc. It is paid.

Fuel was cheap before, you could buy 40 liters for 1 dollars, but know only 3 liters. For a common turkmen folks, it is very expensive.

There is no universal basic income in Turkmenistan.

You are right on oppression. Not threatened but indirectly (KGB) oppressed. In a level that people always "censor themselves" before speak.