Is there a threat to the Russian language in Turkmenistan?

According to the article Не всем понятно: существует ли угроза для русского языка в Центральной Азии, the use of the Russian language is slowly dying out in Turkmenistan, although there is still a substantial Russian-speaking presence in the country. 

Domestic Climate

The Russian language is still widespread across Central Asia, although more in countries such as Kazakhstan, where 90% of the population speaks Russian. In Turkmenistan, 40% of the population uses or understands Russian. However, only 12% of the population considers it their native language. 

According to Россотрудничество (Rossotrudnichestvo, The Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation), there are around 300,000 Russians living in Turkmenistan, compared to 5 million in Kazakhstan, 1 million in Uzbekistan, 373,000 in Kyrgyzstan, and 88,000 in Tajikistan. When it comes to education, there are only 71 Russian-language schools in Turkmenistan.

However, due to Turkmenistan’s information secrecy, there is no open access to accurate information about the state of affairs in the country. Despite this, oppositional Turkmen media outlets operating from abroad write that Russian-language schools are being cut in the country. Still, President Serdar Berdymukhammedov earlier proposed the creation of a joint Russian-Turkmenistan university, but Turkmenistan rarely discusses or clarifies its language policies. 

Russian Relations

According to Konstantin Zatulin, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs and Relations with Compatriots, the leaders of Central Asian states emphasize the importance of the Russian language for maintaining bilateral relations with Moscow, but in their homeland they are pursuing a policy of indigenization. He stated that this leads to the disappearance of Russian names and references in these countries, and that the Russian language is under pressure from local elites, with the exception of Uzbekistan which has seen a resurgence of interest in the Russian language. 

Zatulin says that this process is difficult due to the cost of transitioning from the Cyrillic alphabet to the Latin alphabet, as well as changing education programs into the national language. Furthermore, this process is also hindered by economic ties with Russia, which are important for Central Asia to maintain. Zatulin says that because transport corridors continue to go through Russia, this relationship is critical to maintain. In the future, Russia expects a growth of interest towards learning the Russian language in Central Asia.

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