Ethnic relations

Discrimination against Russians has increased ethnic tensions. Most parts of the country, though, have no significant ethnic minorities.

Population pressures on land and water may give rise to tension between Turkmen and Uzbeks in Lebap Province. Lebap Province borders Uzbekistan and has a large Uzbek minority and a high rate of unemployment. In recent years, international organizations focusing on issues concerning illegal labor migration and trafficking in persons have seen an increase in victims coming from this province.

Dual citizenship

The government initially made a few conciliatory gestures toward Russian-speakers, whose skills it did not want to lose too quickly. Turkmenistan was the only central Asian country that for some years offered its Russians the option of dual citizenship. Nevertheless, by 2002 two-thirds of Russian-speakers living in Turkmenistan had left.

In 2003, the right to dual citizenship was revoked. Russians in Turkmenistan had to decide which citizenship to opt for. While it has been unclear how strictly the new rule is being enforced, the departure of the remaining Russians is likely to accelerate.

Tribal tension

Much more dangerous are tensions between different tribal groups of Turkmen. There have been reports of Teke officers in the army providing food only to soldiers who are fellow Teke. A struggle for power between the main tribal groups may destabilize the country in the future.

Possible Islamic extremism

Turkmenistan security forces suffered casualties in a gun battle with alleged armed drug traffickers in Ashgabat in 2008, according to official sources. Other sources, however, question the official version and suggest that the armed group may have been Islamic or other opponents of the regime. There are also claims that the clash involved infighting between different clans within the security forces.