Memos from Asia

5+ Weirdest Laws And Bans of Turkmenistan

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Monumen Arch of Independence in the sunset. Ashkhabad. Turkmenistan.

Turkmenistan (also known as Turkmenia) is the post-soviet country, located in Central Asia.

Turkmenistan is the 2nd biggest country in the region after Kazakhstan but it is the least populated country in Central Asia with about 6 million people. (Worldometer, 2020).

About 70% of the country is occupied by deserts like the Karakum desert.

It is commonly known for the autocratic regime and large gas reserves. However, unusual laws of the country can surprise anyone, who is not from Turkmenistan.

President palace view in Ashgabat city

Opera and ballet

Galleries and ceiling beautiful old theater

Can you imagine that your country closes all opera and ballet shows permanently?

Saparmyrat Niyazov, the first president of Turkmenistan banned opera and ballet in 2001 for permanent time.

The authority claimed that the ban was introduced to protect the culture of the nation because opera and ballet are incompatible with Turkmen mentality.

Finally, the law was repealed by the 2nd president Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedow.

After a 19-year ban, opera by the Italian composer Ruggero Leoncavallo was staged in the capital city Ashgabat in 2019.

New names of months

The population of Turkmenistan used to call the names of months and weekdays similar to Russian. For instance, April was “Aprel”, May was “May” and August was called “Avgust” in Turkmenistan.

However, in 2008, the cabinet of Ministers of the country decided to rename them after the symbols of the country and family members of President.

Here are a few examples from new names with their meaning:

  • Turkmenbashy (January) – The adopted name of the President
  • Baydak (February) – the flag of Turkmenistan
  • Gurban Soltan (April) – It is the name of first president’s mother
  • Ruhnama (September) – The name of first president’s book.

Black cars, sports cars and coupes

If you are a great fan of white cars or you do not like black cars, Turkmenistan can make your wish come true.

Importing or driving black cars in Turkmenistan is officially prohibited by the authority. In Ashgabat city, driving all kinds of non-white cars are also not illegal.

Second and current President of the country, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow established this ban because he feels that black can be the sign of bad luck.

In addition, importing sports cars and coupes in any colour is not allowed too.

Strict laws on casinos and alcohol sales

In Turkmenistan, there is a law against opening casinos and alcohol sales. Actually, there is only 1 active casino in the capital city of Ashgabat.

Regarding alcohol, the authority has enacted a new law in 2019, which may cause a significant drop in alcohol sales

As stated in the legislation, the sale of alcohol is prohibited on national holidays, on trains, on aeroplanes and at sports facilities.

From 2021, alcohol sales will be banned in all places on weekends except bars and restaurants. (RadioLiberty, 2019)

Smartphone apps and websites

Currently, social media has become so popular that many people cannot imagine their lives without it. Can you imagine living for a month without popular social networks like Youtube or Instagram?

Citizens of Turkmenistan are prohibited to use the majority of foreign websites and smartphone applications.

However, it is not highly perceptible in the lifestyle of people because most of the Turkmen population does not have access to the internet.

According to the latest data, around 21.25% of the population are internet users, which is 33.36% lower than the world average. (The Global Economics, 2017).

However, many people visited the country usually complain about the expensive but slow internet connection.

Here are the examples from the world’s most popular social media networks, which is not blocked in Turkmenistan:

  • Twitter
  • Youtube
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Telegram
  • Vkontakte
  • Vimeo

Other bans

Numerous other prohibited things and behaviour patterns exist which we have not listed above.

Both the first president Saparmurat Niyazov and current president Gurbanguli Berdimuhammedov have established strict rules.

They banned many items, which are common in other neighbouring countries such as in Uzbekistan and in Kazakhstan

For instance, circus, gold teeth, long hair (for men), nail polish and beards are also in the list of forbidden things. (Taylor, 2019)

Reference list:

Worldometer (2020). Countries in the world by population. Available from https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/population-by-country/ [Accessed 11 August 2020].

The Global Economy (2017). Turkmenistan: Internet users. [Accessed 12 August 2020].

Radio Liberty (2019). Turkmenistan Enacts strict law on Alcohol sales. Available from https://www.rferl.org/a/29687544.html [Accessed 12 August 2020].

Taylor, Ch. (2019). Turkmenistan: a road trip through the eccentricities of the Central Asian State. Post Magazine. Available from https://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/travel/article/3040379/turkmenistan-road-trip-through-eccentric-and [Accessed 12 August 2020].

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