02/11/2015, 00.00
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First (actual) demographic data for Turkmenistan released

Turkmenistani authorities have traditionally withheld ethno-demographic data for political and economic reasons. Downplaying or exaggerating the size of ethnic minorities has been used to get investment from neighbours. A Turkmenistani Internet portal published unreleased data.

Ashgabat (AsiaNews) - The population of Turkmenistan is around 4.8 million and not 5.5 million as stated by the government. Ethnic Turkmen represent 85.6 per cent are; 5.8 per cent are ethnic Uzbek and 5.1 per cent are ethnic Russian.

Overall, 4 per cent of the population owns 45 per cent of the country's wealth, and 60 per cent of families do not own their own homes.

The figures come Turkemistan's 2012 census, previously unreleased by the government, that was recently published in part on a Turkmenistani Internet portal.

Turkmenistan is perhaps the most opaque country in Asia, if not the world. However, some officials of the Turkmenistan State Committee on Statistics, speaking on condition of anonymity, provided Chrono-tm.org with selected census data from the December 2012 enumeration.

Demographic data are a "sensitive" issue for Turkmenistani authorities. For the past 25 years, the government has not released actual census data; instead, "official" statistics have been used in foreign policy to get aid.

On some occasions, the government data showed higher figures for the indigenous population. On others, the authorities indicated higher numbers for non-native groups to encourage more investment, especially from Russia.

The 2012 census claims that 100 per cent of men and 90 per cent of women of working age are working, figures that Chrono-tm.org says are almost certainly false given the high level of unemployment that anyone can see "with an unaided eye."

Last month, Turkmenistani diplomats at a United Nations conference in Geneva said that ethnic Uzbeks formed somewhat fewer than 9 per cent, ethnic Russians made up 2.2 percent, and ethnic Kazakhs are 0.4 per cent. The goal was to use the false data to get Uzbekistan to invest in its mining sector.

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