On January 18, the editors of Turkmenistan.ru received a disturbing communication from a reader who is following latest news on Turkmenistan. The questions as to how could it happen that the town of Turkmenbashi was renamed into Georgian Supsa and that the border of Uzbekistan begins at the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea worried him very much. It has turned out that the reason for these sorts of absurd questions was a map published in the Friday issue of the Russian Trud newspaper. The map has been designed to illustrate a report by the newspaper's special correspondent from Sofia on Vladimir Putin's official visit to Bulgaria. Having opened this newspaper, we became alarmed as well.
Indeed, the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea begins with the border of Uzbekistan, and the "operational" Zapadnyy pipeline runs along the seabed from Uzbekistan's seaside town of Supsa to Baku. We decided to check with Trud newspaper as to what can be the reason for such courageous geographic revision? Answering to our question, editor of the department of economics Sergey Slyusarenko had simply complained that the newspaper's photo archive lacked a good map of pipelines, and the build service had to draw its own map... The newspaper could do nothing but convey its sincere apologies to all readers who care about Turkmenistan's progress as Trud's budget doesn't provide for expenditures on school geographic atlases for pupils of 7th form.
It is hard to imagine that now that almost two weeks have passed since the end of New Year holidays, during which Trud's employees were traditionally getting out of the habit of work along with all Russian citizens, a map covering no less than one eighth column was disregarded by the newspaper publishing and chief editors. However, the publication of this strange illustration, which harbors a lot of other surprises when you take a closer look at it, on the pages of a serious newspaper with a rich background leads to a thought that employees of Russian mass media, including a number of the so called experts, regard the Central Asian region as a whole white (or maybe black?) spot.
Other incidents have recurred in our memory. For example, no sooner had the president of Tajikistan announced that he preferred a historical pronunciation of his last name, without "ov" ending, than part of Russian mass media began calling Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov as simple as Berdimuhamed at the suggestion of eminent journalist Andrey Kolesnikov. And last autumn, one of the biggest newspapers described the Turkmen president's official visit to Dushanbe as the Tajik head of state's visit to Ashgabat. Or vice versa? At the same time, the newspaper correctly reported on the agreements reached on that day.
Against this background, we received news yesterday about brutal beating of the Turkmen national by skinheads in Podmoskoviye who by beating pretended to be "saviors of Russia". We are not sure that these people read Trud newspaper. However, it is clear that they also don't care about the location of this or that country, or who live there and what relations this country maintains with their homeland that they so ardently defend...
And finally, we were in no mood at all to sneer at a letter e-mailed to Turkmenistan.ru by a man who introduced himself as a serious expert who has long and with interest followed news "via satellite TV on the great pace of development and prosperity of Turkmenistan today", who "listened to the Turkmen president's speeches in relation to the sea coast development"... and who has drawn up a big investment project without which "it is impossible to develop the seaside region of Tajikistan" "taking into account the world's history of development of states with access to sea".