Turkmenistan’s Census Marches On

Turkmenistan’s State Statistics Committee (SSC) has completed the information gathering stage of its first census since 1995 managing to perform all necessary data collection in just the twelve days between December 15 and 26, 2012.  While this figure may seem astonishing, the SSC website’s claim that 25,000 were trained in preparation for the census and the fact that all Turkmen students were required to write essays on “The Role and Value of the Census” could explain the remarkable efficiency.  Or not.

The survey aims to characterize people by urban and rural areas, marital and family status, ethnic composition, degree of language proficiency, the number and size of households, sources of livelihood and housing conditions.  As CES discussed in August, the hope is that this data will allow the Turkmen government, NGOs and IGOs to baseline development data and somewhat accurately measure demographic changes over time.  Currently the government is “working blind” according to the Strategic Planning and Economic Development of Turkmenistan. The nifty census logo is included below:

turkmen census

According to Central Asia Online, a UN resolution calls for a census every 10 years. Turkmenistan should have conducted one for the 1995-2004 time frame, but the country’s former president, Saparmurat Niyazov, more commonly known as Turkmenbashi, deemed it unnecessary and did not comply with the UN resolution.

This survey will be the first computer-based census conducted in Turkmenistan thanks to help from UNFPA, UNICEF, UNDP, and UNHCR.  It will also feature GIS mapped results using GIS Panorama 2011.

The SSC is currently conducting a selective survey of 5 percent of households to verify the completeness and correctness of counting of the population in the census. This portion of the work will be carried out from 27 December 2012 to 5 January 2013.

The census data was collected verbally without any required verification, as is the traditional Soviet process, leaving it totally unverifiable.  Experts also question the quality of the data because of peoples’ fear of communicating truthful data over the phone due to possible reprisals by the government.  A full outline of the census methodology can be found here.

The Turkmen government also sprung for new 50 and 20 manat commemorative numismatic novelties created by the Royal Mint in the United Kingdom to memorialize the census:


According to Turkmenistan.gov, the 200 gold coins and 200 silver coins were made from 916.7-karat gold and 925-karat silver with the 50-manat coins weighing 39.94 grams and 20-manat coins weighing 28.28 grams.

Of Central Asian nations, Uzbekistan now claims the title of worst census performer with the last full survey conducted in 1989.  Instead, it simply selects what it believes to be 10% of the population and extrapolates conclusions from this sampling.

Preliminary results from Turkmenistan’s census are due to be announced in July 2013 and the final data should come out in early 2014.


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