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Turkmenistan: Warming Trend or Hot Air?

The president of the former Soviet state says his closed country is opening for business, but foreign investors such as Lukoil, remain cautious

The president of Turkmenistan would surely disagree, but declaring "an era of great revival," planning construction of a few hotels on the Caspian Sea, and legalizing the circus do not an open economy make.

Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has done all these things since taking office in a dubious election in February 2007 to signal that, after years of earning a reputation as one of the world's most oppressive, closed countries, Turkmenistan is opening politically, socially, and economically. They're part of a campaign by Berdymukhammedov to convince the world's economic superpowers that he's gradually breaking with the dark history of Saparmurat Niyazov, the despot and megalomaniac who ruled Turkmenistan from 1985 until his death in December 2006.