The most closed of the Central Asian republics, Turkmenistan is comparable to North Korea in terms of its attitude to foreigners and a free press. Its capital has the highest concentration of white marble buildings in the world — many of them monuments to its former leader, Saparmurat Niyazov, and its current one, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow. The country has the world's sixth-highest natural gas reserves.
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A crisis with China last winter is prompting Turkmenistan, one of the world’s most closed regimes, to improve frayed ties and build new ones.
Despite its big-spending government, Turkmenistan hasn’t had much luck at reaching the podium.
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