Edep-terbiýe: Youth and Character Building in Turkmenistan
(Marine Corps University)
In the transition from communism to independence over the past 25 years, one matter that has occupied Turkmen has been the education and upbringing (edep-terbiýe/vospitanie) of their children. With a sense that schools no longer address the fundamentals of character building families have taken sole responsibility for imparting values to youth. With so many studies of Turkmenistan focusing on high politics and the personality of the leadership, the opinions of average Turkmen are often overlooked. This study aims to correct that tendency by offering insight into Turkmen values. Central Asian traditions of etiquette, values, and morality represent a long history of intermingling of Islamic schooling together with Soviet pedagogy as well as Turco-Mongol nomadic traditions. These historical experiences and traditions inform what it means to be Turkmen today. This article explores the post-Soviet discursive practices about child-rearing and character building—edep-terbiýe—in Turkmenistan in the context of these traditions. It underscores the normative concepts of character building and upbringing to illustrate the historical context of today's parental discourse. Taking into consideration wide-spread concern among parents, the research focuses on continuity in conceptualization of these classical Islamic terms, examines the state's guidance regarding values, and challenges the notion of a looming moral vacuum. We argue that the feared moral vacuum will not emerge because most Turkmen families take responsibility and teach edep-terbiýe at home. They would prefer if schools would also work impart these ideals, but families do not wait for educational institutes to do so. Today's Turkmen parents are concerned about the perceived breakdown in moral values and more generally about whether today's youth will develop into fully moral adults who can fulfill their social obligations. Building on Alan DeYoung's work on vospitanie, this study illustrates ways that the teaching of edep-terbiýe to children have shifted: once a key component of formal education it is now primarily left to families. This research is based on observation of classrooms and educational materials over time, as well as discussions with families over the past twenty years.
Schooling and Social Issues