When the Soviet Union began to collapse, Turkmenistan and the rest of the Central Asian states heavily favored maintaining a reformed version of the state, mainly because they needed the economic power and common markets of the Soviet Union to prosper. Turkmenistan declared independence on October 27, 1991, one of the last republics to secede.
In 1991, Turkmenistan withdrew from the Commonwealth of Independent States, an international organization of former Soviet republics. It is the only former Soviet state (aside from the Baltic states now within the European Union) without full membership, although it has been an associate member since 2005.
The former Soviet leader, Saparmurat Niyazov, remained in power as Turkmenistan’s leader after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Under his post-Soviet rule, Russian-Turkmeni relations greatly suffered. He styled himself as a promoter of traditional Muslim and Turkmen culture (calling himself “Turkmenbashi”, or “leader of the Turkmen people”), but he quickly became notorious in the West for his dictatorial rule and extravagant cult of personality. The extent of his power was greatly increased during the early 1990s, and in 1999, he became President for Life.Niyazov died unexpectedly on December 21, 2006, leaving no heir-apparent and an unclear line of succession.