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Turkmenistan (/tɜːrkˈmɛnɪstæn/ (listen) or /ˌtɜːrkmɛnɪˈstɑːn/ (listen); Turkmen: Türkmenistan, pronounced [tʏɾkmønʏˈθːɑːn]) is a country located in Central Asia, bordered by Kazakhstan to the northwest, Uzbekistan to the north, east and northeast, Afghanistan to the southeast, Iran to the south and southwest and the Caspian Sea to the west. Ashgabat is the capital and largest city. It's one of the 7 independent Turkic states. The population is about 6 million, the lowest of the Central Asian republics, and Turkmenistan is one of the most sparsely populated nations in Asia.

Turkmenistan has long served as a thoroughfare for several empires and cultures. Merv is one of the oldest oasis-cities in Central Asia, and was once among the biggest cities in the world. It was also one of the great cities of the Islamic world and an important stop on the Silk Road. Annexed by the Russian Empire in 1881, Turkmenistan figured prominently in the anti-Bolshevik movement in Central Asia. In 1925, Turkmenistan became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (Turkmen SSR); it became independent after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The country is widely criticized for its poor human rights, its treatment of minorities, and its lack of press and religious freedoms. Since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Turkmenistan has been ruled by repressive totalitarian regimes: that of President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov (also known as Türkmenbaşy or "Head of the Turkmens") until his death in 2006; Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, who became president in 2007 after winning a non-democratic election (he had been vice-president and then acting president previously); and his son Serdar, who won a subsequent 2022 presidential election described by international observers as neither free nor fair, and now shares power with his father.

Turkmenistan possesses the world's fifth largest reserves of natural gas. Most of the country is covered by the Karakum Desert. From 1993 to 2017, citizens received government-provided electricity, water and natural gas free of charge. Turkmenistan is an observer state in the Organisation of Turkic States, the Türksoy community and a member of the United Nations. It is also the only permanent neutral country recognized by the UN General Assembly in Asia. (Full article...)

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The history of Turkmenistan traditionally began with the arrival of Indo-European Iranian tribes around 2000 BC. Early tribes were nomadic or semi-nomadic due to the arid conditions of the region, preventing widespread adoption of agriculture. The steppe culture in Central Asia was an extension of a larger Eurasian series of horse cultures which spanned the entire spectrum of language families, including the Indo-Europeans and Turko-Mongol groups. Some of the known early Iranian tribes included the Massagatae, the Scythians/Sakas, and early Soghdians, who were most likely precursors of the Khwarezmians. Turkmenistan was a passing point for numerous migrations and invasions by tribes, which gravitated towards the settled regions of the south, including ancient Mesopotamia, Elam, and the Indus Valley civilization.

The region's written history begins with the region's conquest by the Achaemenid Empire of Ancient Iran, as the region was divided between the satraps of Margiana, Chorasmia and Parthia. Later conquerors included Alexander the Great, the Parni, Ephthalites, Iranian Huns, Göktürks, Sarmatians, and Sassanid Iranians. During this early phase of history, the majority of Turkmenistan's inhabitants were adherents of Zoroastrianism and Buddhism, and the region was largely dominated by Iranian peoples. These incursions and epochs, though pivotal, did not shape the region's history as the invasions of two later invading groups: Arabs and the Oghuz Turks. The vast majority of inhabitants were converted to Hanifism, while the Oghuz brought the beginnings of the Turkic Turkmen language that came to dominate the area. The Turkic period was a time of cultural fusion and growth, as Islamic traditions brought by the Arabs merged with local Iranian cultures, and the city of Merv became a centre of commerce, science, and innovation, being an influential capital of several Islamic caliphates. The cultural landscape of Turkmenistan was further altered by Turkic invaders and rulers such as the Seljuks. Genghis Khan and Mongol invasions devastated the region during the late Middle Ages, but their hold upon the area was transitional as Timur Leng and Uzbeks later contested the land. (Full article...)


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