Turkmenistan, formerly known as Turkmenia,[1] is a country in Central Asia. It has been at the crossroads of civilizations for centuries. In medieval times, Merv was one of the great cities of the Islamic world and an important stop on the Silk Road, a caravan route used for trade with China until the mid-15th century. Annexed by the Russian Empire in 1881, Turkmenistan later figured prominently in the anti-Bolshevik movement in Central Asia. In 1925, Turkmenistan became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (Turkmen SSR); it became independent upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.[2] Turkmenistan possesses the world's sixth largest reserves of natural gas resources.[3] Most of the country is covered by the Karakum (Black Sand) Desert. Since 1993, citizens have been receiving government-provided electricity, water and natural gas free of charge.[4]

Ancient TurkmenistanEdit

Turkmenistan was inhabited as early as 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 as 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, Scythians/Sakas, and early Soghdians (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.

Classic to Medieval TurkmenistanEdit

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 satrapys of Margiana, Chorasmia and Parthia. Later conquerors included Alexander the Great, the Parni, Ephthalites, Huns, Göktürks, Sarmatians, and Sassanid Iranians. During this early phase of history, the majority of Turkmenistan's inhabitants were either adherents of Zoroastrianism or Buddhism and the region was largely dominated by Iranian peoples. However, these incursions and epochs, though pivotal, did not shape the region's history as the invasions of two later invading groups: Muslim 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 as Islamic traditions brought by the Arabs merged with local Iranian cultures and then were 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 later Timur Leng and Uzbeks contested the land.

Modern TurkmenistanEdit

Modern Turkmenistan was radically transformed by the invasion of the Russian Empire, which conquered the region in the late 19th century. Later, the Russian Revolution of 1917 would ultimately transform Turkmenistan from an Islamic tribal society to a totalitarian Leninist one during the Soviet era. Independence came in 1991, as Saparmurat Niyazov, a former local communist party boss, declared himself absolute ruler for life as Turkmenbashi or Leader of the Turkmen and transitioned the newly independent Turkmenistan into an authoritarian state under his absolute control and has thus far resisted the democratization that has influenced many of the other former Soviet Republics. Niyazov ruled until his death on December 21, 2006.


  1. Independence of Turkmenia Declared After a Referendum; New York Times – Oct. 28, 1991. Retrieved on Nov. 16, 2016.
  2. CIA World Factbook, Turkmenistan
  3. "A New Customer for Turkmen Natural Gas". Retrieved on 22 November 2017. 
  4. "Turkmenistan's Leader Promises Citizens Free Gas, Electricity and Water Through 2030". Fox News. 25 October 2006. 
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