Turkmenistan, previously known as Turkmenia, is a Central Asian nation bordered to the northwest by Kazakhstan, to the north and east by Uzbekistan, to the southeast by Afghanistan, to the south and southwest by Iran, and to the west by the Caspian Sea.
Turkmenistan has always been a crossroads of cultures. Merv was one of the major towns of the Islamic world in medieval times, as well as an important station on the Silk Road, a caravan route utilized for commerce with China until the mid-15th century. Turkmenistan was annexed by the Russian Empire in 1881 and subsequently played a major role in Central Asia’s anti-Bolshevik struggle. Turkmenistan became a component republic of the Soviet Union in 1924, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (Turkmen SSR), and gained independence when the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991.
Turkmenistan has the world’s fourth biggest reserves of natural gas. The Karakum (Black Sand) Desert covers the majority of the nation. Citizens have been receiving free power, water, and natural gas from the government since 1993.
Until his death in 2006, Turkmenistan was governed by President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov. In 2007, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow was elected President. Human Rights Watch claims that “Turkmenistan continues to be one of the world’s most oppressive nations. The nation is practically closed to independent inspection, media and religious freedoms are severely restricted, and human rights advocates and other campaigners suffer continuous retaliation from the government.” President Berdimuhamedow supports a personality cult in which he, his family, and allies have absolute authority and influence over all areas of public life.