North Korea may receive all the attention, but even Kim Il-sung’s cult personality in comparison to Turkmenistan’s bizarre totalitarian state established by Turkmenistan’s previous all-powerful President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov. He took the title Turkmenbashi (“Father of All Turkmen”), named the city of Turkmenbashi (previously Krasnovodsk) after himself, and erected a 15-meter-tall golden monument in the capital Ashgabat that turns to face the sun. The month of January was renamed Turkmenbashi after himself, while the term “bread” was renamed Gurbansoltan Eje after Niyazov’s mother. Lip synching, long hair, video games, and gilded teeth caps have all been prohibited by decrees issued by Niyazov’s palace. Throughout it all, Serdar Saparmurat Turkmenbashi the Great (his official title) appeared to be humble, saying once, “I’m personally opposed to seeing my portraits and monuments in the streets – but that’s what the people desire.” Niyazov’s administration also spent billions of dollars rebuilding the nation, closing libraries and clinics, and even writing the Ruhnama, a spiritual book aimed at improving Turkmen people’s lives.
Since Niyazov’s untimely death in December 2006, his successor Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has gradually pulled back the Turkmenbashi’s greatest excesses. The Ruhnama has fallen out of favor, and Berdimuhamedov has maintained the process of restoring pensions and old names while establishing his own somewhat more restrained cult of personality.
One thing to remember for those guests who smoke cigarettes or cigars: it is illegal to smoke ‘in a public area.’ In general, this implies ‘outside.’ Smoking is not permitted in any of the bazaars, since there were two big bazaar fires in 2006-2007. While it annoys nonsmokers, individuals who like tobacco products may do so at most restaurants, cafés, and nightclubs. A decent rule of thumb is that if no one else is smoking, you shouldn’t either. However, the government has prohibited the sale of all tobacco products in the nation.
Turkmens, sometimes spelt Turkomans, make up the majority of Turkmens in both ethnicity and language. Turkmenistan used to have sizable Russian and German communities, but they mostly fled to their home countries when the Soviet Union disintegrated. According to the 1995 census, 77% of the population is Turkmen, 9% Uzbek, and 7% Russian.
The Turkmens, according to the Ruhmana, descended from Oguz Han, and all Oguz people descended from Oguz Han’s 24 grandsons. The Ural-Altay area of Central Asia was the Oguz tribes’ ancestral homeland. The “six Oghuz tribal unity” is mentioned in the Orhun inscriptions (6th century), alluding to the merger of the six Turkic tribes. This was the earliest written mention of Oghuz, dating from the time of the Göktürk Empire. The Book of Dede Korkut, the Oghuz Turks’ historical epic, was composed in the ninth and tenth centuries. In the 10th century, they moved westward via the Aral Sea and the Syr Darya Basin. The Seljuks, an Oghuz tribe, conquered Islam and established the Great Seljuk Empire in Persia in the 11th century. The name Oghuz is derived from the word ‘ok,’ which means ‘arrow’ or ‘tribe,’ and an archer firing an arrow was shown on the Seljuk Empire’s banner. The name Oghuz was eventually replaced by Türkmen or Turcoman by the Turks themselves. This procedure was finished in the 13th century.
The Turkmen are divided into four tribes: the Tekke (near the oasis of Ahal, Tejen, and Merv), the Ersari (along the Amu Darya), the Yomud (in the Balkan Region and Khorzem Oasis), and the Goklen (in the Soudan).
In recent years, the tourist sector, particularly medical tourism, has grown significantly. This is attributed mainly to the establishment of the Avaza tourism zone on the Caspian Sea. Before entering Turkmenistan, all visitors must acquire a visa. Most residents of most nations need the assistance of a visa support local travel agency in order to acquire a tourist visa. Excursions to ancient sites Daşoguz, Konye-Urgench, Nisa, Merv, Mary, beach tours to Avaza, and medical tours and vacations in Mollakara, Yylly suw, Archman are available for visitors visiting Turkmenistan.
Turkmenistan is the world’s 52nd-largest nation, with 488,100 km2 (188,500 sq mi). It is somewhat smaller than Spain and slightly bigger than the state of California in the United States. It is located between the latitudes of 35° and 43° N, and the longitudes of 52° and 67° E. The Karakum Desert covers more than 80% of the nation. The Turan Depression and the Karakum Desert dominate the country’s center. The Kopet Dag Range, which runs along the country’s southwest border, reaches a height of 2,912 meters (9,554 feet) in Kuh-e Rizeh (Mount Rizeh).
The only other major heights are the Great Balkhan Range in the country’s west (Balkan Province) and the Kötendag Range on the country’s southern border with Uzbekistan (Lebap Province). Mount Arlan in the Great Balkhan Range rises to 1,880 meters (6,170 feet), whereas Ayrybaba in the Kugitangtau Range is the highest point in Turkmenistan at 3,137 meters (10,292 ft). The Kopet Dag mountain range comprises the majority of Turkmenistan’s border with Iran. The Amu Darya, Murghab, and Tejen rivers are among them.
The climate is mostly dry subtropical desert, with minimal precipitation. Winters are warm and dry, with the majority of rain occurring between January and May. The Kopet Dag Range receives the most precipitation in the nation.
The Turkmen coast along the Caspian Sea stretches for 1,748 kilometers (1,086 miles). The Caspian Sea is completely landlocked, with no natural connection to the ocean, but maritime access to and from the Black Sea is provided via the Volga–Don Canal.
Aşgabat, Türkmenbaşy (previously Krasnovodsk), and Daşoguz are among the main cities.
The Karakum Desert is one of the world’s driest deserts, with some areas receiving just 12 millimetres of yearly precipitation (0.47 in). The maximum recorded temperature in Ashgabat is 48.0 °C (118.4 °F), while Kerki, an extreme inland city situated on the banks of the Amu Darya river, reached 51.7 °C (125.1 °F) in July 1983, but this figure is unofficial. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Repetek Reserve is 50.1 °C (122 °F), which is also regarded as the highest temperature ever recorded in the whole former Soviet Union.
The nation has the world’s fourth-largest natural gas reserves and significant oil potential. Turkmenistan has adopted a cautious approach to economic change, aiming to maintain its economy via gas and cotton sales. The unemployment rate was projected to reach 60% in 2004.
Turkmenistan suffered from a continuing lack of suitable natural gas export routes, as well as obligations on significant short-term foreign debt, between 1998 and 2002. At the same time, the value of overall exports has increased dramatically due to rises in international oil and gas prices. Economic prospects for the foreseeable future are bleak due to widespread domestic poverty and the weight of international debt.
President Niyazov spent a large portion of the country’s income substantially rebuilding cities, particularly Ashgabat. According to a report released in April 2006 by the London-based non-governmental organization Global Witness, corruption watchdogs expressed particular concern about the management of Turkmenistan’s currency reserves, the majority of which are held in off-budget funds such as the Foreign Exchange Reserve Fund in the Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt.
Electricity, natural gas, water, and salt would be subsidized for residents until 2030, according to a Peoples’ Council order issued on August 14, 2003. In addition, before July 1, 2014, vehicle owners were entitled to 120 gallons of free gasoline each month. Bus, lorry, and tractor drivers may get 200 litres of free gasoline, while motorcyclists and scooter riders could receive 40 litres. After Turkmenistan threatened to shut off supply, Russia agreed to boost the price it pays for Turkmen natural gas from $65 to $100 per 1,000 cubic meters on September 5, 2006. The Russian state-owned Gazprom receives two-thirds of Turkmen gas.
Natural gas and export routes
The Galkynysh gas field contains the world’s second-largest amount of gas, behind the South Pars field in the Persian Gulf, as of May 2011. The Galkynysh gas field’s reserves are estimated to be about 21.2 trillion cubic metres. The Turkmenistan Natural Gas Company (Türkmengaz), which is overseen by the Ministry of Oil and Gas, is in charge of gas production throughout the nation. The national economy’s most active and promising industry is gas production. Ashgabat began a strategy of diversifying raw material export channels in 2010. As a pipeline connecting the two nations via Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan achieves full capacity, China is expected to become Turkmenistan’s biggest consumer of gas in the coming years. In addition to supplying Russia, China, and Iran, Ashgabat made tangible steps to expedite work on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline (TAPI). Turkmenistan originally estimated the project’s cost at $3.3 billion. On May 21, 2010, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow unexpectedly issued a proclamation declaring that Turkmen firms would construct an internal East-West gas pipeline enabling the transport of gas from Turkmenistan’s largest reserves (Dowlatabad and Yoloten) to the Caspian shore. The East-West pipeline is expected to be approximately 1,000 km long, with a carrying capacity of 30 billion m3 per year, and will cost between one and one and a half billion US dollars.
The Turkmen State Company (Concern) Türkmennebit extracts the majority of Turkmen oil from fields near the Caspian Sea at Koturdepe, Balkanabat, and Cheleken, which have a total estimated reserve of 700 million tons. The oil extraction business began in 1909 (by Branobel) with the exploitation of the fields in Cheleken, and in the 1930s with the exploitation of the fields in Balkanabat. The discovery of the Kumdag field in 1948 and the Koturdepe field in 1959 accelerated production. Turkmenbashy and Seidi refineries process a large portion of Turkmen oil production. In addition, ships transport oil from the Caspian Sea to Europe through canals.