Ashgabat is the capital and largest city of Turkmenistan, a country in Central Asia. It has a population of 695,300 (2001 census estimate), 2009 estimates around 1 million people in Ashgabat, and is situated between the Kara Kum desert and the Kopet Dag mountain range. Ashgabat has a primarily Turkmen population, with ethnic minorities of Russians, Armenians, and Azeris. It is 250 km from the second largest city in Iran, Mashhad.
Ashgabat is a relatively young city, growing out of a village of the same name established by Russian officers in 1881 after the Battle of Geok Tepe. It is not far from the site of Nisa, the ancient capital of the Parthian Empire, and it grew on the ruins of the Silk Road city of Konjikala, which was first mentioned as a wine-producing village in 2nd century BC and was leveled by an earthquake in 1st century BC (a precursor of the 1948 Ashgabat earthquake). Konjikala was rebuilt because of its advantageous location on the Silk Road and it flourished until its destruction by Mongols in the 13th century. After that it survived as a small village until Russians took over in the 19th century.