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Facts about Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan profile

The Republic of Turkmenistan is located in southwest Central Asia. The nation shares an eastern border with Afghanistan, a northern border with Uzbekistan, a northwestern border with Kazakhstan, a southern border with Iran, and a western border with the Caspian Sea. Turkmenistan was annexed by Russia in the last part of the nineteenth century. On 27 October 1924, the Turkmenistan Soviet Socialist Republic was established.

It became an autonomous republic of the Soviet Union in May 1925. Turkmenistan became an independent state on 27 October 1991, following  the collapse of the Soviet Union.


Ninety percent of Turkmenistan’s area of 488,100 square kilometers is consumed by the Kara-Kum and Kyzyl-Kum deserts, and is largely uninhabited. The Kara-Kum Canal carries water from the Amu Dar’ya westward across the desert to Mary and ultimately to Ashgabat, a distance of about 800 kilometers. The canal water permits irrigated agriculture and industry along the southern margin of the Kara-Kum desert.

Temperatures tend toward extremes, with very cold winters and extremely hot, dry summers. Precipitation is low.


Turkmenistan had a 2001 estimated population of 4.6 million people. More than one-third of the population is under the age of fifteen.  Ethnically, about 73 percent of the population is Turkmen, 9.8 percent is Russian, 9 percent are Uzbek, and 2 percent are Tatar. The population growth rate is high, about 2.1 percent in 2000. Life expectancy is about 61 years.

Literacy rates are high, around 98 percent. About 89 percent of Turkmenistan’s population practices Islam. Turkmen are traditionally Sunni Muslims. Another 9 percent of the population professes Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Sufi mysticism and shamanism are also visible.

In 1990 Turkmen was declared the official language. The Soviets replaced the traditional Arabic script with a Latin script in 1929, and later  Cyrillic in 1940. Independent Turkmenistan has returned to a Latin script.