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Country Profile
The Turkmens are a Turkic people divided along tribal lines, the main tribes being the Tekkes, the Yomuds, the Ersaris and the Goklans. Present-day Turkmenistan was divided three ways between Tsarist Russia and the Khanates of Bukhara and Khiva until 1881 when Russian troops captured Ashgabat. The fierce Turkmen tribes south of the Amu Darya River were subdued in 1885. 1917 Central Asian peoples given right of self-determination by Lenin after the October revolution. 1920s Soviet nationalities policy, under the direction of Stalin, saw Soviet rule enforced from Moscow by Red Army troops who put down Muslim revolts throughout Central Asia after the Russian civil war.

1924 Turkmenistan given Union Republic status.
1990 The republic"s Communist Party chief, Saparmurad Niyazov, was elected president (uncontested).
1991 Turkmenistan"s independence was declared in October.
1992 President Niyazov re-elected.
1994 In parliamentary elections in December, all candidates were returned unopposed; most were nominees of the ruling Democratic Party of Turkmenistan. In a referendum, 99.9 per cent of the Turkmen people voted to extend President Niyazov"s term of office to 2002 without a new election.
1999 President Niyazov was made "President for Life" on 28 December.

Turkmenistan is divided into five administrative regions: Ashgabat, Turkmenbashi (formerly Krasnovodsk), Mary, Dashauz and Chardzhou.


The population was approximately 5.00mln. The annual rate of population growth was 3.4 per cent per annum between 1980-1997, and is estimated to increase 1.4 per cent per annum in the period 1997 to 2015. Approximately half the population lives in rural areas. Population density: 10 inhabitants per sq km in 1998.

Ethnic make-up Turkmen (77%), Russian (6.7%), Uzbek (9.2%), Kazakh (2%).

Religions The majority of the popoulation are Sunni Muslim (87 per cent). The remainder are Eastern Orthodox Christians (11 per cent) and other (2 per cent). Although traditionally the majority of Turkmens are Muslims, religion is not practised actively and does not play an important role in everyday life. The state and religion are separate.

Main cities Ashgabat, capital (estimated population 500,000 in 2000), Chardzhou, Mary.

Languages spoken Turkmen is spoken by 72 per cent of the population, with the remainder speaking Russian or Uzbek. English is also spoken.


Fixed dates
1 January (New Year),
12 January (Commemoration Day),
19 February (National Flag Day),
8 March (International Women"s Day),
9 May (Victory Day),
18 May (Revival & Unity Day),
4 October (Remembrance Day),
27-28 October (Independence Day).
Variable dates Novruz Bairam, Kurban Bairam (three days determined annually by the cabinet).

Working hours

Mon-Fri: 0900-1800
Mon-Fri: 0900-1800
Mon-Fri: 0900-1800

Telecommunications. Telecommunications improved with the completion of the Turkmen section of the Trans-Asia-Europe fibre-optic communications line.

Telephone/fax There are approximately 80 telephone mainlines per 1,000 people. The number of telephone lines is far higher in the capital.

Postal services Airmail and telegram services are available from the central post office. Surface mail is slow and can take between two weeks and two months to Western Europe and the USA. Envelopes should be addressed as follows: country, postcode, city, street, house number and finally the person"s name.

Courier services Express services are available in Turkmenistan. DHL, UPS and ASD-Express International are among the companies with a presence in the country.

Mobile phones The usage of mobile phones is extremly limited.

Internet/e-mail There are around 65 Internet hosts per 100,000 people. In a regional context this is relatively high.

Electricity supply 220V AC 50Hz. Round two-pin continental plugs are standard.


Air National airline: Turkmenistan Airlines; Khova Yollary Airways.

Surface Border crossings with Iran, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. A rail link with Iran was opened in 1996.
Road: Primary roads are few; secondary roads, particularly in desert areas, are of poor quality. There is a road linking Chardhzhou and Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan.

Rail: A railway service operates between Iran and Turkmenistan. It runs nearly 300km from the Iranian Silk Road city of Mashhad, crosses the Turkmen border at Sarakhs and joins the Soviet-era Turksib railway at Tedzhen. It gives Turkmenistan access to the Iranian Gulf port of Bandar Abbas.

Water: Turkmenbashi (formerly Krasnovodsk) has ferry links to Baku, Azerbaijan.

Telephones area codes

The international direct dialling (IDD) code for Turkmenistan is +993 then area code:Ashgabat: 12

Useful telephone numbers

Police: 02
Fire: 01
Ambulance: 03