27 interesting facts about Turkmenistan

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The most interesting facts about Turkmenistan, from a president nicknamed “The Turkmenator” to a 40-year old fire pit called the “Door to Hell”.

Interesting facts about Turkmenistan include the spectacular Darvaza gas crater
Interesting facts about Turkmenistan include the awesome Darvaza gas crater (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Turkmenistan
Capital city: Ashgabat
Population: 5,528,627
Area: 488,100 sq km
Major languages: Turkmen, Russian, Uzbek
Time zone: UTC+5 (Turkmenistan Time)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about Turkmenistan

1. Turkmenistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia. Landlocked countries are completely surrounded by land and do not have access to the open sea. There are currently 45 landlocked countries in the world as well as five partially recognised nations.
– Source: CIA World Fact BookThe Telegraph

2. Turkmenistan has been inhabited since at least the 5th millennium BC (5000-4001 BC).
– Source: Britannica

3. The historic Silk Road, the ancient trading route that connected China with Europe and the Middle East, runs through Turkmenistan.
– Source: UNESCO

4. The UNESCO-listed State Historical and Cultural Park “Ancient Merv” in Turkmenistan is the oldest and best-preserved of the oasis-cities along the Silk Route in Central Asia. The ancient city spans 4,000 years of human history.
– Source: UNESCO

A fortress in Ancient Merv, Turkmenistan
A fortress in Ancient Merv (Shutterstock)

6. Despite being landlocked, Turkmenistan is located on the Caspian Sea – the world’s largest inland body of water. At 386,400 sq km, it is larger than the area of Japan.
– Source: Britannica

7. During the 6th century BC, Turkmenistan formed part of the Persian Empire of Cyrus the Great.
– Source: BBC News

8. And during the 4th century BC, along with much of Central Asia, Turkmenistan was conquered by Alexander the Great of Macedonia.
– Source: BBC News

9. Turkmenistan is famous for its traditional carpets. Turkmen carpets are known for their “dense texture ornamented with characteristic coloured patterns pertaining to one of the five main Turkmen tribes”. There is even an annual celebration of Carpet Day.
– Source: UNESCO

10. The Turkmenistan flag has a green background with a white crescent which are symbols of the Islamic faith. The five stars represent the five senses and the five points on each star are for different states of matter (liquid, solid, gas, crystal and plasma). There is also a claret stripe with five carpet motifs on the flag. The motifs represent five tribes and the traditional carpets Turkmenistan is famed for.
– Source: Britannica

The flag of Turkmenistan
The flag of Turkmenistan (Shutterstock)

11. From 1881, Turkmenistan was ruled by Russia. In 1921 it became part of the USSR initially as the Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) before becoming a fully-fledged constituent republic of the USSR in 1925.
– Source: BBC News

12. In 1991, as the Soviet Union was collapsing, the Turkmen republic declared independence and adopted the name Turkmenistan.
– Source: Britannica

13. Turkmenistan means “place of the Turkmen (people)”. The suffix “-stan” means “place of” or “country”.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

14. Known as the “Door to Hell”, the is a fire pit in Turkmenistan that has been burning for over 40 years. Following a mining accident in 1971, the Darvaza gas crater opened up and began venting gas killing local wildlife. Scientists believed that lighting the gas would cause it to burn out in a few weeks, but it continues to burn to this day.
– Source: Smithsonian

The Darvaza gas crater
The Darvaza gas crater (Shutterstock)

15. In 2014, adventurer George Kourounis became the first person to enter the “Door to Hell” and reach the bottom of the pit.
– Source: National Geographic

16. In 1948, one of the world’s deadliest earthquakes struck Turkmenistan. 110,000 people died when a 7.3 magnitude earthquake rocked Ashgabat and the surrounding region.
– Source: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

17. Around 70% of Turkmenistan is made up of the Karakum Desert.
– Source: Britannica

18. Turkmenistan has a number of unusual world records which include the highest density of white marble-clad buildings, the largest aquatics sports park, the largest indoor Ferris Wheel, the largest architectural star and the most fountain pools in a public place.
– Source: Guinness World Records

The largest indoor Ferris Wheel in Ashgabat
The largest indoor Ferris Wheel in Ashgabat (Shutterstock)

19. There is a national holiday in Turkmenistan for melons. Celebrated on the second Sunday in August the day honours the country’s muskmelon, a close relative of the watermelon.
– Source: BBC News

20. Turkmenistan has been described as one of the “world’s most repressive and closed countries, where the president and his associates have total control over all aspects of public life.”
– Source: Human Rights Watch

21. Turkmenistan has the second-worst freedom of press record in the world – only North Korea is ranked lower.
– Source: Reporters Without Borders

22. Saparmurat Niyazov led Turkmenistan from 1985 and then became the country’s first president in 1991 until his death in 2006. Niyazov assumed the name ‘Turkmenbashi’ (‘father of the Turkmen’), had thousands of statues built in his honour and even renamed the months of January after himself and April after his mother.
– Source: The Guardian

A statue of Niyazov – one of several interesting facts about Turkmenistan
A statue of Niyazov (Shutterstock)

23. Niyazov also implemented a number of bizarre laws including banning opera, ballet, listening to car radios as well as outlawing young men wearing beards and long hair.
– Source: BBC News, The Independent

24. Niyazov even wrote a book called Ruhnama (The Book of the Soul). The book was a spiritual and moral guide and it had to be displayed alongside the Islamic holy book of the Koran in schools.
– Source: The New Yorker

Niyazo's Ruhnama (The Book of the Soul)
Niyazo’s Ruhnama (The Book of the Soul) (Shutterstock)

25. Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has ruled Turkmenistan since 2007 in a similar fashion and is also known for his bizarre PR stunts and strongman image. These stunts include an exercise video, a firing range visit and ordering banks to fund a pet project. He’s been nicknamed “The Turkmenator”.
– Source: BBC News

26. Turkmenistan has the world’s fifth-largest proven natural gas reserves with 7.5 billion in cubic meters (cu m) of gas in 2018.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

27. Turkmenistan holds the status of permanent neutrality which “reflects the country’s strong commitment to international peace and security”. It celebrates the status every year on the national holiday, Day of Neutrality.
– Source: United Nations (UN)


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