Turkmenistan 2018-04-27T19:52:08+00:00

 

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Turkmenistan – ‘contrasts + contradictions’

Former nomads now glory in their marble-clad showcase capital city. Former communists now aspire to the trappings of immense wealth. A nation once famed for slave trading and weaving carpets is now largely dependent on oil, gas and cotton. And a disparate group of tribes never united until the coming of Soviet power in the 1920’s is now ruled over by a bizarre dictatorship. The Turkmen are a traditionally nomadic people living in Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq. They trace their descent from the Oghuz tribe from Mongolia, and have been in Central Asia since the 10th century AD. Those who settled in the area surrounding the Karakum (“Black Sands”) desert became more distinctively Turkmen, whilst their cousins further west became indistinguishable from other “Turks”.

The borders of modern Turkmenistan were drawn by the Soviet government when the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic was formed in 1921. Although its land area is twice the size of the UK, most of it is desert. The population of 5 million live in 6 major cities around the edge of this desert. The capital, Ashgabat, has been turned into a marble and glass monument to the oil wealth that lies beneath the desert. Turkmenistan reportedly has the world’s fifth largest reserves of natural gas. But this wealth does not enrich the ordinary people… [end of sample extract]

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