Photos of Turkmenistan

Introduction

Background

Present-day Turkmenistan covers territory that has been at the crossroads of civilizations for centuries. The area was ruled in antiquity by various Persian empires, and was conquered by Alexander the Great, Muslim armies, the Mongols, Turkic warriors, and eventually the Russians. In medieval times, Merv (located in present-day Mary province) was one of the great cities of the Islamic world and an important stop on the Silk Road. Annexed by Russia in the late 1800s, Turkmenistan later figured prominently in the anti-Bolshevik movement in Central Asia. In 1924, Turkmenistan became a Soviet republic; it achieved independence upon the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. President for Life Saparmyrat NYYAZOW died in December 2006, and Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW, a deputy chairman under NYYAZOW, emerged as the country's new president. BERDIMUHAMEDOW won Turkmenistan's first multi-candidate presidential election in February 2007, and again in 2012 and in 2017 with over 97% of the vote in both instances, in elections widely regarded as undemocratic.

Turkmenistan has sought new export markets for its extensive hydrocarbon/natural gas reserves, which have yet to be fully exploited. As of late 2019, Turkmenistan exported the majority of its gas to China and small levels of gas were also being sent to Russia. Turkmenistan's reliance on gas exports has made the economy vulnerable to fluctuations in the global energy market, and economic hardships since the drop in energy prices in 2014 have led many Turkmenistanis to emigrate, mostly to Turkey.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Central Asia, bordering the Caspian Sea, between Iran and Kazakhstan

Geographic coordinates

40 00 N, 60 00 E

Area

total: 488,100 sq km

land: 469,930 sq km

water: 18,170 sq km

country comparison to the world: 55

Area - comparative

slightly more than three times the size of Georgia; slightly larger than California

Land boundaries

total: 4,158 km

border countries (4): Afghanistan 804 km, Iran 1148 km, Kazakhstan 413 km, Uzbekistan 1793 km

Coastline

0 km (landlocked); note - Turkmenistan borders the Caspian Sea (1,768 km)

Maritime claims

none (landlocked)

Climate

subtropical desert

Terrain

flat-to-rolling sandy desert with dunes rising to mountains in the south; low mountains along border with Iran; borders Caspian Sea in west

Elevation

mean elevation: 230 m

lowest point: Vpadina Akchanaya (Sarygamysh Koli is a lake in northern Turkmenistan with a water level that fluctuates above and below the elevation of Vpadina Akchanaya, the lake has dropped as low as -110 m) -81 m

highest point: Gora Ayribaba 3,139 m

Natural resources

petroleum, natural gas, sulfur, salt

Land use

agricultural land: 72% (2011 est.)

arable land: 4.1% (2011 est.)

permanent crops: 0.1% (2011 est.)

permanent pasture: 67.8% (2011 est.)

forest: 8.8% (2011 est.)

other: 19.2% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

19,950 sq km (2012)

Population distribution

the most densely populated areas are the southern, eastern, and northeastern oases; approximately 50% of the population lives in and around the capital of Ashgabat

Natural hazards

earthquakes; mudslides; droughts; dust storms; floods

Environment - current issues

contamination of soil and groundwater with agricultural chemicals, pesticides; salination, water logging of soil due to poor irrigation methods; Caspian Sea pollution; diversion of a large share of the flow of the Amu Darya into irrigation contributes to that river's inability to replenish the Aral Sea; soil erosion; desertification

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

landlocked; the western and central low-lying desolate portions of the country make up the great Garagum (Kara-Kum) desert, which occupies over 80% of the country; eastern part is plateau

People and Society

Population

5,579,889 (July 2021 est.)

some sources suggest Turkmenistan's population could be as much as 1 to 2 million people lower than available estimates because of large-scale emigration during the last 10 years

country comparison to the world: 117

Nationality

noun: Turkmenistani(s)

adjective: Turkmenistani

Ethnic groups

Turkmen 85%, Uzbek 5%, Russian 4%, other 6% (2003)

Languages

Turkmen (official) 72%, Russian 12%, Uzbek 9%, other 7%

Religions

Muslim 89%, Eastern Orthodox 9%, unknown 2%

Age structure

0-14 years: 25.44% (male 713,441/female 693,042)

15-24 years: 16.48% (male 458,566/female 452,469)

25-54 years: 44.14% (male 1,214,581/female 1,226,027)

55-64 years: 8.56% (male 221,935/female 251,238)

65 years and over: 5.38% (male 129,332/female 167,996) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 55.2

youth dependency ratio: 47.8

elderly dependency ratio: 7.4

potential support ratio: 13.5 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 29.2 years

male: 28.7 years

female: 29.7 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 135

Birth rate

17.85 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 85

Death rate

5.95 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 164

Net migration rate

-1.72 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 163

Population distribution

the most densely populated areas are the southern, eastern, and northeastern oases; approximately 50% of the population lives in and around the capital of Ashgabat

Urbanization

urban population: 52.5% of total population (2020)

rate of urbanization: 2.46% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)

Major urban areas - population

846,000 ASHGABAT (capital) (2020)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.03 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.99 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.88 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.77 male(s)/female

total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

7 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 157

Infant mortality rate

total: 38.54 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 46.87 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 29.79 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 54

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 71.54 years

male: 68.5 years

female: 74.73 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 173

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 100% of population

total: 100% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 0% of population

total: 0% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

2.22 physicians/1,000 population (2014)

Hospital bed density

4 beds/1,000 population (2014)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 100% of population

total: 100% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 0% of population

total: 0% of population (2017 est.)

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 99.7%

male: 99.8%

female: 99.6% (2015)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 13 years

male: 13 years

female: 13 years (2019)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: none

conventional short form: Turkmenistan

local long form: none

local short form: Turkmenistan

former: Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic

etymology: the suffix "-stan" means "place of" or "country," so Turkmenistan literally means the "Land of the Turkmen [people]"

Government type

presidential republic; authoritarian

Capital

name: Ashgabat (Ashkhabad)

geographic coordinates: 37 57 N, 58 23 E

time difference: UTC+5 (10 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: derived from the Persian words "eshq" meaning "love" and "abad" meaning "inhabited place" or "city," and so loosely translates as "the city of love" 

Administrative divisions

5 provinces (welayatlar, singular - welayat) and 1 independent city*: Ahal Welayaty (Anew), Ashgabat*, Balkan Welayaty (Balkanabat), Dasoguz Welayaty, Lebap Welayaty (Turkmenabat), Mary Welayaty

note: administrative divisions have the same names as their administrative centers (exceptions have the administrative center name following in parentheses)

Independence

27 October 1991 (from the Soviet Union)

National holiday

Independence Day, 27 October (1991)

Constitution

history: several previous; latest adopted 14 September 2016

amendments: proposed by the National Assembly; passage requires two-thirds majority vote of the total Assembly membership or absolute majority approval in a referendum; amended 2017

Legal system

civil law system with Islamic (sharia) law influences

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Turkmenistan

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 7 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW (since 14 February 2007); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government

head of government: President Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW (since 14 February 2007)

cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the president

elections/appointments: president directly elected by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 7-year term (no term limits); election last held on 12 February 2017 (next to be held in February 2024)

election results: Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW reelected president in the first round; percent of vote - Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW (DPT) 97.7%, other 2.3%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral National Assembly or Mejlis (125 seats; members directly elected from single-seat constituencies by absolute majority vote; members serve 5-year terms)

elections: last held on 25 March 2018, although interim elections are held on an ad hoc basis to fill vacant sets

election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - DPT 55, APT 11, PIE 11, independent 48 (individuals nominated by citizen groups); composition - men 94, women 31, percent of women 24.8%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court of Turkmenistan (consists of the court president and 21 associate judges and organized into civil, criminal, and military chambers)

judge selection and term of office: judges appointed by the president for 5-year terms

subordinate courts: High Commercial Court; appellate courts; provincial, district, and city courts; military courts

Political parties and leaders

Agrarian Party of Turkmenistan or APT [Basim ANNAGURBANOW]
Democratic Party of Turkmenistan or DPT [Ata SERDAROW]
Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs or PIE [Saparmyrat OWGANOW]

note: all of these parties support President BERDIMUHAMEDOW; a law authorizing the registration of political parties went into effect in January 2012; unofficial, small opposition movements exist abroad

International organization participation

ADB, CIS (associate member, has not ratified the 1993 CIS charter although it participates in meetings and held the chairmanship of the CIS in 2012), EAPC, EBRD, ECO, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO (correspondent), ITU, MIGA, NAM, OIC, OPCW, OSCE, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Meret ORAZOW (since 14 February 2001)

chancery: 2207 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: [1] (202) 588-1500

FAX: [1] (202) 588-0697

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Matthew S. KLIMOW (since 26 June 2019)

telephone: [993] (12) 94-00-45

embassy: No. 9 1984 Street (formerly Pushkin Street), Ashgabat 744000

mailing address: 7070 Ashgabat Place, Washington, DC 20521-7070

FAX: [993] (12) 94-26-14

Flag description

green field with a vertical red stripe near the hoist side, containing five tribal guls (designs used in producing carpets) stacked above two crossed olive branches; five white, five-pointed stars and a white crescent moon appear in the upper corner of the field just to the fly side of the red stripe; the green color and crescent moon represent Islam; the five stars symbolize the regions or welayats of Turkmenistan; the guls reflect the national identity of Turkmenistan where carpet-making has long been a part of traditional nomadic life

note: the flag of Turkmenistan is the most intricate of all national flags

National symbol(s)

Akhal-Teke horse; national colors: green, white

National anthem

name: "Garassyz, Bitarap Turkmenistanyn" (Independent, Neutral, Turkmenistan State Anthem)

lyrics/music: collective/Veli MUKHATOV

note: adopted 1997, lyrics revised in 2008, to eliminate references to deceased President Saparmurat NYYAZOW

Economy

Economic overview

Turkmenistan is largely a desert country with intensive agriculture in irrigated oases and significant natural gas and oil resources. The two largest crops are cotton, most of which is produced for export, and wheat, which is domestically consumed. Although agriculture accounts for almost 8% of GDP, it continues to employ nearly half of the country's workforce. Hydrocarbon exports, the bulk of which is natural gas going to China, make up 25% of Turkmenistan’s GDP. Ashgabat has explored two initiatives to bring gas to new markets: a trans-Caspian pipeline that would carry gas to Europe and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. Both face major financing, political, and security hurdles and are unlikely to be completed soon.

Turkmenistan’s autocratic governments under presidents NIYAZOW (1991-2006) and BERDIMUHAMEDOW (since 2007) have made little progress improving the business climate, privatizing state-owned industries, combatting corruption, and limiting economic development outside the energy sector. High energy prices in the mid-2000s allowed the government to undertake extensive development and social spending, including providing heavy utility subsidies.

Low energy prices since mid-2014 are hampering Turkmenistan’s economic growth and reducing government revenues. The government has cut subsidies in several areas, and wage arrears have increased. In January 2014, the Central Bank of Turkmenistan devalued the manat by 19%, and downward pressure on the currency continues. There is a widening spread between the official exchange rate (3.5 TMM per US dollar) and the black market exchange rate (approximately 14 TMM per US dollar). Currency depreciation and conversion restrictions, corruption, isolationist policies, and declining spending on public services have resulted in a stagnate economy that is nearing crisis. Turkmenistan claims substantial foreign currency reserves, but non-transparent data limit international institutions’ ability to verify this information.

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$86.858 billion (2018 est.)

$103.7 billion (2017 est.)

$81.787 billion (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$40.819 billion (2018 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$14,845 (2018 est.)

$18,200 (2017 est.)

$14,205 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 113

Gross national saving

23.9% of GDP (2017 est.)

24.3% of GDP (2016 est.)

18.9% of GDP (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 70

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 7.5% (2017 est.)

industry: 44.9% (2017 est.)

services: 47.7% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 50% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 10% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 28.2% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 0% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 26.2% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -14.3% (2017 est.)

Agricultural products

milk, wheat, cotton, tomatoes, potatoes, watermelons, grapes, sugar beet, beef, rice

Industries

natural gas, oil, petroleum products, textiles, food processing

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 48.2%

industry: 14%

services: 37.8% (2004 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 2.6%

highest 10%: 31.7% (1998)

Budget

revenues: 5.657 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 6.714 billion (2017 est.)

Public debt

28.8% of GDP (2017 est.)

24.1% of GDP (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 167

Fiscal year

calendar year

Current account balance

-$4.359 billion (2017 est.)

-$7.207 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 182

Exports

$7.458 billion (2017 est.)

$6.987 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 109

Exports - partners

China 83.7%, Turkey 5.1% (2017)

Exports - commodities

gas, crude oil, petrochemicals, textiles, cotton fiber

Imports

$4.571 billion (2017 est.)

$5.215 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 143

Imports - partners

Turkey 24.2%, Algeria 14.4%, Germany 9.8%, China 8.9%, Russia 8%, US 6.6% (2017)

Imports - commodities

machinery and equipment, chemicals, foodstuffs

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$24.91 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$25.05 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 56

Debt - external

$539.4 million (31 December 2017 est.)

$425.3 million (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 176

Exchange rates

Turkmenistani manat (TMM) per US dollar -

4.125 (2017 est.)

3.5 (2016 est.)

3.5 (2015 est.)

3.5 (2014 est.)

2.85 (2013 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)

Electricity - from fossil fuels

100% of total installed capacity (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 20

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 648,223

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 11.85 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 87

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 8,908,821

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 162.86 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 93

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: telecommunications network is gradually improving from the former Soviet republic; state control over most economic activities has not helped growth; in cooperation with foreign partners, the telecom sector has installed high-speed fiber-optic lines and has upgraded most of the country's telephone exchanges and switching centers with new digital technology; the mobile market will see slow growth; some rural areas are still without telephones; mobile broadband is in the early stages of development; in 2019 Russia-based operator said to be leaving the country and leaving only 1 public operator (2020)

domestic: fixed-line 12 per 100 and mobile-cellular teledensity is about 163 per 100 persons; first telecommunication satellite was launched in 2015 (2019)

international: country code - 993; linked by fiber-optic cable and microwave radio relay to other CIS republics and to other countries by leased connections to the Moscow international gateway switch; an exchange in Ashgabat switches international traffic through Turkey via Intelsat; satellite earth stations - 1 Orbita and 1 Intelsat (2018)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media

broadcast media is government controlled and censored; 7 state-owned TV and 4 state-owned radio networks; satellite dishes and programming provide an alternative to the state-run media; officials sometimes limit access to satellite TV by removing satellite dishes

Internet users

total: 1,149,840

percent of population: 21.25% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 135

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 4,000

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: less than 1 (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 183

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 27

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 2,457,474 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 16.92 million mt-km (2018)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 21 (2013)

over 3,047 m: 1 (2013)

2,438 to 3,047 m: 9 (2013)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 9 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 5 (2013)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2013)

under 914 m: 4 (2013)

Heliports

1 (2013)

Pipelines

7500 km gas, 1501 km oil (2013)

Railways

total: 5,113 km (2017)

broad gauge: 5,113 km 1.520-m gauge (2017)

country comparison to the world: 38

Roadways

total: 58,592 km (2002)

paved: 47,577 km (2002)

unpaved: 11,015 km (2002)

country comparison to the world: 78

Waterways

1,300 km (Amu Darya River and Kara Kum Canal are important inland waterways) (2011)

country comparison to the world: 55

Merchant marine

total: 68

by type: general cargo 6, oil tanker 8, other 54 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 104

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Caspian Sea - Turkmenbasy

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Armed Forces of Turkmenistan: National Army, Navy, Air and Air Defense Forces; Federal Border Guard Service (2019)

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Armed Forces of Turkmenistan have approximately 37,000 active troops (est. 33,000 National Army; 500 Navy, 3,500 Air and Air Defense Forces) (2019 est.)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the inventory for Turkmenistan's military is comprised almost entirely of older Russian and Soviet-era weapons systems, although in recent years, Turkmenistan has opened itself up to Chinese and Western equipment; since 2010, China, Italy, Russia, and Turkey are the leading arms suppliers to Turkmenistan (2019 est.)

Military service age and obligation

18-27 years of age for compulsory male military service; 2-year conscript service obligation; 20 years of age for voluntary service; males may enroll in military schools from age 15 (2013)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

cotton monoculture in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan creates water-sharing difficulties for Amu Darya river states; field demarcation of the boundaries with Kazakhstan commenced in 2005; bilateral talks continue with Azerbaijan on dividing the seabed and contested oilfields in the middle of the Caspian

Refugees and internally displaced persons

stateless persons: 3,688 (2019)

Trafficking in persons

current situation: Turkmenistan is a source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; Turkmenistanis who migrate abroad are forced to work in the textile, agriculture, construction, and domestic service industries, while women and girls may also be sex trafficked; in 2014, men surpassed women as victims; Turkey and Russia are primary trafficking destinations, followed by the Middle East, South and Central Asia, and other parts of Europe; Turkmenistanis also experience forced labor domestically in the informal construction industry; participation in the cotton harvest is still mandatory for some public sector employees

tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List – Turkmenistan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; in 2014, Turkmenistan was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; the government made some progress in its law enforcement efforts in 2014, convicting more offenders than in 2013; authorities did not make adequate efforts to identify and protect victims and did not fund international organizations or NGOs that offered protective services; some victims were punished for crimes as a result of being trafficked (2015)

Illicit drugs

transit country for Afghan narcotics bound for Russian and Western European markets; transit point for heroin precursor chemicals bound for Afghanistan