Country - Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan Country Information
Turkmenistan is a nation located in the central part of Asian continent. The country had the earlier name as Turkmenia and is officially referred to as Republic of Turkmenistan. The capital and the largest city is Ashgabat. The frontiers of the country are shared by Kazakhstan in the northwest, Uzbekistan in the north, Afghanistan in the southwest and Iran in the south. Its western border is a coastline kept doused by the Caspian Sea.
Turkmenistan had been annexed in 1881 by Imperial Russia. Thirty six years later, the Russian Revolution of 1917 swept a large territory straddled in Europe and Asian continents and brought under a single totalitarian rule forming the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Turkmenistan was among the rebelling allies that fought against the imperial rule of Czars, but belonged to the losing side of the White Army which had contradictory ideologies with the Red Army of Bolshevik Revolution led by the legendary gigantesque mutineer Vladimir Lenin. The Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917 were perceived as one of the casus belli of the World War I. Years after the ascension to power by the Russian Communist Party by Vladimir Lenin, Turkmenistan became a constituent republic of Soviet Union in 1925. The communist rule in USSR made the Soviet Union as a formidable force that would determine the locus of the world politics and rendered the political world bipolar, with the USSR taking an ideologically opposing stance against the United States of America. The political and military dominance of USSR in international politics continued unabated till 1991 when the Soviet Union disintegrated into fragments of independent republics, as a consequence of unsuccessful and inefficient implementation of political reforms like Glasnost and Perestroika. Turkmenistan too, like its several fellow constituent republics, became free from the Soviet cohesive rule. The independence of Turkmenistan was officially recognized in December 1991.
The official language of Turkmenistan is Turkmen. The Russian language continues to be inter-ethnic language owing to the country being under the Soviet rule for an uninterrupted period of 110 years. The total population of Turkmenistan was 5,662,544 as per the estimate in 2016, out of which 93.1% belong to Islam. The rest belongs to either Christianity or non-religious groups. The religious beliefs which had been abolished and wiped out during the Soviet era began to reappear in the form of mosques, churches and in the teaching methods in educational institutions.
The economy of Turkmenistan is levitated by the strong support from the abundant natural resources of fossil fuels. The country takes pride in possessing the world’s sixth largest reserves of natural gas and copious oil reserves. A large part of its cultivable land is utilized for growing cotton crop and the country is reckoned as the sixth largest producer of cotton in the world. Exports from Turkmenistan are invariably dominated by natural gas, oil, petrochemicals, raw cotton and textiles. The major items of imports include iron and steel pipes, heavy construction equipment, wheat, grading machinery and vehicles. As of 2017, the country witnessed a trade plus of US $2886.58 million.
Abundance of natural gas in Turkmenistan has allowed the natives to use cooking gas free of cost. Plenty of oil reserves too made the vehicle fuel available for locals at dead-cheap rates. On account of highly restrictive tourism policies, the number of international tourists visiting the country is considerably low. Yet, the country holds fascinating humungous records like the world’s largest indoor Ferris wheel, the longest staircase in the world, the largest man-made canal, the largest man-made lake etc.
The capital city of Ashgabat is a place of speckless whiteness. It is home to the White Marble Wedding Palace featured by marble floor to the boundary of its plinth area. The major attraction of the building is strikingly a giant globe mounted on to the top of the building and caged on all sides by star-shaped frames. Occasionally, the octagonal star-shaped structure is illuminated in red light to tender a special look to the monument. The eleven inner floors are meant for new couples eager to enter into wedlock who can register their names and the proposed venue for the wedding ceremony. The building, built in 2011, seems to have no counterpart on any part of earth to challenge its uniqueness.
White marble constructions are omnipresent in the capital city. Monuments, new building complexes, promenades, everything in the city seem to have been built of white marble. The country is also famous for being home to maximum number of water fountain pools in the world. Though a few statues in public places are black in colour embellished with gold-tinted ornaments, they seldom seem to tarnish the overall whiteness of the city. From the onset of every nightfall, the city becomes a spectacular dazzling sight of skyscrapers and condominiums glowing brilliantly in pure white colour and the entire metro terrain becomes studded with edifices outshining the sparkling diamonds. Tourists tend to wonder if they have landed on a different planet altogether with modern hi-fi milky-white architecture. Spacious super-smooth traffic roads and electric light poles with no visible external network of insulated wires add extra grace to the city.
There is a crater of ever-burning inferno, 230 feet in width that has been blazing incessantly for more than 47 years near the village of Darvaza in the Karakum desert. Known among locals as “the Gates of Hell”, the gigantic ditch formed accidentally in 1971 when a Russian drilling rig tried to bore into the ground. As the ground beneath was a massive emptiness of hollowness, the rig had punctured the exterior layer of earth, plunged into a cavern of twirling toxic fumes which erupted through the broken earth layer. The drilling rig was yanked into the hollow ditch and when the sight was set alight, the inflammable gases caught fire and continued to burn uninterruptedly ever since. The flames of the crater are big enough to appear in glimmering amber, several miles away from the spot.
The Monument of Neutrality in the suburbs of the capital city Ashgabat is a colossal tower based on three-pronged stand. Generally known as a gigantic tripod, the structure was originally built in 1998 at the behest of the Turkmenistan president Saparmurat Niyazov who declared the monument an expression of the country’s neutral stance in international politics. The upper part of the tower had a special feature of the rotating golden statue of Niyazov that always faced the sun in the sky and the statue was illuminated at night. The rotating rostrum was a special attraction for visitors which served as a deck for taking a panoramic view. However, the hardliners of Niyazov’s policies disliked the installation of his statue in the tower which was seen as outrageous assertion of personal charisma and sought to dismantle the statue that symbolized notorious dictatorship. His successor Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow got the statue demolished and renovated the tower which stands now at a renewed height of 95 meters. Though the tower has been deprived of the rotating deck, the viewing platform still continues to draw good number of tourists. While the Eiffel Tower of Paris stretches to a height of 1060 feet poised safely on a four legged base, the Monument of Neutrality seems a modest version erected on a tripod pedestal.
Another brainchild of the president Niyazov was the stairway called “Walk of Health” which has two parts. The first lap covers a distance of 8 kilometers and the second, a more haunting stretch of 37 kilometers. Niyazov is understood to have insisted his staff members to take a walk on the entire path at least once a year for maintaining good health. The total walkathon has been made less cumbersome in recent times by planting trees on either side of the route.
The dictator Niyazov’s eccentricities were manifested in several forms across the country. The capital Ashbagat is the most prominent example. Niyazov authored a book called Ruhnama which dealt with moral ideal, religious norms, fairy tales and the contents of the book were to be learnt compulsorily in schools. The gargantuan concrete slab of the treatise stands erect on a giant solid cylindrical podium.
The Independence Monument of Turkmenistan is probably one of the biggest structures in the world situated in the middle of a landscape garden spread in an area of 80 square kilometers. The white dome of the building has at its centre a single minaret shooting high into the sky. Countless water fountains jutting upwards from numerous ponds around the monument are an added attraction.
Turkmenistan seems to have borne the chief brunt of perpetual tyranny for several years even after gaining independence. However, the country retains the reputation of showcasing itself as a special place of unique pulchritude on earth.