Trivia about Turkmenistan

Facts and Trivia about Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan Facts

The Flag of TurkmenistanLocated in Central Asia, Turkmenistan borders the Caspian Sea to its west, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to the north, Afghanistan to the south-east, and Iran to the south. Because of its proximity to politically troubled places like Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern countries, Turkmenistan is a rarely-visited and largely misunderstood part of the world. Here are some interesting facts and trivia about this Silk Road nation.

Geography

A little more than 80% of the country's territory is covered by the Black Sands Desert, which blankets the entirety of the central region. The country's Iranian border is made up entirely of the Kopet Dag Mountains. Turkmenistan's only source of fresh water is the Amu Darya River, but besides a lack of fresh water, the nation is very geographically-diverse. From a low point of some 200 feet below sea level, in a valley called Vpadina Akchanaya, to a high point on the mountain called Gora Ayribaba (10,300 feet above sea level), the terrain varies from near-swampland to high desert, which allows for a variety of flora and fauna.

Technically-speaking, Turkmenistan is a subtropical desert, due to the fact that the country does have four distinct seasons. Winters are cool, dry, and windy, with only occasional snow. Spring is the wettest time of the year in this nation which gets very little rain - annual rainfall ranges from just eight centimeters to about a foot depending on where you are in the country. Summer is incredibly hot, especially in the more remote desert regions, where temps often reach 122° Fahrenheit or higher. The most pleasant time of year for humans is the fall, when the weather is sunny, warm, but still a bit on the dry side.

Entertainment

The nation of Turkmenistan doesn't have much to offer entertainment-wise, for a number of reasons. For starters, very little of the country's land or industrial activity is privatized, meaning that 9 out of 10 workers are employed by the government. An extremely low average salary makes entertainment a low priority, though it's easy to imagine the people entertaining themselves as poor people have always done. According to the World Health Organization, in 2004 more than half of the Turkmenistani people lived far below the poverty line, so it's easy to see why entertainment is difficult to find.

History

Present-day Turkmenistan has been inhabited by humans since the Stone Age, around 6,000 BCE. The land was conquered by Alexander the Great at the end of the 4th century - after the end of his reign, Persians ruled the land until Turkish nomads settled and overthrew that government. Arabs conquered the country in 716 and introduces Islam which remains the majority religion to an extreme degree.

As with other Central Asian countries, Russian traders moved in during the 16th century, and within a couple of hundred years all trade between Europe and Central Asia passed at least partially through Turkmenistan. In 1865, Russia annexed the country, and Turks joined the Bolshevik uprising of 1916 when a Russian Tsar tried to draft the nation's people into slave labor. But by 1925, the Soviet Socialist Republic took full control.

It wasn't until October of 1990 that the Turkmenistani people elected their own president and declared independence. Since that declaration, President Niyazov has consistently won 99.99% of the vote in every election. Niyazov is not just president, he's also the "supreme commander of the armed forces, first secretary of the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, head of the legislative body, and chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers and the National Security Council." Niyazov has since been named president for life and is considered a dictatorial ruler by the Western world.

Arts & Literature

As is the case with most heavily-Islamic countries, representative art is disallowed, and is difficult to find within the nation's borders, though Islamic (non-representative) art is present, especially in the capital city of Ashgabat, which houses several museums and libraries.

As for literature, the extreme state of poverty that exists throughout the country means the literacy rate is extremely low. There is little or no tradition of written language in the country, though samizdat political publications are common, if highly illegal. The official language of the country is Turkmen, which is closely related to Uzbek, and the largest literary influence in the country is the poetry and oral tradition of nearby Uzbekistan.

Science & Nature

The Black Sea desert that covers most of the country means there is little plant or animal life native to Turkmenistan. Nomadic herders are responsible for most of the creatures that do survive within the nation's borders, raising goats, sheep, and camels even in the harshest desert conditions. According to the country's official environmental agency, formed in 2002, only 100 species of mammals and plants are native to the area, making it one of the harshest environments in the world.

A strange piece of trivia about a country so devoid of life is that several endangered species exist in Turkmenistan: cheetahs, tigers, two species of salmon, and wild goats are all listed as endangered creatures living within the country's harsh desert climate.

Sports & Leisure

The nation of Turkmenistan has participated in four Olympic Games (Summer only) since independence, but has never earned a medal, making it one of just two countries in the world never to do so. A little bit of trivia that most people in the world are unaware of: the capital city of Ashgabat has an Olympic Stadium even though Turkmenistan has never hosted or attempted to host an Olympiad.

Leisure is not a major priority in a nation struggling with so much poverty " the heavy influence of Islam means traditional leisure activities of poor peoples, like gambling, are forbidden. Leisure activities performed at the local level include competitive camel racing, but none of these activities are significant enough to have produced any famous athletes or Olympians.

Turkmenistan is one of the poorest nations in the world, and is often considered the poorest and most desolate nation in all of Asia. The presence of a dictatorial leader means that little can be expected in the way of change for the people living there, at least until there is a revolution or a new leader takes over. The most famous (or most noteworthy) spot in all of the country is actually a ruin called Anau, once a famous mosque, which is guarded by several thirty-foot long dragons. The fact that the most famous activity in Turkmenistan is visiting a centuries-old ruin should tell you everything you need to know about this country.

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