Turkmenistan has been at the crossroads of civilizations for centuries. In medieval times, Merv was one of the great cities of the Islamic world and an important stop on the Silk Road, a caravan route used for trade with China until the mid-15th century.


Hunting Party with the Sultan by Jean Baptiste Vanmour – 18th Century

Annexed by the Russian Empire in 1881, Turkmenistan later figured prominently in the anti-Bolshevik movement in Central Asia. In 1925, Turkmenistan became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic; it became independent upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.


Turkmenistan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the northwest, Uzbekistan to the north and east, Afghanistan to the southeast, Iran to the south and southwest, and the Caspian Sea to the west. Ashgabat is the capital and largest city. The population of the country is 5.6 million, the lowest of the Central Asian republics.


Historically inhabited by the Indo-Iranians, the written history of Turkmenistan begins with its annexation by the Achaemenid Empire of Ancient Iran. In the 8th century AD, Turkic-speaking Oghuz tribes moved from Mongolia into present-day Central Asia. Part of a powerful confederation of tribes, these Oghuz formed the ethnic basis of the modern Turkmen population. In the 10th century, the name “Turkmen” was first applied to Oghuz groups that accepted Islam and began to occupy present-day Turkmenistan. There they were under the dominion of the Seljuk Empire, which was composed of Oghuz groups living in present-day Iran and Turkmenistan.


Silk Road to See in Turkmenistan

Merv (See our Merv page)

Merv used to be a huge megacity with no equals in Central Asia: even the famous Samarkand and Bukhara, Varakhsha and Pendzhikent looked like provincial towns. According to Zoroastrian literature it was Merv that possessed the third horn of plenty of the ancient world, following such cities as Herat and Balkh. Merv was the place where the immortal creations were made great poets, scientists and philosophers, Omar Khayam and Ismail Samani among them.

Learn More

Turkmenistan on the Silk Road – Avantour

6 thoughts on “Turkmenistan”

  1. What a great article! We’re currently dreaming of going to Turkmenistan again – we’ve been there before and we love, love love it! Here’s to hoping for a better 2021 with loads of travel plans and new experiences!

    – Cecilie // RejsRejsRejs
    If you want even more tips for your trip to Turkmenistan, you’re welcome to read our article on Turkmenistan


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