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 Turkmenistan is finally opening to the World

Photo: Reuters

In the heart of Central Asia, Turkmenistan boasts a vibrant and diverse history that stretches back thousands of years. From the early civilizations that flourished along the Silk Road to the complex empires that rose and fell, Turkmenistan has been a crossroads of cultures, traditions, and ideas. We are offering a fascinating overview of Turkmenistan’s storied past, highlighting key periods and events that have shaped the nation we know today. The region of Turkmenistan has been inhabited since ancient times, with evidence of human settlements dating back to the Bronze Age. The fertile lands along the Amu Darya River and the Karakum Desert provided favorable conditions for early agricultural societies. Notably, the Bronze Age city of Gonur Depe, dating back to the third millennium BCE, showcases the advanced urban planning and agricultural practices of the time.

Turkmenistan’s strategic location at the crossroads of the Silk Road trade route played a pivotal role in shaping its history. As caravans traversed the region, Turkmenistan became a melting pot of cultures, religions, and ideas. It witnessed the rise and fall of numerous empires, including the Parthians, Sassanids, and later, the Arab Caliphate. This era brought significant advancements in trade, as well as the spread of Islam, which became a dominant religion in the region. The Turkmen people, after whom the country is named, emerged as a distinct ethno-linguistic group during the medieval period. Nomadic Turkmen tribes roamed the vast steppes of Central Asia, leading a semi-nomadic lifestyle centered around animal husbandry. These tribes formed the backbone of Turkmenistan’s society and culture, with their traditions, customs, and tribal affiliations playing a significant role in shaping the nation’s identity. In the late 19th century, Turkmenistan fell under Russian imperial rule. The region became part of the Russian Empire, and later the Soviet Union. During this period, significant changes were introduced, including the establishment of collective farms, industrialization, and the spread of education. The nomadic lifestyle of the Turkmen people was largely abandoned, and urban centers began to emerge. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Turkmenistan gained independence. Saparmurat Niyazov, also known as Turkmenbashi, assumed leadership and established an authoritarian regime. His rule was marked by an emphasis on preserving Turkmen traditions and symbols, while also pursuing economic development through the country’s vast energy resources. In recent years, Turkmenistan has focused on modernization and diversification of its economy. The country has made significant investments in infrastructure, including the construction of new cities, highways, and modern facilities. Turkmenistan’s cultural heritage continues to thrive, with celebrations, festivals, and traditional crafts showcasing the rich tapestry of its history. Turkmenistan’s history is a captivating tale of ancient civilizations, nomadic tribes, and the influences of various empires. From the early agricultural settlements to its position along the Silk Road, the region has witnessed the ebb and flow of cultures, religions, and ideas. Today, Turkmenistan stands as an emerging economy, ready to be explored by westerners.
By Paul Bumman

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