Ashgabat (Turkmenistan)

Ashgabat Turkmenistan

Capital of Turkmenistan

Ashgabat is the capital and largest city of Turkmenistan, a country in Central Asia. The city is located in the south of the country, near the border with Iran. Ashgabat has a rich history and cultural heritage and serves as the administrative, cultural and economic center of the country.

The name “Ashgabat” translates to “Favorite City” from the Turkmen language. The city is known for its architecture, including numerous golden domes and marble buildings. It is also famous for its beautiful parks and squares decorated with fountains and sculptures.

Because of its proximity to the borders with Iran and Afghanistan, Ashgabat plays an important role in the geopolitical context of Central Asia. The city is also strategically important for transportation routes and trade in the region.

History of Ashgabat

The history of Ashgabat dates back to 1881. Research by Turkmen archaeologists on the city’s territory has made significant amendments to it. After five seasons of excavations at the Akdepe settlement in 2010, they came to the conclusion that it was inhabited since the VI millennium BC, and continuously, before that it was believed that the settlement was abandoned by people at the turn of the II-I millennium BC. On Akdepe was found ceramics of Neolithic Dzheitun culture (VI-V millennium BC) and all subsequent eras, including XIII-XV centuries, the time of Mongol rule.

Linguists derive the name of the city from two words in Persian language: “eshg” (“ashg”) – “love” and “abad” – “populated, well-appointed”. Based on the meaning of these two words, Ashgabat is often called “the city of love”. The name Ashgabat was given to their aul, which stood not far from the present city, by the Teke Turkmen. There is another, very reasonable version of the origin of this name – from the name of one of the kings of the Parthian dynasty of Arsakids (Arshakids), whose name was Ashk. The historical and archaeological complex of Nisa, consisting of the fortresses of Old Nisa and New Nisa, is located 18 km from Ashgabat. In the III century BC New Nisa was the capital of Parthia, and Old Nisa was the residence of the king. During the heyday of the Parthian kingdom (3rd century), Old Nisa was called Mithridatkert, after King Mithridates I. The ruins of Nisa are fragments of the palace colonnaded hall, sanctuaries and fortifications. Here were found papyri in the Parthian language, many artifacts of domestic character, painted clay statues. Ashgabat belonged to Persia until 1881, but after Russia and Persia agreed it came under Russian rule.

This was part of the “Great Game” – the name given in the 19th century to the rivalry between the Russian and British empires for influence in this part of Central Asia, including Persia. Territorial expansion and espionage and diplomatic intrigue were going on from both sides. Ashgabat became a kind of bargaining chip in this game at that stage, which ended in 1907. A border military fortification called Askhabad was built here and became the administrative center of the Transcaspian region.

Very soon the city began to grow rapidly. It is not surprising: ancient caravan routes passed through it: to the south, through the gorges – to Persia, to the north to Khiva, to the east to Bukhara. And traders and craftsmen, as well as Persians, those who were persecuted in their native country for religious reasons, immediately rushed to the city. In 1885 a railroad was built to Askhabad, a year later it reached Chardzhou, 10 years later – to Kushka, in 1899 – to Tashkent. At the beginning of the XX century about 37 thousand people lived here: Persians, Russians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, representatives of 15 nationalities in total. Turkmen were the least – 2%. In December 1917 Soviet power was established in the city. In 1919 it was renamed Poltoratsk, in honor of Bolshevik P.G. Poltoratskiy, who was shot in 1918 by workers who rebelled against the Bolsheviks. In 1924 the city became the capital of the Turkmen SSR, and in 1927 it was returned to its original name with a small amendment: Askhabad became Ashgabat.

Despite its 130+ years, it is considered a young city. Alas, with a sad reason. In October 1948 in Ashgabat there was a nine-point earthquake, about 176 thousand people died, the city and the surrounding villages lost 98% of buildings. Restoration of Ashgabat began in 1949. In 1962 the Karakum canal reached Ashgabat, thus the acute problem of water supply was removed. In 1986, Saparmurat Niyazov (1940-2006) was appointed the first secretary of the Communist Party of the Republic. In 1991, Ashgabat (Ashgabat in Turkmen) became the capital of independent Turkmenistan, and Niyazov became president, Turkmenbashi (“Father Turkmen”). He made Ashgabat a showcase of his boundless power, emphasizing it with monumental, pompous buildings and monuments. Even invited Western and Turkish architects adhered to this style, but in a professional sense they did their job well, and the city really acquired a majestic look.

Ashgabat today

Ashgabat is located in the south of Turkmenistan, in the Akhal oasis of the Turan lowland, at the foot of the Keshininbair ridge of the low foothills of the Kopetdag Mountains, which approach the city from the south. To the border with Iran, passing in the mountains, from Ashgabat 25 kilometers. Beyond the northern outskirts of the city begins the Karakum desert. From the very beginning of the construction of the city was based on the principle of rational “St. Petersburg” layout, streets were laid out in a straight line and crossed at right angles. This layout has largely survived to this day.

Most public buildings of Ashgabat are faced with white marble. And the most popular of its nicknames is the White City. For more than 10 years the annual Universal International Exhibition “White City – Ashgabat” has been held here. Its goal is to attract foreign companies to cooperate in the field of construction and maintenance of urban infrastructure. It turns out that the main witness here is the city itself, as it looks today, causing admiration and its buildings, and the amount of greenery on the streets, and order. Over the past twenty years, the population of Ashgabat has at least doubled, and this is the highest indicator of this kind in the post-Soviet space.

Portraits of Turkmenbashi in Ashgabat are slowly being replaced by images of horses of the famous Akhalteke breed, which was bred in Turkmenistan about 5000 years ago. But not only. Portraits of the country’s current president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov (born in 1957, elected in 2007), however, are hung no less than horse images. In 2010, the “Arch of Neutrality” monument with a giant gilded statue of Turkmenbashi mounted on a rotating base was removed from the city’s central square so that it could be illuminated by the sun’s rays from dawn to dusk. But in December 2011, this monument reappeared in the capital of Turkmenistan, though now on the outskirts, in the southern part of Bitarap Turkmenistan Avenue in the foothills of the Kopetdag Mountains, but there Turkmenbashi stands 95 meters above sea level. This, of course, is a clear signal to the society: the “boss” will always be watching you. Is it not because travelers all as one note that the streets of Ashgabat are unusually crowded for a southern city? Marble palaces, fountains are as if not for its inhabitants. And the comparison is not with European cities, but with the nearby Muslim Tashkent, not to mention Baku, where life is boiling at any time of the day. Or is this how the complete, absolute loyalty to the authorities instilled in the people during the years of authoritarian regime manifests itself, when any opinion different from the official one could cost a broken fate? But this is not a “generic” peculiarity of Ashgabat at all. Actor and poet Leonid Filatov (1946-2003) loved this city, where his childhood and early youth passed. Filatov remembered it as free, open, and friendly, which the next generations of Ashgabat intellectuals could not say about him. After several stories involving the disappearance without a trace of their colleagues, relatives and friends who disagreed with the Niyazov regime, writers, artists, scientists and journalists emigrated en masse to Russia and Western Europe in the 1980s. This year, the country’s president said that dissident emigrants can visit Ashgabat and no one will obstruct them. However, this statement does not inspire confidence in any of the emigrants, as they write about on their website “Gundogar”.

There is another reason for the quiet lifestyle of Ashgabat residents: the other cities and towns of the country do not compare with the capital neither in the level of improvement, nor in the number of jobs, and the residents of the city are mostly afraid of losing what they have. Such sentiments have a positive effect – Ashgabat has an extremely low crime rate. But one cannot but notice that Ashgabat residents also feel pride for the capital of their state, the most beautiful, as they sincerely believe, city of the Earth. And they try to behave in such a way as not to drop its current reputation in anything. Unlike politicians, they willingly talk about the beautiful city and are always ready to confirm their words with cordial hospitality. No regime can cancel this ancient rule of life of the Turkmen people.

General Information

  • The capital of Turkmenistan, economic and cultural center of the state.
  • It was founded in 1881.
  • Additional official status: velayat (province).
  • Administrative-territorial division: 5 etraps (districts).
  • Languages: Turkmen (official), Russian, Uzbek.
  • Ethnic composition: 77% Turkmen, as well as Russians, Uzbeks, Azerbaijanis, Turks, Armenians, Persians, Ukrainians, Kazakhs, Tatars – more than 100 nationalities in total.
  • Religions: Islam, Orthodoxy and other confessions.
  • Monetary unit: manat.
  • River: canal, called in the city Ashkhabadka river.
  • The most important airport: the international airport named after Saparmurat Turkmenbadka. Saparmurat Turkmenbashi international airport.
  • Area: about 300 km2.
  • Population: 909,900 (2009).
  • Population density: about 3033 people/km2.
  • Altitude: 214-240 m above sea level.


  • Industry: mechanical engineering, metalworking, furniture, food; light industry: enterprises of spinning-weaving, silk-weaving cycle, manufacture of carpets.
  • Important transport junction.
  • Service sector: financial services, trade, tourism.

Climate and weather

  • Sharp continental, its peculiarities are relatively cold winter and very hot summer.
  • Average temperature in January: +3.5°C.
  • Average July temperature: +31.3°C.
  • Average annual precipitation: 200-230 mm.
  • Average annual humidity: 56% There is no precipitation in summer.


  • Cult buildings: Ertugrul Gazi Mosque (a gift from the Turkish government). “Turkmenbashi Ruhi” (“Spirit of Turkmenbashi”), in the village of Kipchak, the birthplace of S. Niyazov. 15 km from the city Orthodox churches of Alexander Nevskiy and St. Nicholas the Wonderworker (XIX c., reconstruction of the XX c.).
  • Buildings and constructions: palace complex “Oguz-khan” – residence of the President of Turkmenistan, National Library, Mejlis building, Academy of Sciences complex, Academic Drama Theater named after Mollanepes, Monument of the President of Turkmenistan. Mollanepes, Bairam-Khan Monument, Independence Monument, Constitution Monument, “Arch of Neutrality” monument with the statue of Turkmenbashi, Bakht Koshgi Marriage Palace, “Alem” cultural and entertainment center.
  • Museums: National Museum of History and Ethnography (rich archeological collection). Carpet Museum, Museum of Fine Arts (works of Russian, Western European and Central Asian artists on Turkmen themes), National Treasury (silver jewelry for women, as well as horses, copies of gold sculptures of Altyn Tepe).
  • First Park (founded in 1890), Alley of Inspiration – art and park complex.
  • 18 km from the city – Historical and Cultural Reserve “Nisa” – ancient settlements of the III century BC. – III century BC (included in the UNESCO World Heritage List).
  • Bazaar “Djygylyk”.

Fun facts

  • Ashgabat has the second tallest flagpole in the world with a height of 133 meters (the first one, 160 meters high, is in North Korea), on which flies the cloth of the national flag of the country measuring 52.5 by 35 meters and weighing 420 kg. The city is also proud of one of the world’s largest fountain-sculpture complexes “Oguzkhan and Sons”, 27 fountains covering an area of about 15 hectares.
  • The Museum of Turkmen Carpet has about 2000 carpets, the oldest of which dates back to the XVII century. The second largest handmade carpet in the world – “The Golden Age of the Great Saparmurat Turkmenbashi” – is also located here. The area of the carpet is almost 301 m2 and its weight is more than a ton. You can buy a carpet of almost any size in the store at the museum, but if it was woven more than 20 years ago, it is considered a historical value and a special permit is required for its export.
  • At the end of the XIX century there was a project of the coat of arms of Ashebad. The city was symbolized by the crown of the Russian Empire, a camel caravan and a train. But this project remained only on paper.
  • Ashgabat is a branch of the Karakum Canal, through which the waters of the Amu Darya flow, but in Ashgabat it is called a river. The concrete bed of Ashkhabadka was filled in 2006. It is 12 to 20 meters wide and up to 3.5 meters deep. It flows from east to west for 11 kilometers. Every kilometer is crossed by openwork bridges. The banks are framed by parapets of gray granite, behind them there are park areas with pavilions, fountains and children’s playgrounds.
  • Saparmurat Niyazov believed that hospitals should be located only in Ashgabat, so that the patients could admire the beautiful capital while undergoing treatment. The dictator’s absurd decision was strictly implemented. At present, the health care system in the country is still in the process of reconstruction.
  • All schoolgirls and students of Ashgabat wear uniforms, these are long dresses of blue or green color and trousers. The dress code includes a mandatory skullcap on the head. The hair must be braided into pigtails. If a girl allows herself to wear a short haircut in ordinary life, going to classes, she must wear a skullcap to which artificial pigtails are sewn.
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