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Turkmenistan: the great desert of Karakum

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Turkmenistan (Türkmenistan Jumhuriyati) is a presidential republic of Central Asia. This state which was born with the end of the Soviet Union is bordered by Iran and Afghanistan to the south, Uzbekistan to the east and north, Kazakhstan to the north, while to the west it is bathed by the Caspian Sea (the lake largest in the world, 371,000 sq km). The capital and main city of the country is Ashgabat.


Turkmenistan is largely formed by the plains of the Turan Lowlands which are part of the Karakum desert which occupies almost 80% of the country’s territory. In the central-northern area of the lowland there is the Akdzhak depression (-81 m below sea level). Much of the dune coast along the Caspian Sea is also located below sea level.

There are few reliefs in the country. In the southwestern section, along the border with Iran, the Kopet-Dağ chain rises, which in Turkmenistan reaches almost 3,000 meters in height (Mount Shahshah (2,912 meters). The highest mountain in Turkmenistan is the Mount Ayrybaba (3,137 meters) in the Kugitang mountain range, located in the far east of the country. The most important rivers in Turkmenistan are Amudarja, which marks part of the border with Uzbekistan, and Murgab river.

Turkmenistan’s economy is tied to agriculture. Cotton, fruit, vegetables, tobacco and cereals are grown there. Other important economic activities in the country are breeding (sheep (karakul sheep), cattle, silk), forestry, and the rich resources of the subsoil (natural gas, oil, sulfur). The country’s industry has developed in the mining, chemical, textile, and transformation of agricultural and livestock products.

  • Area: 488,100 sqkm. (Arable 3%, Pastures 61%, Forests and Woodlands 8%, Uncultivated and Unproductive 28%)
  • Population: 5,110,000 (2006 data) (Turkmens 85%, Uzbeks 5%, Russians 5%).
  • State Capital: Ashgabat.
  • Languages: Turkmen language is the official state language. Spoken also Russian, Dari and Uzbek.
  • Religion: Muslim 89%, Orthodox Christian 9%.
  • Currency: Manat (TMM)
  • Time: UTC +5 hours.



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