Turkmenistan ( or ; Turkmen: Türkmenistan, pronounced [tʏɾkmønʏˈθːɑːn]) is a country located in Central Asia, bordered by Kazakhstan to the northwest, Uzbekistan to the north, east and northeast, 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 is about 6 million, the lowest of the Central Asian republics, and Turkmenistan is one of the most sparsely populated nations in Asia.
Turkmenistan has long served as a thoroughfare for other nations and cultures. Merv is one of the oldest oasis-cities in Central Asia, and was once the biggest city in the world. It was also one of the great cities of the Islamic world and an important stop on the Silk Road. Annexed by the Russian Empire in 1881, Turkmenistan figured prominently in the anti-Bolshevik movement in Central Asia. In 1925, Turkmenistan became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (Turkmen SSR); it became independent after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Turkmenistan possesses the world's fifth largest reserves of natural gas. Most of the country is covered by the Karakum Desert. From 1993 to 2017, citizens received government-provided electricity, water and natural gas free of charge.
Turkmenistan is an observer state in the Organisation of Turkic States, the Türksoy community and a member of the United Nations. It is also the only permanent neutral country recognized by the UN General Assembly in Asia.
The country is widely criticized for its poor human rights, its treatment of minorities, press and religious freedoms. Since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Turkmenistan has been ruled by repressive totalitarian regimes, that of President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov (also known as Türkmenbaşy or "Head of the Turkmens") until his death in 2006, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, who became president in 2007 after winning a non-democratic election (he had been vice-president and then acting president previously) and ruled the country until he stepped down in 2022 in favour of his son Serdar, who won a subsequent presidential election described by international observers as neither free nor fair. The use of the death penalty was suspended in 1999, before being formally abolished in 2008. (Full article...)