Central Asia :: Turkmenistan
page last updated on August 3, 2010
Flag of Turkmenistan
Map of Turkmenistan
Introduction ::Turkmenistan
Eastern Turkmenistan for centuries formed part of the Persian province of Khurasan; in medieval times Merv (today known as Mary) was one of the great cities of the Islamic world and an important stop on the Silk Road. Annexed by Russia between 1865 and 1885, Turkmenistan became a Soviet republic in 1924. It achieved independence upon the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. Extensive hydrocarbon/natural gas reserves could prove a boon to this underdeveloped country if extraction and delivery projects were to be expanded. The Turkmenistan Government is actively seeking to diversify its gas export routes beyond the existing Russian pipeline network. President for Life Saparmurat NYYAZOW died in December 2006, and Turkmenistan held its first multi-candidate presidential electoral process in February 2007. Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW, a vice premier under NYYAZOW, emerged as the country's new president.
Geography ::Turkmenistan
Central Asia, bordering the Caspian Sea, between Iran and Kazakhstan
Geographic coordinates:
40 00 N, 60 00 E
Map references:
total: 488,100 sq km
country comparison to the world: 52
land: 469,930 sq km
water: 18,170 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly larger than California
Land boundaries:
total: 3,736 km
border countries: Afghanistan 744 km, Iran 992 km, Kazakhstan 379 km, Uzbekistan 1,621 km
0 km; note - Turkmenistan borders the Caspian Sea (1,768 km)
Maritime claims:
none (landlocked)
Current Weather
subtropical desert
flat-to-rolling sandy desert with dunes rising to mountains in the south; low mountains along border with Iran; borders Caspian Sea in west
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Vpadina Akchanaya -81 m
note: Sarygamysh Koli is a lake in northern Turkmenistan with a water level that fluctuates above and below the elevation of Vpadina Akchanaya (the lake has dropped as low as -110 m)
highest point: Gora Ayribaba 3,139 m
Natural resources:
petroleum, natural gas, sulfur, salt
Land use:
arable land: 4.51%
permanent crops: 0.14%
other: 95.35% (2005)
Irrigated land:
18,000 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources:
60.9 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 24.65 cu km/yr (2%/1%/98%)
per capita: 5,104 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards:
Environment - current issues:
contamination of soil and groundwater with agricultural chemicals, pesticides; salination, water logging of soil due to poor irrigation methods; Caspian Sea pollution; diversion of a large share of the flow of the Amu Darya into irrigation contributes to that river's inability to replenish the Aral Sea; desertification
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note:
landlocked; the western and central low-lying desolate portions of the country make up the great Garagum (Kara-Kum) desert, which occupies over 80% of the country; eastern part is plateau
People ::Turkmenistan
4,940,916 (July 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 115
Age structure:
0-14 years: 28.2% (male 703,941/female 687,335)
15-64 years: 67.7% (male 1,657,903/female 1,687,725)
65 years and over: 4.1% (male 88,520/female 115,492) (2010 est.)
Median age:
total: 24.8 years
male: 24.4 years
female: 25.3 years (2010 est.)
Population growth rate:
1.14% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 111
Birth rate:
19.62 births/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 97
Death rate:
6.27 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 157
Net migration rate:
-1.95 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 133
urban population: 49% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 2.2% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.77 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2010 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 43.84 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 60
male: 52.13 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 35.14 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 68.2 years
country comparison to the world: 151
male: 65.25 years
female: 71.29 years (2010 est.)
Total fertility rate:
2.19 children born/woman (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 113
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
less than 0.1% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 154
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
fewer than 200 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 157
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 100 (2004 est.)
country comparison to the world: 147
noun: Turkmen(s)
adjective: Turkmen
Ethnic groups:
Turkmen 85%, Uzbek 5%, Russian 4%, other 6% (2003)
Muslim 89%, Eastern Orthodox 9%, unknown 2%
Turkmen (official) 72%, Russian 12%, Uzbek 9%, other 7%
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 98.8%
male: 99.3%
female: 98.3% (1999 est.)
Education expenditures:
3.9% of GDP (1991)
country comparison to the world: 109
Government ::Turkmenistan
Country name:
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Turkmenistan
local long form: none
local short form: Turkmenistan
former: Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic
Government type:
defines itself as a secular democracy and a presidential republic; in actuality displays authoritarian presidential rule, with power concentrated within the executive branch
name: Ashgabat (Ashkhabad)
geographic coordinates: 37 57 N, 58 23 E
time difference: UTC+5 (10 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:
5 provinces (welayatlar, singular - welayat) and 1 independent city*: Ahal Welayaty (Anew), Ashgabat*, Balkan Welayaty (Balkanabat), Dashoguz Welayaty, Lebap Welayaty (Turkmenabat), Mary Welayaty
note: administrative divisions have the same names as their administrative centers (exceptions have the administrative center name following in parentheses)
27 October 1991 (from the Soviet Union)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 27 October (1991)
adopted 26 September 2008
Legal system:
transitioning to civil law system and influenced by Islamic law tradition; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW (since 14 February 2007); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW (since 14 February 2007)
cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the president
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elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; election last held on 11 February 2007 (next to be held in February 2012)
election results: Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW elected president; percent of vote - Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW 89.2%, Amanyaz ATAJYKOW 3.2%, other candidates 7.6%
Legislative branch:
unicameral parliament known as the National Assembly (Mejlis) (125 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held on 14 December 2008 (next to be held in December 2013)
election results: 100% of elected officials are members of either the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan or its pseudo-civil society parent organization, the Revival Movement, and are preapproved by the president
note: in 26 September 2008, a new constitution of Turkmenistan abolished a second, 2,507-member legislative body known as the People's Council and expanded the number of deputies in the National Assembly from 65 to 125; the powers formerly held by the People's Council were divided up between the president and the National Assembly
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court (judges are appointed by the president)
Political parties and leaders:
Democratic Party of Turkmenistan or DPT [Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW]
note: formal opposition parties are outlawed; unofficial, small opposition movements exist abroad; the three most prominent opposition groups-in-exile are the National Democratic Movement of Turkmenistan (NDMT), the Republican Party of Turkmenistan, and the Watan (Fatherland) Party; the NDMT was led by former Foreign Minister Boris SHIKHMURADOV until his arrest and imprisonment in the wake of the 25 November 2002 attack on President NYYAZOW's motorcade
Political pressure groups and leaders:
International organization participation:
ADB, CIS (associate member, has not ratified the 1993 CIS charter although it participates in meetings), EAPC, EBRD, ECO, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO (correspondent), ITU, MIGA, NAM, OIC, OPCW, OSCE, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Meret Bairamovich ORAZOW
chancery: 2207 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 588-1500
FAX: [1] (202) 588-0697
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Sylvia Reed CURRAN
embassy: No. 9 1984 Street (formerly Pushkin Street), Ashgabat, Turkmenistan 744000
mailing address: 7070 Ashgabat Place, Washington, DC 20521-7070
telephone: [993] (12) 35-00-45
FAX: [993] (12) 39-26-14
Flag description:
green field with a vertical red stripe near the hoist side, containing five tribal guls (designs used in producing carpets) stacked above two crossed olive branches; five white stars and a white crescent moon appear in the upper corner of the field just to the fly side of the red stripe; the green color and crescent moon represent Islam, the five stars symbolize the regions or welayats of Turkmenistan
Economy ::Turkmenistan
Economy - overview:
Turkmenistan is largely a desert country with intensive agriculture in irrigated oases and sizeable gas and oil resources. One-half of its irrigated land is planted in cotton; formerly it was the world's 10th-largest producer. Poor harvests in recent years have led to an almost 50% decline in cotton exports. With an authoritarian ex-Communist regime in power and a tribally based social structure, Turkmenistan has taken a cautious approach to economic reform, hoping to use gas and cotton sales to sustain its inefficient economy. Privatization goals remain limited. From 1998-2005, Turkmenistan suffered from the continued lack of adequate export routes for natural gas and from obligations on extensive short-term external debt. At the same time, however, total exports rose by an average of roughly 15% per year from 2003-08, largely because of higher international oil and gas prices. New pipelines to China and Iran, that began operation in late 2009 or early 2010, will give Turkmenistan additional export routes for its gas. Overall prospects in the near future are discouraging because of widespread internal poverty, endemic corruption, a poor educational system, government misuse of oil and gas revenues, and Ashgabat's reluctance to adopt market-oriented reforms. In addition, the global recession and a contract dispute with Russia that had virtually stopped exports via this major export route for about 9 months slowed Turkmenistan's economy in 2009. In the past, Turkmenistan's economic statistics were state secrets. The new government has established a State Agency for Statistics, but GDP numbers and other figures are subject to wide margins of error. In particular, the rate of GDP growth is uncertain. Since his election, President BERDIMUHAMEDOW unified the country's dual currency exchange rate, ordered the redenomination of the manat, reduced state subsidies for gasoline, and initiated development of a special tourism zone on the Caspian Sea. Although foreign investment is encouraged, numerous bureaucratic obstacles impede international business activity.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$33.58 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 101
$31.65 billion (2008 est.)
$28.82 billion (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$16.24 billion (2009 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
6.1% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 16
9.8% (2008 est.)
11.6% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$6,900 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 127
$6,600 (2008 est.)
$6,000 (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 10.1%
industry: 30.5%
services: 59.4% (2009 est.)
Labor force:
2.3 million (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 114
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 48.2%
industry: 14%
services: 37.8% (2004 est.)
Unemployment rate:
60% (2004 est.)
country comparison to the world: 196
Population below poverty line:
30% (2004 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.6%
highest 10%: 31.7% (1998)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
40.8 (1998)
country comparison to the world: 60
Investment (gross fixed):
8.5% of GDP (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 150
revenues: $1.459 billion
expenditures: $1.612 billion (2009 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
10% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 194
13% (2008 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
Agriculture - products:
cotton, grain; livestock
natural gas, oil, petroleum products, textiles, food processing
Industrial production growth rate:
-26.6% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 167
Electricity - production:
15.5 billion kWh (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 79
Electricity - consumption:
13 billion kWh (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 79
Electricity - exports:
2.5 billion kWh (2009 est.)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2009 est.)
Oil - production:
197,700 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 42
Oil - consumption:
120,000 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 72
Oil - exports:
38,360 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 82
Oil - imports:
0 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 208
Oil - proved reserves:
700 million bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 43
Natural gas - production:
34 billion cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 25
Natural gas - consumption:
20 billion cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 34
Natural gas - exports:
14 billion cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 15
Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 121
Natural gas - proved reserves:
7.94 trillion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 4
Current account balance:
$1.065 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 42
$5.145 billion (2008 est.)
$6.737 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 94
$12.34 billion (2008 est.)
Exports - commodities:
gas, crude oil, petrochemicals, textiles, cotton fiber
Exports - partners:
Ukraine 22.3%, Turkey 10.27%, Hungary 6.75%, UAE 6.25%, Poland 6.16%, Afghanistan 5.79%, Iran 5.17% (2009)
$4.109 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 121
$5.601 billion (2008 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, chemicals, foodstuffs
Imports - partners:
China 18.03%, Turkey 16.49%, Russia 16.45%, Germany 5.91%, UAE 5.81%, Ukraine 5.67%, US 5.41%, France 4.32% (2009)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$9.551 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 69
$13.8 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Debt - external:
$5 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 102
$1.4 billion (2004 est.)
Exchange rates:
Turkmen manat (TMM) per US dollar - 2.85 (2009), 14,250 (2008)
Communications ::Turkmenistan
Telephones - main lines in use:
478,000 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 100
Telephones - mobile cellular:
1.135 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 141
Telephone system:
general assessment: telecommunications network remains underdeveloped and progress toward improvement is slow; strict government control and censorship inhibits liberalization and modernization
domestic: Turkmentelekom, in cooperation with foreign partners, has installed high speed fiber-optic lines and has upgraded most of the country's telephone exchanges and switching centers with new digital technology; mobile telephone usage is expanding with Russia's Mobile Telesystems (MTS) the primary service provider; combined fixed-line and mobile teledensity is about 30 per 100 persons
international: country code - 993; linked by fiber-optic cable and microwave radio relay to other CIS republics and to other countries by leased connections to the Moscow international gateway switch; an exchange in Ashgabat switches international traffic through Turkey via Intelsat; satellite earth stations - 1 Orbita and 1 Intelsat (2008)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 12, FM 9, shortwave 2 (2008)
Television broadcast stations:
4 (government-owned and programmed) (2008)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
755 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 164
Internet users:
75,000 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 161
Transportation ::Turkmenistan
28 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 121
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 22
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 10
1,524 to 2,437 m: 9
914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2009)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 6
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
under 914 m: 4 (2009)
1 (2009)
gas 6,417 km; oil 1,457 km (2009)
total: 2,980 km
country comparison to the world: 56
broad gauge: 2,980 km 1.520-m gauge (2008)
total: 58,592 km
country comparison to the world: 77
paved: 47,577 km
unpaved: 11,015 km (2002)
1,300 km (Amu Darya and Kara Kum canal are important inland waterways) (2008)
country comparison to the world: 56
Merchant marine:
total: 7
country comparison to the world: 127
by type: cargo 4, petroleum tanker 2, refrigerated cargo 1 (2008)
Ports and terminals:
Military ::Turkmenistan
Military branches:
Army, Navy, Air and Air Defense Forces (2010)
Military service age and obligation:
18-30 years of age for compulsory military service; 2-year conscript service obligation (2007)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 1,360,898
females age 16-49: 1,368,265 (2010 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 1,046,907
females age 16-49: 1,168,960 (2010 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 55,805
female: 54,908 (2010 est.)
Military expenditures:
3.4% of GDP (2005 est.)
country comparison to the world: 36
Transnational Issues ::Turkmenistan
Disputes - international:
cotton monoculture in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan creates water-sharing difficulties for Amu Darya river states; field demarcation of the boundaries with Kazakhstan commenced in 2005, but Caspian seabed delimitation remains stalled with Azerbaijan, Iran, and Kazakhstan due to Turkmenistan's indecision over how to allocate the sea's waters and seabed
Refugees and internally displaced persons:
refugees (country of origin): 11,173 (Tajikistan); less than 1,000 (Afghanistan) (2007)
Illicit drugs:
transit country for Afghan narcotics bound for Russian and Western European markets; transit point for heroin precursor chemicals bound for Afghanistan

Source: The World Factbook (CIA)