Useful Notes: Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan (Turkmen: Türkmenistan), formerly known as Turkmenia, is a Central Asian nation and a former republic of the Soviet Union. It is bordered by Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to the north, Afghanistan to the east, Iran to the south, and the Caspian Sea to the west. Its currency is the New Manat, its official language is Turkmen (not to be confused with Turkish, although they share a root dialect), its predominant religion is Islam and its capital is Ashgabat.

Turkmenistan's history can be summed up as continually being taken over by other armies on their way to bigger and brighter targets, culminating in its annexation by the Soviet Union in 1924, thus turning it into the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (Turkmen SSR). It declared independence in October 1991, which was recognized two months later as part of The Great Politics Mess-Up.

However, things got worse from there. The first post-Soviet president, Saparmurat Niyazov, installed a cult of personality rivaled only by North Korea or the Stalinist USSR. He renamed all months and days in the calendar (including one named after his mother), built a gigantic golden statue of himself in Ashgabat, tried to build an enormous ice palace (in a country covered by desert), banned things like the opera, circuses, video games and even gold tooth fillings and news presenters using makeup (because he was "having trouble telling them apart"), gave himself the title "Türkmenbaşy" (Leader of the Turkmens), renamed Krasnovodsk to that title, shut down all hospitals outside Ashgabat, arguing that sick Turkmens could "come to the capital" for treatment, wrote the Ruhnama, a book which was required to be memorized perfectly to hold government positions, apply for higher education, or even to own a driver's license and passed off as a text mosques were required by law (on penalty of having the mosques shut down at best) to treat on the same level as the Quran - all despite Niyazov being "somewhat illiterate", and eventually declared himself president-for-life.

Fortunately, that "for-life" part didn't last long. Niyazov died of a heart attack on 21 December 2006, and was succeeded by Gurbanguly Mälikgulyıewiç Berdimuhamedow in an election two months later. Ironically, Berdimuhamedow previously served as a dentist whose pension was taken away by Niyazov before he died; Berdimuhamedow returned the favor by restoring pensions to 100,000 affected doctors. To this day, Turkmenistan still qualifies as a People's Republic of Tyranny, being a single-party state (and that one party used to be the Communist Party), but Berdimuhamedow has taken steps to dismantle Niyazov's cult of personality in favor of his own.

The Turkmen flag
The flag's green field and crimson stripe are colors long held in importance by the Turkmen people; the crescent is a Turkic symbol, used here to symbolize hope for the future; the five stars symbolize its provinces: Ahal, Balkan, Daşoguz, Lebap and Mary; in the stripe are five guls, symmetrical carpet patterns common in Central Asia, symbolizing the five major tribes of Turkmenistan (top to bottom): Teke, Yomut, Saryk, Chowdur and Arsary; and below the guls are a pair of olive branches of neutrality.