Turkmenistan or Turkmenia, a country in Central Asia. It is bordered by the Caspian Sea, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. The area is 188,456 square miles (488,100 km2 ).
The Kara Kum, a desert, occupies about 90 per cent of the total area. Along the southern boundary are several mountain ranges, including the Kopet Dagh, which rises more than 9,000 feet (2,700 m) above sea level. A narrow strip along the Caspian Sea lies below sea level. The only major rivers are the Amu Darya, Murgab, and Tedzhen, which flow from the mountains of Afghanistan. Except for small forested areas on the mountain slopes, vegetation is either nonexistent or restricted to desert shrubs and grasses. There is little rainfall. Summers are long and hot, and winters are cool to cold.
Agriculture is the main economic activity and is concentrated in the river valleys where water is available for irrigation. Much farming is also done along the Kara Kum Canal, which carries water westward across most of the country from the Amu Darya. Cotton is the principal crop. Grain, fruits, and vegetables are also grown, and silk is produced. Karakul sheep are raised in the desert.
Petroleum and natural gas are Turkmenistan's chief mineral products. Other minerals produced include magnesium, salt, and sulfur. Industries include food processing, textile and chemical manufacturing, petroleum refining, and carpet weaving. The Trans-Caspian Railway, with branch lines along the Amu Darya and Murgab rivers, crosses Turkmenistan from Turkmenabat to Turkmenbashi. There are few roads; air service connects the major cities.
In 1995 Turkmenistan had a population of 4,483,251; Ashgabat, the capital and largest city, had 407,000. Virtually all of the people live in the southern foothills between Ashgabat and Mary, in the Amu Darya valley, and around Turkmenbashi.
About 70 per cent of the people are Turkmenians, or Turkomans; the rest are chiefly Russians, Uzbeks, and Kazakhs. Both Turkmenian and Russian are widely spoken. Islam is the predominant religion. Almost all the people can read and write. Turkmen State University, in Ashgabat, is the largest institution of higher learning. Turkmenistan has a parliamentary form of government with an elected president.