macrohistory & world report


Map of Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan (capital Ashgabat) and neighboring states

World Factbook as of November 2014: "Turkmenistan is largely a desert country with intensive agriculture in irrigated oases and sizeable gas and oil resources. The two largest crops are cotton, most of which is produced for export, and wheat, which is domestically consumed. Although agriculture accounts for roughly 7% of GDP, it continues to employ nearly half of the country's workforce. Turkmenistan's authoritarian regime has taken a cautious approach to economic reform, hoping to use gas and cotton export revenues to sustain its inefficient and highly corrupt economy. The government introduced a privatization plan in 2012, but the implementation of this initiative has been slow. 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. Additional pipelines to China, that began operation in early 2010, and increased pipeline capacity to Iran, have expanded Turkmenistan's export routes for its gas. Overall prospects in the near future are discouraging because of endemic corruption, a poor educational system, government misuse of oil and gas revenues, and Ashgabat's reluctance to adopt market-oriented reforms. The majority of Turkmenistan's economic statistics are state secrets. The present government established a State Agency for Statistics, but GDP numbers and other publicized figures are subject to wide margins of error. In particular, the rate of GDP growth is uncertain... Although foreign investment is encouraged, and some improvements in macroeconomic policy have been made, numerous bureaucratic obstacles impede international business activity."

Economic growth rate
2013: 12.2%
2012: 11.2%
2011: 14.7%

Labor force in agriculture
2004: 48.2%

Unemployment rate
2004: 60%

Export commodities
gas, crude oil, petrochemicals, textiles, cotton fiber

Export partners
2010: China 28.6%, Turkey 10.6%, UAE 7.2%, Afghanistan 6.5%, Iran 6%, Italy 5.4%, Kazakhstan 4.5% (2010)

In 2010, new gas export pipelines that carry Turkmen gas to China and to northern Iran began operating, effectively ending the Russian monopoly on Turkmen gas exports.

Export/import ratio
2011: exports $14.37 billion, imports $9.036 billion

Income Distribution – GINI index
Ranks 59th among 140 countries (lower rank number is less equal).

Health expenditures
2009: 2.3% of GDP

Military expenditures as a percentage of GDP
2005: 3.5%



Living in an urban area
2010: 50%

Net migration rate
2012: Net loss of 1.9 persons per 1,000 per year.

Literacy, Age 15 and Older
(1999) males 99.3%, females 98.3%

Ethnic groups
2003: Turkmen 85%, Uzbek 5%, Russian 4%, other 6%

Muslim 89%, Eastern Orthodox 9%, unknown 2%.


North of Iran and Afghanistan. South of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Coastline along the Caspian Sea, an inland sea. Slightly larger than California. Largely desert.


Only one political party is permitted (2013).

World Factbook: defines itself as a secular democracy and a presidential republic; in actuality displays authoritarian presidential rule, with power concentrated within the presidential administration. (2011)

President elected to five-year term by popular vote.

Capital: Ashgabat

Recent History

World Factbook: "Present-day Turkmenistan covers territory that has been at the crossroads of civilizations for centuries. The area was ruled in antiquity by various Persian empires, and was conquered by Alexander the Great, Muslim crusaders, the Mongols, Turkic warriors, and eventually the Russians. 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 in the late 1800s, Turkmenistan later figured prominently in the anti-Bolshevik movement in Central Asia. In 1924, Turkmenistan became a Soviet republic."

Independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The first multi-candidate presidential election occurs in February 2007. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow becomes president.

Apr 2008: President Berdymukhamedov, in office since December 2006, is undoing extravagances of his predecessor, President Saparmurat Niyazov. Niyazov renamed the days of the week. He renamed January after his honorific title, "Father of Turkmen." He renamed April after his mother. He had made his book. "A Spiritual Guide," compulsory reading for students and workers. Niyazov built golden statues of himself at various locations in the country. He had been General Secretary of the Turkmen Soviet Republic and then president beginning in October 1990.

Sep 2008: Turkmenistan remains route for heroin that originates in Afghanistan. A report describes at least 20 policemen killed in a gun battle with drug runners.

The World Factbook

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