This small-scale rule continued until the late 1800s when the Russians
entered the region, first taking lands from the Turkmen in 1869. This invasion was
not well received by the Turkmen and soon wars had begun. However, the Russians
held much larger and more powerful weapons and after tens of thousands of
Turkmen deaths, in 1894 the Russians took full control over the Turkmen
The Russians quickly established military bases and transportation
networks in Turkmenistan to secure power. They also
encouraged ethnic Russians to settle the region as larger cities developed under
Russian rule. This tension escalated in 1916 when the Russians decided that the
Turkmen could be drafted to fight in the Russian army, leading to more revolts.
Russian rule came to an end in 1917 when the Soviets took
power, however this only flared more violence as the Turkmen
proved to be staunchly anti-communist and fought the Bolsheviks until the final
hold outs fled to Afghanistan and Iran in 1923.
The Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic was formed in
1924 and it became a destination for Russians and political
exiles soon after. The land has numerous natural resources, including vast amounts
of natural gas, causing a great influx of Russians and industrialization. This also
created an effort by the Soviets to settle the primarily nomadic Turkmen people
to work in factories and in fields, a task that was not welcomed. The Soviets also
deported numerous people to the region in order to prevent revolts by these minorities,
most notably the Tatars and other Muslims from the Caucus region.
Under Soviet rule the Turkmen faced many hardships
and a massive earthquake in 1948 didn't help matters as up to two thirds of
Ashgabat's population died from the event, something that will always be remembered
by the people as it remains an important moment in the country's history to
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Turkmen leader,
Saparmurat Niyazov (also known as Turkmenbashi) took the reins of the country as
he sort of turned the country into his personal playground. He wrote two books (Ruhnama)
defining Turkmen culture and lifestyle along with creating some of the world's
most bazaar laws, like banning lip synching and recorded music at weddings. Like
a needy child, Turkmenbashi led his country with corruption and some violence; however
was truly a slave to the people and their opinion of him. Turkmenbashi died in 2006,
but left his Cult of Personality behind for all to enjoy, including a gold statue
of himself that rotates to always face the sun.
Since independence, Turkmenistan has remained neutral
and has sustained its economy almost solely through the export of natural resources.
The country's new president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has proven to be as corrupt
as Turkmenbashi, however has not been as successful in building his cult of personality
as of yet.