You certainly know what Ashkhabad is about, where it is situated. Undoubtedly everyone can say that Ashkhabad is a capital of Turkmenistan, which is situated somewhere near Uzbekistan. Even one can remember that Ashkhabad is a capital of famous Turkmen gas, which will soon be used almost by the whole Europe. And then? Man, who does not live in Turkmenistan, has never been to this country and even did not think to visit it as a tourist, can tell nothing more about the city and the country itself. Thus, now and exactly you have the opportunity to know Ashkhabad as much as it is necessary to get interested in and even to fall in love with this unknown city, which has remained closed to the outside world for a long time.
As it has been already mentioned and has already been known, Ashkhabad is a capital and at the same time the largest city of Turkmenistan. Moreover, the city is large administrative-political, industrial, scientific and cultural centre of the country. It is situated in the south of the country at the foothills of the Kopetdag mountain ridge in Turan lowland in the immediate vicinity of the borders of Iran; it lies in the same latitude with Athens, Seoul and San-Francisco.
Strangely enough, in spite of importance it represents now, Ashkhabad cannot boast of its ancient rich history. It even sometimes seems that the territory where the city was situated in antiquity has no relation to the state, to which it belonged. It cannot be compared to such ancient sites of Turkmenistan as Merv, Kunya-Urgench or Nisa, which in due time were important centres of states, founded here by powerful dynasties of rulers. Shahs built these cities in such a style, which they preferred, and under their guidance eminent architects of the Orient created great architectural monuments of the Middle Ages. Dynasties of Khorezmshahs, Temurids, Sassanids lived and died in these buildings, forever immortalizing not only their names, but also names of the cities, which is testified by the results of numerous archeological researches.
But all these important and interesting facts have no relation to modern capital of Turkmenistan. This city is much easier to deal with.
History of Ashkhabad
The history of its foundation and development can begin from 1881. Incidentally, it is important to mention that till 1881 republic’s centre-to-be was small Turkoman settlement, the territory of which was conquered by Tsarist army of the Russian Empire. There was founded military fort and administrative centre of Trans-Caspian region governed by military administration. The established fortification was named “Askhabad”, which remained till 1919. However, the development of the city was not halted. And there were variety of reasons. At that times Askhabad was situated at the crossroads of caravan routes, which was certainly important; and since 1885 there was a railroad passing through Askhabad. These factors, especially the construction of railroads, were a core reason of the growth of the city. Representatives of different social strata pursuing their own certain aim began congregating here. Some people wanted to earn for a piece of bread, some intended to live and stay here because of misunderstanding and persecution in their motherland, others, who were more prosperous, aimed at acquiring more wealth by construction of a new city. And all their wishes and intentions to benefit from new habitat, regardless of their noble or low, good or bad nature, all these only contributed to the development of the city. Owing to endeavours of volunteers, arrived from different places of Turkmenistan and neighboring countries, the city was built in extremely short period. After 10 years of beginning of construction, unremarkable Turkmen settlement Askhabad turned into the territory, which deserved to be called “city” with population of almost 13 thousand people. By 1901 the city became larger, and the population grew to 36,5 thousand people. The ethnic composition of the population was quite diverse: Persians, Russians, Armenians, Tatars, in general anyone but Turkmens. Main population roamed outside the city.
In 1917 in Askhabad same as in the whole Central Asia in fact was established the Soviet power. But because the situation in Russia and in many republics invaded by the Soviets were unstable, and many opponents of a new regime were exiled to Ashkhabad, there was a popular uprising in July 1918. Rebels as a result of bloody struggle succeeded in achieving a victory in many regions of Turkmenistan. They even caught people’s commissar of labour Pavel Gerasimovich Poltorackiy, who was later sentenced to death. However, having resisted the opposition and having written very vigorous last letter, where he appealed to his confederates that he did not intend to betray his political ideas, he fell as a real hero of all the Reds. But the victory of counter-revolutionaries did not last long. On 9 July 1919 the Red Army defeated them and Poltorackiy, who died at the hands of rebels, was recognized a hero and the city was named in his honour.
In 1925 Poltorack becomes a capital of Turkmenistan, to be more precise, the capital of Turkmen SSR. But the memory of great revolutionary was not preserved by his fellows for long time, and in 1928 it was decided to rename the city Ashkhabad.
During first five-year plan after the war (1946-1950) it was supposed to construct new enterprises, to reconstruct existing, to develop textile, food, building and metalworking industries. But it occurred that fate has decreed otherwise.
On 6 October 1948 at 1:17 A.M. local time something unexpected happened. A powerful 8-point earthquake, accompanied with terrible underground rumble, destroyed the city in a moment. Small one-storey buildings with flat roofs turned into dusty heap of ruins, burying under them more that 100 hundred people. After this event there was the second birth of the city. No one remained indifferent to Ashkhabad disaster, thousand of peoples from neighbouring countries arrived here in order to help the city to revive. And this happened. A new Ashkhabad emerged from ruins - practically the same which we can contemplate now.
The denomination of the city in translation from Persian word “eshg” signifies “love”, and “abad” - “populated”. Since 1881 till 1919 Ashkhabad was named as “Askhabad”, in 1919-1920 it was renamed Poltorack in honour of revolutionary figure P.G.Poltorackiy, in 1927 it was named Ashkhabad, and since then the name have not been changed.
After adoption of sovereignty, Ashkhabad was also translated into Russian as “Ashgabad”, because it corresponded to its initial pronunciation in native Turkmen language. However, later on Turkmens identified the capital-city as “Ashkhabad” in all official documents translated into Russian.
Number of population of the city is 600,1 thousand people (according to 2006 data). Ethnic composition of the city is very diverse. Despite the fact that Turkmens compose almost 77%, there are also representatives of more than 100 various nationalities and ethnic groups, including Russians, Uzbeks, Azerbaijanis, Turks, Armenians, Iranians, Ukrainians, Kazakhs and Tatars.
Economy of Ashkhabad
The basis of economy of the city is industry, financial structure and wide trade network. The capital and its suburbs have more than 43 large industrial objects, 128 middle and 1700 small enterprises. In 2008 Gross Domestic Product of Ashkhabad was equal to 9 billion USD.
The system of public transport in Ashkhabad, which has buses and trolleybuses, is well-developed. In order to save the city from influx of great number of transport facilities and to secure new and more comfortable route for transit transports the construction of the ring road commenced in 2008. In the same 2008 it was declared about intention to build Ashkhabad subway.
Saparmurat Turkmenbashi International Airport, linking Ashkhabad with large cities of the republic, the CIS countries and Europe, is situated in the north of the city. A bus terminal, from where buses to different cities and districts of the country depart, is located in the territory of the former airport. “Turkmen airlines” is Turkmen state air company, which has 19 “Boeing” airplanes and is one of the most secure air companies in Asia. “Turkmen airlines” transports passengers from Ashkhabad to 14 different cities of the world: Moscow, London, Frankfurt on the Maine, Birmingham, Bangkok, Delhi, Abu-Dhabi, Amritsar, Beijing, Istanbul, Minsk, Almaty, Tashkent, Saint Petersburg. It is also planned to open such routes as Ashkhabad - Urumqi, Ashkhabad - Antalya, Ashkhabad - Paris.
There is also Turkmenbashi - Mary - Turkmenabad railroad going through Ashkhabad. In May 2009 the reconstruction of the Railroad station was completed.
Places of interest of Ashkhabad
Architectural buildings of the Independence period:
Monument of Independence;
Arch of Neutrality;
“Earthquake” Memorial Ensemble;
Saparmurat Turkmenbashi International Airport;
and stadiums, mosques, fountains, parks, high-class hotels, offices and business centres.
Ashkhabad is a place, where Presidential Palace, Mejlis of Turkmenistan (National Parliament), Cabinet of Minister of Turkmenistan, central bodies of government of Turkmenistan, Supreme Court and Prosecutor General’s Office as well as embassies of various states accredited in Turkmenistan, representative offices of international and regional organizations are located.
Jygyllyk («Second-hand market»);
Gulistan (Russian Bazaar);
Gundogar (Tashauz Bazaar).
Main places of interest of Ashkhabad:
Today Nisa is ancient settlement, which is located in 18 km from modern Ashkhabad, dates back to I millennium B.C. - I millennium A.D. The site of ancient settlement consists of two castles: Old and New Nisa. Old Nisa was in its time Royal residence in Parthia; New Nisa was a capital of Parthian Kingdom.
At the time of Parthian Kingdom Old Nisa called in honour of King Mitridat the First, who in fact ordered to found the city. In that period Nisa was a capital of the Empire, but later the capital was moved to Asia Minor. With the advent of the Sassanid dynasty Nisa completely lost its might, the city was sacked and forgotten. A new stage in the history of Nisa begins from its joining the Arab Caliphate. The city re-emerged, but could not achieve bygone power. Beginning of final decline relates to the XVI century, while in 20ies of the XIX century Nisa consisted of ruins.
Nisa was a centre of palatial and temple buildings. There were graves of members of Arsakian dynasty, which ruled in the period of prosperity of the city, royal treasury, wine-storage and storehouses. In 1946-1960 regular excavations of the site were carried out under guidance of M.E.Masson, during which there were explored remnants of fortification walls, temples, palatial hall with monumental clay sculpture, household and dwelling houses and royal treasury, which sheltered marble statues, horn-form vessels of ivory (ritons), adornments, small plastic art (terra-cotta and metallic), armaments, utensils, documents written in Aramaic alphabet in the Parthian language and others. According to the decision of the Government of Turkmenistan ancient settlement of Nisa was declared State archeological reserve. In 2007 the ruins of the Parthian castle were inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List as one of the most interesting sites of the history of ancient states of the East.
Turkmenbashi Ruhy Mosque
The mosque is situated in Kipchak, home village of Saparmurat Niyazov, in 15 km from Ashkhabad. Construction of this building of white marble cost to the state budget of Turkmenistan 100 million USD. It is great architectural building of the epoch of Saparmurat Niyazov. Total area of the mosque is 18 thousand square m, and its height is 55 m. There are four 80-meter minarets close to the mosque. Size of the building allows praying of seven thousand men and three thousand women at the same time.
In 2006 Niyazov was buried in sarcophagus, which was placed in the centre of the Mausoleum, built the same time with the Mosque. Besides Niyazov, the body of his mother, father and two brothers, died during earthquake in 1948, also repose in the mausoleum.
Museum of Turkmen Carpet
The museum collected a few hundreds of the best carpet patterns, the oldest of which dates back to the XVII century. There is also the second biggest hand-woven carpet of the world - “Golden Age of Saparmurat Turkmenbashi the Great”, the size of which is almost 301 square m, and the weight is more than one ton.
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