Turkmenistan is a country located in Central Asia, formerly known as Turkmenia. The capital is Ashgabat, and although the official language of the state is Turkmenistan, Russian is spoken by the majority of the population living in urban areas. The state has a total area of about 189.660 square miles and the population has been estimated at 5,662,544 in 2016. In 1995, Turkmenistan was declared neutral. The Turkmen people have been nomads and knights since ancient times.
Before the 1930s, the Turkmen gathered in clans that wore different types of clothes and had different dialects. After the 1930s, Joseph Stalin tried to bring the clans together to form a nation. The Turkmen are famous for their Turkmen rugs, which are colorful handmade rugs, historically used by the people to distinguish the different clans. Carpet weaving is one of the main sectors of the Turkmen economy and is also part of their culture. There is a vertical stripe on the side of the hoist of the flag of Turkmenistan which has five motifs that have historically been used in Turkmen rugs. Traditionally, Turkmen men wore white shirts with a red tunic and a black sheepskin hat,
Religion in Turkmenistan
93% of Turkmenistan’s population is Muslim with a higher percentage of Sunni Muslims. Sunni Islam is the largest denomination in the world. When Turkmenistan was part of the Soviet Union, schools and religious practices were banned in the region and several mosques were closed. After independence in 1991, Islam was reintroduced into the state and returned to become the dominant religion in the country, although most Turkmens do not strictly adhere to Islam.
Many Turkmens believe in ancient spirituality and this has made them adhere to many of their old beliefs. Islamic culture is currently taught in schools, and the government is playing a significant role in promoting Islam in the state. Christians in the country represent about 5% of the population and are part of the Eastern Orthodox denomination. Other Christian denominations include the Roman Catholic Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Word of Life Protestant Church, the New Apostolic Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Pentecostal Christianity.
Being in Central Asia, the cuisine in Turkmenistan is similar to that of neighboring countries. Pilaf is considered the main food and consists of fried rice, carrots and mutton. Food in the state is not cooked with many spices, although cottonseed oil is used in abundance to flavor food. Shurpa is a soup based on meat and vegetables, while manti and somsathey are fried dumplings made with various fillings ranging from pumpkin to minced meat. Fried dumplings are famous among travelers as they can be eaten on the go. Russian delicacies are served in some of the local restaurants. Turkmenistan is a large producer of melons with around 400 varieties of melons. Watermelon is one of the fruits consumed locally. Meals are served with Corek, which is the local focaccia. Bread has a symbolic meaning in the state because it is considered impolite to overturn a loaf or to abuse bread. Green tea is the main drink in Turkmenistan and can be taken at any time – it is called chai in Turkmen. Another famous drink in the region is Chal,that camel milk is fermented. Vodka is the most consumed liquor and is reasonably priced.
Turkmen music and music
Some Turkmen people wear jewelry for both spiritual and cosmetic purposes. Traditionally, the amount of jewelry worn by an individual has been symbolic of the status of the individual in society. Turkmen jewelers traded and learned from the people they met because they were nomads, especially people from the Middle East. Most of the Turkmen jewelry was made using silver adorned with precious stones. The Turkmen believed that precious stones had health benefits and that jewels had magical powers. Gems were thought to have different effects on those who wore them. Turquoise was worn as a sign of purity while silver and carnelian were worn to prevent death and disease.
The jewelery industry is still lively today and, due to the high cost of precious stones, some jewelers use glass beads as a substitute. The country has a musical tradition of itinerant singers, called bakshy, who act like magicians and healers and sing acapella or sing with instruments. The dutar, a double-stringed lute with a long neck, is an instrument played along with popular Turkmen music and is one of the local instruments of the region.
Human Rights Watch has named Turkmenistan one of the most oppressive countries of modern times. The state has severe restrictions on its citizens who intend to travel outside the state, and ethnic minority groups are discriminated against. The country’s universities reject non-Turkmen and Uzbeck students, and Baloch ethnic minorities have been prevented from teaching their language and customs. Although the constitution covers freedom of the press and religion, the two are not practiced in the state, and faith-based minority groups face discrimination. The Turkmen people, despite living in modern times, are still far from the ancient traditions and culture. The country therefore has its own distinct culture.