ashgabat turkmenistan

Photo of the Week: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Photo of the Week: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

In all my travels, Turkmenistan has been, by far, the oddest place I’ve visited. Culturally, the Turkmens are “cousins” of the Uzbeks, and I found many similarities in the everyday lives and customs with their Central Asian neighbors. The languages are also similar, both routed in Turkish. These are not the reasons I found Turkmenistan odd. Those reasons have to do with the cult of personality surrounding the then-alive Saparmurat Niyazov—also known as Turkmenbashi, or Leader of Turkmens.

He had large golden statues built for himself, renamed the days of the week and months of the year, and placed himself on the national currency. He wrote a book called the Ruhnama, meant for the “spiritual guidance of the nation”. Because he felt that only the Ruhnama and the Koran were necessary for most Turkmen to read, he closed all libraries in the country outside of Ashgabat. In addition to that, he closed all hospitals around the county because he felt all who were ill should come to the capital for treatment. The list of outrageous decrees and laws continues, like outlawing the opera, ballet, and the circus in 2001.

The absurdity of empty multi-lane roads, new still-empty marble-covered high rises, and endless water fountains in an arid land were my lasting impressions of Ashgabat. I would be curious to see how and if the city has changed since I last visited in 2004, especially since the passing of Turkmenbashi.


Click through to my Flickr gallery to see additional photos of Ashgabat.

Text and photos by Stephen Bugno

Submit your photo of the week to be featured at GoMad Nomad with a link back to your blog!  Send a photo with a paragraph or two describing the photo or your experience to gomadnomadtravelmag [@]

The Ruhnama

The Ruhnama

Government building in Ashgabat Turkmenistan

Government buildings in Ashgabat

Ashgabat monuments

Two monuments in Ashgabat

Golden statue of Saparmurat Niyazov

The large golden statue of Turkmenbashi, which I believe has been removed.fountain in Ashgabat

Earthquake minument in Ashgabat

Ashgabat Lenin Statue

The monument to Lenin in AshgabatAshgabat Drama Theater

The Drama Theater in Ashgabat


About The Author

3 thoughts on “Photo of the Week: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan”

  1. Interesting. Those are quite odd facts for sure. Only thing I knew about Turkmenistan was that my former company is there to building the natural gas process plant. I would love to visit as well.

  2. Wow! for a place that is so pretty, it really is devoid of life. or at least visible signs of it. Great for photo ops though… no waiting for people to get out of your view finder.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top