Ashgabat [Pers. ‛Ashqābād; formerly Ashkhabad Askhabad, Poltoratsk]
- Sheila S. Blair
- and Jonathan M. Bloom
[Pers. ‛Ashqābād; formerly Ashkhabad Askhabad, Poltoratsk]
Capital city of Turkmenistan. Lying in an oasis south of the Karakum Desert, the city was founded in 1881 on the site of a mountain village (Rus. aul). Linked by rail with the Caspian coast in 1885, it developed rapidly as the center of the Transcaspian region at the turn of the 20th century and became the capital of the Turkmen republic in 1924. It suffered greatly from earthquakes in 1893, 1895 and 1929; following complete destruction by the earthquake of 6 October 1948, the city was rebuilt during the 1950s and 1960s.
Saparmurat Niyazov (generally referred to as Turkmenbashi, or leader of the Turkmen), president from 1985 to 2006, used the revenues from huge gas reserves to lavishly embellish the city with grandiose monuments of gleaming white marble and gold. Civic structures include not only the palace, government offices and an exhibition center, but also the Arch of Neutrality, a large tripod in front of which stands a gold statue of Turkmenbashi that rotates to face the sun. Religious structures include the Azadi Mosque, which resembles the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, and the Kipchak Mosque, said to be the largest in Central Asia. The National Museum of History (...