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Ashgabat

Ashgabat History

Ashgabat is a relatively young city, growing out of a village of the same name established by Russians in 1881. It is not far from the site of Nisa, the ancient capital of the Parthian Empire, and it grew on the ruins of the Silk Road city of Konjikala, which was first mentioned as a wine-producing village in 2nd century BCE and was leveled by an earthquake in 1st century BCE (a precursor of the 1948 Ashgabat earthquake). Konjikala was rebuilt because of its advantageous location on the Silk Road and it flourished until its destruction by Mongols in the 13th century CE. After that it survived as a small village until the Russians took over in the 19th century.

In 1869, Russian soldiers built a fortress on a hill near the village, and this added security soon attracted merchants and craftsmen to the area. Ashgabat remained a part of Persia until 1881, when it was ceded to Tsarist Russia under the terms of Akhal Treaty. Russia chose to develop Ashgabat as a regional center due to its proximity to the border of British-influenced Persia. It was regarded as a pleasant town with European style buildings, shops and hotels.

Soviet rule was established in Ashgabat in December 1917. However in July 1918 a coalition of Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries and Tsarist former officers of the Imperial Russian Army revolted against the Bolshevik rule emanating from Tashkent and established the Ashkhabad Executive Committee. After receiving some support (but even more promises) from General Malleson, the British withdrew in April 1919, and the Tashkent Soviet resumed control of the city and in July 1919, when the city was renamed Poltoratsk () after a local revolutionary. The name Ashgabat was restored in 1927 after the establishment of Turkmen SSR as a Soviet republic, though it was usually known by the Russian form Ashkhabad. From this period onward, the city experienced rapid growth and industrialisation, although this was severely disrupted by a major earthquake on October 6, 1948. An estimated 7.3 on the Richter scale, the earthquake killed 110-176,000 (2/3 of the population of the city), although the official number announced by Soviet news was only 40,000.

Modern Ashgabat

Museums include the Turkmen Fine Arts Museum and Turkmen Carpet Museum, noted for their impressive collection of woven carpets as well as a Turkmen history museum and the Ashgabat National Museum of History, which displays artifacts dating back to the Parthian and Persian civilizations. The Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan is an important institute of higher learning. Large mosques include the Azadi Mosque (which resembles the Blue Mosque in Istanbul), the Khezrety Omar Mosque, and the futuristic Iranian Mosque. Ashgabat was also home to the Arch of Neutrality, a 250-foot-tall tripod crowned by a golden statue of late president Saparmurat Niyazov (also known as Turkmenbashi, or leader of all Turkmen). The 50-foot-high statue, which rotated in order to always face the sun during daylight hours, was removed on August 26, 2010 after Niyazovs successor, current President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, made it clear earlier in the year that the statue was going to be taken out of Ashgabats parliament square.


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