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Monday, 4 December 2006
Nature Reserves of Turkmenistan
Topic: Environment & ecology

The Amudarya nature reserve  includes the ecosystems of tugai forests in the Amudarya River valley and adjoining desert areas. This nature reserve provides habitats for 48 species and subspecies of mammals, and 203 species and subspecies of birds. Here 1,040 species of higher plants grow. Among vertebrate animals there are rare species, such as the Central Asian gazelle, Bukhara deer, ratel, otter, marble teal, osprey and others. Among fish species, there are greater and lesser Amudarya false shovelnose sturgeons, and pike chub. The Amudarya nature reserve manages the Kelif natural preserve that incorporates lake ecosystems in South-East Turkmenistan and is a favorable place for the wintering of migratory and aquatic birds.

The Badkhyz nature reserve , and the Badkhyz region proper, include ecosystems of hilly plateaus at the piedmont of the Paropamiz, the northernmost range of the Hindukush. The territory of the nature reserve supports 40 species of mammals, 250 species of birds, 34 species of reptiles. Among them are the Central Asian gazelle, Turkmen mountain sheep, onager, striped hyena, caracal, leopard, short-toed eagle, golden eagle, and others.
he vegetation in Badkhyz includes 1,050 varieties of vascular plants (442 genera and 76 families) of which more than 75 species and subspecies are endemic. The nature reserve incorporates 3 natural preserves (all established in 1956):
hemenibit (floodplain-river, the summer drinking place for onagers);
yzyldjar (piedmont, the drinking place for mammals and birds);
Pulikhatum (piedmont, the drinking place for mammals and birds).

The Kopetdag nature reserve   was set up for the conservation and integrated study of the mountain forest ecosystems. The protected territory spreads over high and medium mountains of the Central Kopetdag, i.e. between meridians crossing the Archman railway station in the west, and the Gyaurs station in the east. The nature reserve provides habitats for 68 species of mammals and 280 species of birds. More than 960 species of plants grow here. The nature reserve incorporates two natural preserves established in 1976: Kalininsk (mountains), and Meana-Chaacha (piedmont).

The larger territory of the Kaplankyr nature reserve  is occupied by the Kaplankyr clay plateau-like upland, the southern spur of the Ustyurt Plateau. According to the botanical geography, the protected territory lies at the junction of northern and southern deserts. Here are found 26 species of mammals, 147 species of birds, and 918 species of higher plants. Protected here are rare species of animals, such as the Central Asian gazelle, the Ustuyrt mountain sheep, ratel, etc.; among higher plants – the Khiva thistle, Turkmen tulip, Antonia’s gypsophila, Karelin sand acacia, and other 55 endemic species. In addition, enormous populations of saiga antelopes that migrate here from Karakalpakstan in the winter are also protected in the nature reserve. The Kaplankyr nature reserve incorporates two natural preserves: Sarykamysh (established in 1980; lake-coastal ecosystems) and Shakhsenem (established in 1984; stony desert).

The main directions of activity in the Kugitang nature reserve  are the conservation and restoration of the mountain ecosystems in the Southern Pamir-Alai. The Kugitangtau range forms the border between the Mountain-Central Asian and Iranian biogeographic provinces, and is characterized by specific physiographical conditions and the original flora and fauna. 22 species of mammals and 80 species of birds were registered in the nature reserve. About 1,000 species of higher plants, among which 40 are endemic, have been found in the nature reserve. The Kugitang nature reserve incorporates 3 natural preserves (all established in 1986):
arlyuk (karst; protection of unique subsurface caves, the world’s only population of the Kugitang blind char);
hodjapil (mountain forest; conservation of Zarafshan juniper, “Dinosaurs Plateau”, screw-horned mountain goat, and others);
Khodja-Burdji-Belend (mountain forest; protection of pistachio areas).

The Karakum Desert occupies the area of about 35 million ha, or more than 80% of the whole territory of Turkmenistan. According to its geological and natural conditions, the Karakum can be divided into three large parts: Northern or Zaunguz, Central or Lowland, and South-Eastern Karakum. The latter incorporates the Repetek State Biosphere Reserve  where 20 species of mammals and 23 species of birds live. The total flora of higher plants growing here includes 269 species belonging to 206 genera and 84 families. Of 132 species of aboriginal plants in the Repetek nature reserve 42 species (31.8%) are endemic for the Karakum and Kyzylkum deserts.

The Syunt-Khasardag nature reserve includes ecosystems of the Western Kopetdag mountains (dry subtropics) and neighboring plains. Here, 37 species of mammals and 217 species of birds are found. Flora of the Western Kopetdag includes 1,266 species of higher plants, which belong to 233 genera and 500 families; among these, 150 species are endemic. The nature reserve incorporates one mountain natural preserve, the Syunt-Khasardag (established in 1990). It is separated from the Central part of the nature reserve in order to improve social and economic conditions of the population in the Garrygala etrap (district).

The desert ecosystems, dry subtropics, and marine shallow bays in the southeastern coast of the Caspian are included into the Khazar nature reserve. It consists of two parts, Essenguly and Krasnovodsk. It was set up in 1968 on an area of 192,300 ha. This nature reserve is included in the list of aquatic and wetland habitats of the international significance that are under protection of the Ramsar International Convention. The Khazar nature reserve provides the habitat for 18 species of mammals and 372 species of birds. Of the bird fauna, nearly a half is waterfowl and near-water birds, which is a specific feature of the Khazar nature reserve (more than 85% of its territory covers the water areas, bays, and sea).

Posted by countryturkmenistan at 12:18 PM
Updated: Monday, 4 December 2006 12:38 PM
Tuesday, 21 November 2006
Ancient Turkmenistan - New Centre of World Civilization
Topic: Turkmen History

The excavations in Margiana will make reconsider views on the remote past of humankind and fully reveal a real picture of the remote past of the remarkable Turkmen land located in the centre of Asia, on the crossroads of the ancient caravan routes and modern transcontinental communication lines. The participants of the International Scientific Conference “Ancient Margiana – a New Centre of the World Civilisation” held in the Mary Velayat and that completed its work have come to such conclusion.

The third, last, day of the conference was dedicated to the scientific discussion of the role and place of the outstanding archaeological monument of the Bronze Age, Ancient Margiana in the history of the world civilisation. Bright impressions of the scientists received after their visit to the excavations and of the report of the Archaeology Professor V.I. Sarianidi as well as his comments on the video film dedicated to the sensational archaeological finds of the Margianian expedition attached especially emotional character to the discussion. Telling in detail about those finds each of which is a unique one, V.I. Sarianidi especially stressed the results of the archaeological investigations made during recent three years. Those finds, including a cylindrical seal with a cuneiform Sumerian inscription, leave no doubts that in the late third millennium - first half of the second millennium B.C. the country of Margush was not an isolated oasis but it was in the centre of international relations and had a highly developed civilisation. According to the scientists, the Turkmen land still keeps many secrets about which we do not guess. That is why each new find does not only answer the questions but also put new ones thus stipulating further investigation.

Highly appreciating the work of the Margianian expedition and the investigation of Professor V.I. Sarianidi, the scientists expressed their unanimous opinion that the present meeting which gathered leading world historians and archaeologists in the hospitable Turkmen land will make it possible to stir up their joint investigation whose aim is to reconstruct the gaps in the ancient history one of whose secrets is a legendary country of Margush. But at present, according to Professor of the Cambridge University Colin Refrew, Ancient Margiana can be undoubtedly put among the ancient world civilisations. This point of view of the famous scientist was listened to with a storm of applause of the participants and guests of the conference.

A starting point of the speeches, a thesis that numerous monumental palaces and temples of the country of Margush including the rich royal necropolis and the ancient articles of art, can testify to the existence of the centre of ancient science and culture absolutely unknown for science.

Stressing the necessity of further detailed investigation of the historical heritage of Margiana having many common features with the early known civilisations, with India and Mesopotamia in particular, the scientists expressed their belief of presence of written sources, search of which is the question of time.

According to the conference participants, everything they saw there made many of them change their point of view and hypothesis. “I completely changed my point of view. We saw not only high culture but new civilisation. There is no greater monument of the Bronze Age than Margiana”, said in her speech Academician Yelena Kuzmina.

“We saw unique samples of art and if we gather all the exhibits kept in the world museums, they will not make up we saw in Gonur. This is an achievement not only of the Turkmen people but of entire humankind as well.” These words were almost in all the speeches of the conference participants who approved the idea of holding an exhibition “Art of the Country of Margush” in a famous museum complex in Paris, Louvers. It was especially stressed that the entire world should see that unique exhibiting.

Summing up the three-day work all those present unanimously stressed that the present forum became a starting point for uniting the efforts in the process of restoration of the true history of humankind. They also stressed that further investigations of the civilisation of Margush promised to bring new sensational discoveries which would help to properly appreciate the place of Ancient Turkmenistan in the system of the first civilisations of our planet.

Expressing their deep gratitude to the government of Turkmenistan and personally to President Saparmurat Niyazov for the opportunity to visit the ancient Turkmen land and to see the great monument to the human genius with their own eyes the participants of the conference expressed their wish to continue and strengthen close scientific co-operation.

An official dinner was organised for the participants of the International Scientific Conference “Ancient Margiana – a New Centre of World Civilisation” on behalf of the head of the Turkmen state.

On the same day the participants of the forum came back to the Turkmen capital where a rich cultural programme was organised for them.

18 November 2006, State Information Agency of Turkmenistan (TDH)

Posted by countryturkmenistan at 5:21 PM
Tuesday, 27 June 2006
Gemstones of Turkmenistan
Topic: Environment & ecology
Turkmenistan is rich in the gemstones deposits and occurrences. Many of Turkmen gemstones are well-known to collectors and connoisseurs in our country and abroad. The most famous one is the Karluk marble onyx deposit located in the Gaurdag-Kugitang region in the very east of Turkmenistan. By its colour and beauty of natural ornaments marble onyx has no analogues all over the world. Onyx is a banded variety of chalcedony. The colours of its bands are brown (varying from semi-transparent yellow to dark brown) and white. Onyx occurs in the caves as various dripstones and it is used for making souvenirs – caskets, candlesticks, vases. The stones of remarkable beauty are used for making jewelry. The beautiful druses of gypsum, calcite and aragonite crystals occur in the Kugitang caves.

Turkmenistan is also famous for the Beyneu celestine deposit located in the north-west of Turkmenistan. The transparent blue crystals (up to 2-3 cm in length) fill the cavities in the mass pink celestine layers from 5 cm to and 15-20 and more. The Beyneu celestine is very spectacular and popular among collectors and connoisseurs.

The Kafigshem occurrence of quartz-chalcedonic geodes are located in the north of the Tuarkyr Mountains. The Tuarkyr geodes are the wonderful collection stones. They occurred in the stratified rocks dated back to the upper Jurassic period. The geodes composed of chalcedony for the most part have the cavities with internal quartz and calcite crystal formations.

The geodes can form in any cavities that are buried. Mineral substances from groundwater or hydrothermal solutions allowed crystals to form inside the hollow chamber. Over millions of years the geodes make its way back to the surface through normal geologic processes. Their forms and shades of colour vary - making each geode unique. The beauty of stones is revealed when polished displaying the unique play of various colours and shades. They have the round shape and sizes which vary from 2-3 cm to 25-30 cm. The geodes composed of chalcedony for the most part are hollow. Usually the cavities are formed from rock crystals and amethystine quartz crystals. Besides calcite crystals, rarely blue calcite, barite and gypsum and acicular crystals of hydrate of iron occur in the cavities. The colour of chalcedonic shell is white, gray, rarely bluish, yellow and brown in various combinations. The geodes in the Kafigshem occurrences are the wonderful collection materials and decorative stones, brooches, pendants, necklaces and other jewelry are made from agathic diversities.

A jasper occurrence is located near the settlement of Kyzyl-Kaya (Tuarkyr). Turkmen jasper has rare saturated colours varying from yellow to red. Its gaily colored layers alternate with the dark-grey streaks of adjoining rock creating the landscape drawing. Tuarkyr jasper can be used for making jewellery.

Fossilized wood that is of particular interest to collectors and connoisseurs occurred in the Tuarkyr deposits. Fossilized tree occurred in the deposits of the Jurassic (170 millions years) and the Permian (260 millions years) periods.

Turkmenistan: the Golden Age
24 June, 2006

Posted by countryturkmenistan at 12:16 PM
Monday, 19 June 2006
Professor V. I. Sarianidi: ?The First World Religion ? Zoroastrianism Emerged in Turkmenistan?
Topic: Turkmen History

The spring season of archeological excavations in Gonur-depe (the Karakum Etrap, the Mary Velayat) completed some weeks ago. For over 30 years the Margiana archeological expedition headed by a scientist, Laureate of the Magtymguly International Prize, Doctor of History, Professor Viktor Sarianidi has been conducting the archeological excavations in Turkmenistan. Viktor Sarianidi told about the archeological finds discovered this season.

“The people in Turkmenistan and other countries know the words from Ruhnama, “Two and a half thousand years ago Zarathushtra from Margush appeared in the world. Reining his sorrel camel he exclaimed, “People, worship Fire, its sources will lead you along the right path, illuminate each nook in your souls!” For all these years we have been uncovering the tangible evidence proving that there, in the old delta of the Murghab River, the oldest religion in the world – Zoroastrianism. The spring archelogical season ended in uncovering a monumental temple building near the central palace in Gonur-depe. The building is linked with the process of cooking a ritual drink of importance among ancient Zoroastrians which is mentioned Avesta as Haoma, the Indiain Rigveda – Soma. The cult of the potion parised for energizing or intoxicating qualities was widely practiced in the Indo-Aryan world.

In the previous years of excavations the shrine Togoluk-21 –excavated first among those identified with the process of cooking and the rituals praising the sacred potion was completely uncovered in the old delta of the Murghab River. However, the shrine Togolok-21 is dated to the mid-second millennium BC, and it has not been known so far whether the shrines of such kind existed earlier, i.e. at the late 3rd– early 2nd millennia BC? Now, we have found the answer to the question of great scientific significance which has been rousing our curiosity over many years!

Thus, the large-scale archeological excavations of the detached archeological monument uncovered to the south of the Gonur palace resulted in discovering a monumental building remarkable for the strict geometrical forms and brilliant architectural design. The central part of the shrine which has the walls sometimes 1.5 metres thick and strictly oriented to the sides of horizon is of particular interest. The rooms have the complementary angles. The principles of planning some architectural blocks indicate the specific purposes of using the temple complex. E.g., three single-type corridor-like rooms directly correspond to the architectural design of monumental constructions in the ancient Orient.

The canonical combination of the rectangular and square rooms connected by the common passageways observed in the layout of the shrine. The separate rooms with the cult two-chamber furnace are of particular interest among the complicated suite of rooms which are empty for the most part. The furnaces were constructed simultaneously with the walls. The furnaces are parted inside in two chambers. One of the chambers are much burnt and was used as a fire-chamber, the adjacent chamber was used as an oven in which the meat of sacrificial animals was kept before it was treated. Such construction of cult furnaces solved a problem of cooking sacrificial food. The Indo-Aryans considered Fire to be ‘pure’ element which should not contact anything impure and sinful, including meat. The curtain walls inside the cult furnaces should prevent fire from contamination by meat of sacrificial animals.

Excavations uncovered the isolated but very characteristic premises in which carefully made ceramic pot-stands were found. The inner walls of the vessels preserved the traces of coating that had prevented liquid from leaking. The similar pot-stands were discovered in other temple in Gonur which we call ‘temenos’ that meant ‘a scared place’ in ancient times. According to paleobotanists, the plants used for making Soma/Haoma were soaked in the vessels.

Another cult construction used for the similar purposes was excavated in the southeastern part of Gonur, near the royal necropolis. The fact that the temple is located outside the enclosing wall of the palace-temple ensemble can indicate its early construction, circa the late 3rd millennium BC. A rectangular yard with a furnace in the bay of the eastern wall is built in the centre of the small construction. Surrounded with the rooms from every side it vividly demonstrates the planning principle – ‘enclosed yard’ well known in the Eastern religious architecture. The most striking thing is a number of the vessels coated inside with gypsum and dug into the ground testifying that local people prepared Soma/Haoma too. Another evidence of performing the special rituals related to the Haoma cult in the building is the fragmentary finds including ceramic vessels with the images of a man stuck on the outer side and a frog primarily stuck on the inner side or the bottom of a vessel.

We had excavated the vessels of such kind before. An extant sample was uncovered in Togoluk-1. The sculptural elements of the cult vessels serve as the illustrations to myths and legends popular among the people of Margush. The vessels filled with liquid symbolize Water and Earth inhabited with various animals, birds and people.

The figurines found this spring absolutely identify those known before. We have no doubts on their similarity to the vessels of such kind. It is accepted, the Soma/Haoma cult trace back to the period of the Indo-European unity. Discovery of two shrines in Gonur North dated back to the 3rd-2nd millennia BC clearly attest to that the rituals related to the Soma/Haoma cult were quite popular among the indigenous tribes among which the oldest religion – Zoroastrianism emerged.

These and many other points of interest to archeologists, experts in religion, Indo-European linguistics and other specific disciplines will be discussed at the International Scientific Conference “Margiana – a New Centre of World Civilization”. The conference will be held in Ashgabat and Mary this autumn and will be a scientific event of international importance. The leading specialists in ancient history from many countries will give their views on our archeological research in the country of Margush and I am convinced that by the concerted efforts we will find the answers to a number of yet undiscovered mysteries.

State News Agency of Turkmenistan (TDH)

Posted by countryturkmenistan at 11:09 AM
Monday, 5 June 2006
Homespun Silk

Every time she starts her work on the weaving loom Keyik Geldimuhamedova apeals to Goddess Ashe Patma, the saint patroness of female fancy-work. This is a request to bless her laborious work so that threads don't become entangled and the cloth doesn't get spoiled. Her mother, grandmother and great grandmother used to offer this prayer before the start of work. Being from the village of Sunche, a settlement famous for silk fabrics where silkworm breeding has been flourishing since the ancient times, Keyik dayza, the hereditary weaver by origin, has devoted over sixty years to making wonderful and unrepeatable fabric "keteni" having taken over the secrets of this old and uneasy trade from her mother in the childhood.

Turkmenistan is home to the homespun silk cloth "keteni". The weather conditions of the region have always promoted cultivating high grade mulberry plantations. From times immemorial, Turkmens have been successfully dealing with silkworm breeding. Owing to its durability, brightness and beauty of design, their homespun fabric was very valued and was in big demand not only among the local population.

One of the peculiarities of "keteni" cloth is its coloring that is determined by the quality of dyers. Using the ancient technology, fabric was dyed primarily with natural dyers distinguished by the intensity of tones, extreme durability and ecological purity. Producing natural and mineral paints is a complicated occupation requiring certain knowledge. While preparing the dyers, it is necessary to observe balance in weights strictly. For this purpose, Turkmens used special scales. As a result of dyeing, the cloth acquires not only new coloring but a particular strength.

Since times immemorial, the preference was given to the red color throughout Turkmenistan. According to local beliefs, the red color possesses magic qualities, protects from the evil forces. In addition, the Turkmen people have always identified the red color with something beautiful and joyous. Red color was especially popular among girls and children. In general, the clothes of youth were bright, whereas older people wore rather modestly colored clothes.

Madder is one of the sources of the red color for Turkmen masters. This plant has been cultivated since the old times. It gives good yields on salty soil where other plants don't grow. To get blue and light-blue colorings the Indian blue nil is used. In the dyeing production the pomegranate peels, onion peel and tea are also applied. The color range of keteni cloth turned out by Turkmen weavers is very diverse. Master Keyik Geldimuhamedova's palette alone includes 18 colors.

To fasten the cloth women used alum and to whiten it potash and coal ash that gave the fabric unusual whiteness. Starch boiled from wheat flour was also used in the textile production. Specially treated, starched and glossed, "keteni" produces charming impression of the divine fabric, radiates luster and wealth. One feels indescribable trepidation emanating from it. Even smell and rustling of the cloth cast a spell.

Both Turkmen men and women have been wearing keteni garments since ancient times. If men's fashion was limited to shirts only, women found broader application of the homespun silk cloth making the whole wardrobe of dresses and headscarves of it. Coverlets, turbans and child-wear were also spun from the yarn. Keteni dresses still make up a bride's traditional attire and continue to fulfill the primary role to make a young lady irresistibly beautiful and, thus, happy.

As was mentioned, the silk cloth "keteni" has always been popular and fashionable among people. Nowadays, it literary experiences the second birth. The boom of this fabric is observed in the Turkmen fashion industry. Shops that any recognized center of world fashion could envy are being opened in Ashgabat. Wonderful dresses in various styles, beautiful shawls with hand-made embroidery, woven lady handbags, bags for cosmetics, headscarves and kerchiefs are of perfect quality, thought-out to details and can satisfy the taste of the most demanding fashionable woman.

Today, like in old times, making "keteni" cloth remains mostly a home-made trade. This work, like any manual labor, is extremely laborious and labor intensive. Turkmen women still use the old spinning looms "tara" that have been preserved since ancient times and produce high quality articles striking by their perfection of decoration. It is enough to look at "duypli gynach", a triangular shawl reaching 3 meters at the base and sewn from woven stripes of different colorings of the red color in combination with white, blue and green colors. The external side of the shawl has a multilayer woven ornament also made at "tara" looms. Technically, ornamental weaving is much more complex than embroidery. It requires accuracy and knack, because the ornament is facing ground when being woven. Adapting to such conditions, women use a mirror during the work to see that the symmetry of the classical ornament is not broken.

Women fancy-work has been the most important part of the Turkmen people's daily life. Nowadays, the Turkmen women carefully preserve and creatively develop the local traditions of weaving. Keyik Geldimuhamedova's five daughters followed their mother's track and are occupied with sewing articles from "keteni".

Ajap BAIRIEVA, Ethnographer, Doctor of History

Posted by countryturkmenistan at 4:53 PM

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