Turkmenistan formerly also known as Turkmenia (Russian: ?????????), is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, theTurkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (Turkmen SSR). Turkmenistan is one of the six independent Turkic states. It is bordered byAfghanistan to the southeast, Iran to the south and southwest, Uzbekistan to the east and northeast, Kazakhstan to the north and northwest and the Caspian Sea to the west. Turkmenistan's GDP growth rate of 11% in 2010 ranks 4th in the world, but these figures are subject to wide margins of error. 5]It possesses the world's fourth largest reserves of natural gas resources. Although it is wealthy in natural resources in certain areas, most of the country is covered by the Karakum (Black Sand) Desert. The Turkmen government operates as a single-party system.  Turkmenistan was ruled by President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov (called "Turkmenbasy" — "leader of the Turkmens") until his sudden death on 21 December 2006. Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov was elected the new president on 11 February 2007.
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The territory of Turkmenistan has a long history, as armies from one empire after another decamped there on their way to more prosperous territories. The region's written history begins with its conquest by the Achaemenid Empire of ancient Persia, as the region was divided between the satrapies of Margiana, Khorezm and Parthia.  Alexander the Great conquered the territory in the 4th century BC on his way to Central Asia, around the time that the Silk Roadwas established as a major trading route between Asia and the Mediterranean Region. citation needed] Approximately 80 years later, Persia's Parthian Kingdom established its capital in Nisa, now in the suburbs of the capital,Ashgabat. After replacement of the Parthian empire by Persian Sassanids, another native Iranian dynasty, the region remained territory of the Persian empire for several centuries.  In the 7th century AD, Arabs conquered this region, introducing Islam. The Turkmenistan region soon came to be known as the capital of Greater Khorasan, when the caliph Al-Ma'mun moved his capital to Merv. citation needed] In the middle of the 11th century, the Turkoman-ruled Seljuk Empire concentrated its strength in the territory of modern Turkmenistan in an attempt to expand into Khorasan (modernAfghanistan). The empire broke down in the second half of the 12th century, and the Turkmen lost their independence when Genghis Khan took control of the eastern Caspian Sea region on his march west. For the next seven centuries, the Turkmen people lived under various empires and fought constant inter-tribal wars. Little is documented of Turkmen history prior to Russian engagement.
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