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Ashgabat

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The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture What is This? Provides in-depth historical and cultural information on over a thousand years of Islamic art and architecture

Ashgabat

[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 (for illustration see Turkmenistan).

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 (see Turkmenistan, color pl. 3:XIII, fig. 2). The National Museum of History (1998) has objects of history, ethnography, and traditional art going back to the Neolithic period. The Turkmen Carpet Museum (1994) has a collection of 500 carpets, including two of the largest in the world (18×11.5 m and 20×13 m). The Museum of Fine Arts (1938) has an eclectic collection of Turkmen, Russian and western European art.

The region has long been settled. The archaeological site at Anau, lying 6 km to the east, has yielded items dating from the 5th to the 1st millennium BCE and has given its name to the Bronze Age culture of southern Turkmenistan. The complex of shaykh Jamal al-Din (1455–6; partially destr. 1948) comprises a mosque and two domed structures, possibly a hospice and a madrasa, arranged around a court. The nearby Ak Bugday (White Wheat) Museum houses finds from the area. The Parthian capital at Nisa, situated 18 km to the west, has yielded many important finds from the pre-Islamic period, including a superb group of more than 40 ivory rhytons.

Bibliography

  • Enc. Iran; Enc. Islam/2: “῾Ashkābād”
  • A. Babayev and Z. G. Freykin: Ashkhabad (Ashkhabad, 1957).
  • V. V. Zhmuyda: Ashkhabad (Moscow, 1957).
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