Turkmenistan - Encyclopedia Information
Official name Turkmenistan
Formation 1991 / 1991
Population 5.2 million / 28 people per sq mile (11 people per sq km)
Total area 188,455 sq. miles (488,100 sq. km)
Languages Turkmen*, Uzbek, Russian, Kazakh, Tatar
Religions Sunni Muslim 89%, Orthodox Christian 9%, Other 2%
Ethnic mix Turkmen 85%, Other 6%, Uzbek 5%, Russian 4%
Government One-party state
Currency New manat = 100 tenge
Literacy rate 99%
Calorie consumption 2754 kilocalories
Here is another huge country that most Brits know little about. But we have invaded parts of what is now its territory.
In the late nineteenth century we were sort of there by proxy as part of the Great Game. Our Afghan allies were in control with our support of the oasis of Panjdeh (or Pandjeh), in what is now Turkmenistan, a strategic area controlling the approach to Herat in Afghanistan, but the Russians also claimed it because they controlled Merv. In March 1885, the commander of local Russian forces, General Komarov, demanded that Afghan forces withdraw. We immediately told the Afghans to send reinforcements to Panjdeh, demanded assurances from the Russians that they wouldn’t attack unless attacked and mobilised two corps of the army in India to march north if necessary. Our General Lumsden sent three engineers from his staff to Herat to work out how it could best be defended. We seemed to be on the brink of war with Russia.
The Russians sensed what could occur and gave the assurances we asked for, which left them a problem since they still wanted Panjdeh. Komarov’s only chance was to provoke the Afghans into starting a fight. General Lumsden warned the local Afghan commander not to react, but finally, according to the Russian account, the Afghans fired first and after bitter fighting and many dead, particularly on the Afghan side, the Russians pushed the Afghans out of Panjdeh. In London, preparations were made for war. The Royal Navy was placed on alert and told to occupy Port Hamilton in Korea in readiness for an attack on Russia in the east, while the Foreign Office prepared an official announcement of war. And then, on the very brink of a devastating war, Afghans, Brits and Russians all decided they didn’t actually want one. A border commission was established which gave the Russians (and hence, today, Turkmenistan) Panjdeh in return for land elsewhere.
After the Russian Revolution in 1917, we tried our hand again in Turkmenistan. In 1918, General Malleson was sent with a force from India to the area. His initial mission was to counter Turkish and German influence and moves there, but it soon turned into a bitter fight against local Bolshevik forces, in which our troops ended up supporting a local anti-Bolshevik regime, the Ashkhabad Committee, that controlled the Transcaspian Government. Mallesons’ force pushed into Turkmenistan and had some success against the Bolsheviks, including defeating them at the Battle of Dushak. Eventually, the TransCaspian Force occupied Merv, a key Russian possession in the Panjdeh crisis. However, by the end of 1918, with the First World War finished and with the local support for the British intervention weakening, a decision was made to pull out Malleson and his men. By 1919 they were gone.