Turkmenistan declared independence from the Soviet Union on October 27, 1991. The president of Turkmenistan, the former communist insider Saparmurat Niyazov, used the Turkmen title Turkmenbashi: Leader of the Turkmen. Remarkably, however, Turkmenistan was until recently a collection of fragmented, interwarring tribes divided by dialect, ancestry and geography. The environment of Turkmenistan, mainly a vast, untamed steppe in the heart of Central Asia, encouraged semi nomadic lifestyle that was not territorially defined. Trained and disciplined in war and eager to seize booty, it was the Turkmen, along with other steppe peoples to the East like the Mongols, who rained down from the East, conquering large swaths of territory in the Middle East and Eastern Europe during the Middle Ages. In this sense, the environment of ...

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