Turkmenistan is a country in Central Asia, which is formally known as Turkmenia. Turkmenistan has been at the center of civilization since the medieval times. After attaining independence in 1991 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It is an ethnically diverse country with several ethnic groups which inhabit the country’s cities, towns, and villages. Comprising 85% of the population, Ethnic Turkmen make up the largest ethnic group in the country. Other ethnic groups inhabiting Turkmenistan include Uzbeks, Kurds, Russians, Tatars, and Armenians.

The official language of Turkmenistan is Turkmen, as established in the country’s constitution. Turkmen is spoken by more than 3 million people in Turkmenistan, which accounts for about 72% of the total population of the country. Just like the Turkic language spoken by the Oghuz people, Turkmen also belongs to the Altaic family of languages. After attaining independence in 1991, Turkmen was adopted as the county’s official language in the newly drafted constitution. During the Soviet period, Turkmen adopted the Russian Cyrillic alphabet. The written form of the Turkmen language was further modified in 1996 with the adoption of the Latin alphabet. Originally, Turkmen was written using Arabic characters. Turkmen is mandatory in educational facilities and government institutions, and the majority of the government documents and publications are published in the Turkmen language.

Russian is the second most widely spoken language in Turkmenistan, particularly in the country’s urban areas. In fact, the largest number of Russian speakers can be found in the capital city of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat. Over 250,000 ethnic Russians live in Turkmenistan, with the majority inhabiting the northern regions of the country. Around 12% of the population speaks the Russian language to varying degrees. Russian is widely spoken in many major cities and towns throughout the country, although its popularity has decreased over years.

The minority languages spoken in Turkmenistan include Uzbek with its several dialects, which include Tashkent, Afghan, and Ferghana. Its commonly understood standard dialect is used in mass media and printed material. Uzbek is a language from the Turkic language family which is influenced by Persian, Russian, and Arabic. The Uzbek language is widely spoken in Turkmenistan, with an estimated 5% of Turkmenistan’s population being of Uzbek origin. The Uzbek language is popular in most of the country’s urban and rural areas. Around 300,000 people in Turkmenistan speak Uzbek either as their first or second language. Despite the large number of speakers, Uzbek is not taught in any of the schools in Turkmenistan, unlike Turkmen and Russian.

Other minority languages spoken in Turkmenistan are spoken mainly by immigrants from the neighboring countries and together comprise about 7% of the total population. Some of them include: Kazakh, Tatar, Ukrainian and Azerbaijani, to name a few. The native speakers of these languages have made an effort of learning Turkmen, the country’s official language, so these minority languages are spoken mainly as a second language.


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