Capital of Turkmenistan; population (2001 est) 695,300. Industries include the manufacture of glass, carpets (handwoven ‘Bukhara’ carpets and rugs are made here), cotton goods, and metalworking. The city is in a spectacular natural setting, between the Kara-Kum Desert and the Kopet-Dag mountain range.
History A settlement on the site of the city was successively occupied by the Parthians, Seljuk Turks, and the Mongols. Ashgabat was established in 1881 as a military fort and desert oasis near the Persian (Iranian) frontier (which lies only 40 km/25 mi to the south). Under Russian control, it became the administrative capital of the Trans-Caspian oblast, and was the centre of trade between the Russian empire and Persia; the Trans-Caspian railway reached here in 1885. Ashgabat was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1948, which claimed 110,000 lives. The transliteration of the town's name was changed in 1992 to more accurately reflect the Turkmen original.
The capital of the ancient Parthian civilization, Nisa, is situated 10 km/6 mi west of Ashgabat. Artefacts from here are exhibited in the National History Museum in the city. Other cultural institutions are the Turkmen Gorkii State University (1950), agricultural and medical colleges, and the Fine Arts Museum.