Map of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Caspian Sea
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Ninety percent of Turkmenistan is the Karakum Desert, one of the largest in the world. While the desert overall lacks biodiversity, wildlife is abundant near oases. It is home of Merv, now Mary, one of the great Islamic cities during the medieval period and part of the Silk Road. The country accepted Islam in the 10th century, which has had a heavy influence on architecture, culture, and technology advancements.
The inhabitants have been primarily nomadic for most of Turkmenistan's history and managed to stave off Mongol invasions, earning themselves a reputation as fearless and fierce warriors. The country encouraged and began the slave trade throughout Asia until Russia conquered the country in 19th century. In 1994, Niyazov, a former communist bureaucrat member, declared himself President for Life. The Communist Party of Turkmenistan is now the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, and under both names was the major political party of the country for many years.
These days, any remnants of Russian control is shunned; even universities are encouraged to reject applicants on the basis of having Russian names. The country still has the second worst Freedom of the Press, just after North Korea, however.
The country lies on the same latitude as the Mediterranean and is the southernmost post-Soviet country.

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