Turkmenistan's population is rather stable, with distribution between urban and rural areas and migration trends showing minor changes between censuses (see table 3, Appendix). The annual population growth rate, however, is rather high, and population density has increased significantly in the last forty years.

Size and Distribution

In 1993 Turkmenistan had a population of 4,254,000 people, making it the fifth most sparsely populated former Soviet republic. Of that number, Turkmen comprised about 73 percent, Russians nearly 10 percent, Uzbeks 9 percent, Kazaks 2 percent, and other ethnic groups the remaining 5 percent (see table 4, Appendix). According to the last Soviet census (1989), the total Turkmen population in the Soviet Union was 2,728,965. Of this number, 2,536,606 lived in Turkmenistan and the remainder in the other republics. Outside of the CIS, approximately 1.6 million Turkmen live in Iran, Afghanistan, and China (see The Spoken Language, this ch.).

Population density increased in the republic from one person per square kilometer in 1957 to 9.2 persons per square kilometer in 1995. Density varies drastically between desert areas and oases, where it often exceeds 100 persons per square kilometer. Within Turkmenistan, the population is 50.6 percent female and 49.4 percent male. In 1995 the estimated annual growth rate was 2.0 percent, and the fertility rate was 3.7 births per woman (a decline of 1.5 births per woman since 1979) (see table 2, Appendix). The population was demographically quite young, with 40 percent aged fourteen or younger and only four percent aged over sixty-four.

Migration Trends

In 1989 about 45 percent of the population was classified as urban, a drop of 3 percent since 1979. Prior to the arrival of Russians in the late nineteenth century, Turkmenistan had very few urban areas, and many of the large towns and cities that exist today were developed after the 1930s. Ashgabat, the capital and largest city in Turkmenistan, has a population of about 420,000. The second-largest city, Chärjew on the Amu Darya, has about 165,000 people. Other major cities are Turkmenbashy on the Caspian seacoast, Mary in the southeast, and Dashhowuz in the northeast. Because much of the Russian population only came to Turkmenistan in the Soviet period, separate Russian quarters or neighborhoods did not develop in Turkmenistan's cities as they did elsewhere in Central Asia. This fact, combined with a relatively small Slavic population, has led to integration of Turkmen and Slavs in neighborhoods and housing projects.

Apart from the outflow of small numbers of Russians immediately following Turkmenistan's independence, neither out-migration nor in-migration is a significant factor for Turkmenistan's population. In 1992 there were 19,035 emigrants from Turkmenistan to the Russian Federation and 7,069 immigrants to Turkmenistan.


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