Turkmenistan is a Central Asian country bordering Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. Formally known as Turkmenia, it has been at the center of civilization dating back to the medieval period. Turkmenistan attained independence in 1991 at the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Turkmenistan is an ethnically diverse country with several ethnic groups inhabiting the different towns, cities, and villages. Ethnic Turkmen is the largest ethnic group in the country accounting for about 85% of the population. Other ethnic groups include Uzbeks, Russians, Tatars, Kurds, and Armenians. Because of the ethnic diversity, different languages are spoken in Turkmenistan. These languages include;
Turkmen: The Official Language Of Turkmenistan
Turkmen is the official language in the Turkmenistan according to the country’s constitution. It is spoken by over 3 million people in Turkmenistan or 72% of the population. Turkmen, just like the Turkic language spoken by the Oghuz people, belong to the family of Altaic languages. It was adopted as Turkmenistan’s official language in 1991 with the new constitution at the time of independence. Originally written in Arabic character, the Turkmen adopted the Russian Cyrillic alphabet during the Soviet period. The written Turkmen language was further modified in 1996 with the adoption of the Latin alphabet in the version that was already utilized for Turkic. Turkmen is mandatory in government institutions and schools. Most of the government documents are published in the Turkmen language.
Russian: The Second Most Spoken Language In Turkmenistan
Russian is the second most popular language spoken in Turkmenistan, especially in cities and towns. There are over 250,000 ethnic Russians in Turkmenistan with the majority inhabiting the northern part of the country. The Russian language is spoken by about 12% of the population. Ashgabat, the capital city of Turkmenistan, has the highest number of Russian speakers. Russian is also spoken widely in other major cities and towns across the country. The popularity of the Russian language has continued to drop over the years. The drop is attributed to the efforts by the authorities to eliminate the Russian language from public use. Russian-language schools have been shut down. However, despite the efforts by the authorities, Russian remains an alternative or a second language for most of the Turkmens.
Minority Languages Spoken In Turkmenistan
Although Uzbek is the official language of Uzbekistan, it is also widely spoken in Turkmenistan. Approximately 5% of the Turkmenistan’s population is Uzbeks making the Uzbek language popular in most of the cities and rural areas. There are about 300,000 people in Turkmenistan who speak Uzbek either as their first or second language. Unlike Russian and Turkmen, the Uzbek language is not taught in any of the schools in Turkmenistan. Uzbek is a Turkic language with a degree of influence by the Persian, Russian, and Arabic. Although the Uzbek language has several dialects, there is a commonly understood dialect popularly used in mass media and printed material. Some of the common Uzbek dialects spoken in Turkmenistan include Tashkent, Afghan, and Ferghana.
Other Minority Languages
The other languages spoken in Turkmenistan account for about 7% of the total population and include Kazakh, Tatar, Ukrainian, and Azerbaijani among other languages. The minority languages are spoken mainly as a second language while the native speakers have made an effort of learning the Turkmen language which is the country’s official language. Most of the speakers of these minority languages are immigrants from the neighboring countries where these languages are considered official language.