Turkmenistan's history is one of frequent conquest. Starting in the 6th century BC, it was ruled by Persians, who were later conquered by Alexander the Great. Muslims, Mongols and Turkic battalions have also exerted power here.
In the late 19th century, Turkmenistan was annexed by Russia, and in 1924, it was made part of the Soviet Union. With the fall of the Iron Curtain, Turkmenistan, along with the other "stan" countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), finally gained independence.
Today, Turkmenistan is known for its significant gas reserves, though much of the population still lives in poverty.
Of the Central Asian "stan" countries, Turkmenistan is one of the most mysterious. While it was ruled for a long time under the dictatorship of Saparmurat Niyazov until his death in 2006, it is a land of great tradition and natural beauty.