Incorporation into Russia
Russian attempts to encroach upon Turkmen territory began in
earnest in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Of all the
Central Asian peoples, the Turkmen put up the stiffest resistance
against Russian expansion. In 1869 the Russian Empire established
a foothold in present-day Turkmenistan with the foundation of
the Caspian Sea port of Krasnovodsk (now Turkmenbashy). From there
and other points, they marched on and subdued the Khiva Khanate
in 1873. Because Turkmen tribes, most notably the Yomud, were
in the military service of the Khivan khan, Russian forces undertook
punitive raids against the Turkmen of Khorazm, in the process
slaughtering hundreds and destroying their settlements. In 1881
the Russians under General Mikhail Skobelev besieged and captured
Gokdepe, one of the last Turkmen strongholds, northwest of Ashgabat.
With the Turkmen defeat (which is now marked by the Turkmen as
a national day of mourning and a symbol of national pride), the
annexation of what is present-day Turkmenistan met with only weak
resistance. Later the same year, the Russians signed an agreement
with the Persians and established what essentially remains the
current border between Turkmenistan and Iran. In 1897 a similar
agreement was signed between the Russians and Afghans.
Following annexation to Russia, the area was administered as
the Trans-Caspian District by corrupt and malfeasant military
officers and officials appointed by the Guberniya (Governorate
General) of Turkestan (see fig. 3). In the 1880s, a railroad line
was built from Krasnovodsk to Ashgabat and later extended to Tashkent.
Urban areas began to develop along the railway. Although the Trans-Caspian
region essentially was a colony of Russia, it remained a backwater,
except for Russian concerns with British colonialist intentions
in the region and with possible uprisings by the Turkmen.
Data as of March 1996