Nov 3 (Reuters) - Following are key facts about Turkmenistan, now engaged in reform of its Soviet-style command economy, almost three years after the death of dictator Saparmurat Niyazov.
For an accompanying feature, click on [ID:nL2704503]
* Turkmenistan is a former Soviet Central Asian republic on the Caspian Sea. It has a population of 6 million, the majority of them ethnic Turkmens. Others include Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Ukrainians, Armenians and Azeris.
* Turkmenistan occupies 448,100 sq km (280,062 sq miles) on the southeastern coast of the Caspian Sea and borders Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Kazakhstan. The capital Ashgabat has a population of over 500,000.
* The official language, Turkmen, is part of the Turkic family of languages. Russian is also widely used.
* Turkmenistan has the world’s fourth-largest reserves of natural gas and sizeable oil deposits. It sells most of its gas to Russia, but is also building a pipeline to China and has expressed interest in exporting gas to Europe once it connects to the planned Nabucco pipeline.
* The Sunni branch of Islam is the most widely practised religion in the officially secular state.
* Turkmenistan is a presidential republic. The Democratic Party, headed by the president, is the only registered political party. All opposition leaders and most human rights campaigners live in exile abroad.
* Turkmenistan was part of the Iranian Achaemenid empire in the 6th century BC and its territory became part of the Russian empire at the end of the 19th century. It became part of the Soviet Union in 1924. It declared independence after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
* President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov came to power after the death of Niyazov, who ruled with an iron fist for 21 years until his death in 2006. (Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.