The capital of independent neutral Turkmenistan
A NEW STAR OF THE EAST
A Ashkhabad, the capital of independent neutral Turkmenistan, has
borne this name since 1882. According to archaeological data,
settlements belonging to the Great Silk Road have existed on
the territory of the present city since at least the end of the first millennium B.C. The chronological distance between them and the
present city is so great, that we are unable to speak about any townbuilding continuity. That connection traces back to the beginning of
XIX century, when there was a Turkmen urban settlement here, called
One of the most widespread explanations of this name is «a city of
love». The Turkmen word «yshk» comes from the Arabian «eshkh»
and means «love», «flame», «sympathy». «Abad» comes from the
«farcy» language and is translated as «comfortable», «populated».
The essence of the word is similar to the Russian — «grad», German
— «burg» and so on. It is used as an ending in the names of some
As regards the meaning of the root «ashkg» there are also several
It links both with Astarta (Ashghoret, Ishghar) — goddess of fertility and love in ancient eastern mythology, and with the Parphian King
Arshak I, whose name is mentioned as Ashk I in the Armenian original
sources, while the dynasty, founded by him is called «ashkanids».
Finaling, there is an absolutely fantastic version, according to which
Ashkhabad is located on the site of Asgarda, celestial settlement of
the gods — as featured in the Scandinavian myths «Inglingsaga» and
«Junior Edda» by Snorri Sturlusson.
But in Turkmen folklore the name of the city is linked with the
meaning «a city of love». According to a legend, when Nisa was under
the rule of Nuramed, and Annau was under the rule of Pirakhmed,
Allah put a veto on love. But against the interdiction, the daughter and
the son of these governors fell in love. Realizing the threat to their
safety, they hid themselves in a desert, until at last, parched with
thirst, they came to amountain range, found a lonely spring, and ran
to slake their thirst, only to find it had run dry. The lovers went further,
where they met a mountain river, but no sooner had they fallen to
drink than it evaporated. The young man then dug to reach underground springs, which made Allah angry again, and He sent Azrail,
the angel—divider, to them. However, God's envoy failed to carry out
the sentence: having looked at the girl, he fell in love and forgot his
mission. And then a spring of the same crystalline purity as love itself
gushed out of the ground. They decided to stay here, near the won-
derful spring which saved their lives; and after hearing their history
other people moved here, too.
Love is not only an integral part of the name of the city, but also a
feeling familiar to all generations of the citizens of Ashkhabad, who
for the last hundred years, against wars and the elements, have had
to revive the city from the ashes several times.
Today the citizens of Ashkhabad have become the witnesses and
participants of a new, unprecedented growth in the capital of
Turkmenistan caused by radical changes in the life of the country,
which begin after state independence on October 27,1991. The last
seven years have seen the accelerated development of the city,
completely changing its former appearance. New, refined and
imposing buildings are springing up, and broad roads have been laid
out at a speedy pace.
The present Ashkhabad distinguishes itself with its own style, harmoniously combining the best traditions of its own national architecture and the achievements of modern town-building.
We can to say with confidence that the new star of the East is rising in the skies of the twenty first century.
MAP OF THE CITY OF ASHKHABAD
||Square of Neutrality
||Hotel Grand Turkmen
||Turkmensiyakhat Central Office
||Hotel Ak Altyn Plaza
||National Museum of Turkmenistan
||Berzengi Hotel Complex
ARCHITECTURAL SYMBOL OF NEUTRALITY
There are cities, known at once by a unique and symbolic
building or monument which is famous all over the world.
Paris has the Eiffel tower, London has Big Ben,
Washington — the Capitol, Moscow — Spasskaya tower, St. Petersburg — the Admiralty etc. Continuing this list, we can
now add Ashkhabad and the Arch of Neutrality.
With an unprecedented construction speed of just one year,
a beautiful monument shot up in the centre of the Turkmen
capital. It combines ultra-modern forms, the latest technologies, and a national semantic meaning in its construction and
decoration. The monument, named the Arch of Neutrality, has
become an urban symbol which serves as a powerful reference
point in the city. It is a beacon, catching the eye day and night
with its majestic beauty. Yet despite its size, it successfully creates an impression of ease and light rushing up to the sun and
The idea behind this exotic monument is closely connected
with an extremely important event in the nation's history, which
took place in New York on December 12, 1995. At the meeting
of the UN General Assembly, representatives of 185 member
states voted unanimously for acceptance of a special resolution entitled «Permanent Neutrality of Turkmenistan». Behind
this event was a widespread recognition of Saparmurat
Turkmenbasi's foreign policy course. He has also managed to
confirm the efficiency of his policies in solving acute regional
problems. Not everybody has managed to appreciate immediately the great significance of the young Turkmen State's neutral status in securing peace and security for the sometimes
clouded region of Central Asia. Perhaps only President
Niyazov, through his deep conviction, could in such a short
period convince the others of the right path planned by him,
after gaining great support from both inside the country and
throughout the world community. The Arch of Neutrality is perceived as the logical link in a number of his arguments and has
become the bright embodiment of Turkmenistans' pride for
their Native Land, which for the first time after centuries in the
shadow of history has suddenly emerged in the larger political
arena as a sovereign state with all the attributes of independence. Alongside actively developing the economy, an important role has been played by the independent diplomacy of
Turkmenbashi and his philosophy of national revival and solidarity.
The need for monuments, without an apparent functional
necessity, is peculiar to all developed societies. Moreover,
those constructions, which from the most ancient times were
built to spiritually uplift the people, differed from others by the
extra care expended in their performance, forms and dimensions. These are the sanctuaries of the first civilizations of the
world, the temples of world religions, which at last became
classic antique monuments and the direct predecessors of
modern monumental art. All of them reflect their epoch like a
mirror, serving not just their contemporaries, but later generations. That's why creation of major state monuments has
always been entrusted to the finest masters who have proved
they are worthy of the honor.
The Arch of Neutrality in Ashkhabad is no different. The final
project was chosen on a competitive basis from nine works,
and each author put his soul and understanding of the problem
into his plans, aiming to create a majestic structure combining
elements of the Turkmen people's national culture with the
achievements of XX century architecture, embodying in a symbol of white the stability of independent, neutral Turkmenistan.
A professional jury awarded first place to the 40 year old
architect, Erol Tabanja, who heads the «Polymex» building
company. This company has a proven track record in
Turkmenistan, and coped admirably with the assigned task.
The monument was completed on schedule, and on the eve of
celebration of the third anniversary of neutrality, an arch was
formed in all its magnificence.
Erol Tabanja revealed that this work was very important for
him. It required maximum concentration and his finest creative
efforts, and it soon became clear what a vital place the structure would take in the layout of the city, and what ideological
importance it bore.
Following Saparmurat Turkmenbashi's idea, the inspiration
for the Arch of Neutrality was the traditional Turkmen trivet — a
stable tripod, used for holding a boiler, under which a fire is kindled. This transparent image of nationhood tells of the inextin-
guishability of the home and the strength of the common
house, which is the state.
In the project the trivet was transformed into three widely
curved pylons connected by disks and rings of different diameters and thickness. These are the viewing sites, located on
different levels, where at any time of day a perfect panorama of
Ashkhabad opens up. Visitors are transported to the first level
by funiculars, while the third is equipped with ladders as a fire
precaution measure. Here, at a height of 21.5 meters, there is
a circular cafe-bar wiith a panoramic view. The transparent lift
takes visitors to 50 meters, where the upper viewing platform is
At 63 meters, there is a 12-meter sculpture of Saparmurat
Turkmenbashi on a background of a fluttering flag (by the
famous Turkmen sculptor Babasary Annamuradov). This part
of the monument rotates slowly, making one full every day. The
President thus seems to survey his country, meeting and seeing off the sun. the Arch of Neutrality reaches a total of 75
meters, making it the highest building in Turkmenistan, above
the 600 year old Kutlug-Timur minaret.
The Arch of Neutrality is faced with white marble, with
bronze relief compositions from Turkmen history on the sides
of the pylons. Vertical sections of the pylons between the
upper and lower survey sites are combined with five identical
bronze rings, each featuring relief lattices with images of ghels
— basic carpet elements from the various Turkmen tribes.
These rings symbolize the unity of the people in creating the
new state under the leadership of Saparmurat Turkmenbashi.
It should be mentioned that the Arch of Neutrality is an
excellent example of so-called light architecture. In the twilight
it is skilfully illuminated with the help of a system of floodlights,
transforming its appearance.
Adjoining the Arch, a square completes the ensemble. A
modification of nearby town buildings, and amendments to
their scale has revalued the function and architectural appearance of the Square of Neutrality. With various sites for relaxing
beside artificial reservoirs it has become one of the central
metropolitan squares and is linked to a general system of
streams flowing downtown during holidays and public events.
At the centre of the renovated square, the cascade of fountains
meets the Arch. The height of the water jet of the central fountain reaches 30 meters. Flagstaff's with banners of UN member
countries form a line in front of the Karakumstroi facade...
The architectural symbol of neutrality at the centre of the
Turkmen capital near the Palace of Turkmenbashi has naturally come to signify much more for Ashkhabad than is reflected
in its laconic title. It expresses goodwill and openness, and
shines with a optimism and confidence in the happy future of
TECHNICAL PARAMETERS OF THE CONSTRUCTION
- General height of the structure - 75 m
- General height of the statue of President Saparmurat Turkmenbashi - 12 m
- At a height of 21,5 m - a cafe for 100 persons
- At a height of 26 m - the first viewing site for 100 persons
- At a height of 49,5 m - the second viewing site for 60 persons
- December 12,1996 - the President of
Turkmenistan S. Niyazov laid the memorial stone
on the site of the future monument.
- December 26,1996 - the competition on the
preliminary design of the monument was announced.
- March 12, 1997 — As the result of a competition the project of the architect Erola Tabanja was
announced as the winner.
- July 1,1997 - the Decree of the President of
Turkmenistan about the construction of the Arch
of Neutrality and signing of the building contract
with the Turkish company «Polymex» was published.
— December 12, 1998 — the day of solemn
unveiling of the Arch of Neutrality.
60a, Gerogly str.,
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, 744012
tel./fax: (99312) 344033, 344071
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Copyright © 2002, Valeriy Petrosyants