Armenians in Turkmenistan number anywhere from 30,000 to 34,000. According to the Soviet 1989 census there were 31,829 Armenians in Turkmenistan. Their history can be traced back to the Soviet days, particularly after World War II, when diaspora Armenians, encouraged to settle in the Armenian SSR were dispersed by the government across the Soviet Union. Today there are three main groups of Armenians living in the country: ethnic Armenians who are Turkmen citizens, Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan, and Armenian citizens from Armenia.
The Joshua project believes the numbers to be lower, closer to 25,000 Armenians, 94% of whom are Christian and ranked #18 on the 50 most persecuted minorities list. According to the International Organization of Migration, however, there are up to 40,000 Armenians in Turkmenistan, out of whom, a few hundred have repatriated back to Armenia at the Norwegian government’s expense in the years between 2000 and 2010. Most of the Armenians still in Turkmenistan live in the capital, with sizable groups living in the Caspian port city of Turkmenbasi, the western city of Balkanabat, the central city of Mary, as well as smaller numbers in and around the eastern border town of Turkmenabat. But it is those Armenians without Turkmen citizenship who face the greatest challenges. Without confirmed residency, those living in the country without legal status cannot send their children to school, get employment, or even travel within the country without problems. Indeed, most returnees had cited lack of documentation and their irregular status in the largely desert nation as the primary factors for their return to Armenia.
During the 1990s, energy-rich Turkmenistan got its share of refugees fleeing the civil war in Tajikistan, as well as from wars and conflicts in the Caucasus and in Afghanistan. At that time, a considerable number of Armenians came across the Caspian from Azerbaijan and Armenia, where they were assisted by the Turkmen government, as well as by the already established Armenian community in the country.
Today, however, a large number – possibly thousands – of Armenian nationals residing in the Central Asian nation are irregular – and from Ashgabat’s point of view illegal – as they either never properly registered in the country or formally overstayed their entry visas, usually for years. While initially such behavior was tolerated, in recent years the Armenian Embassy in Ashgabat has seen an increased number of cases referred to them by the Turkmen authorities, or individuals/families that called the embassy asking for return assistance.
Armenian Embassy info in Turkmenistan: http://www.embassypages.com/missions/embassy2221/
- Notable Armenians
- Boris Şyhmyradow former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan.