Situated at the foot of the Kopet Dağ Mountains, Ashgabat, capital of Turkmenistan, lies in the Akhal Tekin oasis on the border of the Karakum Desert. The city was founded in 1881 on the remains of an ancient village and it has been playing an important part on regional level since 1885, when the construction of the railway line connecting Turkmenbashi, on the shores of the Caspian Sea, to Tashkent was started. After becoming capital of the Turkmen Soviet republic in 1924, Ashgabat in the following years has gone through a very trou-bled period, caused by the strong tensions between the local leaders and the central authorities in Moscow. Spared during World War II, the city suffered in October 1948 a devastating seism that destroyed most of its buildings. The process of reconstruction, carried out accor-ding to modern urbanistic conceptions, deeply modified its urban plan, lending to Ashgabat the appearance of a pleasant modern city, with wide avenues and stately buildings that recall in their style orna-mental patterns characteristic of Turkmen traditional architecture. It is of great value the building of the National Library of Turkmenistan, realized in Azadi square in the centre of the city. In the same years important productive activities were also started, among which nume-rous mechanical, textile and food industries, cotton mills, silk facto-ries and in particular some laboratories for the production of carpets, an initiative aimed at developing an important traditional production of Turkmen handicraft. The creation of the University and of the Aca-demy of Sciences, founded in 1951 with the object of carrying out specific research in particular fields as fight with desertification and exploitment of solar energy, gave a considerable contribution to the cultural and scientific development of the country.
After the proclamation of the independence of the country, occurred in 1991, Ashgabat entered upon a new phase of renewal. In the centre of the city the Palace of Parliament and the new Presidential Palace, faced with white marble and terminating in a gold covered dome, have been erected, while not so far the Arch of Neutrality stands out in the central Azadi square. It is an original building erec-ted on a tripod, realized with the object of celebrating the neutrality of the country and already become the symbol of the new Ashgabat. Sumptuous buildings and large parks adorned the city, while the elegant hotels realized in the centre and in the modern quarter of Berzengi considerably improved its receptive capacity, adapting it to international standards.

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