To the south are the Balkan and Kopet Dag mountains.
Other geographical features are the Caspian Sea in the west, and the Amu Darya River in the east.
Turkmen is part of the Oghuz group of Turkic languages.
With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Turkmenistan gained its independence.
However, since most political, social, and economic institutions are Soviet holdovers, genuine change has been slow.