The Republic of Turkmenistan, also known as Turkmenia is a country in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (Turkmen SSR). It is bordered by Afghanistan to the southeast, Iran to the south and southwest, Uzbekistan to the east and northeast, Kazakhstan to the north and northwest and the Caspian Sea to the west.
Turkmenistan's GDP growth rate of 11.5% (IMF estimate for 2007) ranks 11th in the world, but official government statistics on which this estimate is based are widely regarded as unreliable. Although it is wealthy in natural resources in certain areas, most of the country is covered by the Karakum (Black Sand) Desert.
Until recently it was a single-party system, that was considered to not meet even the most basic standards of democracy. Turkmenistan was ruled by President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov (called "TürkmenbaÅy" — "leader of the Turkmens") until his sudden death on December 21, 2006. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow was elected the new president on February 11, 2007.