Known for its autocratic government and large gas reserves, Turkmenistan also has a reputation as an island of stability in restive Central Asia.
Despite its gas wealth, much of Turkmenistan's population is still impoverished. After independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 the country entered a period of isolation that has only recently begun to end.
Turkmenistan produces roughly 70 billion cubic metres of natural gas each year, and about two-thirds of its exports go to Russia's Gazprom gas monopoly.
The government has sought out gas deals with several other countries, including China and neighbouring Iran, in order to reduce its dependency on Russia.
Population 5.5 million
Area 488,100 sq km (188,456 sq miles)
Major language Turkmen, Russian
Major religion Islam
Life expectancy 64 years (men), 71 years (women)
Currency Turkmen manat
President: Serdar Berdymukhamedov
Serdar Berdymukhamedov took over in March 2022 as the third president of the authoritarian state.
His father Gurbanguly had become president in 2007, on the death of his own mentor Saparmyrat Niyazov.
Like his predecessors, President Berdymukhamedov wields absolute power, and is the focus of a personality cult in the state-run media.
The government has an absolute monopoly of the media and state TV and radio pump out a steady stream of propaganda.
Reporters Without Borders has called Turkmenistan "an ever-expanding news black hole".
Foreign news and opposition websites are blocked and international social networks are often inaccessible.
Some key events in Turkmenistan's history:
6th century BC - Area of what is now Turkmenistan forms part of the Persian Empire of Cyrus the Great.
1881 - Area of present-day Turkmenistan incorporated into Russian Turkestan after Battle of Gok Tepe.
1925 - Turkmenistan becomes a fully-fledged constituent republic of the USSR. It does not gain independence until 1991.
2009 December - Pipeline opened for gas exports to China, breaking Russia's stranglehold on Turkmenistan's energy reserves.