Turkmenistan (Turkmen: Türkmenistan), one of the Turkic states in Central Asia, borders Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and, to its west, the Caspian Sea. An important stop on the Silk Road during medieval times, the region was annexed by the Russian Empire in 1881, and became, in 1924, a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1991, it became independent.
The traditional puppet theatre of Turkmenistan is part of the same cultural area as that of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, of which little is known.
The first reports came after 1924, the date of creation of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Turkmenistan. Soviet Russia was, in effect, responsible for implanting professional puppet theatre in the country. Agit-prop companies appeared in the 1930s. The daily paper Turkmenskaya Iskra of June 23, 1935 reported that a company from Ashgabat, the capital, was touring in Gashauz district with a play of educational propaganda, Take Care of Your Eyes, preceded by a lecture on ophthalmology. According to the same paper, a company from a small town toured the whole country, including remote regions, for eight months giving some 440 performances.
The 1960s and l970s, which correspond to the reign of Sergei Obraztsov in Soviet puppet theatre, remain obscure. However, in 1991, a group of artists who graduated with diplomas from the Academy in Saint Petersburg founded a company in Ashgabat that became the National Theatre. Their repertoire is composed of world stories translated into Turkmen. In 1998, the National Theatre performed in its own hall.
In 2005, then president of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Niyazov ordered the construction of a large entertainment complex, named the “The World of Turkmen Faiy Tales”, in which puppet theatre would play an important role.