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Transcaspian Oblast


Transcaspian Oblast

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Transcaspian Oblast
Закаспийская область
Zakaspiyskaya oblast'
Oblast of Russia

Flag of


Location of
Capital Ashgabat
 •  Russian Conquest 1879
 •  Russian Revolution 1917
Today part of  Turkmenistan

Transcaspian Oblast (Russian: Закаспийская область, Zakaspiyskaya oblast), or Transcaspia, was the section of Russian Empire and early Soviet Russia to the east of the Caspian Sea during the second half of the 19th century until 1924. It was bounded to the south by Iran's Khorasan Province and Afghanistan, to the north by the former Russian province of Uralsk, and to the northeast by the former Russian protectorates of Khiva and Bukhara. Area, 212,545 sq. miles.[1] Part of Russian Turkestan, Transcaspian Oblast corresponds roughly to the territory of present-day Turkmenistan and southwestern of Kazakhstan.

The name of the oblast (literally, "Beyond Caspian") is explained by the fact that until the construction of the Trans-Aral Railway in the early 20th century the easiest way to reach this oblast from central Russia (or from Russian Transcaucasia) was across the Caspian Sea, by boat from Astrakhan or Baku.

Transcaspian Oblast (Obwod Zakaspijski, in Polish) on a 1903 Polish map


  • History 1
  • Demographics 2
    • Ethnic groups in 1897 2.1
  • References 3


Transcaspia was conquered by Russia in 1879-1885, in a series of campaigns led by Generals Lomakin, Skobelev, and Annenkov. The construction of the Transcaspian Railway was started from the shores of the Caspian in 1879 in order to secure Russian control over the region and provide a rapid military route to the Afghan border. In 1885 a crisis was precipated by the Russian annexation of the Panjdeh oasis, to the south of Merv, which nearly led to war with Britain, as it was thought that the Russians were planning to march on to Herat in Afghanistan.[2] Until 1898 Transcaspia was part of the Governor-Generalship of Caucasus administered from Tiflis, but in that year it was made an oblast (province) of Russian Turkestan governed from Tashkent. The best known Military Governor to have ruled the region from Ashkhabad was probably General Kuropatkin, whose authoritarian methods and personal style of governance made the province very difficult for his successors to control. Consequently the administration of Transcaspia became a byword for corruption and brutality within Russian Turkestan, as Russian administrators turned their districts into petty fiefdoms and extorted money from the local population.[3] These abuses were fully exposed by the Pahlen Report of 1908-10. During the revolutionary period of 1917-19 parts of Transcaspia were briefly occupied by British Indian forces from Meshed. The oblast was one of the last centres of Basmachi resistance to Bolshevik rule, with the last of the rebellious Turkmen fleeing across the border to Afghanistan and Iran in 1922-23.


As of 1897, 382,487 people populated the oblast. Turkmens constituted the majority of the population. Significant minorities consisted of Kazakhs and Russians. Total Turkic speaking were 328,059 (85,8%).

Ethnic groups in 1897[4]

TOTAL 382,487 100%
Turkmens 248,651 65%
Kazakhs 74,225 19,4%
Russians 27,942 7,3%
Persian 8,015 2,1%

Ethnic groups in Transcaspian Oblast according to 1897 Russian census[5]

Okrug (district) Turkmens Kazakhs Russians Persians
TOTAL 65% 19,4% 7,3% 2,1%
Ashgabat 73,1% - 12,8% 3,3%
Krasnovodsk 62,4% 19,3% 9,7% 3,4%
Mangyshlak (Its center was Fort-Aleksandrovsk) 4% 93% 2,6% -
Merv 88% - 4,5% 0,8%
Tedjen 82% - 7,9% 4,1%

Ethnic groups in Transcaspian Oblast according to 1897 Russian census[6]

Okrug (district) Turkmens Kazakhs Russians Persians
TOTAL 248,651 74,225 27,942 8,015
Ashgabat 67,443 22 11,763 3,206
Krasnovodsk 33,529 10,394 5,222 1,822
Mangyshlak 2,767 63,795 1,795 6
Merv 104,980 11 5,321 964
Tedjen 39,932 3 3,841 2,017


  1. ^ In 1897, when the first and only complete Russian Empire Census took place, the population numbered 377,416, of whom only 42,431 lived in towns; besides those of whom the census took account, there were about 25,000 strangers and troops
  2. ^ G.N. Curzon Russia in Central Asia (London: Longmans) 1889 pp1-15
  3. ^ Richard A. Pierce Russian Central Asia 1867-1917 (Berkeley: University of California Press) 1960 pp88-9
  4. ^
  5. ^ [3]
  6. ^ [4]

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