Turkmenistan’s borders were first drawn up in 1924 following the delimitation of Soviet Central Asia and it became a Soviet Socialist Republic within the Soviet Union. During the German-Soviet War, Turkmenistan served as one of the USSR’s evacuation hubs. Turkmenistan became an independent republic following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. On the eve of the German invasion, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic had an estimated total population of one million people. Approximately three thousand of them were Jews, most of whom were of Ashkenazi origin who had begun arriving in the region towards the end of the 19th century. Approximately 10 percent were Bukharan Jews, who were part of the indigenous populations of Central Asia. Some ten to twenty thousand Jews arrived in Turkmenistan as evacuees, refugees or as exiles. Some of those arrived in the Turkmen SSR with the aim of trying to escape the Soviet Union by crossing its long border with Iran, but few succeeded. Most of the refugees left when the war ended.
The Agency of Archives of the Republic of Turkmenistan is responsible for the country’s archives. In order to obtain access to archives in Turkmenistan, foreign nationals should submit a written application including a letter of recommendation on site. It is strongly advised to contact the archive in advance. Written permission is given by the director of the archive and valid for one calendar year. There are no archival guides available online and only few printed available on site, but they are limited in scope and fragmented.
EHRI has identified several archival institutions in Turkmenistan which hold Holocaust and evacuation relevant material. Four of them are located in the capital, Ashgabat. The archives in Turkmenistan that are most relevant to Holocaust research include the Central State Archive of Turkmenistan in Ashgabat. Its collections include a fond on the evacuation authorities and personal registration evacuation cards and various files dealing with the Polish government-in-exile. Similar files of a more local provenance are held in the regional archives, mainly in Mary, Turkmenabat (Chardzhou) and Turmenbashi (Krasnovodsk).
Outside of Turkmenistan, EHRI has identified and partially described archival institutions and/or collections relevant for research on Turkmenistan.
A. EHRI approach to Turkmenistan: Pre-existing research and available archival guides
There are no web resources available for any of the archives in Turkmenistan.
B. Characteristics of the Turkmen archival system and specific challenges
Most of the central and regional Turkmen archives were founded during the pre-war Soviet period. Thus most of them are based on the Soviet system of cataloging and most of the inventory files are written in Russian to this day. There are also other archival institutions established or restructured after Turkmenistan‘s independence. The former Archive of the Communist Party of Turkmenistan was renamed as the Archive of the President of Turkmenistan, which has limited access conditions. It holds many decrees related to the evacuation, the war effort and the fate of the Jews. As a result of regime changes and administrative reforms, some archival institutions in Turkmenistan have been renamed, which may cause some initial confusion among researchers.
C. EHRI identification and description results on Turkmenistan
C.I. In Turkmenistan
In Turkmenistan, EHRI identified several archival institutions which hold or may hold Holocaust-relevant material. Four of the most important of them are concentrated in the republics former capital, Ashgabat. The Ashgabat-based Central State Archive alone stores about 2,000 fonds, and regional archives hold similarly impressive numbers of collections. Given the scale of the mass evacuation to Turkmenistan during the Second World War, many Holocaust-relevant collections are either known to be stored or can be expected to be found in the country’s archives.
C.II. In other countries
Outside of Turkmenistan, EHRI has identified and partially described archival institutions and/or collections that may prove relevant to Holocaust research on Turkmenistan. For instance, the State Archives of the Russian Federation and the Russian State Archives of Socio-Political History (former Central Communist Party Archive) in Moscow hold records and circulars sent to various Socialist Republics and have a big fonds on evacuation. In Israel, Yad Vashem holds only a few records from archives in Turkmenistan from 1930 to 1960, as does the Archives of the History of the Jewish people in Jerusalem. Furthermore, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum stores selected records from the Central State Archive of Turkmenistan.