Mary (Merv), Turkmenistan

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The administrative capital of Mary oblast on the River Morghab delta in the arid southeast of the country, Mary was initially called Merv after the nearby city, regarded as the oldest and best preserved oasis city on the Silk Road.


The original city of Merv was established between 7 BC and AD 300, with the exact date disputed. It’s golden age was in the eleventh and twelfth centuries when it was the capital of the Seljuqs empire and a key post on the Silk Road. In 1221 it was destroyed by Toloi, the son of Genghis Khan, and was never to regain its former grandeur.

The modern city was founded by the Russians in 1884, 30 km from Merv but nonetheless given its name. In 1937 it was renamed Mary. It was subsequently developed as a transport hub and a base to exploit the surrounding Shatlyk gasfield.

Modern City

Mary is an important rail junction on the Turkmenbashy–Tashkent line and is well served by road and air. It is an important trade centre for wool, cotton, leather and grain. There are major sources of natural gas in the surrounding area. One of the other leading industries is plastics and there are various light industries.

Places of Interest

The chief attraction in Mary is the museum of history. Most tourists head for the remains of Merv, which include Sultan Sanjar’s mausoleum (completed in 1140) and lesser ruins spanning the city’s five major phases over several centuries.

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© Springer Nature Limited 2019

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