- Turkmenistan became independent with the breakup of the Soviet union in 1991. A traditionally Muslim land, Turkmenistan received Eastern Orthodox Christianity over the century of Russian rule.Protestantism entered Turkmenistan in the 1890s. A Baptist, I. K. Savl'ev, and a Mennonite, F S. Ovsyannikov, moved from Russia to Ashkhabad, the Turkmen capital. They founded the new village of Kuropatkinsky nearby and built the first Baptist church. After several decades of peaceful existence, the small church was targeted by Soviet officials in the 1930s. The movement survived, however, and experienced a small revival in the 1990s, though there are only three congregations. They have been joined by Adven-tists and Pentecostals, who enjoyed a brief period of growth in the mid-1990s.Through the 1990s, the government had shown itself hostile to all religious groups apart from Islam and Russian Orthodoxy In 1996, it passed a law requiring religious communities to have 500 members before they could apply for registration, but officials have been reluctant to allow Protestant groups of whatever size to register. Protestants have been subject to discrimination and even persecution. Their meeting houses have been vandalized, and a few, such as the Adventist church in Asigabad, destroyed. Private homes used for worship have been confiscated and individual Protestants have been fined, imprisoned, beaten, and deported for continuing to practice their faith. In 1999, Shageldy Atakov, a Baptist pastor, was sentenced to four years in jail.Various U.S. government agencies have warned of a deteriorating situation for religious liberties and have urged Congress to apply sanctions.See also Central Asia.Further reading:■ David Barrett, The Encyclopedia of World Christianity, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001)■ Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk, Operation World, 21st Century Edition (Carlisle, Cumbria, U.K.: Paternoster, 2001)■ Albert W. Wardin, ed. Baptists Around the World (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.