Russian Bolsheviks had some influence among the Russian workers in Turkmen cities and therefore the attempt to found the Soviet Union and integrate Turkmenistan as part of the Soviet Union became the focus of attention. As a result, an international democratic cooperative Transcaspian Provisional Government was formed on Turkmen territory and an appeal for help was made to Britain.
In 1920 the Red Army occupied Krasnovodsk. On 7 August 1921 most of Turkmen territory became part of the Turkmen ASSR as the Turkmen region. On 27 October 1924, as a result of the national and state demarcation of Central Asia, the Turkmen Socialist Soviet Republic was formed from the areas inhabited by Turkmen. In this way a single Turkmen state was created (for the first time in the history of the Turkmen people). On 12 May 1925, the Turkmen SSR was incorporated directly into the USSR.
In the 1920-1930s, Turkmenistan, as part of the Soviet Union, as in other republics of the USSR, undertook large-scale reforms including collectivisation, industrialisation, literacy, secularisation (more than 500 mosques were closed) and the like. The generalisation of land, livestock and agricultural tools undermined the nomadic way of life of the Turkmen people, who in 1930 accounted for at least 30 percent of the republic’s population. The reaction to these changes was periodic uprisings against Soviet power in the southern and western regions of Turkmenistan. A similar situation was observed in the areas of irrigated agriculture, where, as in the first case, any manifestation of discontent was characterised as anti-Soviet activities and brutally suppressed.
The armed struggle against Basmachi, the inclusion of the poorest sections of the population in Soviet and party bodies and the campaign to eliminate illiteracy contributed to the relatively rapid suppression of active and passive resistance to the reforms of the 1920s-1930s. It was also important that the new government, unlike the tsarist regime, supported the principle of equality of all citizens, regardless of their national/tribal affiliation. Party and Soviet cadres from the European part of the USSR as well as doctors, teachers, engineers and other specialists were sent to the Republic.
At the beginning of October 1948, a disastrous earthquake destroyed Ashgabat (according to official figures, the number of victims was 30 000; according to unofficial figures, it exceeded 100 000). All the republics which were part of the USSR helped to deal with this disaster.
Positive trends (within the Soviet system) were observed in Turkmenistan as part of the Soviet Union in the socio-economic and cultural development of Turkmenistan during the 1950s and 1970s. In this respect, it is no coincidence that the independence movement in Turkmenistan in the late perestroika period was less strong and radical than in other Central Asian republics and initially had a cultural and environmental orientation, which led to the founding of the “Agzybirlik” movement by representatives of the intelligentsia in 1989, which did not have a strong anti-Soviet orientation.
In March 1985, Saparmurat Atamuratovich Niyazov was appointed Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Turkmen SSR. In December of the same year, Niyazov became First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Republican Communist Party. In January 1990 Niyazov was elected Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Republic and in October of the same year (as a result of non alternative elections) became its President. In March 1991, the people of the Republic voted in a referendum to preserve the USSR. Niyazov initially supported the actions of the GKChP, but after its failure the process of sovereignty of the Republic accelerated (as early as 1990 the republican Supreme Soviet, on its initiative, adopted a declaration of “state independence” of Turkmenistan). In a referendum in October 1991, a large majority of the population (94%) voted for independence.