The last census to be published was held in 1995. Results of every census since then have been kept secret. Opposition media reported that some results of the 2012 census had been surreptitiously released, including a total population number of 4,751,120. According to this source, as of 2012 85.6% of the population was ethnically Turkmen, followed by 5.8% ethnic Uzbek and 5.1% ethnic Russian. In contrast, an official Turkmen delegation reported to the UN in January 2015 some different figures on national minorities, including slightly under 9% ethnic Uzbek, 2.2% ethnic Russian, and 0.4% ethnic Kazakh. The 2012 census reportedly counted 58 different nationalities.

Official population estimates of 6.2 million are likely too high, given known emigration trends.Population growth has been offset by emigration in search of permanent employment. According to leaked results of a 2018 survey, between 2008 and 2018 1,879,413 Turkmenistani citizens emigrated permanently out of an estimated base population of 5.4 million.

Available figures indicate that most of Turkmenistan’s citizens are ethnic Turkmens with sizeable minorities of Uzbeks and Russians. Smaller minorities include Kazakhs, Tatars, Ukrainians, Kurds (native to the Kopet Dagh mountains), Armenians, Azeris, Balochs and Pashtuns. The percentage of ethnic Russians in Turkmenistan dropped from 18.6% in 1939 to 9.5% in 1989. The CIA World Factbook estimated the ethnic composition of Turkmenistan in 2003 as 85% Turkmen, 5% Uzbek, 4% Russian and 6% other. According to official data announced in Ashgabat in February 2001, 91% of the population were Turkmen, 3% were Uzbeks and 2% were Russians. Between 1989 and 2001 the number of Turkmen in Turkmenistan doubled (from 2.5 to 4.9 million), while the number of Russians dropped by two-thirds (from 334,000 to slightly over 100,000).