Turkmen people

Turkmen people

:"This article is about the Turkmen people of Turkmenistan. For the distinct group of Turk peoples of Iraq see Iraqi Turkmen. For the group of people in Turkey, see Turkish people. See also disambiguation page Turkmen for other uses of the term."ethnic group

A Turkmen man of Central Asia in traditional clothes, around 1905–1915.
poptime= 6.84 million (est.)
popplace= flagicon|Turkmenistan Turkmenistan:
3,631,000 [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/tx.html#People CIA World Factbook Turkmenistan]
flagicon|Iran Iran:
1,100,000 [ [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ir.html#People CIA World Factbook Iran] ] [ [http://www.ethnologue.com/14/show_language.asp?code=TCK Ethnologue Turkmen A language of Turkmenistan] ]
flagicon|Afghanistan Afghanistan:
932,000 [ [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/af.html#People CIA World Factbook Afghanistan] ]
flagicon|Pakistan Pakistan:
60,000 [ [http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home/opendoc.pdf?tbl=SUBSITES&page=SUBSITES&id=434fdc702 UNHCR: Census of Afghans in Pakistan] ]
flagicon|Russia Russia:
33,000 [2002 Russian census]
rels=Predominately Sunni Islam.
related=Turkic people

The Turkmen ("Türkmen" or "Түркмен", plural "Türkmenler" or "Түркменлер") are a Turkic people found primarily in the Central Asian states of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan and in northeastern Iran. They speak the Turkmen language which is classified as part of the Western Oghuz branch of Turkic languages family together with Turkish, Azerbaijani, Gagauz, Salar and Turkoman spoken in Iraq. [ [http://www.lmp.ucla.edu/ UCLA Language Materials Project: ] [http://www.lmp.ucla.edu/Profile.aspx?LangID=68&menu=004 Turkmen] ]


Türkic tribes of not Türkic dynastic mythological system were designated "Turkmens" (for example, Uigurs, Karluks, Kalaches and a number of other tribes were designated "Turkmens"), only later this word gained a meaning of a specific ethnonym. The etymology derives from "Türk" plus the Sogdian affix of similarity "-myn ,-men", and means "resembling a Türk", "co-Türk" [Yu. Zuev, "Early Türks: Essays on history and ideology", Almaty, Daik-Press, 2002, p. 157, ISBN 9985-441-52-9] . Modern scholars agree that the element "-man/-men" acts as an intensifier and have translated the word as "pure Turk" or "most Turk-like of the Turks" [ [http://memory.loc.gov/frd/cs/tmtoc.html US Library of Congress Country Studies: Turkmenistan] ] . Among Muslim chroniclers such as Ibn Kathir was attribution of the etymology from the mass conversion of 200,000 households in AH 349 (971 CE), causing them to be named "Turk Iman", which is a combination of "Turk" and "Iman" إيمان (faith, belief), meaning "believing Turks", and the term later dropping the hard to pronounce "hamza" [ [http://ar.wikisource.org/wiki/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%8A%D8%A9_%D9%88_%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D9%87%D8%A7%D9%8A%D8%A9_-_%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D8%B2%D8%A1_11 Ibn Kathir al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya] ] .

Historically, all of the Western or Oghuz Turks have been called "Türkmen" or derisive "Turkoman", however today the terms are usually restricted to two Turk groups: the Turkmen people of Turkmenistan and adjacent parts of Central Asia, and the Turkomans of Iraq and Syria, which are similar but not identical ethnic groups.

During the Ottoman period these nomads were known by the names of Türkmen and Yörük or Yürük (Türkic "Nomad", other phonetic variations include "Iirk, Iyierk, Hiirk, Hirkan, Hircanae, Hyrkan, Hyrcanae", the last four known from the Greek annals) [M.Zakiev, "Origin of Türks and Tatars", p.474 on, Moscow, "Insan", 2002, ISBN 5-85840-317-4 ru icon] . These names were generally used to describe their nomadic way of life, rather than their ethnic origin. However, these terms were often used interchangeably by foreigners. At the same time, various other exoethnonym words were used for these nomads, such as 'Konar-göçer', 'Göçebe', 'Göçer-yörük', 'Göçerler', and 'Göçer-evliler'. The most common one among these was 'Konar-göçer' - nomadic Turcoman Turks. All of these words are found in Ottoman archival documents and carry only the meaning of 'nomad'.

The modern Turkmen people descend, at least in part, from the Oghuz Turks of Transoxiana, the western portion of Turkestan, a region that largely corresponds to much of Central Asia as far east as Xinjiang. Oghuz tribes had moved westward from the Altay mountains in 7th century CE through the Siberian steppes and settled in this region, and also penetrated as far west as the Volga basin and Balkans. These early Turkmens are believed to have mixed with native Sogdian peoples and lived as pastoral nomads until the Russian conquest [ [http://www.amazon.com/dp/0801492114 Central Asians Under Russian Rule: A Study in Culture Change by Elizabeth E. Bacon] ] .


Signs of advanced settlements have been found throughout Turkmenistan including the "Djeitun" settlement where neolithic buildings have been excavated and dated to the 7th millennium BCE. [ [http://www.antiquity.ac.uk/Ant/047/0043/Ant0470043.pdf Prehistoric Central Asia] ] By 2000 BCE, various Ancient Iranian peoples began to settle throughout the region as indicated by the finds at the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex. Notable early tribes included the nomadic Massagatae and Scythians. The Achaemenid Empire annexed the area by the 4th century BCE and then lost control of the region following the invasion of Alexander the Great, whose Hellenistic influence had an impact upon the area and some remnants have survived in the form of a planned city which was discovered following excavations at Antiocheia (Merv). The Parni invaded the region as the Parthian Empire was established until it too fractured as a result of tribal invasions stemming from the north. Ephthalites, Huns, and Göktürks came in a long parade of invasions. Finally, the Sassanid Empire based in Persia ruled the area prior to the coming of the Muslim Arabs during the Umayyad Caliphate by 716 CE. The majority of the inhabitants were converted to Islam as the region grew in prominence. Next came the Oghuz Turks, who imparted their language upon the local population. A tribe of the Oghuz, the Seljuks, established a Turko-Iranian culture that culminated in the Khwarezmid Empire by the 12th century. Mongol hordes led by Genghis Khan conquered the area between 1219 to 1221 and devastated many of the cities which led to a rapid decline of the remaining Iranian urban population.

The Turkmen largely survived the Mongol period due to their semi-nomadic life-style and became traders along the Caspian, which led to contacts with Eastern Europe. Following the decline of the Mongols, Tamerlane conquered the area and his Timurid Empire would rule, until it too fractured, as the Safavids, Uzbeks, and Khanate of Khiva all contested the area. The expanding Russian Empire took notice of Turkmenistan's extensive cotton industry, during the reign of Peter the Great, and invaded the area. Following the decisive "Battle of Geok-Tepe" in January 1881, Turkmenistan became a part of the Russian Empire. After the Russian Revolution, Soviet control was established by 1921 as Turkmenistan was transformed from a medieval Islamic region to a largely secularized republic within a totalitarian state. By 1991, with the fall of the Soviet Union, Turkmenistan achieved independence as well, but remained dominated by a one-party system of government led by the authoritarian regime of President Saparmurat Niyazov until his death in December 2006.


Turkmen (Latin: Türkmen, Cyrillic: Түркмен) is the name of the language of the titular nation of Turkmenistan. It is spoken by over 3,600,000 people in Turkmenistan, and by roughly 3,000,000 people in other countries, including Iran, Afghanistan, and Russia. [ [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=tuk Ethnologue report for Turkmen] ] Up to 50% of native speakers in Turkmenistan also claim a good knowledge of Russian, a legacy of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union.

Turkmen is not a literary language in Iran and Afghanistan, where many Turkmen tend towards bilingualism, usually conversant in the local dialects of Persian. Variations of the Perso-Arabic script are, however, used in Iran.

Genetic Evidence

Genetic studies on Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) restriction polymorphism confirmed that Turkmen were characterized by the presence of European mtDNA lineages, similar to the Eastern Iranian populations, but strong northern Mongoloid genetic component observed in Turkmens and Iranian populations with the frequencies of about 20%. [ [http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/maik/ruge/2002/00000038/00000004/00375256;jsessionid=1i2j4imsmaj3n.alice 1 Russian Journal of Genetics, Mitochondrial DNA Polymorphism in Populations of the Caspian Region and Southeastern Europe] ] . Phenotype diversity can be discerned amongst the Turkmen, who exhibit full continuum between northern Mongoloid and Mediterranean Caucasoid physical types. This most likely indicates an ancestral combination of Iranian groups and Turco-Mongol that the modern Turkmen have inherited and which appears to correspond to the historical record which indicates that various Iranian tribes existed in the region prior to the migration of Turkic tribes who are believed to have merged with the local population and imparted their language and created something of a hybrid Turko-Iranian culture.

Culture and society

Nomadic heritage

The Turkmen were mainly a nomadic people for most of their history and they were not settled in cities and towns until the advent of the Soviet system of government, which severely restricted freedom of movement and collectivized nomadic herdsmen by the 1930s. Many pre-Soviet cultural traits have survived in Turkmen society however and have recently undergone a kind of revival.

Turkmen lifestyle was heavily invested in horsemanship and as a prominent horse culture, Turkmen horse-breeding was an ages old tradition. In spite of changes prompted by the Soviet period, a tribe in southern Turkmenistan has remained very well known for their horses, the Akhal-Teke "desert horse" - and the horse breeding tradition has returned to its previous prominence in recent years. [ [http://www.turkmenistanembassy.org/turkmen/history/horses.html Embassy of Turkmenistan-History & Culture, The Akhalteke Horse of Turkmenistan] ]

Many tribal customs still survive among modern Turkmen. Unique to Turkmen culture is "kalim" which is a groom's "dowry", that can be quite expensive and often results in the widely practiced tradition of bridal kidnapping. [ [http://www.iatp.edu.tm/baskurt/SocStructure.html Turkmen Society] ] In something of a modern parallel, President Saparmurat Niyazov introduced a state enforced "kalim", wherein all foreigners are required to pay a sum of no less than $50,000 to marry a Turkmen woman.

Other customs include the consultation of tribal elders, whose advice is often eagerly sought and respected. Many Turkmen still live in extended families where various generations can be found under the same roof, especially in rural areas. [ [http://www.iatp.edu.tm/baskurt/SocStructure.html Turkmen Society] ]

The music of the nomadic and rural Turkmen people reflects rich oral traditions, where epics such as Koroglu are usually sung by itinerant bards. These itinerant singers are called "bakshy"; they also act as healers and magicians and sing either a cappella or with instruments such as the two-stringed lute called dutar.

ociety today

Since Turkmenistan's independence in 1991, a cultural revival has taken place with the return of a moderate form of Islam and celebration of Novruz (an Iranian/Turkic tradition) or New Year's Day.

Turkmen can be divided into various social classes including the urban intelligentsia and workers whose role in society is different from that of the rural peasantry. Secularism and atheism remain prominent for many Turkmen intellectuals who favor moderate social changes and often view extreme religiousity and cultural revival with some measure of distrust. [ [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+tm0026) US Library of Congress Country Studies-Turkmenistan: Social Structure] ]

Self-proclaimed "President for Life" Saparmurat Niyazov was largely responsible for many of the changes that have taken place in modern Turkmen society. Mimicking the Turkish reformist policies of Atatürk in Turkey, Niyazov made nationalism an important element in Turkmenistan, while contacts with Turkmen in neighboring Iran and Afghanistan have increased. Significant changes to the names of the cities as well as calendar reform were introduced by President Niyazov as well. The calendar reform resulted in renaming months and days of the week from Persian or European-derived words into purely Turkmen ones, some of them eponymously related to the president or his family. The policy was reversed in 2008. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7365346.stm Turkmen Go Back to Old Calendar] ]

The five traditional carpet designs that form motifs in the country's state emblem and flag represent the five major tribes or houses. These Turkmen tribes in traditional order are Teke (Tekke), Yomut (Yomud), Arsary (Ersary), Chowdur (Choudur), and Saryk (Saryq). The Salyr (Salor), a tribe that declined as a result of military defeat before the modern period, are not represented, nor are several smaller tribes or subtribes.

Turkmen in Iran and Afghanistan

Turkmen in Iran and Afghanistan remain very conservative in comparison to their brethren in Turkmenistan. Islam plays a much more prominent role in Iran and Afghanistan where Turkmen follow many traditional Islamic practices that many Turkmen in Turkmenistan have abandoned as a result of decades of Soviet rule. In addition, many Turkmen in Iran and Afghanistan have remained at least semi-nomadic and traditionally work in agriculture/animal husbandry and the production of carpets. [ [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+ir0054) US Library of Congress Country Studies-Iran: Other Groups] ] [ [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+af0041) US Library of Congress Country Studies-Afghanistan: Turkmen] ]

Demographics and population distribution

The Turkmen people of Central Asia live in:
*Turkmenistan, where some 85% of the population of 5,042,920 people (July 2006 est.), are ethnic Turkmen. In addition, an estimated 1,200 Turkmen refugees from northern Afghanistan currently reside in Turkmenistan due to the ravages of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and factional fighting in Afghanistan which saw the rise and fall of the Taliban. [ [http://www.newscentralasia.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=952 UNHCR Begins Compiling Database of Refugees in Turkmenistan] ]

*Iran, where over 1 million Turkmen are primarily concentrated in the provinces of Golestān and North Khorasan.
*Afghanistan, where as of 2006 over 900,000 are ethnic Turkmen and are largely concentrated primarily along the Turkmen-Afghan border in the provinces of Faryab, Jowzjan, and Baghlan. There are smaller communities in Balkh and Kunduz Provinces.

As of 2005, there remain approximately 60,000 Turkmen refugees in Pakistan, largely in the North-West Frontier Province and Balochistan. A few hundred Turkmen and Kyrgyz refugee families living in Pakistan were given asylum in Turkey in the 1980s.

There are also scattered communities of Turkmens in Russian province of Stavropol and elsewhere in the Caucasus, descending from the tribes who emigrated from Turkmenistan in 18th century and call themselves "Trukhmens".

Age structure: 0-14 years: 35.7% (male 909,113; female 860,128),15-64 years: 60.2% (male 1,462,198; female 1,516,836),65 years and over: 4.1% (male 78,119; female 125,687) (2005 est.)

Population growth rate is 1.82% (2005 est.)

ee also

* Turkmen language
* Oghuz Turks
* Yörük



*Bacon, Elizabeth E. "Central Asians Under Russian Rule: A Study in Culture Change", Cornell University Press (1980). ISBN 0-8014-9211-4.
* [http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/28be5/7e7/ Turkmenistan Pages by Ekahau]
* [http://www.turkotek.com/salon_00089/s89t5.htm ]

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