Formation of the Turkmen Nation

Formation of the Turkmen Nation

During the Mongol conquest of Central Asia in the thirteenth century, the Turkmen-Oghuz of the steppe were pushed from the Syrdariya farther into the Garagum (Russian spelling Kara Kum) Desert and along the Caspian Sea. Various components were nominally subject to the Mongol domains in eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Iran. Until the early sixteenth century, they were concentrated in four main regions: along the southeastern coast of the Caspian Sea, on the Mangyshlak Peninsula (on the northeastern Caspian coast), around the Balkan Mountains, and along the Uzboy River running across north-central Turkmenistan. Many scholars regard the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries as the period of the reformulation of the Turkmen into the tribal groups that exist today. Beginning in the sixteenth century and continuing into the nineteenth century, large tribal conglomerates and individual groups migrated east and southeast.

Historical sources indicate the existence of a large tribal union often referred to as the Salor confederation in the Mangyshlak Peninsula and areas around the Balkan Mountains. The Salor were one of the few original Oghuz tribes to survive to modern times. In the late seventeenth century, the union dissolved and the three senior tribes moved eastward and later southward. The Yomud split into eastern and western groups, while the Teke moved into the Akhal region along the Kopetdag Mountains and gradually into the Murgap River basin. The Salor tribes migrated into the region near the Amu Darya delta in the oasis of Khorazm south of the Aral Sea, the middle course of the Amu Darya southeast of the Aral Sea, the Akhal oasis north of present-day Ashgabat and areas along the Kopetdag bordering Iran, and the Murgap River in present-day southeast Turkmenistan. Salor groups also live in Turkey, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and China.

Much of what we know about the Turkmen from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries comes from Uzbek and Persian chronicles that record Turkmen raids and involvement in the political affairs of their sedentary neighbors. Beginning in the sixteenth century, most of the Turkmen tribes were divided among two Uzbek principalities: the Khanate (or amirate) of Khiva (centered along the lower Amu Darya in Khorazm) and the Khanate of Bukhoro (Bukhara). Uzbek khans and princes of both khanates customarily enlisted Turkmen military support in their intra- and inter-khanate struggles and in campaigns against the Persians. Consequently, many Turkmen tribes migrated closer to the urban centers of the khanates, which came to depend heavily upon the Turkmen for their military forces. The height of Turkmen influence in the affairs of their sedentary neighbors came in the eighteenth century, when on several occasions (1743, 1767-70), the Yomud invaded and controlled Khorazm. From 1855 to 1867, a series of Yomud rebellions again shook the area. These hostilities and the punitive raids by Uzbek rulers resulted in the wide dispersal of the eastern Yomud group.

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