Carpets from Turkmenistan


This name does not show up in early literature, as neither Mahmud Kashghari (11th century) nor Rashid al-Din (14th century) made mention of them. Only Abul Ghazi Bahadur Khan, who was the ruler of Khiva from 1644 until 1663, referred to them in his book Shadjareje Terakeme (Genealogy of the Turkmen of 1070 Hejra, published in 1659 A.D.)(36).

Wolfgang König, an east German ethnologist and director of the Grassi Museum in Leipzig, pointed out Abul Ghazi was the first author to mention the Tekke, who were initially under the rule of his great-great-grandfather Ilbars Khan (around 1515) and later under the reign of Sufiyan Khan (1525 until 1535).

At this time Abul Ghazi described the Tekke as being subjects of Khiva who were ruled by the Khorassan Salor, the Saryk, Yomut and Ersari. He also noted these groups as tribes of the Stone Salor culture(37).

The Tekke formerly lived mainly in the areas of the Balkan Mountains, nearby the southeastern Caspian region.

From the 17th century onwards, a close examination of the history of the Turkmen is quite important if one wants to understand the territorial movements of the Tekke because, as we have already discussed, they did not make much of an appearance until then.

The various colors of the most important Tekke weavings relate back to the territories inhabited by them, and so it is essential that we understand their migration patterns for if we know when, and for how long, the Tekke lived in certain regions we can then date their woven objects simply by considering which regions made use of what color patterns.

The oldest Tekke tribes, who came from the Balkan region, made use of dark-brown-red and reddish brown colors.

Their rugs from the Alkhal region tend to show a yellowish to light-brown red.

The rugs of the Merv Tekke were characterized by a bluish red tint.

Those of the Tajand area display a dark violet-brown(38).

The far more rarely encountered light violet-brown rugs come from the Tekke of Khiva.

Wolfgang König claims some Tekke moved into Small or Little Asia along with the Seljuks as early as the 11th century(39). But since we have no record of them prior to the Mongol dynasties, we should consider moving this date back to the 13th century when Konig states the Tekke had an important influence on history.

Examining these later years, Wolfgang König cites sources that mention the Hadji Ahmetli, who were also referred to as Tekke. And, as late as the 20th century, one could still find them living in Anatolia, close to the city of Newshehir (west of Urgup)(40).

The Tekkelu(those belonging to the Tekke) were one of the eleven or twelve Kisil Bash tribes (pretorian Turkmen tribes) that established the Safavid state in Persia sometime between the 15th and the 16th century. Everything suggests they did not accompany the Seljuk on their westward journey in the 11th century but rather it seems migrated there in the 13th century with the Mongols, as we have already discussed.

The Tekkelu converted and became Shiite after joining the Sufi Order of Sheik Safi of Ardebil (the Tekkelu identified themselves as Moridan or followers. The exact time of their conversion is unknown and we have no idea what sort of rugs they were producing at this time. They were probably a variant of the Caucasian-Azerbaijani carpet.

At this early period the majority of the Tekkelu must have merged with the Shahsawan, and if we follow this concept it might prove to actually locate this clan and the rugs they produced. However, and so far, no historian has asked, let alone answered, this possibility.

The Tekke maintained a two-tiered militaristic division of their society, which was also similar to that of the Oghuz. They separated themselves into Otamysh and Tokhtamysh; and these two factions were divided into the following subgroups:

According to Petrusewitsh, the famous Russian ethnographer (1880) (41), the Otamysh split into:

  1. The Bakhshi
    1. Ak Dashayak
    2. Kara Dashayak
  2. The Sychmas
    1. Ak Sofi
    2. Haji Sofi

and the Tokhtamysh into:

  1. The Bek
    1. Kongur
    2. Goekcha
    3. Amansha
  2. The Wakil
    1. Yusup
    2. Kanjik
    3. Kokhshal
    4. Burki

Basically the structure of Turkmen society consisted of the following broad divisions: the Khalk, or Il (the people, Turkmen); the Tayefeh (full tribes, Otamysh); the Urug (lesser tribes or branch tribes, Bakhshi); the Tireh (kin or clan, Ak Dashayak); or the Bir Ata (Matyr), which was an alliance, who came together in an Oba (settlement).

Petrusewitsh listed more than 42 names of Tekke sub-groups(42).

A family consists of a number of people living together in a dome tent (Oy). Several families form an Oba (settlement), which in turn merge together to become a Tireh (clan).

An Urug is a lesser tribe consisting of many Tireh, which then together were considered a Tayefeh (a full tribe).

What is known as the Il, or Khalk, is a reference to the Turkmen people as a whole, or many groups of Tayefeh(43.)

Until the middle of the 18th century most of the Tekke lived in the area of the Balkan Mountains. They began to move eastward once Abul Gahzi Bahadur Khan, ruler of Khiva (1644 until 1653) and Nader, Shah of Persia (1730 until 1740) began to move militarily against them. The continued weakening of the Salor, Imrili, Karadshli and Goklan tribes as well as the eastern expeditions of the Yomut finally forced the Tekke to leave and relocate to the east. This eastwardbound movement had already begun by the 18th century but it was not until the Czar assumed control over this area in 1881 that the Tekke truly lost their independence.

A more detailed history of the Tekke needs to be worked out but this is beyond the scope of this initial paper.