Carpets from Turkmenistan


The Choudor belong to the original Turkmen group, meaning that their ancestor is the 15th grandson of Oghuz Khan.

Choudor was the third son of Kok Khan, who in turn was the fourth son of Oghuz Khan. Choudor was part of the left flank of Oghuz Khan’s army.

The Choudor lived by the Caspian Sea since approximately the beginning of the second millennium A.D. Abul Ghazi tells us they arrived in Mangyshlak as early as the 11th century. Prior to the rise of Toghrul Bek (the first Seljuk ruler, 1038 until 1063), many tribes followed the lead of their tribal leaders Kilik bek, Kazan bek and Karaman bek and settled in Mangyshlak. Most of them were members of the Imir, Dukur, Düker, Igdir, Chavuldur(64), Karkin, Salor or Agar tribes.

Some other groups followed the son of Alijakbek as he moved into the Khisar Mountains; and others, such as the Okli (65), Kokli, Azar and Sultani, went into the Balkan regions. Meanwhile, the Yazir (later known as Karadashli) settled in the Khorassan and the Duron regions.

Some Salor also moved into the Khorassan region(66) and this branch of the group consisted of about 10,000 yurts (“Oy,” a dome tent).

In comparison to other tribes, the Choudor have probably spent the most time in Mangyshlak (“Siah Kuh” in Persian, meaning black mountain). Yet a table given by a Russian etnographer S.P. Poljakov in his book, which surveys the southwestern Turkmen tribes from the 11th until the 17th century, makes no mention of them at all. Instead, Abul Ghazi tells us the Choudor, under the rule of Sofiyan Khan (1525 until 1535), belonged to the Ishki Salor (the inner Salor).

The counter group, the Tashki Salor (outer Salor), consisted of the Tekke, Saryk, Ersari and Yomut, who at this time inhabited the Balkan region. Poljakov also refers to the Khorassan Salor, who acted as allies of the Ersari against Sofiyan Khan but he does not mention this tribe by name.

I have already stated it is my opinion the Khorassan Salor were the same Turkmen who the historian Iskandar Beg Munshi calls Sayin Khan or Yake. They lived in Khorassan by Gurgan and Atrak rivers and the city of Astarabad, and even further north in what used to be the Dehistan region.

The Khorassan Salor were a combination of Salor, Imur (Imr Ili), Goklan, Okhlu and Ali Ili tribes. (68) The Ishki Salor consisted of the Choudor, the Igdir, Hassan Ili, Arabatshi, Adakhli Khissar, Ali Ili and Dewechi tribes.

When considering the development and history of Khiva the Choudor may not have been as important in this region as were the Yomut. But their amalgamation with the latter, as well as with the Kungrat Uzbek (of Aral Lake), certainly had an impact on this settlement.

It is obviously difficult to maintain a perfectly clear overview of these events and developments but, as I have mentioned, we must keep in mind the historic importance of this quasi-confederation of a Choudor and Salor alliance. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to trace back the information available though the various sources listed here(69).

While discussing the Khorassan Salor, I previously referred to Iskandar Beg Munshi and the actual tribes he enumerated(70). The literature mentions the “Stone Salor” along with the inner, outer and Khorassan Salor(71). Wolfgang König refers to the writings of Abu’l Ghazi(72) and subsequently uses this term to include both the Tashki and the Khorassan Salor.

Abul Ghazi also uses geographical names, such as the: Su-boyu(the water-side Turkmen) and Tagh-boyu (mountainside Turkmen. He begins his account by mentioning the Amu Darya regions and then continues to describe the Kuren Dagh, Kopet Dagh and Balkan mountains.

During the reign of Sofiyan Khan (1525 until 1535) a creek formerly branched off the Amu-Darya River and flowede north into the Aral Lake. Another river originating from the Urganj used to make its way through the now dried-up Sari Kamish basin, eventually flowing through Uzboi by the bay of Balkan into the Caspian Sea. Groups of Turkmen supposedly lived along both sides of the river and farmed the land, kept cattle and grew vegetables and fruit.

Previously authorities in Khiva governed these groups, requiring them to pay tribute to the Khan(73). Of course the status of the river dwellers depended on the political situation in Khiva. However because Turkmen tradition and mentality rejects higher authority they rarely submitted to anybody other than their own leaders. Therefore, and in consequence the Turkmen were never able to form a united state of any sort.

Except for the Seljuk rule throughout the 11th and 12th century, only the Kara Koyunlu and the Ak Koyunlu dynasties of the 14th and 15th century managed to become established geo-political powerhouses governing out of Azerbaijan. However, eastern Turkmen considered these two families members of the Kisil Bash (followers of the Sufi Order of Ardebil) and they were subsequently viewed as enemies.

As we mentioned earlier, we know little about respectively the Choudor and the Essen Khan alliance. Besides the Choudor, this union reportedly included the Essen-eli, Igdir and Arabachi tribes. W. Barthold notes that Essen is wrong, and this group should more correctly be referred to as the Hassan(74). Referring to Russian literature on this subject we find Hassan Kuli Bay (at the opening of the Atrak River into the Caspian Sea, below the Balkan Bay) is also called Gasan Kuli Bay(76)**Footnote 75 missing

We do not know if the Bay was named after the tribe, or if it was the other way around. But we can be certain a tribe by this name must have been part of the Hassan Kuli, Choudor or Choudor alliance. We do not know if the alliance received its name because it established itself in this region, or if there really was another tribe equal to the Choudor. However, it is a fact the tribe disappeared, or at least ceased to be a major tribe.

From the 17th century on the Kalmuck, a Turkic tribe living in mainly in Kazakistan, begin to exert military pressure on the Choudor tribe. Under their leader Ayuka (1670 until 1724), parts of the Choudor accompany the Igdir and Soinaji (possibly Soin Hadji) on their migration into northern parts of the Caucasus. Some other sources claim this movement already had taken place during the reign of Puntsuk Monchak (1667 to 1670)(77). Some of this group traveled north of Khiva and the actual eastward movement of the Choudor took them into the domains of Khiva and Kungrat (the area north, the Aral regions that were controlled by the independent Uzbek)(78).

In the 18th century the Yomut begin to encroach upon Khiva and as a result the Choudor began to form regular alliances with the Yomut.

Khiva continued to suffer under Turkmen advances, especially from the Yomut and their Choudor cohorts who pressed hard against the city. In 1810 Mohammad Rahim Khan of Khiva(1804 until 1826) managed to unite the Kungrat and Khiva forces and the Choudor fled to Mangyshlak. With help from the Choudor and the Yomut this Mohammad Rahim Khan established his power and influence in the south. He dominated the Tekke of Akhal and staged several attacks against Mashad, the capital of Khorassan(79). In 1830 and 1849 the advancing northern Aday Kazak(another Turkic group from Kazakistan) forced the Choudor to leave Mangyshlak. They migrated towards Khiva and established new settlements by the city of Porsi (today Kalinin) and Urgendj.

Shortly after the death of Mohammad Emin Khans (1843 until 1855), who was beheaded in battle against the Yomut, disturbances and riots begin to emerge with the influence of the Yomut and the Choudor feeding these brooding conflicts. In 1855 and 1856, the Khans Abdull and Kultug Murad had no choice but to ask the Tekke for help in their struggle against the Choudor and the Yomut.

With the help of Tekke and Saryk forces, Khan Kultug Murad of Khiva defeated an army consisting of Yomut, Choudor, Imreli and other Turkmen tribes(80). It is no coincidence one of the two illustrated Choudor main rugs exhibits elements of a Tekke Gol, which demonstrates in woven form the Tekke having brought the Choudor under their rule.

Muraview lists the tribal structures of the Choudor. It is interesting to note he referred to them as the Choudor Essen Ili, who lived in Mangyshlak and Khiva with about 8,000 yurts(81).

  1. Choudor
  2. Igdir
  3. Abdal
    1. Mengli Orgi
    2. Kurban
      1. Chekar Bay,
      2. Oganush,
      3. Kuislyorgionek
    3. Deli
    4. Kuja
  4. Burunjuk
  5. Busaji