Carpets from Turkmenistan


The Goklan tribe also did not belong to the groups of original Turkmen mentioned in the 11th and 14th century sources(105). But they are indeed part of the Turkmen, surfacing for the first time during the reign of Sofiyan Khan (1525 until 1535). Abul Ghazi repeatedly wrote about them, referring to the altercation they had with Khan of Urgendj over their refusal to pay him tribute. They ended up being forced to pay him 12,000 sheep and an additional 1,200 to his kitchen. By the beginning of the 16th century their herds were 528,000 strong, whereas the Tekke Yomut and Saryk owned a combined 352,000 sheep(106). Iskandar Beg Munshi described them in his 1628 history book as part of the Sayin Khan Turkmen, who lived in Gurgan and Atrak.

I have proposed to combine this tribe with the Khorassan Salor(107), while until 1986 the literature only considered them to be a branch tribe of the Yomut(108) and the rugs they produced often said to be inferior. Sadly throughout my years of Turkmen studies I have encountered such attitudes again and again.

There were also times when the Choudor and Arabachi were seen as Yomut people(109). Such comparisons invariably described them as being Yomut “with rugs of no raving beauty” -- comparing a Kazak with a Kuba results in a similar assessment. However we do not very often encounter such judgments, which are like comparing apples and oranges, nor are simple declarations of unanimity better comparisons.

The Goklan lived in Gurgan and by the Atrak River, which was some of the most arable and fertile lands ever populated by Turkmen. This was also why they were one of the richest and most influential groups until about 1730 to 1740.

An Afshar leader established himself emperor of Iran and the subsequent rise of Iranian power brought plight to the Goklan people, as well as many other Turkmen tribes. After some initial difficulties (1733 and 1735) Nader Shah Afshar defeated the Osman(Ottoman) troops and took the Caucasus regions back. He then went on to lead successful campaigns against India, Bokhara and Khiva. He was a Sunni (unlike most of his tribal comrades, who belong to the Shiite Kizil Bash) but this background did not keep him from moving against the Sunni Turkmen in order to fortify the north-eastern border of Iran(110).

We should not omit mention of the outcome the Turkmen persecution of one century earlier, as Abul Ghazi destroyed the supreme rule of the Salor and Nader Shah imposed sanctions and executed punishment against the meanwhile increasingly powerful Goklan and Yomut tribes. Furthermore the Shah targeted the older Karadashli and Imur (Imr Ili) tribes of the Akhal territory.

We will use the information put forth by J. C. Haentzsches to understand tribal structures of the Goklan. He divided them into two main groups based on statements from the official Persian statistics(Amar) from the year 1855(111).

  1. The Halke Dudurke were divided into five groups, which in turn consist of additional subgroups: (The names in bold print represent the original Turkmen tribes.)
    1. Kerek:
      1. Gunklik,
      2. Sufian,
      3. Gukche,
      4. Dehene,
      5. Chekke
    2. Bayandor:
      1. Ak Kilitshkhani,
      2. Nefes Khani
    3. Yenka:
      1. Kuti Mujem,
      2. Uechkoyunli
    4. Kerges:
    5. Chekke:
  2. The Halke Daghli into six factions, which also contained further subgroups:
    1. Tschagir Bekdeli
    2. Arab
    3. Ai-Derwish
    4. Karabekhan:
      1. Yokari Boili,
      2. Ashage Boili
    5. Erkekli
    6. Kai:
      1. Temek,
      2. Dari,
      3. Gernas,
      4. Buggeje(112).

Most importantly Kai was the oldest son of Kun Khan and the oldest grandson of Oghuz Khan, the tribal father of all Turkmen.

As far as I know, there was no other Turkmen tribe in which the various subgroups and branch tribes played such an important role. A Goklan named Bekdeli for example was the third son of Yolduz Khan, who himself was the third son of Oghuz Khan. Bayandor was the first son of Kok Khan, who was the fourth son of Oghuz Khan. The Goklan also referred to Bekdeli as Chagir or Chakir Bekdeli.

Here the ethnographic dimension of rug artistry comes into play. The so-called Eagle Gol is the primary one used by the Goklan.

But the questions are plentiful: was this tribe a subgroup of the Kai, Bekdeli or even the Bayandor who managed to become independent?

Were they related to yet another clan? How did the Gols of the Kai, Bekdeli and Bayandor change once they became autonomous groups? Technically, this Eagle Gol must at some point have belonged to one of these tribes, which gaining self-governance and power decided to simply continue using the Gol of the former authority.

It is also crucial to know what groups merged with the Yomut.