Carpets from Turkmenistan


The Turkmen are a part of the Turkic people, who originally lived in East Asia. Yet the Turkmen are distinctly different from the Turks and continue to draw more attention than any other group in this region. They are most likely the first Turkic people to migrate west. If one is to believe the pre-history of Persia as presented in Ferdowsi’s Book of Kings (Shah-nama), the Turkmen and their ancestors were the Oghuz Turks. For more than 1300 years, this Turanian tribe was the main adversary of the Iranian people

Until the 11th century, the Turkmen were also called Oghuz (Arabic Ghuzz). Gardizi, in his history book Zain al-Akhbar (written 1049-1053), was the first historian to refer to them as Turkmen and from this time on the Western world began to also use this term. Various theories try to explain this name change, and Hermann Vambery’s book lists four of them(7):

  1. The word "Turkmen" is a composition of two words, namely "Turk" and the Persian word "manand," meaning "like Turk." (According to Mahmud Kashghari)(8).
  2. Turkmen is a composition of "Turk" and "men", which means "I am Turk." Vambery rejects this interpretation as well because the second syllable of each term contains a Persian word.
  3. Vambery offers this analysis: "Turkmen" denotes "Turkdom," for the suffix "-men" signifies "-dom."
  4. He rejects the possibility of another composition that combines "Turk" and "kuman."

Mahmud Kashghari (Mahmud from Kachghar, a city in eastern Turkistan, where the Uigur-Turks have always lived) wrote in the 11th century the exceedingly important Turkish language encyclopedia the Diva-nu Lughate-it-Turk (1072 until 1074). In his work, 22 of the original 24 Turkmen tribes were listed, along with their insignia (brands or Tamgha).

Three hundred years later, Rashid al-Din Tabib(9) offers a far more elaborate account. He was a doctor, scientist and statesman, who lived in Persia during the rule of the Mongol Ilkhan dynasty. He was considered one of the most important Persian historians, and was, in fact, the personal physician and vizier of Ghazan Khan (1296 until 1304). It is on this Khan’s reques,t and with his support, that Rashid al-Din Tabib includes the history of the Mongol in his chronicles of the Turkic people.

Rashid al-Din Tabib was born in 1246 in the city of Hamedan and he was executed in the same city in 1318 by order of the Mongol monarch Abu Said (1316 until 1335). Tabib reached the height of his career under the rule of Uldjaitu (1304 until 1316), when he finished the first volume of his historical work (called "Tarikhe Ghazani," meaning Ghazan’s history) in 1306, although it was the two following volumes that gained him more recognition. The set of these three books is known as Djami al-Tawarikh (Universal History), and is occasionally also referred to as Tadj el-Tawarikh (the crown of histories)(10).

Karl Jahn, an Austrian Orientalist and historian writes: "As is true for all nomadic people who adhere to traditional customs, tribal structure and organization played a major role for the Oghuz"(11). This author continues to write: "No other Turkish people of the Middle Ages trace their tribal ancestry back as far as they (the Oghuz) do(12).

According to Rashid al-Din, the mythology of the Oghuz (Arabic: Ghuzz) and the Turkmen, respectively, goes as follows: the eldest son of the prophet Noah was Japheth, called Uljy Khan (or Abul Jay Khan) by the Turks. As Noah divided the earth between his sons and placed them in their respective territories, Japheth received the East, and Turkistan along with it.

Japheth had a son by the name of Dib Yawkuy Khan(13), who is the ancestor of all the Turk nomads (Atrake Sahra Neshin)(14). Dib Yawkuy Khan then had four sons, Kara Khan, Ur Khan, Kur Khan and Kez Khan. The oldest, Kara Kahn, became the father’s successor. He had a curious son, who refused to drink his mother’s milk. For three nights, the mother dreamed of her son, and in each dream he asked her to accept God and follow his orders because only then would he begin to drink her milk.

She did not dare to tell his father about these dreams, for he and his people were without faith. After one year, her son, Oghuz, began to talk, and to everyone’s astonishment gave the name by which he was to be addressed. When he came of marriageable age, the daughter of his uncle Kur Khan was to be his wife, but he refused her on account of her unwillingness to follow his wises and accept faith in God. This was repeated when he was promised the hand of his uncle Kez Khan’s daughter.

But the daughter of his third uncle, Ur Khan, talked to Oghuz before the marriage. Oghuz told her of his wishes and she agreed. She loved him and stayed by his side until his refusal of the other women became known.