The Turkmen people
have traditionally been nomads
, and even today after the fall of the USSR
attempts to urbanize but the Turkmens have not been very successful. They never really formed a coherent nation or ethnic group until they were forged into one by Joseph Stalin
in the 1930s. Rather they are divided into clans, and each clan has its own dialect and style of dress. Turkmens are famous for making gillams
, mistakenly called Bukhara rugs
in the West. These are elaborate and colorful rugs, and these too help indicate the distinction between the various Turkmen clans
The Turkmens are Sunni Muslims but they, like most of the region's nomads, adhere to Islam rather loosely and combine Islam with pre-Islamic animist spirituality. The Turkmens do indeed tend to be spiritual but are by no means militantly religious.
A Turkmen can be identified anywhere by the traditional "telpek" hats, which are large black sheepskin hats that resemble afros. The national dress: men wear high, shaggy sheepskin hats and red robes over white shirts. Women wear long sack-dresses over narrow trousers (the pants are trimmed with a band of embroidery at the ankle). Female headdresses usually consist of silver jewellery. Bracelets and brooches are set with semi-precious stones...
In language, Turkmens speak Turkmen, related most closely to Turkish and Azerbaijani. Virtually everyone, however, even in the remote desert regions, speaks Russian.
Two significant figures in Turkmen literature are the poets Feragi Makhtumkuli and Mametveli Kemine.
See also: Music of Turkmenistan