Turkmens traditionally lived a seminomadic life, with the summer encampment considered to be the "homeland." The encampments were contractual in nature, although they almost always were composed primarily of close relatives. The basic settlement was the oba (Russian: aul ), which consisted of a group of households associated with a definite territory that they held in common. The traditional dwelling of the Turkmens was the round, collapsible tent (oy), consisting of a wooden frame with felt and sometimes reed coverings that could be erected or dismantled in about an hour. The Turkmens retained this dwelling even after becoming completely sedenterized. To this day these yurts, now serving as summer quarters or guest rooms, can be seen alongside modern brick homes.
Collectivization has replaced the oba with the kolkhoz, yet the basic family and tribal structure is intact. Movement to urban areas naturally weakens these traditional settlement patterns. The cities, however, are still primarily non-Turkmen; for example, Ashkhabad, the capital and largest city of the republic, is only 41 percent Turkmen.