Turkmens - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. Historically, Turkmen society has been highly egalitarian, with little notion of class distinctions. Unlike other Turkic groups of Central Asia, Turkmens had no traditional aristocracy. There are very few examples in Turkmen history of exceptionally rich individuals, and the Turkmen custom of aiding relatives in times of economic need ensured that few people remained impoverished for long. There did exist a differentiation between people of pure Turkmen origin ( igh ) and those of slave ( qul ) or mixed ( yarim ) origins. Practically speaking, however, this distinction meant very little except for purposes of social ceremony. As elsewhere in Soviet Central Asia, a kind of "Soviet aristocracy" developed, consisting of families of famous writers, artists, and other members of the urban intelligentsia, as well as leading members of the Communist party.

Political Organization. Turkmen society has never been marked by strong political leaders or tribal chiefs. Men gained influence through such personal qualities as military valor, but their authority was limited to their ability to persuade others to join them and was seldom of long duration or conferred to their descendants. Under Soviet rule, the Communist party became the dominant political organization. At the same time, however, tribal loyalties continued to play important roles in granting positions within the party and government. For example, the Teke tribe long dominated the upper echelons of the Turkmen party apparatus, as well as appointments at the state university.

Social Control. Turkmen society is strongly influenced by the desire to maintain tradition ( adat ). Historically, tribal elders made decisions in councils that were designed to achieve consensus within the entire community. This practice is often employed in Turkmenistan even today.

Conflict. The Turkmens were renowned throughout their history for their warlike tendencies and their devastating raids ( alamans ) against sedentary neighbors, especially Iran. Within Turkmen society, there is an important responsibility for close agnates to come to the defense of each other in any conflict. The Owlad tribes have an equally important responsibility to serve as neutral mediators between potential Turkmen combatants.


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