The Turkmen of Tajikistan
The main homeland of the Turkmen is the central Asian region, formerly known as Turkestan. It has long served as a meeting place for various peoples and cultures, as well as a fierce battleground for many of the great Asian conquerors including Emir, Genghis Khan, and Tamerlane.
For centuries the Turkmen lived as nomadic herdsmen. However, the seventy years of Soviet rule has virtually eliminated their nomadic lifestyle. The socialization of farmland has changed their traditional settlement patterns, and movement into the cities has naturally weakened their customs and traditions. Today most of them are farmers and cattle breeders.
What are their lives like?
Turkmen are especially known for their brisk trade in the bazaars, where many samples of their handicrafts can be found. Some of these include metal and wooden household utensils, tools, and furniture. Many have also supplemented their income by weaving carpets.
The Turkmen society is definitely male-dominated. Women are restricted and often treated as second-class citizens. They are slow to speak and reserved while in the presence of men. Arranged marriages are still very common and families often inter-marry to preserve wealth. Ordinarily, a man does not separate from his father's household until he is between the ages of 30 and 40. By this time, he has been married for 10 to 20 years and has children old enough to be economically productive. Once a man has established a household of his own, he arranges the marriages of his own daughters according to their birth order.
Men usually wear baggy trousers, coarse shirts, boots, and shaggy wool hats. Women love wearing jewelry, especially anklets and bracelets. They cover their heads in fine cotton cloths (like turbans) that are also adorned with jewelry.
The Turkmen are generally tall and thin. They are physically strong and easily able to endure the harshness of the environment. Although Turkmen are characterized by their hospitality, trustworthiness, and sincerity, they are also known as being hot-headed and revengeful.
The Turkmen love to play "Buzjashi," a wild polo-like game played by two teams on horseback. The game, which uses the headless carcass of a goat or calf as the "ball," can be very violent and go on for two or three days.
What are their beliefs?
Despite the outward conformity to Islam, mysticism and other past religious traditions are still prevalent.
What are their needs?
The two missions agencies currently targeting them have made very little progress. More laborers and evangelistic tools are desperately needed. With modern technology, there may be some inroads possible through satellite television and radio.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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