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Friday, 18 November 2005
Turkmen Cold Steel Arms
Topic: Turkmen Traditions

Collectors and mere antiquaries of cold steel arms rarities always regard Turkmen arms with special tremble and respect. It is connected with the limited number of samples available in the private collections, as well as quick mentioning in literature. It left a particular print of mystique on Turkmen cold steel weapons. As it is known, the first appearance of sabre was directly linked with the formation of stirrups and hard saddle, the combination of which allowed only firm saddling but also striking chops. These changes activated some processes of development of arms, aimed at close fighting, which resulted in appearance of broadsword and later of sabre. The stable position on horseback gave a warrior a wide range of actions. The horsemen had an opportunity not only to lift on stirrups and sabre with stay, but also to lean back holding the rear arch or to release hands and ride using legs only.

The loss of weight of the sabre as compared to the heavy sword, which was attained at the expense of constriction of bar and elimination of the second blade, provided with wide possibilities for performing a wider variety of manoeuvres in close-in fighting.

Turkmen sabres are similar to each other. The blade of sabres are made of steel, they are forged, one-bladed, triangle in profile, and straight from the heel to one-third of their length, bending at razor-edge. It does not have refined cutting edges and dolls. The decorative design of the blade is practically absent. The sabre’s handle is formed by two steel bars, fastened at both sides with a wooden or bone hasp covered with leather and iron clinch. The teel caps of handles with clinches are located athwart towards the vertical arbour of handle. The reticles and crosses are straight and made of steel. The helves of blades are fixed with paste and passed with silver rope at the cross point. The length of blade of standard sabre in scabbard makes up 93-95 cm, the length of blade 76.5-83 cm, curvature 9.1-12 cm.

The Turkmen widely used sabres of local production in their military campaigns. I.V. Vitkevich, who traveled to Bukhara in 1830s, telling about the armament of Khiva warriors in his “Memoirs about the Bukhara Khanate”, notes: “Every soldier had a Turkmen or homemade sabre…”. The German researcher V.Konig writes in his monograph about the Ahal Turkmen of the Teke tribe, that local metalwork mainly consisted of making the simplest farming implements and cold steel arms, namely pikes, sabres and knifes. Many scholars denied the fact that Turkmen had self-made weapons. It should be mentioned, that along with domestic ones the Turkmen also used imported or captured cold steel arms. Nevertheless, sabres of local production had to meet the requirements to cold steel arms. Another important thing is that the elements of decorative design on Turkmen sabres and scabbards had its ethnic characteristics.

Cavalry swords and slightly crooked sabres, equally effective while striking stab cuts were not widely spread among the Turkmen. The sharp crook of the Turkmen sabre’s blade allows to consider it to be intended for cutting on horseback. The Turkmen arms are always objects of pride for its owner. The scabbard for cold steel arms may be considered and studied as a subject of independent decorative art. Their splendor and diversity amazes at first sight.

Sabres’ scabbards can be wooden, covered with dyed leather, the lower part of its cover is fastened with a piece of leather, sewed on the backside, on the edges of scabbard, there is leather fringe. There are two metal girdles, to which brown leather shoulder belts are fastened. Scabbards are spirally twisted with the leather belt.

The Turkmen used to carry arms on the left side. The shoulder belts were crossed and fixed with a silver plaque or weaved. Such a belt was bestridden over the right shoulder, connected on the breast with a decorative bronze foundry clasp and two receivers made of analogous material. Moreover, one end of clasp was fixed, while another remained loose. The end of the clasp was made in the shape of bird’s head. As General N.I. Grodekov noted: “The Turkmen determine the origin of this or that individual to one or another tribe by the intangible differences in the way of fastening up a sabre…”

The belonging of a man to this or that social group may be judged from his arms, whose decorative design reflected the mightiness of its owner and his gentility. One should mention an unimpeachable taste, even delicacy of ancient masters while decorating Turkmen sabres, making each of them a unique piece of art.

The decorative design of Turkmen sabres can be conditionally divided into 4 categories.

The first category comprises applied silver stamped spearheads, decorating handles and scabbards as well as shoulder belts. Applied silver elements on the shoulder belts also belong to this group. Two types of applied plaques, round and heart-shaped, can be distinguished. According to the relief of its surface, the first type is subdivided into two variants – with the smooth face side and another side divided into bulbous sectors. The plates are presented with one type of rectangular shape.

The second category comprises ornaments of three types: stamped floral on one of the girdles, carved geometrical with the gilded background on one of the head-ends of the shoulder belt and S-shaped clasps as well as gilded floral ornament on the sabre’s handle.

The third group consists of embedding, decorating the head-end of the shoulder belt (red cornelian, turquoise) and S-shaped clasp of the shoulder belt (red glass).

The fourth group comprises the parts of sabres of decorative-and-practical purpose. In this case, fringe on the edges of the scabbard, as well as silver wire winding on the handles of sabres also belong to this category.

Aleksander KOSTENOK,

Photos from

Posted by countryturkmenistan at 4:28 PM
Updated: Friday, 18 November 2005 4:31 PM
Monday, 18 July 2005
Museum of Earliest Known Wheat Culture Opens in Turkmenistan
Topic: Turkmen Traditions
15 July 2005. An inauguration ceremony of the National Museum of Ak Bugdai (white wheat) Wheat was held in the settlement of Anau, near Ashgabat, today.

As the Ashgabat correspondent of reports, Turkmen president Saparmurat Niyazov attended the ceremony which was timed to Grain Holiday to be marked Sunday in Turkmenistan. The head of state warmly congratulated the participants of the ceremony on the museum opening and fulfilling by Turkmen grain growers of the commitment to harvest 3,100 mln tons of grain.

The new museum, designed to immortalize the famous sort of Turkmen wheat “Ak Bugdai”, was built by Turkish Polimeks company. The three-storey building of the museum is 21 m high. A giant golden wheat ear framed by a two-circle wreath made of smaller ears hovers over the building. A fountain complex built in front of the face side of the museum, fitting harmoniously to the natural landscape, accomplishes the general ensemble. The museum occupies 32,000 square meters, including 18,000 square meters of the park zone. There is a conference hall for 200 people, office rooms, guest rooms and rest rooms for the museum’s employees, a storage room, telecommunication and information centers, a cafe and other special rooms on the ground floor of the museum.

The museum’s exposition is graphic evidence of deep roots of Turkmen agriculture born, according to scientists, some 10,000 years ago. The materials about the American archaeological expedition in Turkmenistan led by Professor Rafael Pampelli organized in the beginning of the last century take special place at the exposition. Findings made by Pampelli’s expedition proved that inhabitants of ancient settlements situated near modern Ashgabat were the first people in the history of mankind to grow wheat and barley and bake bread from white wheat flour. Seeds of wheat that survived in the layer of coal in the southern mound of Anau found by Rafael Pampelli’s expedition in 1904 are the main exhibit of the museum. Members of the joint Turkmen-American expedition, continuing exploration of Anau mounds, managed to find the whole range of such specimen this spring.

Demonstrating a rarity exhibit to representatives of diplomatic missions and international organizations accredited to Ashgabat, Saparmurat Niyazov noted a huge historical significance of the discovery made by archaeologists. Speaking about special services of Rafael Pampelli, the president also noted the high level of today’s Turkmen-American relations and expressed gratitude to the long-standing partners of Turkmenistan, famous “John Deer” and “Case” companies, for their harvesters and other equipment that are being successfully used on the country’s fields.

Saparmurat Niyazov also thanked all foreign guests present at the ceremony for their participation in festive events.

Internet newspaper Turkmenistan.Ru

Posted by countryturkmenistan at 12:06 PM
Updated: Monday, 18 July 2005 4:11 PM
Wednesday, 29 June 2005
Turkmen Akhal-Teke Horse
Topic: Turkmen Traditions
The Akhal-Teke horse breed (pronounced Ah-cull Tek-y) is a breed from Turkmenistan, where they are the national emblem. It is named after the nomadic tribe that bred them. They are racehorses, noted for their endurance on long marches and are thought to be the predecessors of the Arabian and English thoroughbred breeds. These beautiful "golden-horses' are adapted to severe climate conditions and are thought to be one of the oldest surviving horse breeds. There are currently about 3,500 Akhal-Tekes in the world, mostly in Turkmenistan and Russia, although they are also seen in Germany and the United States.

Alexander the Great's horse, Bucephalus, is said to have been an Akhal-Teke.

Breed characteristics

The Akhal-Teke's most notable and defining characteristic is the natural metallic bloom of its coat. This is especially seen in the palominos and buckskins, as well as the lighter bays, although some horses "shimmer" more than others, and is thought to have been used as camouflage in the desert, where the heat causes the desrt to shimmer. Also noteworthy are the breed's almond-shaped eyes. The breed is very tough and resilient, due to the harshness of the Turkmenistan lands, living without much food or water. This has also made the horses good for sport. The breed has great endurance, shown in 1935 when a group of Turkmenian horsemen rode the 2500 mile journey from Ashgabat to Moscow, which lasted 84 days, and included a 3 day desert crossing of 235 miles without water.

The horses have a fine head with a straight or slightly convex profile, and long ears. The mane and tail is usually sparse. Their long back has little muscle, and is coupled to a flat croup and long, upright neck. The Akhal-Teke possesses a sloping shoulder and thin skin. These horses have strong, tough, but fine limbs, although the hind legs are sometimes sickle-hocked. They have a rather shallow body with a shallow ribcage (like an equine greyhound), although a deep chest, and this shallowness continues to the back of the frame. The conformation is not considered "good" by Western terms, but that is made up by the breed's great beauty, and tremendous athletic ability.

The Akhal-Tekes are brave riding horses, lively, and alert, but are known to be obstinant and rebellious at times. They are generally a one-rider horse.

The horses are usually a pale golden color (like honey) with black points. They can also be bay, black, chestnut, or gray. The Akhal-Teke usually stands between 14.3 and 15.2 hh.

Male horses are not gelded in Central Asia.

Breed history

According to some, the Akhal-Teke has been kept hidden by their tribesmen for years. The area where the breed first appeared, the Turkmenistan desert Kara Kum, is a rocky, flat desert surrounded by mountains. However, others claim that the horses were descendents of the mounts of Mongol raiders in the 13th and 14th century.

The breed is very similar to the Turkoman Horse, bred in neighboring Iran. Some historians believe the two are different strains of the same breed, and that the incredibly influential Arabian was developed out of this breed.

Tribesmen of Turkmenistan first used the horses for raids, feeding the animals grains and mutton. They selectively bred the horses, keeping records of the perdigrees orally. The horses were called "Argamaks" by the Russians, and were cherished by the nomads.

In 1881, Turkomenistan became part of the Russian Empire. The tribes fought with the tzar, eventually losing. A Russian general, Kuropatkin, who grew to love the horses he had seen while fighting the tribesmen, founded a breeding farm after the war and renamed the horses "Akhal-Tekes," after the Teke Turkmen tribe that lived near the Akhal oasis. The Russians printed the first studbook in 1941, which included 287 stallions and 468 mares.

The Akhal-Teke has had influence on many breeds, including the Thoroughbred through the Byerley Turk (which is thought to be Akhal-Teke), one of the foundation stallions of the breed. The Trakehner has also been influenced by the Akhal-Teke, most notably by the stallion Turkmen-Atti, as has the Russian breeds Don, Budyonny, Karabair, and Karabakh. The Arabian is also thought to have had an influence by the Akhal-Teke, most noteworthy being the Syrian Arabian.

The breed suffered greatly when the Soviet Union required horses to be slaughtered for meat, which however the local Turkmen refused to eat. At one point only 2,000 horses remained and export from the Soviet Union was banned. The government of Turkmenistan now uses the horses as diplomatic presents as well as auctioning a few to raise money for improved horse breeding programs.

In the early 20th century, crossing between the Thoroughbred and the Akhal-Teke took place, aiming to create a faster long-distance racehorse. However, the Anglo Akhal-Tekes were not as resilient as their Akhal-Teke ancestors, and many died due to the harsh conditions of Central Asia. The crossbreeding was ended in 1935, after the 2,600 mile endurance race from Ashkabad to Moscow, when the pure-breds finished in much better condition than the part-breds. The Thoroughbred cross is believed to have been so destructive to the breed that a horse with Thoroughbred ancestors must have 15 generations pass before it can be registered in the studbook. Since 1973, all foals must be blood-typed to be accepted in the stud book in order to protect the purity. A stallion not producing the right type of horse can be removed. The stud book was closed in 1975.

Uses of the Akhal-Teke

Because of the purity of the ancient breed, the Akhal-Teke is often used for developing new breeds. The Akhal-Teke, due to its natural athleticism, makes it a great sport horse, good at dressage, show jumping, eventing, racing, and endurance riding.

One such great sport horse was the Akhal-Teke stallion Absent, who won the individual gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics, at the young age of 8, under Sergei Filatov. He went again with Filatov to win the bronze individual medal in Tokyo in 1964, and won the Soviet team gold medal under Ivan Kalita at the 1968 Mexico Games.

Many Akhal-Tekes look like they move "above-the-bit," with the mouth about level with the rider's hands. This is mainly due to their upright necks.

Most Akhal-Tekes are found at the Tersk stud in the northern Caucasus Mountains.

Source: Wikipedia

Posted by countryturkmenistan at 1:50 PM
Thursday, 23 June 2005
Turkmen carpet weaving
Topic: Turkmen Traditions
Turkmen arts and crafts witnessed uneven development of various specialties. They had high esthetic and technical qualities, especially among herders. This included embroidery of clothing, especially wool leggings - jorab, purses and carpets.

Turkmen carpets are especially famous. They were produced by all tribes in present-day Turkmenistan with the exception of the non-Turkmen nukhurli tribes.

A Turkmen carpet is not only a work of art, but also a necessary thing for every day life. The carpets had their own uses: haly - carpets for decoration of dwellings; namazlyk - small carpets for prayer; and gapykilim, ensi - medium sized carpets used for curtaining of entrance and yurts. Besides that, carpet goods included different bags - torba, which people used to hang on the walls of buildings or yurts for keeping house utensils; other bags - chuval, maprach - for dresses, clothes and other belongings. At the same time these bags were used with a decorative purposes, such as saddle bags - horzuun, and finally, there were decorative ornaments - osmaldyk, halyk - for camel bale, as well as various carpet bands - akyup, golan (polam) 10-15m in length and 20-40m in width used for decorating inside walls of yurts and for fixing outside felt covers.

The carpets of separate large tribes were different in their patterns and manufacturing styles. The most popular ones belonged to tekins (Turkomen) and pendins (salyrs). Though yomut carpets were original and have beautiful patterns and colors, they were not so popular in the world market. All Turkmen carpets are similar in colorings and style, and differ from other national carpets. The major color of Turkmen carpets is red, and the color spectrum goes from dark-cherry (pendin carpets) to scarlet (tekins). Other colors used are black and white, and yomuts used blue color for carpets as well. White gradually becomes ivory, and red colors slightly fade, giving old carpets a specific lightness and coloring harmony.

By the end of the 19th c, the Turkmen used only natural, very strong dyes for coloring of wool. Later they started to use cheaper, weaker aniline dyes, which considerably affected the color range. The patterns had a geometrical shape, and each big tribe had its own distinctive type. Big carpets have a clearly visible division on the central part and borders. In the center one can see octagonal figures and rhombs filled in with patterns. Yomut carpets have patterns like cogged rhomb-shaped rosettes. According to the opinion of carpet expert Moshkova V.G the central pattern, called gel', represented the tribe emblem with the image of a totem in the old days.

The edging consists of ordinary conventionalized geometrical, and sometimes plant motives. The carpets produced at the end of the 19th c and beginning of the 20th c do not contain very many geometrical shapes of animals and plants. Old carpets manufactured hundred years ago were showing everyday life scenes. The yomut strips of carpet were especially interesting in this regard. They showed migration and other scenes. The museum of ethnography of the USSR in St Petersburg keeps an old yomut strip of carpet which reflects a return from a foray - alaman. The modern yomut carpets also contain geometrical plant patterns.

The Turkmen carpets can be divided into fleecy (chitme technique) and non-fleecy (kakma technique). Along with these main types, there are intermediate type, where fleecy patterns are made on a non-fleecy background.

In fact the carpets, carpet bags and decorations for camels are produced in a fleecy way. The Turkmen fleecy carpets are of a high quality; they have thick knots and a short nap. Yomuts are mostly non-fleecy. They include big floor covers, kit-bags - chuval, as well as carpet strips for surrounding wooden frames of yurts and outside cane mats (duzi, bilyup, etc.). However the most beautiful carpet strips, which are now very rare, had patterns on a non-fleecy background. This was the way yomuts produced golan and akyup carpet strips. Strips had very specific drawings: their geometrical pattern goes on white background and changes along the whole length several times. The main picture of this pattern reminds one of a branching tree, strongly conventionalized. These combined strips are very close to Karakalpak ones. Significantly often the Turkmen start using other type of strips for securing yurts: they have colored patterns on a white background. In spite of the variety of carpet forms, the manufacture techniques were not complicated. The carpets were produced on a horizontally installed loom, a very ordinary device.

Two pairs of stakes were hammered into the ground according to the size of the planned carpet. Behind the stakes there were fixed two beams for stretching the main part of the carpet. For thread shifting they used a stick with loops catching one part of the base, and a small board. A stick with loops was installed on forks hammered into the ground, or on handmade loam columns. In order to keep base threads immovable, they fixed them by loam to the stick. Woof thread was taken through by hand without a shuttle. For hammering the woof, people used a massive iron comb with a wooden handle. They cut the nap with scissors made by local craftsmen.

This delicate technique did not allow fast work. It took a month of hard work for a Turkmen woman to weave a 4-5 m carpet. For wide carpets, several women worked, sitting in a row.

During cold times the loom was installed inside a special yurt. In summer it was installed under a shed. Mainly, carpets were produced during the warm period of the year, as it was difficult to work in winters. Threads were made gradually, and mainly of sheep wool cut in spring.

Now carpet weaving is becoming more popular but is done in special artels. Weavers have learned new techniques (vertical weaving) and new patterns. The carpets are made to order.


Felt works are also made, but are not so outstanding as those of the Kazakhs, Kirgiz and Karakalpaks.

Reed mats are used as frames. Layers of wool are spread, soaked and rolled on them. The mat is tied round with a rope and the rolling continues, sometimes with the help of a horse. The felt is removed, turned over and rolled by hand.

The mats are used as bedding and cover for the lower part of the yurt, with the felt on top. They are woven on primitive devices with thick thread. This is different from techniques of the Uzbeks and Tajiks. Their nomadic lifestyle gave preference to felt ornament on carpets and purses - keche.

Ornamented felts - keche - have extremely interesting and peculiar patterns. The main pattern, which frames the central part, is called sary ichyan (yellow scorpion), saylan (election) or gochak (ram horn). The central field is usually occupied by 2-4 large circles, which have different names in various tribes. The central pattern's name is the name of the felt. Yomut-djafarbays and inhabitants of the Caspian Sea coast have two-sided ornamented felts - goshma keche. The local crafts women are considered to be the most skillful in making felts. Felt items by Turkmen-Saryks were especially prized. They are produced in settled areas now as well. Turkmen herders of sheep produced the most felt, both monotone and ornamented.

The manufacturing process is mainly the same like in other regions of Central Asia; felt production is only a women's occupation.

New ornaments are now used. Carpet making became an industry, but it is still done as a handicraft.


Posted by countryturkmenistan at 12:16 PM
Wednesday, 8 June 2005
Turkmen Emboridery
Topic: Turkmen Traditions
Akgaima, kojime and ilme (or ildirme - chain stitching) are basic types of Turkmen embroidery stitches. Every stitch is widespread in certain groups of Turkmen. Akkaima is never met singly; sometimes it is combined with embroidery, which is made according to the technique of the second type - kodjp-me (or just keshde - embroidery), which is quite common on its own. Both akkaima and kojime are widespread amongst Turkmen - Tekins, Goklens, Sariks and other small groups living amongst them. Akkaima is mainly applied to men's tyubeteykas; this very stitch is also used for the neck of dresses and shirts, and the lower edges of women's trousers.

Embroidery is made on the front and very dense stitched; pointed ornament in a form of triangles and broken lines is made. Kojime stitch is very similar to a stitch known to Russian people as "kozlik with mount", but with loop framing. Southern Turkmen use it for embroidery on girl's tyubeteykas and dressing gowns. Women's mantle dressing gowns, i.e., chirpi, covered by patterns (almost out of use now), are especially abundantly embroidered by this stitch.

In addition to the southern Turkmen, Tashaus Turkmen Yomuts, Emreli and also contemporary choudors also use kojime stitch (they knew how to chain stitch in the past).

Chain stitch is usual for western Turkmen Yomuts and small size groups of Turkmen - hodja, idgir, shih, living to the north of Krasnovodsk. Chain stitch was more used in the past; it was typical for Turkmen who are known under the name of Turkmen esen-hani (hasan eli). There are ancient dressing gowns and women's caps of choudors in the Tashauz region, all covered by patters of chain stitch on red or blue thin cloth brought from Russia. Ancient items of shihs, igdirs, now living on the Caspian seaside, are very close in character and technique of embroidery (on thin cloth and the type of patterns) to those of choudors.

Chain stitch is made by needlework amongst Turkmen, although other people of the Central Asia embroider chain stitch by hook. For all patterns made by chain stitch, a double line is typical.

Turkmen use two types of stitch as subsidiary stitches, usually hiding inner joining seams. First, a covering stitch of satin stitch type with straight or slanting stitches, called tugtima (Tekins) or gurtikin (Yomuts), i.e., fixed and loop, in which loops are in the middle of the pattern, forming a herring bone. Featherstitch and others are also met, but they do not determine the character of Turkmen embroidery, which is various in technique and ornament.

From our point of view, the technique of Turkmen embroidery is evidence of various ethnic components in the composition of the Turkmen nation. When thoroughly studied, it will give a lot of material for the study of Turkmen ethnogeny. A very interesting fact has to be noted here: the technique of kojime, widespread amongst Turkmen, is not met amongst other people of Central Asia. The only exception is a part of the southern Kyrgyz, inhabitants of Osh region, who widely use this technique of embroidery.

Embroidery patterns, as well as those of carpets, are strictly geometrical. However, for ancient embroidered dressing gowns and Tekin, Goklen, and Yomut girls' caps, as well as for women's head mantles of Tekin chirpi, the kurte geometrical floral ornament, close to the ornament of jewellery, is typical.

Girl's and men's tyubeteykas, the neck and sleeves of women's dresses (and in the distant past men's as well), the lower part of trousers (which can be seen from underneath of dress), different kinds of small bags used for keeping domestic things, watch cases and men's ties are conventionally embroidered by Turkmen women. Woollen embroidery on woven carpets or walking carpets is met less often.

Today, embroidery is being renewed

Source: Traditional culture and folklore of Central Asia

Posted by countryturkmenistan at 1:56 PM
Updated: Thursday, 23 June 2005 12:18 PM

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