Turkmenistan’s society varies somewhat from the ethnic practices of the nearby Muslim states of Central Asia. The explanation for this is that the Turkmen ancestors were nomadic peoples, while the lands of modern Tajikistan and Uzbek were inhabited by settled peasant tribes. This particular reality focused on aspects such as the cultural growth of the Turkmen people.The specific milestones in the establishment and growth of Turkmenistan’s culture are linked to the practices of Turkic-speaking oguz. The latter is moving back to the pre-Islamic era. The practices of the Oguz have been expressed in the literature, music, folklore of Turkmen.
The most well-known source of this time is the national oguz epos “Oguz-nameh” which also belongs to the cultural heritage of Turkmen, Azerbaijani and Turks. It was handed on orally from generation to generation and was written down in the mid-16th century. Another epic monument is the poem “Kitabi Dede Korkud” which represented the pre-Islamic tribal culture of the Oguz and the influence of Islam in the 11th-12th centuries. The national singers-storytellers delivered epic poetry.
Along with the introduction of Islam, Arabic writing has extended to Central Asia. However, Turkmen poetry used the language of Chagatai (very similar to Persian) commonly accepted in Central Asia. It was the Chagatai language used by Turkmen literature. This language has also been used by the great Turkmen poets of the 18th century.
One of Turkmenistan’s greatest national poets was Makhtumkuli (1730-1880s). Before Makhtum kuli, Turkmen poetry was very similar to Persian, in the form of Sufi philosophic treatises in literary form. Makhtumkuli and his disciples began to create their works that went beyond the strict limits of the conventions typical of Persian poetry. In doing so, the motivations of Turkmen national poetry and its epic rituals have been commonly used. Seitnazar Seyidi (1775-1836) and Kurbandurdy Zelili (1780-1836) are considered the descendants of Makhtumkuli.
The influence of Sufism, which had prevailed in Turkmen literature, faded significantly from the mid-19th century. The works of Turkmen poetry have developed a nationalist character. Since the annexation of Turkmenistan to the Russian Empire in 1870-1890, social and political satire took the leading role in national poetry.
Turkmen artistic prose and theatrical poetry only began to evolve in the Soviet era. The literature of the time celebrated the successes of socialism: women’s rights, the collectivization of agriculture, and later-the triumph of the Soviet people in the Second World War. Berdy Kerbabaev (1894-1974), author, novelist and playwright, was one of the most famous Turkmen authors of the Soviet era.
Turkmen spoken language developed on the basis of dialects of Turkic tongues, western oguz dialects in particular. It was also influenced by kipchak and old Uzbek (chagatai) languages. In 1928 Arabian alphabet was replaced by Latin, in 1940 Latin alphabet was replaced by Russian. Literary Turkmen language formed in the 20th century under the influence of tekhin tribal dialect. Modern Turkmen writing is based on Cyrillic, but in the 21st century it is going to be replaced Latin.