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What Is a Turkmen Rug?

By H. Colledge
Updated May 16, 2024
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A Turkmen rug is a type of small carpet originating from the country known as Turkmenistan. The design of Turkmen rugs is thought to have changed little in over 2,000 years. Decorations include geometric patterns, stylized representations of Turkmen life, and the use of red above all other colors. Methods of carpet manufacture have been handed down through generations, and Turkmen rugs are still created using real sheep wool and natural dyes. Five traditional rug patterns have evolved, which are represented on the flag of Turkmenistan.

Traditional oriental carpet weaving methods, such as those used to create a Turkmen rug, involve the construction of warp threads, weft threads and knots. The warp consists of the threads which run along the whole length of the rug and which support the carpet's weight when it is hanging on a loom. Rows of knots, which form the pile of the rug, are tied across the warp threads and, after each row is completed, weft threads are woven across to secure it. Different varieties of Turkmen rug may use symmetrical or asymmetrical knotting techniques and the weft style may also vary. The Turkmen rug is quite unlike the suzani rug of Uzbekistan and the tush kyiz of Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan, which are richly hand-embroidered pieces of fabric.

Before it achieved independence in 1991, Turkmenistan was part of the Soviet Union. The country is situated beside the Caspian Sea, and along its borders lie Iran, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Turkmen carpet manufacturing is thought to date from around the sixth century BC. Traditionally, Turkmen people were nomads who lived in tents and bred animals such as goats and sheep. While the sheep provided a ready supply of wool for Turkmen rug making, plants found locally could also be used to make dyes.

Turkmen carpets were used as floor coverings and to create temporary walls, providing important insulation. A Turkmen rug is ideally suited to the nomadic lifestyle, being relatively thin and light yet durable and capable of being woven on a portable loom. When Turkmenistan became part of the Soviet Union, many of the Turkmen tribes were forced to abandon the nomadic way of life and became settled farmers. They made money from the sale of crops and craft products, in particular the prized Turkmen rug. In neighboring Afghanistan, Soviet occupation is thought to have given rise to war rugs, with designs illustrating conflict.

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Discussion Comments
By redking — On Oct 18, 2012

No arguments with this informative rug article-- just a few important additions.

Although historically from what is now Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, huge numbers of the Turkmen are now settled in Afghanistan and even in Pakistan, with smaller numbers in Iran.

What distinguishes all of the five major Turkman groups (The Tekke, Yomud, Salor, Saryk and the Chaudor) other than the predominent use of a deep madder red 'ground' color is the 'GUL'.

This is a loosely octagonal-shaped motif which, usually in repeated rows, is clearly the most important design element in the rug. This is the design generally, if inaccurately, known in the West as "Bokhara".

Each of the tribal groups mentioned has its own quite distinctive forms of the gul.Some scholars suggest that the gul is a (very!) stylised floral element, the word for rose in Persian being gul.

Maybe, or maybe it's just a totemic emblem whose roots are lost in time.

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