Fundamental social institutions generally remained unchanged
by the presence of Marxist dogma for over seventy years, although
the presence of large numbers of Russians changed the distribution
of the classes and the cultural loyalties of the intelligentsia.
With some weakening in urban areas in the twentieth century, kinship
and tribal affiliation retain a strong influence over the structure
of Turkmen society.
Today's Turkmen have fully embraced the concepts of national
unity and a strong national consciousness, which had been elusive
through most of their history. The Turkmen have begun to reassess
their history and culture, as well as the effects of Soviet rule.
Some of the more notable changes since independence have been
a shift from open hostility to cautious official sanctioning of
Islam, the declaration of Turkmen as the state language, and the
state's promotion of national and religious customs and holidays.
For example, the vernal equinox, known as Novruz ("New Year's
Day"), is now celebrated officially country-wide.
Interest and pride in national traditions were demonstrated
openly prior to independence, particularly following the introduction
of glasnost' by Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev
in 1985. Since independence, the government has played a less
restrictive and at times actively supportive role in the promotion
of national traditions. For example, in a move to replace the
Soviet version of Turkmen history with one more in harmony with
both traditional and current values, President Niyazov formed
a state commission to write the "true history of sunny Turkmenistan."
The Soviet period dampened but did not suppress the expression
of prominent Turkmen cultural traditions. Turkmen carpets continue
to receive praise and special attention from Western enthusiasts.
The high sheepskin hats worn by men, as well as distinctive fabrics
and jewelry, also are age-old trademarks of Turkmen material culture.
The Ahal-Teke breed of horse, world-renowned for its beauty and
swiftness, is particular to the Turkmen. Aside from a rich musical
heritage, the Turkmen continue to value oral literature, including
such epic tales as Korkut Ata and Gurogly .
Increased national awareness is reflected in modifications of
the school curriculum as well. Among new courses of instruction
is a class on edep , or proper social behavior and moral
conduct according to traditional Turkmen and Islamic values. Officially
sanctioned efforts also have been made to contact members of the
Turkmen population living outside of Turkmenistan, and several
international Turkmen organizations have been established.
Data as of March 1996