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|Major Ethnic Groups of Iran|
Turkmen Sahra (Turkmen:Türkmensahra Persian: ترکمن صحرا) meaning plain of Turkmens, is a region in the northeast of Iran near the Caspian Sea, bordering Turkmenistan. The majority of inhabitants are ethnic Turkmen. The biggest city, Gorgan, is dominated by Persian inhabitants though in recent years there has been immigration of Turkmen and Zabuli from southern Iran. Other cities of Turkmensahra are Gonbad called Kummet in Turkmen, Aqqala (Ak Qala), Kalaleh (Kelala) and Gomishan (Kumushdepe), meaning the "silvery hill" in Turkmen, and Bandar Torkaman (Bender Turkmen), generally just called Bandar (not to be confused with Bandar Gaz)). According to Ethnologue there were over two million Turkmens in Turkmensahra in 1997; according to the opposition of Iran of Turkmen origin there are three million Turkmens, but these figures are disputed.
Turkmens today in Turkmensahra live a fairly modern lifestyle and the economy is primarily industrial, though agriculture plays a great role. The professions among Turkmens shows the pattern of a modern economy even if there are still some shortcomings due to lack of funding from the central authorities. The economic potential of Turkmensahra is great because a vast amount of oil was discovered in the early 1930s. However because of a deal with the Soviet Union, there is no oil extraction at the moment. Before the revolution in 1979 the Turkmens lived an economically richer life than other areas of Iran. Though poverty existed in small portions, most people lived well and could afford material goods.
During the Shah's time there were vast difference between cities and villages. In villages there were no doctors, electricity or asphalt roads and people used donkeys and horses to travel. The literacy rate has also increased since the revolution; it was not unusual for older Turkmen women to be illiterate. Girls began to study in school after the revolution.
Other cultural traits such as wedding traditions can be seen among the Turkmens. They still have weddings which last several days long. This is an ancient tradition hailing back to the Göktürks or even the Hsiung-nu, Asian Huns. Today's Turkmens have a bride fee where the bridegroom gives away a fee for taking the girl's hand which in tradition the girl's family provides even greater economic starting capital to the newlyweds' life. For example the bridegroom buys gold for the bride to wear, and in return the bride's family buys equipment for the new household.
The wedding itself used to be before the revolution several days were often all the relatives even clan members, and in some cases the whole village would turn up celebrate. Common traits was to have races were the winner would receive a price, it would be contest in göresh traditional Turkmen wrestling, horse race and more. Today those traditions have perished instead there are a modern segment like private weddings hold in western countries. Even thought the modern element has been introduced some people still have several day wedding. Instead of races they now today have private party for the bride and relatives, the bridegroom and one big celebration were relavites and friends are invited not the whole village like during the shahs period.
Turkmen today seem to loose their traditions due to Westernization and Persianification of the society not excluded to Turkmens but the whole of Iran. People tend to watch a lot of satellite television which has a great range of variety all from political to cultural and genuine entertainment.
Women are getting educated in a higher rate, even among traditional households. Among the generation after the revolution there isn't any who are illiterate.
Other typical Turkmen traditions are the assembly of elders were consulted before making a task, a tradition which has died out.
The main industries of Turkmen sahra today is provisions or grociers of different kind, a refining process of different sort of eatables such as different kind of mills, beverages as Pepsi, Zam Aam and others. There were different kind of small scale industries such as train suppliers and builders but almost all have been dismantled and set up other places of Iran. As a result many people, ethnic Turkmens have lost their jobs as and have a hard time recovering. An another important and famous but who doesn't generate great income is the Russian caviar industries. Half of irans Russian caviar is caught and refined in Bandar Torkaman. Future possibilities are vast since oil have been discovered in Turkmensahra north parts near the border to Turkmenistan in the 1930s but due to a deal with the Soviet Union no oil industry exists at the moment.
Turkmens came first to the region at the time of their forefathers, the Seljuk Turks, thought early nomads empires has existed since the early age of massagets or even earlier. According to the avesta afrasiyab the legendary king of turan hailed from turkmensahra. Before the era of Reza Khan later Reza Shah, there was a landmass from Khiva in the north to Bandar gaz in the south where Turkmens inhabited the area was called Turkmenistan. Due to the great game and famous resistance of Turkmens to great powers as czar Russia and England, Turkmens lost their independence and their country was split into two lands. After the Gökdepe battle, over one million Turkmens fled through Iran over to Afghanistan where their descendants still live today. During the revolution of 1979 a group of Turkmens took power over the region and hailed autonomy until 1982 when the second war of Gonbad the Turkmens lost against Khomeinies troops. The first war of Gonbad the Turkmens showed their ancient guerrilla tactics which had been used through history all the way back since the Mongol invasion. Turkmens used guerrilla tactics in first Gonbad war to defeat Khomeinies troops in the region. Due to political reasons there began a second war and the Turkmens lost simply because of the lack of the same equipment as the regular army. Turkmens are considered by outsiders who visited their area to be generous, kind-hearted though having the trait of being hot-headed. Ahmad Shamlou, a famous Persian writer wrote a novel about a Turkmen character, Amin. He also indicated the generosity and kind-hearted spirit of the Turkmens in his poem about Amin.
Famous Turkmens from within Turkmensahra include the spiritual leader, national poet and unifier of Turkmen society Magtymguly Pyragy who was born in a village outside Gonbad. The central Iranian authorities erected a mausoleum over his grave. Another notable is Agha Mohammed Khan founder of the Qajar dynasty of Iran. Also there are claims of Nadir Shah being Turkmen but that is doubtful according to his own campaigns and official biography. The Nadir Shah's first enemies were the Turkmens of Turkmensahra. Well-known visitors of the region include Ármin Vámbéry who wrote a book about his passage among Turkmens in Turkmensahra.