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The Chowdur (meaning herder) were one of the ten major groups of people who merged after 1920 to form the modern Turkmen Republic. They live primarily around the Khorezm Oasis.


The Choudor are thought to belong to the original Turkmen group and the left flank of Oghuz Khan’s army.

They lived by the Caspian Sea since approximately the beginning of the second millennium. Abul Ghazi tells us they arrived in Mangyshlak as early as the 11th century. Prior to the rise of Toghrul Bek (the first Seljuk ruler, 1038 until 1063), many tribes followed the lead of their tribal leaders Kilik bek, Kazan bek and Karaman bek and settled in Mangyshlak. Most of them were members of the Imir, Dukur, Düker (Döger), Igdir, Chavuldur, Karkin, Salor or Agar (Ajar) tribes.

In 1219, the Mongols crushed the Khwarazm Shah and his Turkmen/Azeri allies. Two years later, in 1221, the Mongol conquest pushed the Oghuz tribes including the Choudur from the Syr Dara region into the Kara Kum area and along the Caspian Sea.

Many Choudur appear to have stayed on the Mangyshlak Peninsula from then through the Timurid and the Shaybanid Uzbek periods, beginning the Turco-Mongol transformation of these originally Oghuz people.

In the early 16th century, the Choudur were a confederate or aymaq in the Salar Sayin Khani confederation. The Choudur were primarily concentrated in the Mangyshlak Peninsula on the northeastern Caspian coast. The Kalmuks moved into the Mangyshlak Peninsula, the Sayin Khan confederation broke up and the Choudur ended up southeast of Khiva loosely confederated, but under the authority of the Yomud. There are indications that some Choudur ended up in the mid Amu Darya region near north of Charjui.

In 1743, the Yomud captured Khiva briefly and again in 1767, but that time they held it for three years. In 1770, the Muhammad Amin Inaq of the Qungrats, defeated the Yomuds and founded the Qungrat dynasty. Part and parcel of this was the breakup of the Yomud which gave the Choudur autonomy from the Yomud, but still under the Khiva/Khwarezem Khans.


Turkmen living in the Murgab River delta (Margiana oasis) traditionally farmed and herded karakul and fat-tailed sheep with some goats. Camels were herded separately.

Herders (chovdur in Turkmen) covered an area around the oasis to the north. Each chovdur knew the wells, the temporary summer camps (yazlag) and the winter houses or camps (gyshlag) which were grouped in villages in the oasis. The gyshlags were all located in the cultivated areas, where herders could find late forage and reeds for shelters.


  • Wixman. People of the USSR. p. 47
  • TUrkmen Reference Grammar P.18