The Oghuz Turks, or Oguz Turks (Okuz, Oufoi, Guozz, Ghuzz) are regarded as one of the major branches of the Turks in history.
The Oguz Turks are the ancestors of today's western Turks whose numbers are more than 100 millions and inhabit areas in
western Asia and eastern Europe: Azerbaijanis of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the South Azerbaijan region of Iran, Turks
of Turkey and Cyprus, Turkmens of Turkmenistan and northeastern Iran, Qashqay and Khurasani Turks of Iran, Balkan Turks of
Greece, Bulgaria and the former Yugoslavia as well as Gauguz (Gokoguz) Turks of Moldova.
During Turkic mass-migrations in the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th centuries, the Oguz were among the indigenous Turks of Central
Asia who migrated towards western Asia and eastern Europe via Transoxiana. From the 5th century onwards, the Oguz were the
founders and rulers of several important Turkic kingdoms and empires, the most notable of them being the Gokturks, Seljuks,
Safavids and Ottomans.
Although also settled and urbanized, the nomadic way of life bred in them a combative spirit, sense in leadership, the
habit of mobility, elegant equestrian skill, and an unusual dexterity as archers on horseback. Since early times in their
history, they were noted for such moral virtues as endurance, loyalty, self-discipline and foresight.
In the later centuries, they adapted and implied their own Turkic traditions and institutions to the ends of the Islamic
world and emerged as empire-builders with a constructive sense of statecraft, making a positive contribution to history as
the vastful regions in which they ruled evolved into new phases of social, economic, religious and intellectual advancement.
Throughout history, the Oguz Turks have founded different nations that have developed political and geographical identities
of their own, yet share Oguz ancestry, culture, history, language and literature. The modern Turkic nations of Azerbaijanis,
Turks of Turkey and Turkmens are the three most historical of Oguz Turk peoples.
The name Oguz (also pronounced Okuz) is derived from "arrow" and "tribes." The depiction of an archman
shooting an arrow was the flag of the Seljuk empire, which was founded by the Oguz Turks in the 10th century.
The designation of "Oguz" was given to a series of Turkic tribes in Central Asia who had united into a new confederation.
This socio-political union lead to the emergence of a new larger Turkic tribe and community, known as the Oguz. The Oguz community
gradually grew larger as various other Turkic tribes united during the Gokturk empire (6th, 7th century.)
Oguz is not an ethnic name, and it can be simply translated into "Turkic tribes". The "Oguz Turk branch"
or "western Turk branch" is one of the traditional six branches of the modern Turkic peoples. The "Oguz branch"
is a geographical and historical designation, yet not a separate ethnic term since the Turkic peoples of the world share the
same ethnic roots.
They are referred to as "western Turks" because they moved west from other Turkic peoples after the Gokturk
empire collapsed, and because the majority of the areas in which they inhabit today (except Turkmenistan and the Turkmen Sahra)
are west of the Caspian Sea, while those reffered to as "eastern Turks" live east of the Caspian Sea.
The Oguz Turks have perhaps been the most famous, important, dominating, fruitful and successful branch of Turkic peoples
Their history as kings, statesmen, warriors, as well as an enormous tribal union and large communal branch begins in the
pre-Islamic period, yet their achievements and progression in the centuries after Islam has left its mark on history and civilization.
The original homeland of the Oguz, like other Turks, was the general Ural-Altay region of Central Asia known as Turkistan
or Turan, which has been the domain of Turkic peoples since antiquity. Although their mass-migrations from Central Asia occurred
from the 9th century onwards, they were present in areas west of the Caspian Sea centuries prior, although smaller in numbers
and perhaps living with other Turks. For example, the Book of Dede Korkut which is the historic epic of the Oguz Turks was
written in Azerbaijan in the 6th and 7th century.
According to many historians, the usage of the word "Oguz" is dated back to the advent of the Huns (220 BC).
The title of "Oguz" (Oguz Khan) was given to Mete, the founder of the Hun empire, which is often considered the
first Turkic political entity in Central Asia.
Also in the 2nd century BC, a Turkic tribe called "O-kut" who were described as Huns (referred to as Hsiung-Nu
or "colored-eyed people" in Chinese sources) were mentioned in the area of Tarbogatain, in present-day southern
Kazakstan. It must be noted that the Greek sources used the name Oufi (or Ouvvi) to describe the Oguz Turks, a name they had
also used to describe the Huns centuries earlier.
A number of tribal groupings bearing the name Oguz, often with a numeral representing the number of united tribes in the
union are noted.
The mention of the "six Oguz tribal union" in the Turkic Orhun inscriptions (6th century) pertains to the unification
of the six Turkic tribes which became known as the Oguz. This was the first written reference to Oguz, and was dated to the
period of the Gokturk empire. The Oguz community gradually grew larger, uniting more Turkic tribes prior and during the Gokturk
Prior to the Gokturk state, there are references to the "Sekiz-Oguz" ("eight-Oguz") and the "Dokuz-Oguz"
("nine-Oguz") union. The Oguz Turks under Sekiz-Oguz and the Dokuz-Oguz state formations ruled different areas in
the vicinity of the Altay mountains. During the establishment of the Gokturk state, Oguz tribes inhabited the Altay mountain
region and also lived in northeastern areas of the Altay mountains along the Tula River. They were also present as a community
near the Barlik river in present-day northern Mongolia.
Their main homeland and domain in the ensuing centuries was the area of Transoxiana, in western Turkistan.
This land became known as the "Oguz steppe" which is an area between the Caspian and Aral Seas. Ibnul Asir,
an Arab historian, declared that the Oguz Turks had come to Transoxiana in the period of the caliph Al-Mehdi in the years
between 775 and 785. In the period of the Abasid caliph al-Mamum (813 - 833), the name Oguz starts to appear in the works
of Islamic writers. By 780, the eastern parts of the Syr Darya were ruled by the Karluk Turks and the western region (Oguz
steppe) was ruled by the Oguz Turks.
The Oguz Turks are labeled by some historians as "the purest of Turks" in terms of race, language and culture.
According to Lev Gumilev in his accredited work entitled 1,000 years around the Caspian, the Oguz in the anthropological (racial)
category were Caucasoid (Europoid).
The majority of today's Oguz Turks have light to dark skin tones and dark hair and eye colors, while lighter Europoid
features including very light skin tones, blondish/brownish/reddish hair colors and light eye colors are evident in Azerbaijanis
from the Republic of Azerbaijan and the northwestern region of Iran known as South Azerbaijan as well as the Turks of Turkey,
Turkmens and other Oguz Turks. Elements of both Caucasoid and Mongoloid strains are evident in some.
Like most of the other Turkic peoples, the Oguz have a round skull formation, high cheek bones and straight hair.
The militarism that their empires were very well known for was rooted in their centuries-long nomadic lifestyle. In general
they were a herding society with its military advantages that other societies did not have, which was mobility. Their social
organization had a family-like structure which included statuses and roles. Alliances by marriage and kinship, and their systems
of "social distance" based on family relationships were the connective tissues of their society.
In Oguz traditions, society was simply the result of the growth of individual families. But such a society also grew by
alliances and the expansion of different groups normally through marriages. The shelter of the Oguz tribes was a tent-like
dwelling, erected on wooden poles and covered with skin, felt, or hand-woven textiles, which is called a yurt.
Their cuisine included yahni (stew), kebabs, togya corbasi (a soup made from wheat flour and yogurt), kimis (traditional
drink of the Turks), pekmez (a syrup made of boiled of grape juice and helva made with cornflour), tutmac (noodle soup), yufka
(flattened bread), katmer (layered pastry), chorek (ring-shaped bun), bread, clotted cream, cheese, milk and ayran, as well
Social order was maintained by emphasizing correctness in conduct as well as ritual and ceremony. Ceremonies brought together
the scattered members of the society to celebrate birth, puberty, marriage, and death. Such ceremonies had the effect of minimizing
social dangers and also of adjusting persons to each other under controlled emotional conditions.
Patrilineally related men and their families were regarded as a group with rights over a particular territory and were
distinguished from neighbors on a territorial basis. Marriages were often arranged among territorial groups so that neighboring
groups could become related. But this was the only organizing principle that extended territorial unity. Each community of
the Oguz Turks was thought of as part of a larger society composed of distant as well as close relatives. This signified tribal
allegiance. Wealth and materialistic objects were not commonly emphasized in Oguz society, and most remained herders and when
settled, they would be active in agriculture.
Status within the family was based on age, gender, relationships by blood, or marriageability. Males as well as females
were active in society, yet men were the backbones of leadership and organization. According to the Book of Dede Korkut which
demonstrates the culture of the Oguz Turks, women were expert horse riders, archers, and athletes. The elders were respected
as repositories of both secular and spiritual wisdom.
HOMELAND IN TRANSOXIANA
In the 8th century, the Oguz Turks made a new home and domain for themselves in the area between the Caspian and Aral
seas, a region that is often referred to as Transoxiana, the western portion of Turkistan. They had moved westward from the
Altay mountains through the Siberian steppes and settled in this region, and also penetrated into southern Russia and the
In his accredited work titled Divani Lugati't-Turk, Mahmud of Kashgar, a Turkic scholar of the 11. century, described
the "Karachuk Mountains" which are located just east of the Aral Sea as the original homeland of the Oguz Turks.
The Karachuk mountains are now known as the Black Mountains, and they are adjacent to Syr Darya.
The extension from the Karacuk Mountains towards the Caspian Sea (Transoxiana) was called "Oguz Steppe Lands"
from where the Oguz Turks established trading, religious and cultural contacts with the Abbasid Arab caliphate which was ruling
lands to the south. This is around the same time that they first converted to Islam and renounced their Shamanist belief system.
The Arab historians mentioned that the Oguz Turks in their domain in Transoxiana were ruled by a number of kings and chieftains.
It was in this area that they later founded the Seljuk empire, and it was from this area that they spread west into western
Asia and eastern Europe during Turkic migrations from the 9th until the 12th century.
Oguz Turk dynasties include: Seljuks, Atabeks, Akkoyunlu, Karakoyunlu, Safavis, Afshars and Qajars (Gajars) and in Anatolia
(Turkey) the Oguz Turks founded the Ottoman empire.
TURCOMAN AND TURKMEN
The terms "Turkmen" and "Turcoman" were often used as a designation for the Muslim-Oghuz Turks (Azerbaijanis,
Turks of Turkey, central Asian Turks) in periods of history, and the ethnic name that the modern Turkmens of central Asia
use to designate their nationality was formed later.
Although a term most commonly used for the Oghuz of central Asia, the name "Turkmen" or "Turcoman"
once applied to Azerbaijanis and the Turks of Turkey as well, distinguishing between other Turks and non-Muslim Turks. Some
western books which were written prior to the modern age use the terms "Turcoman" for the descendants of the Oghuz
Turks who were not from the Turkmen nationality of central Asia which is one of the branches of the Oguz.
For example, it is written in many sources prior to the modern age that the largest component of the population of Azerbaijan
is composed of "Turcoman tribes." The "Turkmen" reference in history books which is often used for Azerbaijanis
and Turks of Turkey simply means "Muslim Turk" or "Muslim western Turk" which means Oguz Turk.
In Turkey the word Turkmen refers to nomadic Turkish tribes (all muslims) some of whom still continue this lifestyle.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica the name Turkmen is a synonym of Oguz which includes all the Turkish (Turkic)
population who live to the southwest of Central Asia:
1. Turkey 2. Azerbaijan Republic 3. Azerbaijan of Iran 4. Turkmenistan 5. in other countries: a. Afghanistan b. Iraq,
Syria and other Arab countries c. Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Gagavuz , Germany , Britan and many other European
The Turkish historian Y. Oztuna presents almost the same definition to the name Turkmen. He calls Turkmen Oghuz or western
1. Ottomans 2. Azerbaijan 3. Turkmen (Turkmenistan)
Oguz Turkish literature includes the famous Book of Dede Korkut which was UNESCO's 2000 literacy work of the year, as
well as the Oguznama and "Koroglu" epics which are part of the literacy history of Azerbaijanis, Turks of Turkey
and Turkmens. The modern and classical literature of Azerbaijan, Turkey and central Asia are also considered the Oghuz literature,
since it has been produced by their descendants.
The Book of Dede Korkut is an invaluable collection of epics and stories, bearing witness to the language, the way of
life, religions, traditions and social norms of the Oguz Turks in Azerbaijan, Turkey and central Asia.
|The Oghuz Steppe