Turkmen belongs to the East Oghuz branch of the Turkic language family, and is most closely related to Turkish and Azeri. Besides the Central Asian republic of Turkmenistan, it’s also spoken in diaspora communities in Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, and Ukraine. Historically, Turkmenistan has been at the crossroads of civilisations, and the now-destroyed city of Merv was an important stop on the Silk Road and one of the great cities in the Islamic world.
Some of the children in Mrs. Brezhneva’s Kyiv orphanage in my first three Russian historicals are Turkmenis, kidnapped from their families during the Civil War and early years of the USSR. When the orphanage partially relocates to Isfahan, Iran, during the Great Terror in 1937, one of the forty children is Turkmeni.
Turkmeni was written in Arabic script from the early 20th century until 1929, and then replaced by the Latin alphabet until 1938. Due to the cruel forced Russification policies of Stalin (who wasn’t even Russian himself), the Cyrillic alphabet replaced Latin in 1938, and stood until 1991. After the fall of the USSR, the Latin alphabet was reintroduced, though the transition has been quite slow.
Turkmeni used to have some symbols in place of letters ($ ¢ for Ş ş; £ for Ž; and ¥ ÿ for Ý ý), but these were all replaced by more familiar, common letters in 1995.
The Turkmeni alphabet is based upon Turkish, though it uses a J instead of C; W instead of V; Ž instead of J; Y instead of I; and Ý instead of Y. Ä and Ň have also been added. Other characters are Ç, Ö, Ş, and Ü.
Due to having been under Russian domination since 1881, many Turkmeni surnames take the Russified endings -ov(a), -in(a), and (y)ev(a), but with Turkic, Persian, and Arabic twists. Since 1991, the -ov(a) ending is now -ow(a). Surnames include Ibragimov, Abdulov, Muhadov, Niyazov, Abdulin, Abdulayev, Garayev, Ismayilov, Kerbabayev, and Ovezov.
Amangeldy, Amangeldi (Aman)
Bahargül (Spring flower)
Bashim, Beşim, Byashim (Five)
Berdi, Berdy (Gave)
Durdymammet, Durdymamet (Durdy)
Eziz (Beloved, respected, powerful)
Jamaldin, Dzhamaldin, Djamaldin
Orazgeldi (Ramadan came)
Rahym (Compassionate, kind)
Raşit (Rightly guided)
Akja, Akdzha (“Little and white” or “Blonde”)
Akgül (White flower)
Akgyz (White-coloured girl)
Annagül (Friday flower)
Arzygül (Flower of desire)
Ayjan (Moon soul)
Aýnabat (Sweet Moon)
Çynar (Plane tree)
Gülalek (Gulya) (Poppy)
Gülayim, Gülayym (Gulya)
Gulnar (Gulya) (Pomegranate flower)
Hatyja (Khadijah) (Premature child)
Jeren (Young gazelle)
Maysa (Blooming summer flowers)
Merjen, Merdzhen (Coral)
Nurgözel (Beautiful light)
Ogulgerek (“Needs to be a son”; what a terrible meaning!)
Orazgül (Fast flower)
Patma (Fatima) (To abstain)
Sadap (Mother of pearl)
Şemşat (Sky tree)
Tyllagözel (Tylla) (Gold flower)
Züleyha (Brilliant beauty)