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Member of a Central Asian people belonging to the southwestern branch of the Turkic linguistic group. At the beginning of the 21st century, they numbered more than six million, and most lived in Turkmenistan and adjacent parts of Central Asia. A significant number also live in Iran and parts of Turkey and Afghanistan, and there are pockets of Turkmen in northern Iraq and Syria. Initially a nomadic pastoral people living in tent villages, many took up agriculture while under Soviet rule. Most are Muslim, and they have traditionally divided themselves by economic function. They are patrilineal, and each family or tribal group is headed by a khan.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Turkmen, visit Britannica.com.