GUKLĀN (Turk. Göklen), a Turkmen tribal confederacy of the Gorgān region in northeastern Persia, the district of Qara Qalʿa in Turkmenistan, and the Ḵiva region in Uzbekistan. In the Gorgān region, the Guklān occupy a small tract of land extending from Yās Tapa on the south bank of the Gorgān river to Yel Čašma and Tang-e Rāh, on the Āb-e Dahana, in the rural district (dehestān) of Guklān. In Turkmenistan, they occupy a small area between Qezel Arvāt and the Atrak river. In Uzbekistan, they reside between Ilyalyi and Türtkül, a few miles east of Ḵiva (Yate, p. 235; Wheeler).

Until the 1850s, the Guklān tribal confederacy was divided into two branches, namely Dudorḡa and Dāḡli. The Dudorḡa branch included the tribes (ṭawāyef) Kerek, Bāyandor, Yangak, Sengrik and Karkaz; and the Dāḡli branch included the tribes Čāqer, Bigdeli, ʿArab, Āy Dar-viš, Qara Balḵan, Erkekli, and Qāy (Häntzsche, p. 741). The names Dudorḡa, Bāyandor, Bigdeli, and Qāy are also mentioned among the original twenty-four Ḡoz tribes (Houtsma, pp. 222-24; for other lists of Guklān tribes see Vámbéry, 1865, pp. 352-53; Melgunof, p. 88; Afšār Sistāni, pp. 1046-47).

The Guklān probably moved to southwestern Ḵᵛārazm in the early 16th century when water shortages drove many of the Turkmen tribes to seek greener pastures in that region (Akiner, p. 315). Most of these subsequently moved from the northern shores of the Atrak river to the banks of the Gorgān river in Persian territory during the reign of Shah Ṭahmāsb I (930-84/1524-76; Eskandar Beg, p. 579, tr. Savory, p. 766). Allāhqoli Khan, the khan of Ḵiva (r. 1825-42), moved some 9,000 Guklān families into his dominions. Other Guklān voluntarily migrated in the same direction when a Persian army approached in 1836 (Petrusevich, p. 57; de Bode, p. 66). “Afterwards, the emigrants in Khiva, not finding the khanate to their liking, returned by degrees to the Goorgan” (Petruse-vich, pp. 57-58). But some of these Guklān must have remained behind, for today there is a sizable group of them residing in the Ḵiva region (Wheeler).

Several European visitors to Gorgān in the 19th century made estimates of the Guklān population, ranging from 1,275 (Melgunof, p. 89) to 12,000 families (Vámbéry, 1865, p. 355; for other estimates of the Guklān population, both from the 19th century and from more recent times, see Häntzsche, in Spiegel, I, p. 741; Petru-sevich, in Marvin, p. 57; Yate, pp. 217-18; Sykes, p. 18; and Afšār Sistani, p. 1046. The most recently published estimate, that of Razmārā, p. 26, is 25,000 families). As for the Guklān of the former USSR, the Soviet census of 1926 indicates that there were then 17,000 individuals in Turkmenistan and 38,000 individuals in Uzbekistan (Wheeler).

The Guklān are Sunnite Muslims (Yate, p. 235). The lands of the Guklān in the Gorgān region contain an abundance of water and vegetation (Petrusevich, pp. 58-59). This probably explains why the Guklān adopted an agricultural economy already in the 19th century. But by settling down upon the land, they lost the cohesion that had once made them strong, and they became vulnerable to attacks by better organized and more aggressive neighbors, in particular the Yomut (Yate, p. 218).



I. Afšār Sistāni, Ilhā, čādornešinān wa ṭawāyef-e ʿašāyeri-e Irān, Tehran, 1366 Š./1987, pp. 1040-48.

S. Akiner, Islamic Peoples of the Soviet Union, London, 1983.

R. R. Arit, “Göklen” in İA IV, pp. 809-11.

C. A. de Bode, “On the Yamud and Goklan Tribes of Turkmania,” Journal of the Ethnological Society of London 1, 1848, pp. 60-78.

Gazetteer of Iran II, pp. 191-96.

J. C. Häntzsche, “Topographie und Statistik der persischen Turkmanen,” Zeitschrift für allgemeine Erdkunde, N. S. 13, Berlin, 1862, quoted in F. Spiegel, Erânische Altertumskunde I, Amsterdam, 1971, p. 741.

T. Houtsma, “Die Ghuzenstämme,” Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 2, 1888.

Eskandar Beg, 579-80, 583, 629, 967; tr. Savory, pp. 708, 765, 769, 820, 1188.

G. Melgunof, Das süd-liche ufer des Kaspischen Meeres oder die Nordprovinzen Persiens, Leipzig, 1868, p. 68.

N. G. Petru-sevich, in C. Marvin, Merv, the Queen of the World and the Scourge of the Man-Stealing Turcomans, London, 1881, pp. 49-64.

H. L. Rabino, Mázandarán and Astarábád, London, 1928, pp. 100-101.

Ḥ-ʿA. Razmārā, Joḡrāfiā-ye neẓāmi-e Irān. Gorgān wa Daryā-ye Ḵazar, Tehran, 1325 Š./1946.

P. M. Sykes, Ten Thousand Miles in Persia, London, 1902.

S. A. Tokarev, Etnografiya narodov SSSR (Ethnography of the people of the SSSR), Moscow, 1958, p. 356.

A. Vámbéry, Das Türkenvolk, Osnabrück, 1970, pp. 393-94.

Idem, Travels in Central Asia, New York, 1865.

G. E. Wheeler, “Göklän” in EI2 II, p. 1118.

C. E. Yate, Khurasan and Sistan, Edinburgh, 1900, pp. 212-36.

(Pierre Oberling)

Originally Published: December 15, 2002

Last Updated: February 24, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XI, Fasc. 4, pp. 392-393