The culture the Turkmen is slightly different from the cultural traditions of the neighboring Muslim states of Central Asia. The reason to this is that the ancestors of the Turkmen were nomadic tribes whereas the lands of modern Tajikistan and Uzbekistan were populated by settled tribes of farmers. This particular fact reflected on such aspect as cultural development of the Turkmen people. The basic cultural milestones of Turkmenistan are related to the traditions of Turkic-speaking oguzs. The latter go back to the pre-Islamic period. The oguzs' traditions found their reflection in literature, music, folklore of the Turkmen.
The most known source of that period is the national oguz epos "Oguz-nameh" also belonging to the cultural legacy of the Turkmen, Azerbaijanis and Turks. It was passed orally from generation to generation and was written down in the mid-16th century. Another epic monument is the poem "Kitabi Dede Korkud" which reflected pre-Islamic tribal culture of the oguzs and the influence of Islam in the 11th - 12th centuries. Epic poems were performed by national singers-storytellers.
Along with the introduction of Islam Arabian writing spread in Central Asia. However Turkmen poetry used chagatai language (very similar to Persian) widely accepted in Central Asia. It was the chagatai language that was used by Turkmen literature. This language was also used by great Turkmen poets of the 18th century.
One of the greatest national poets of Turkmenistan was Makhtumkuli (1730-1880s). Before Makhtum kuli Turkmen poetry was very similar to Persian that is in the form of Sufi philosophical treatises in poetic form. Makhtumkuli and his followers started creating their works going beyond the narrow limits of the conventions characteristic to Persian poetry. While doing this the widely used the motives of Turkmen national poetry and its epic traditions. Seitnazar Seyidi (1775-1836) and Kurbandurdy Zelili (1780-1836) are considered Makhtumkuli's successors.
… From the mid -19th century the influence of Sufism which had been prevailing in Turkmen literature faded noticeably. The works of Turkmen poets acquired a political character. After annexation of Turkmenistan to Russian Empire in 1870-1890s the leading place in the national poetry was taken by social and political satire.
Turkmen artistic prose and dramatic art started to develop only in the Soviet time. The literature of that period eulogized achievements of socialism: the rights of women, collectivization of agriculture, and later -the victory of Soviet people in World War II. Berdy Kerbabaev (1894-1974), a poet, novelist and playwright was one of the most noticeable Turkmen writers of the Soviet period.
Turkmen spoken language developed on the basis of dialects of Turkic tongues, western oguz dialects in particular. It was also influenced by kipchak and old Uzbek (chagatai) languages. In 1928 Arabian alphabet was replaced by Latin, in 1940 Latin alphabet was replaced by Russian. Literary Turkmen language formed in the 20th century under the influence of tekhin tribal dialect. Modern Turkmen writing is based on Cyrillic, but in the 21st century it is going to be replaced Latin.