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 and families.
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 establishment.
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.