Young Pioneer Tours

Turkestan: Reawaken the Forgotten Mystique

Central Asia’s 5-stans (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan), Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bhutan, Tatarstan, and Baluchistan. Have you heard of another ‘Tan’ being Turkestan?

Turkestan” is a term that has been historically used to refer to a region in Central Asia, encompassing a vast and diverse area that includes parts of present-day Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Xinjiang in western China. It has a complex and evolving history that spans many centuries and is closely tied to the broader history of Central Asia.

There was a short-lived entity known as the “Turkestan Autonomy” or “Kokand Autonomy” during the Russian Civil War. This was a brief period when certain parts of Central Asia saw attempts to establish some form of autonomous governance. However, the Turkestan Autonomy’s existence was limited to a short span from 27th November 1917 and existed until 22nd February 1918. While the Turkestan Autonomy did exist as a short-lived political entity during the Russian Civil War, it doesn’t represent the enduring or independent nation that the term “Turkestan” has historically referred to.


Turkestan Autonomy (27th November 1917 to 22nd February 1918).
[Source: Kazman321]


Flag of Turkestan.
[Source: Freepik]

Here’s an in-depth look at the concept of Turkestan:

  1. Geographical Diversity:
    • Turkestan is characterized by its vast and diverse geography. It includes deserts, steppes, mountains, and fertile river valleys. The region is traversed by the mighty Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, and it is home to the vast Kyzylkum and Karakum deserts.
  2. Historical Significance:
    • The term “Turkestan” has its roots in the Persian language, where “Türk” means “Turkic” and “stan” means “land of“. It was originally used to refer to the homeland of Turkic peoples [Note that ‘stan’ is pronounced as “sss-taa-arn” as for the name ‘Tarnya’, not “sss-ten” that most English speakers incorrectly say].
    • Over the centuries, Turkestan has been a crossroads for various cultures and civilizations, including Persian, Greek, Chinese, and Arabic influences. It played a crucial role in the Silk Road trade routes, which connected the East and West.
  3. Turkic Peoples:
    • The Turkic peoples, who speak Turkic languages, have historically been a dominant ethnic group in Turkestan. These languages are a significant part of the region’s cultural heritage.
  4. Russian Imperialism:
    • In the 19th century, the Russian Empire expanded into Central Asia, leading to the colonization and incorporation of many regions of Turkestan into the Russian state. This marked a significant shift in the region’s history.
  5. Soviet Era:
    • Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Russian Empire transformed into the Soviet Union. The Central Asian territories of Turkestan were divided into different Soviet republics, which often bore no clear relation to historical or ethnic boundaries.
  6. Post-Soviet Independence:
    • With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, these Central Asian republics gained their independence and have since developed their own national identities and governments.
  7. Turkistan: The Present Capital:
    • Today, Turkistan is the capital of Turkistan Province in Kazakhstan and holds its own historical and cultural significance. This city continues to be a hub for regional culture and heritage.

Turkistan, Kazakhstan.

8. Modern Geopolitics:

  • Turkestan is of geopolitical significance due to its vast energy resources, including oil and natural gas, as well as its proximity to major powers such as China and Russia. It is also an area where the interests of various countries, including the United States, Russia, and China, intersect.

9. Xinjiang Region:

  • The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in western China is an important part of the historical Turkestan region (referred to as ‘East Turkestan’). It is home to the Uighur people, who are ethnically and culturally related to the Turkic peoples of Central Asia. Xinjiang has been a source of tension and conflict between the Uighurs and the Chinese government.
  • It’s essential to recognize that the term “Turkestan” is not used as an official political or geographical entity in contemporary times. Rather, it is a historical and cultural concept that helps contextualize the complex history and diverse identities of Central Asia. The modern states in the region have distinct national identities and borders, each with its own unique history and challenges.

Turkistan, Kazakhstan.

In conclusion, the modern countries and states/provinces that encompass the historical Turkestan region are Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in China. The former capital of Turkestan, Samarkand, with its rich history and architectural splendour remains a symbol of Turkestan’s cultural heritage, while Turkistan serves as the capital of the Turkestan Province in Kazakhstan. 

[Note: “Turkistan” and “Turkestan” – the close spelling of these terms could indeed lead to confusion for those who do not read carefully. “Turkistan” is a specific city, while “Turkestan” refers to the historical concept of a broader region in Central Asia. Also note that ‘Tan’ is pronounced as “Taa-Arn”, and not “Ten” – a mistake that most English speakers do].
Top of Form

You might be interested in reading:

Tatarstan – Unveil the Next ‘Tan’ on Your List!

Baluchistan – A Journey into the Unseen ‘Tan’.  

Xinjiang – Where East meets Central Asia.

YPT Tours to Central Asia, click here.

About Post Author