Young Pioneer Tours

What are the Stan Countries?

Introduction

Who are the Stan countries? You will hear lots of talk about the Stans, not Stan Laurel, or other men named Stan you understand. We are talking about the Stan countries. The seven Stans in particular. There are 7 countries with Stan at the end of their name, not to mention some non-UN countries and autonomous regions that we shall also introduce.

What are the 7 Stan Countries?

Former Soviet Stan Countries

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is the most populated, developed and largest of the Central Asian countries. In fact it is the 9th largest country in the world. Don’t believe me, ask Borat! Almaty is genuinely one of the weirder cities we visit!

Kyrgyzstan

Another beautiful landscape full of mountains, rivers and glaciers. The majority of the population live in the capital city of Bishkek. Another firm favorite of YPT in Central Asia.

Tajikistan

A beautiful country full of mountains and the largest glacier in the world. Definitely one of our favorite countries in Central Asia. The sheer expanse of Uzbekistan is what keeps the tourism to the country flowing.

Uzbekistan

The second largest country in Central Asia. During Soviet times it was a major industrial and farming centre, particularly for cotton.

Turkmenistan

What is there to say about Turkmenistan? Famous for its alleged similarities with North Korea, in fact there really is no place quite like Turkmenistan.  A little bit crazy, but a lot of amazing.

You will notice from all the wonderful hyperlinks that we run tours to all of the Central Asian Stan countries.

Also check out our AMAZING 5 Stans Tour great for you country collectors out there.

What is the population of the Central Asian Stan countries?

The population of Central Asia is an estimated 72 million. Combined that’s only slightly less than Germany and a bit more than the UK. Generally speaking, these counties did not want to leave the USSR, but alas the collapse of the Soviet Union forced independence on them.

Who are the other two Stans?

Pakistan

Formerly part of British India, Pakistan has seen its fair share of strife. With a population of almost 220 million, Pakistan is of global importance.

Afghanistan

Still locked in civil war, but actually, things are getting better here, which means it is very much open for tourism. Even during Covid-19!

To check out the YPT coronavirus tracker click here.

We run group and independent tours to both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Check out the links for more details.

Why Stan man?

See what I did there? OK, so why do these countries have Stan in their name? What does Stan mean? Why are there so many Stan Countries?

Stan literally means land in Persian. With land having the context of country. Therefore, Afghanistan means land of the Afghans, Scotland means land of the Scots, and Iceland means land of the Ice? OK, so maybe the last one isn’t as well thought out as we hoped.

Non-UN countries that use Stan

There are also non-UN Stan Countries and indeed regions. Again, Stan means land rather than the literal meaning of country.

Kurdistan – Probably the most famous unrecognized country Stan. This is the homeland of the Kurdish people and straddles Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Armenia. They briefly tried some independence in Iraqi Kurdistan, but the west did not like that!

Interestingly Rojava in Syrian Kurdistan exists as a semi-independent anarchist “stan”. You can read more about Rojava here.

Many regions, autonomous or otherwise also end in Stan. Balochistan is one of the four provinces of Pakistan. Waziristan is technically a region of Pakistan, but also known as a hotbed of the Taliban and Islamic extremism. In many respects it is de-facto independent and is counted by some country collectors. It is though not on the YPT list of what counts as a country.

In Uzbekistan there is an autonomous region called Karakalpakstan, which is the whole massive northwest of the country.

Dagestan and Tatarstan

There are also regions and even towns across the region from Armenia to Iran that use the suffix. Two of these are the Russian Republics of Dagestan and Tatarstan.

Plagued by a violent Islamist insurgency for almost two decades, Dagestan earned the unsavoury title of ‘’Russia’s most dangerous Republic’’. These days, it’s a lot more stable and many people visit each year to experience the ancient tribal culture, mighty Caucasus mountains, and incredible Derbent Fortress on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

Tatarstan is a Russian Republic located on the Volga River. Whilst little known, this republic is home to almost 4 million people. The capital Kazan is home to a series of unique blue mosques in a range of incredible architectural styles.

The name of Tartarstan derives from the name of the Tatar ethnic group who inhabit it. The majority of Tatars are Sunni Muslims, a denomination that took hold in the region back in the 10th century during the times of the Volga Bulgaria, which adopted Islam as a state religion.

The use of Stan colloquially

Stan has come to be used colloquially to mean country in many different contexts. I had an Aussie friend in Kurdistan who called the UK Pommiestan. The Aussies call Brits Pommies you understand. Or Cheapashellistan to denote a cheap country in the region. You get the gist. The French-Canadian separatist nation is also known as Quebecistan, especially here at YPT.

And that is the story of the 7 Stan countries and beyond.

Check out our Central Asia Tours here.

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