Who are the Stan countries? And what does Stan mean? 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 sovereign nations with Stan at the end of their name, not to mention some non-UN countries and autonomous regions that we shall also introduce.
How many Stan countries are there?
There are 7 fully recognized countries that use the term Stan in their title. Five are former parts of the Soviet Union, while the other two are a little different.
We have therefore broken down the 7 stans into their two country groupings, the unrecognized variety, as well as Stan constituent countries that belong to larger nations.
Five Stan Countries of the Former USSR
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!
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.
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.
The second largest country in Central Asia. During Soviet times it was a major industrial and farming centre, particularly for cotton.
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?
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.
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.
What does Stan mean?
OK, so by “what does Stan mean”, we are talking Stan in the context of as a suffix to a country, or region, rather than you know like Stan Laurel, or Laurel and Hardie fame.
So, what does Stan mean? In a country context Stan literally means land, or can also be translated as country. Therefore Afghanistan is the land of the Afghans, much akin to Scotland being the land of the Scots. The word though is also used in the name of many non-sovereign states, much in the same way that land is in English. Examples which we list below being places such as Kurdistan, and Dagestan. Therefore as to what Stan means there “land” is the best example, but context can and does change the meaning.
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 in Russia
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.
Dagestan was partly drawn into the war of independence in Chechnya
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 and it is truly one of the most unique parts of the Russian federation.
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, where we have at least one Quebecan nationalist in camp.
And that is the story of the 7 Stan countries and beyond.