The story of those seven countries with the tricky names, i.e. the Stan Countries
The “Seven Stans”, or ‘Stan Countries” are located in Central Asia and South Asia. They are all countries that have a name ending in -stans, and all have tricky spellings.
Because of this (probably the former more than the latter), these Stan countries have come to be known just as that; the “Stan Countries”.
So just how many Stan countries are there? And… why -stan?
5 of the seven Stans, or seven Stan Countries are located in Central Asia. Two of them are in South Asia.
Central Asia (2019) has a population of about 72 million in total. It stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west, east all the way to China and Mongolia. From North to South, it stretches from Afghanistan and Iran to Russia.
Central Asia is made up of 5 Stan Countries, the former Soviet Republics;
What about the other two Stan Countries?
Afghanistan and Pakistan are both technically part of the -Stan clan, but they are not in Central Asia. These two Stan Countries are located in South Asia.
Both Pakistan and Afghanistan border the Stan countries.
‘Stan’ means ‘place of’ or ‘country’ in Persian. It’s like England or Scotland.
Not so simply…
We can dig deeper and look at the Proto-Indo-European language. The Proto-Indo-Europeans lived on the Eurasian Steppe during the late Neolithic period. From the historic PIE language group, many of today’s languages were derived. These languages then developed further to branch out to a whole language tree of different languages with different families.
In PIE, the root -sta means ‘to stand’. This developed in both sound and meaning in various languages and cultures surrounding the idea of ‘somewhere where one lives’. In Czech, stan means ‘tent,’ in Bulgarian it means ‘camp,’ and in Serbo-Croatian, it means ‘apartment’, and in Russia, stan is used to mean ‘settlement.
Afghanistan - the land of the Afghans - actually pre-dates this language development. References to Afghanistan have been found in 10th-century Persian texts.
Even more interestingly…
Pakistan’s Stan is actually more modern than the other Stans. The name is actually an acronym for its regions – Punjab, Afghan, Kashmir, Sindh, Baluchistan, and the name translates to “Land of the Pure”.
Kazakhstan is the largest of the Stan countries. In fact, it’s the 9th largest country in the world, and the largest landlocked country in the world.
Kazakhstan has an area of over 2.7 million square kilometres and a population of almost 18 million.
Kazakhstan was part of the USSR until 1991 and continues to have a large ethnic Russian population today. The capital city of Kazakhstan is Astana.
Astana is the second-coldest capital in the world and gets very cold in winter.
Uzbekistan is one of the only doubly landlocked countries in the world. In fact, there is only one other one - Lichtenstein.
This Stan Country has a population of over 30 million. It became a major producer of cotton during its time in the USSR and remains so today. Uzbekistan also holds the title of the largest producer of electricity in Central Asia.
Tajikistan is a lot of land with few people. 8.7 million people, to be exact. It is larger than England, but has a population smaller than London.
It's home to beautiful landscapes and mountains. There are also many glaciers, and Tajikistan is home to the largest glacier in the world not in a polar region.
The capital city of this Stan country is Dushanbe, meaning ‘Monday’ in Tajik. It gets this name since it used to be the only market town open of a Monday.
Most of Kyrgyzstan’s population (around one million) lives in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s capital city. Over 75% of Kyrgyzstan is mountainous and has many mountain lakes and glaciers.
Kyrgyzstan lies at a high elevation, but despite this, it gets very warm in summer due to its positioning in the centre of Eurasia.
Turkmenistan has a relatively small population. Most of this Stan Country is desert and therefore cannot support agriculture. It is popular for its coastal region with many resorts on the Caspian Sea.