[tur-kuh-stan, -stahn]
Turkestan: see Turkistan.

Turkestan (literally meaning "Land of the Turks") is a region in Central Asia, which today is largely inhabited by Turkic peoples. It has been referenced in many Turkic and Persian sagas and is an integral part of Turan (though Turan dwarfs Turkestan in area). Oghuz Turks (also known as Turkmens), Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Khazars, Kyrgyz and Uygurs are some of the Turkic inhabitants of the region who, as history progressed, have spread further into Eurasia forming such Turkic nations as Turkey and Azerbaijan, and subnational regions like Tatarstan in Russia and Crimea in Ukraine. Tajiks and Russians form sizable non-Turkic minorities.

It is subdivided into Afghan Turkestan, Russian Turkestan and Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (also known as Chinese Turkestan, East Turkestan or Uyghuristan) in the People's Republic of China. The Tian Shan and Pamir ranges form a rough division between the latter two.


Turkestan has a rich history, dating back to the third millennium BC. Many artifacts were produced in that period, and much trade was conducted. The region was a focal point for cultural diffusion, as the Silk Road traversed it.

Turkestan covers the area of Central Asia that corresponded to eastern Scythia, Transoxania and Greater Khorasan in Antiquity, and acquired its "Turkic" character from the 4th to 6th centuries AD with the incipient Turkic expansion.

Turkic sagas, such as the Ergenekon legend, and written sources such as the Orkhon Inscriptions state that Turkic peoples originated in the nearby Altay Mountains, and, through nomadic settlement, started their long journey westwards.

Successive external powers have held the region. Greeks, under Alexander the Great, held the area from 327 BC to 150 BC.

Huns conquered the area after they conquered Kashgaria in the early 2nd century BC. With the dissolution of the Huns' empire, Chinese rulers took over Eastern Turkestan.

Arab forces captured it in the 8th century. The Persian Samanid dynasty subsequently conquered it and the area experienced economic success.

The entire territory was held at various times by Turkic forces, such as the Göktürks until the conquest by Genghis Khan and the Mongols in 1220. Khan gave the territory to his son, Chagatai and the area became the Chagatai Khanate.

Tamerlane took over the area in 1369 and the area became the Timurid Empire.


Known as Turan to Iranians, western Turkestan has also been known historically as Sogdiana, Ma wara'u'n-nahr (by its Arab conquerors), and Transoxiana by Western travellers. The latter two names refer to its position beyond the River Oxus when approached from the south, emphasizing Turkestan's long-standing relationship with Iran, the Persian Empires and the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates.

Russian and Chinese influence

The region became part of the Russian Empire in the 1860s, and is thus sometimes called Russian Turkestan or the Туркестанский Край (Turkestanskii Krai). After the Russian Revolution, a Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of the Soviet Union was created, which was eventually split into the Kazakh SSR (Kazakhstan), Kyrgyz SSR (Kyrgyzstan), Tajik SSR (Tajikistan), Turkmen SSR (Turkmenistan) and Uzbek SSR (Uzbekistan). After the collapse of the Soviet Union, these republics gained their independence.

Eastern Turkestan, also known as Chinese Turkestan, was called the Western Regions in Chinese historic records. Turkestan experienced Chinese influence long before Russian influence. The first Chinese military campaigns in Turkestan dates to the Battle of Loulan in the 2nd century BC. From then on, Turkestan was alternately controlled by the Chinese and/or other nomads like the Tujue. The Protectorate of the Western Regions and the Anxi Protectorate were areas of Chinese rule. Turkic peoples, such as Uyghurs started to settle in Turkestan from the 8th century on. It was conquered by the Qing Dynasty in the mid-18th century and was named 新疆, Xinjiang (Postal spelling: Sinkiang), meaning new frontier. It was taken over by the Republic of China and then the People's Republic of China by which it is now administered as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region ().

A summary of Classical sources on the Seres (Greek and Roman name of China) (essentially Pliny and Ptolemy) gives the following account:


Further reading

  • V.V. Barthold "Turkestan Down to the Mongol Invasion" (London) 1968 (3rd Edition)
  • René Grousset "L'empire des steppes" (Paris) 1965
  • David Christian "A History Of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia" (Oxford) 1998 Vol.I
  • Svat Soucek "A History of Inner Asia" (Cambridge) 2000
  • Vasily Bartold "Работы по Исторической Географии" (Moscow) 2002
    • English translation: V.V. Barthold "Work on Historical Geography" (Moscow) 2002
  • Baymirza Hayit. “Sowjetrußische Orientpolitik am Beispiel Turkestan.“ Köln-Berlin: Kiepenhauer & Witsch, 1956
  • Baymirza Hayit. “Documents: Soviet Russia's Anti-Islam-Policy in Turkestan.“ Düsseldorf: Gerhard von Mende, 2 vols, 1958.
  • Baymirza Hayit. “Turkestan im XX Jahrhundert.“ Darmstadt: Leske, 1956
  • Baymirza Hayit. “Turkestan Zwischen Russland Und China.“ Amsterdam: Philo Press, 1971
  • Baymirza Hayit. “Some thoughts on the problem of Turkestan” Institute of Turkestan Research, 1984
  • Baymirza Hayit. “Islam and Turkestan Under Russian Rule.” Istanbul:Can Matbaa, 1987.
  • Baymirza Hayit. “Basmatschi: Nationaler Kampf Turkestans in den Jahren 1917 bis 1934. '' Köln: Dreisam-Verlag, 1993.

See also

External links

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