Historical region, Central Asia. This somewhat broad geographic region—situated between Siberia (Russia) to the north and Tibet (China), India, Afghanistan, and Iran to the south—derived its name from its inhabitants, who were predominantly of Turkic ancestry. The total area of more than 1,000,000 sq mi (2,600,000 sq km) was bisected by the Pamir and Tien Shan ranges, forming West and East Turkistan. West Turkistan, which included what is now Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and southern Kazakhstan, came under Russian rule in the 19th century. East Turkistan came to be included in what is now the Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang.
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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.
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.
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 ().