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Why are you so scared of the “stan” Countries?

I am having a lot of overnight thoughts recently, and this is another one that came to me.

Did you noticed that everyone seems very afraid of any Country which has the suffix -stan in its name?

We all know Afghanistan because of the USA war to terrorism, and from that moment all the Countries which names ends with -stan, got marked as suspicious.

The stereotype is of a Middle Eastern countries, definitely muslim, conservative, maybe dictatorial, nest of some sort of evil. A lot of American fictional countries, where terrorists are based or they come from, have names ending with -stan. This does not help your mind to stay calm. It is a -stan Country, it is bad, because TV said so…

Am I not right? What are you thinking about now?

Well, ignorance is a bliss, but may also be a curse.

I am now in Kyrgyzstan, officially here Kyrgyz Republic, and I visited Kazakhstan, seems soon to become Kazakh Republic, too. I am married here, I am well fed, happy, I am writing my second book, and I open my mind even more.

So, let me tell you something:

There are seven countries in Central Asia with the suffix “-stan”: Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

In addition, the native name of Armenia is Hayastan, and of India is Hindustan. There are Republics of Russia, provinces, and cities all over Middle East and Central Asia that names end with that suffix. Just use any search engines, and all will be revealed.


Now down to the facts:

First of all, most of the -stan Countries are located in Central Asia, and not in Middle East. Most of these Countries are crossed by the famous Silk Road. They have history, traditions, their economy, and their pace in keeping up with the rest of the world. Genghis Khan and his generals walked and absorbed in his empire all, or part, of these Countries. Nomad tribes, conquerors, and merchants started mixing, settling, and creating their own home lands.


Second, not all the -stan Countries are poor. There are a lot of resources spread around these regions. They know it, they use them, they sell them, too. Their economy is not highly influencing the rest of the world, yet. However, they are aware of what they have, such as natural gas, gold, and other minerals. They are identified by someone (why we keep classifying and identifying people and places, let’s do it only with data and information, we are all people of this world) Second World because of the Soviet influence, some southern are Third World, and some are developing faster than the others. Well, everywhere is like this.


Third, not all the -stan Countries are 100% muslim. Not that this should be a problem for anyone. However, it is fair and important to recognise the Russian Catholic, Christian, and other religions presence, as much as the Atheist component. I like to think like Genghis Khan, where under his control religious tolerance was a well established concept on the Asian steppe. Maybe, the past should teach us something again. Maybe we should stop “identifying” people by religion, and by what they actually are doing on this planet.


Final point, most of these Countries were part of the Soviet Union (CCCP), and now belongs to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Some more history, that I like it, and you should like it too (from Wikipedia):

The CIS formed when the former Soviet Union (now called Russia) totally dissolved in 1991. At its conception it consisted of ten former Soviet Republics: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. You are probably not very scared of some of these names, right?


Now, time for etymology, that is another cool thing, and you all will feel better after that:

The suffix comes from the Persian root istan, or “land”, hence the “land of the Kyrgyz people” (Kyrgyz seems meaning 40, as the 40 tribes that were unified by their hero Manas in what is the country now, but it means also immortal), “land of the Kazakh people” (and Kazakh seems meaning free, nomad, but there is still not clear etymology), and so forth. Pakistan says about itself that its name means “land of the pure.” However, according to Wikipedia, the letters that compose the name are the initials of the five northern regions of the British Raj: Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Sindh, and Baluchistan. They then added the letter I for phonetic purposes.

Also in other language origins, and its linguistic evolution, stan simply means “settlement” and “to stand”, as to be in a place.

Does it remind you something?

A suffix “-land”… like in England (land of angels), Deutschland (Germany in German), Netherland (low land, or Holland, that means wood land), Iceland, Switzerland, and so forth.

Are you still scared of the -stan Countries?

Let me know what do you think, and if you notice any mistake, do not hesitate and tell me.

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