The Stan Countries

April 26, 2018

Stan countries
Left: Astana, capital of Kazakhstan Right: Beautiful view of Karakul lake in Pamir in Tajikistan.

> Play a map quiz on the countries with names ending with -stan.

In the heart of Central and South Asia, there is a group of seven countries known as the “Stan” countries. They are called that because they have a “Stan” suffix.

The ending comes from the Persian root word istan, meaning land. Uzbekistan, therefore, means land of the Uzbeks, Tajikistan is land of the Tajiks, and so forth. English and other Germanic languages use a similar format for some country or region names; think England, Scotland, or Deutschland. This useful guide will take you through each of the Stan countries and help you learn more about this important part of the world.


With an area of over 2.7 million square kilometers and a population of nearly 18 million, Kazakhstan is the largest of the Central Asian countries. The country is so large, in fact, that it is the 9th largest country in the world by area, and it is the largest landlocked country in the world.

Like the other Central Asian “Stan” countries, Kazakhstan was part of the USSR until 1991, and continues to have a large ethnic Russian population today. The capital city, Astana, is the second-coldest capital in the world, with winter temperatures regularly dropping to minus 30 Celsius. Despite the cold winters, Astana is a new city with many fancy buildings and interesting urban projects.


Technically, Pakistan is part of the South Asian region, but it does border the rest of the Stan countries in Central Asia and has some minority populations from those countries. While it is much smaller than Kazakhstan in terms of area, its population of nearly 200 million makes it the sixth largest country in the world.

The largest city, Karachi, has over 21 million people, and was Pakistan’s first capital when it became independent in 1947. In the 1960s, the country changed its capital to Islamabad, in part to place it in a more central location.


Uzbekistan’s population of 30 million is larger than most countries in Europe. During its time in the USSR, it became a major producer of cotton, which is an activity that continues to the present. Uzbekistan also operates the world’s largest open pit gold mine and is the largest producer of electricity in Central Asia.

In addition to Lichtenstein, Uzbekistan is one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world, meaning that is a landlocked country surrounded by countries that are also landlocked.


Like Pakistan, Afghanistan is considered to be part of South Asia. Even so, it borders three of the Central Asian “Stan” countries. The country has been an important center for human civilization for over two thousand years, in part because of its central location along the historic trading route known as the Silk Road.

Its location has attracted the interested of many outsiders, from Alexander the Great to the British, the Soviets, and the Americans. Today Afghanistan has over 34 million people, including many minority ethnicities from the neighboring Stan countries.


Tajikistan is a country of 8.7 million people known for its picturesque mountains and rivers. Although it is larger than England in terms of land, it its population is smaller than London. Dushanbe, its capital city, means Monday in the local Tajiki language, which got its name from once being a market town that was only open on Mondays.

Because of the country’s high elevation and rugged mountains there are many glaciers, including the largest glacier in the world not located in a polar region.


More than 75% of Kyrgyzstan is mountainous, which produces many mountain lakes and glaciers. Issyk-Kul, a picturesque mountain lake, is the second-highest lake in the world after Titicaca in Peru. Only one-third of the country lives in an urban area, and many of those live in Bishkek, the capital city, which has a population of around one million.

Even though the country is high elevation, summer temperatures regularly rise above 40 degrees, thanks to its continental climate in the center of the Eurasian landmass.


Turkmenistan is a relatively small country with a population of just over five million. While it has a long coastal region on the Caspian Sea with many resorts, a large proportion of the country is a desert that cannot support agriculture.

The ruins of former oasis cities along the Silk Road still dot the landscape, including Merv, the UNESCO world heritage site where evidence of over 4,000 years of human civilization can be found.

You ca learn more about the "Stan" countries in this video from NowThisWorld