When not vetting vice presidential candidates for the McCain campaign, my ancestor spends his time thinking up questions for Carpetblogger. Not only did his most recent query arrive during our recent vacation to the Aegean coast, it generated some controversy, so it's taken some time come up with a response.
I had a wonderful dinner with U.T. and A.P tonight and the burning question is “What is the origin of the “STAN” portion of the country names in the region?” What does it mean and why is it in all the country names? We decided that only you can answer our question. So that we can sleep all night please inform us, either by direct e-mail or on the blog. It is creating great stress and we must have the answer.
The Producer came straight out of the gate with a definitive "Russian. Stan means settlement in Russian." That may be and may explain all the central Asian 'Stans, but it doesn't explain all the South Asian 'Stans or lots of others that have no connection to Russia. Thinking of "Yunanistan"(Greece in Turkish)" and "Ermenistan" (Armenia in Turkish), plus all the Turkic-speaking central Asian stans, I thought it was of Turkic origin. But that also doesn't explain Pakistan or Afghanistan (which are both post-colonial, made-up countries anyway). The most we discussed it, the more Stans we came up with that didn't fit anywhere; what about Hindistan, Baluchistan and Uyghurstan? None of our contemporaries added anything useful to the debate, which is typical.
So, before this turned into a bar brawl, we turned to Wikipedia which provided an answer which, correct or not, satisfied all parties.
The suffix -stān (spelled ـستان in the Perso-Arabic script) is Persian for "place of", derived from the Indo-Aryan equivalent, -sthāna (pronounced [st̪ʰaːna] (स्थान in the Devanāgarī script), a cognate Sanskrit suffix with a similar meaning. In Indo-Aryan languages, sthāna is also used as a word to mean "place".
They appear in the names of many countries and regions, especially in Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, areas where ancient Indo-Iranian peoples were established; in Iranian, however, it is also used more generally, as in Persian rigestan (ريگستان) 'place of sand, desert' and golestan (گلستان) 'place of roses, rose garden', Hindi/Sanskrit devasthan (place of devas, "temple"), etc. Both suffixes are of Indo-Iranian and ultimately Indo-European origin, the Proto-Indo-European root being *stā- 'stand,' which is also the source of English stand, Latin stāre, and Greek histamai (ίσταμαι), all meaning 'stand,' as well as many other words, for instance the Russian word стан (stan) meaning 'settlement' or 'semi-permanent camp' (used in reference to semi-nomadic settlements encountered in certain areas of Central Asia).
So, it turns out everyone is right. But the best part of the wikipedia entry is the list of Stans you've never even heard of.
- Hayastan, the name of Armenia in Armenian
- Hindustan, the poetic name of India and people are called hindustani
- Avaristan — Avari name for Avari land in Dagestan (Russia)
- Balawaristan — another name for the Northern Areas, Pakistan.
- Balochistan or Baluchistan
- Baltistan (in Pakistani Kashmir)
- Bantustan — Apartheid-era South African black 'homelands'; the term is coined by an analogy
- Bashkortostan — constituent republic of Russia
- Cholistan Desert
- Dagestan — constituent republic of the Russian Federation, literally "place of mountains"
- Gulistan ("rose garden" in Persian, an Iranian province and a city in Uzbekistan; compare with Gulistan Palace in Tehran and the poem by Saadi)
- Hindustan - originally either the subcontinent of India, or northern India and Pakistan.
- Kabulistan — ("The Kabul land" — old term used in many historical books and old Persian literature books for Kabul. Kabulistan contained a larger region than today's Kabul Province. Some times it is called as the country of Kabulistan)
- Kafiristan — ("land of the infidels"), historic region in Afghanistan until 1896, now known as Nuristan
- Karakalpakstan — constituent republic of Uzbekistan
- Khuzestan — a province of southwestern Iran
- Kurdistan — Kurdish region
- Kordestan - a Kurdish province in Iran
- Lazistan — another name for Colchis, a region in the Caucasus
- Lorestan or Luristan — a province of western Iran
- Nurestan Province — Afghanistan, formed in 2001
- Pashtunistan or Pakhtunistan is what many Pashtun nationalists call the Pashtun-dominated areas of Pakistan.
- Rajasthan — a state in India
- Registan — historic site in Samarkand, meaning "place of sand"
- Seistan or Sistan — a province of Iran and Afghanistan
- Tatarstan — a constituent republic of the Russian Federation
- Talyshistan - ethnolinguistic region in the SE Caucus and NW Iran
- Turkestan — ethnolinguistic region encompassing Central Asia, northwest China, parts of the Caucasus and Asia Minor
- Uyghurstan - Region of the Uyghur people, located in the north west of People's Republic Of China
- Waziristan — region of northwest Pakistan
- Zabulistan — a historical region in the border area of today's Iran and Afghanistan, around the city Zabol
- Zanjistan, or Zenjistan, term used in medieval texts to refer to the homeland of the Zanj, black slaves of probably East African origin
Carpetblog: answering questions you didn't know you had for a couple years now.