Samarkand, Uzbekistan

The Independence of the 'Stans

Zegrahm Contributor|January 10, 2017|Blog Post

The largest of the four ‘Stans, Kazakhstan is a country of steppes landscaped with vast plains and hilly plateaus crisscrossed by rivers and lakes, including the Aral Sea, within its boundaries. While the geography of the other ‘Stans varies from ruggedly mountainous Kyrgyzstan to the deserts and irrigated fertile belt of Turkmenistan, there is a shared commonality of historical development among the region, with Kazakhstan’s history representational for the region.

The earliest recorded inhabitants were probably from Persia, followed by Alexander the Great’s armies of the fourth century BC. Two centuries later, the Silk Road trading route was well established between the lands of the East (China and India) and the West. This overland caravan route would persevere until the Portuguese found a faster route by sea in the late 15th century.

Meanwhile, the strategically located future ‘Stans were visited by waves of succeeding invaders and empires, including the Parthians, Kushans, Huns, more Persians, and then Turkic peoples of the sixth century, who settled and became the ancestors of today’s populace. They were nomadic herders who lived in yurts—portable, dome-shaped tents made of felt. Arabs conquered these tribes, followed by Mongols under Genghis Khan in the 13th century, Tamerlane in the 14th century, Uzbeks in the 15th century, and later by Russians in the 19th century, who attempted massive settlements of Russians into these territories. The Soviets claimed dominion over these lands after ousting the royal tsarist regime in 1917.

The last decade of the 20th century was a tumultuous time of change for the Communist-dominated societies of Russia, central Europe, and central Asia. All four of the ‘Stans were part of the Soviet Union until that country of vastly different ethnic cultures began to crumble in the late 1980s. Like tumbling dominos, Communist-led governments succumbed one by one. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, followed by the collapse of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia and Romania (1989), Yugoslavia (1990), and the Soviet Union itself (1990), ending the Cold War between East and West. By 1991 Albania ousted its communist rulers; Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia declared their independence; and President Gorbachev resigned, marking the final demise of the Soviet Union.

By late December of 1991, the four ‘Stans had formed their own constitutional republics, united together in a loose commonwealth of independent states. Unfortunately, a number of political and economic difficulties have beset these countries, severely hampering their progress toward democracy and prosperity. Some of the republics are rich in agricultural lands, and others in mineral and petroleum resources, and how they use these may help determine their future paths.

Related Blog Posts

  • Milford Sound, New Zealand
    Blog Post

    20 Intriguing Christmas Traditions Around the World

    November 20, 2017 | Blog Post

    Christmas has become an almost ubiquitous celebration found all around the world. Nearly every country—even those not traditionally steeped in Christianity—acknowledges the holiday in some fashion.

    Read More

    Zebras at Sunset
    Blog Post

    Why Overland Adventures Rock

    November 13, 2017 | Blog Post

    The best travel adventures do not happen in a flash of instant gratification. Instead, they are the long, meandering journeys that give us more immersive, interactive experiences to savor. Sure, jumbo jets might get you to your destination faster; but once you arrive, I believe that overland adventures are the key to truly exploring the heart and soul of a place.

    Read More

    Grimsey Island
    Blog Post

    Tips for Surviving a Long Layover

    November 7, 2017 | Blog Post

    Ah, the dreaded long layover… We all love the convenience of direct flights to our destination. But there are times when long layovers are simply unavoidable, especially when you’re traveling internationally.

    Read More

  • Blog Post

    Himalayan Adventure: 9 Reasons Every Traveler Should Visit the Region

    November 1, 2017 | Blog Post

    The Himalayas is a majestic mountain range in every way. One of the youngest mountain ranges, they are home to many of the world’s tallest mountains, including Mount Everest.

    Read More

    Sapporo, Japan
    Blog Post

    Sapporo Beer Socks It to Sake

    October 19, 2017 | Blog Post

    Sake may be Japan’s national drink, but locals left the rice wine behind long ago in favor of an ice-cold brew. Although Japanese beer consumption has been on the decline in the last few years—as modern tastes migrate to grape wines, whiskeys, and crafted cocktails—beer still accounts for more than half of the alcoholic beverages consumed in the country.

    Read More

    Fish Market, Hokkaido, Japan
    Blog Post

    Hokkaido Seafood: The Best Fish Markets on Japan's Wildest Island

    October 17, 2017 | Blog Post

    Welcome to Hokkaido, the wild side of Japan. The northernmost island in the Japanese archipelago is a place where trees outnumber skyscrapers, and you’re more likely to run into a bear than get stuck in a traffic jam. But the island is probably most famous for its delicious Hokkaido seafood, and the many fish markets where you can taste the local catch at its freshest and finest.

    Read More

  • Mountain Gorilla, Rwanda
    Blog Post

    The 10 Best Places to See Animals in the Wild

    October 4, 2017 | Blog Post

    I’ve been a nature-lover my whole life, but I began traveling specifically to see animals in the wild back in the early ’90s. Still in my early 20s then, I was fascinated by watching wildlife. My passion grew exponentially as I took up photography and became more adept at spotting hidden animals.

    Read More

    Chaba Camp, India
    Blog Post

    Haute in the Himalayas

    September 12, 2017 | Blog Post

    A semi-autonomous region in north India, Ladakh earned the moniker “land of high passes” for its strategic location along ancient Himalayan trade routes. It is also known as the “land of the lamas” for the vast number of monuments and monasteries nestled throughout the Buddhist ex-kingdom.

    Read More

    The Himalayas
    Blog Post

    Altitude Sickness Remedies & Prevention

    August 14, 2017 | Blog Post

    It was a dream come true: I was in Bhutan, hiking up a steep incline to one of the world’s most coveted destinations.

    Read More

  • Borneo beach
    Blog Post

    Multi-Dimensional Borneo

    August 4, 2017 | Blog Post

    Like a bowl of its popular Sarawak laksa soup, Borneo is a complex concoction that is rich with flavor and rapidly addictive. The third-largest island in the world behind Greenland and New Guinea, Borneo spans some 287,000 square miles—more than Texas and twice the size of Germany.

    Read More

    Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center
    Blog Post

    Orangutans: The Wild Gingers of Borneo

    July 17, 2017 | Blog Post

    Redheads have a reputation for being deeply sensitive and extremely loyal. They sport the rarest hair color in the world—which, by the way, never turns gray, but rather straight to white.

    Read More

    The Koran, Iran
    Blog Post

    The Iran Travel Warning: Separating Fact from Fiction

    June 28, 2017 | Blog Post

    For many people, Iran is a country commonly associated with violent war and religious extremism. Named one of the countries in the “Axis of Evil” by President George W. Bush, Iran has almost always been covered in a negative light by the international media.

    Read More