(both: tûrkˌĭstănˈ, –stänˈ) [key
], historic region of central Asia. Western, or Russian, Turkistan extended from the Caspian Sea in the west to the Chinese frontier in the east and from the Aral-Irtysh watershed in the north to the borders of Iran and Afghanistan in the south. Eastern, or Chinese, Turkistan comprised the western provinces of China, now the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region
. Southern, or Afghan, Turkistan referred to a small area of N Afghanistan. Politically, what was formerly called Russian Turkistan and Soviet Central Asia includes the nations of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan and the southern portion of Kazakhstan. Much of the western part of this region is composed of two deserts, the Kara Kum
and the Kyzyl Kum
. The eastern part, rough and hilly, rises to include the mountains of part of the Pamir
highland and of the Tian Shan
system. Athwart the eastern section extends the Fergana Valley
, one of Asia's most fertile regions.
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