Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Turkestan ("Land of the Turks"). a region of Central Asia extending from the Caspian Sea on the E. to beyond Lob Nor on the W., and from Siberia and Soongaria on the N. to Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet on the S. The area is estimated at 2,000,000 square miles. Eastern and Western Turkestan are separated by a lofty plateau, the Pamir, in lat. 39° N., long. 73° E., which recent exploration has shown to occupy the position of the fabulous Bolor Tagh. Western Turkestan presents very diverse natural features, the western portion consisting of a hollow plain of shifting sands, containing the Caspian and the Sea of Aral; whereas that on the east is hilly, with many fertile valleys. In the former division vegetation is to be found only in scattered oases, and along the banks of the rivers, of which the Syr-Daria, or Jaxartes (q.v.), and Amu-Daria, or Oxus (q.v.), are the most important. Politically, Western Turkestan comprises the state of Bokhara in the E. and central portions; Ferghana in the N.E., and the country surrounding Merv in the S.W., which belong to Russia; Khiva in the N.W., where Russian influence predominates; and Afghan Turkestan, consisting of Balk, Koondooz, and Badakshan. The settled inhabitants include Uzbegs (who are mainly agriculturists), Sarts, Tajiks, and Persians; but more than half the population is composed of nomadic Tatar tribes, whose chief occupation is the rearing of horses, mules, asses, camels, cattle, and poultry. The most important mineral product is the salt, which in many places covers the surface of the desert. Cereals, fruits, cotton, hemp, flax, and tobacco are grown, and there are manufactures of woollen, silk, and cotton textures, shagreen, and carpets. Eastern Turkestan is bounded N. by the Thian Shan Mountains, W. by the Pamir, and S. by the Kuen Lun mountains. It sinks gradually from an altitude of 4,400 feet at the base of these mountains to one of 2,200 feet on the shores of Lob Nor, a group of lakes at its E. extremity. Much of the surface is sterile, and, though there are several large towns, the region, as a whole, is sparsely inhabited. In spite of Russian intrigues, Eastern Turkestan still forms part of the Chinese Empire. Kashgar, the capital, and Yarkand both carry on a considerable trade. Turkish is the language commonly spoken, and the inhabitants are mainly of Tatar origin.