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Turkistan (Turkestan) Historic region of central Asia, inhabited by Turkic-speaking peoples. Western (Russian) Turkistan now consists of the republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and s Kazakstan. It mainly comprises the deserts of Kyzyl Kum and Kara Kum. Eastern (Chinese) Turkistan comprises the Chinese region of Xinjiang and includes the Tian Shan mountains. Southern Turkistan consisted of part of n Afghanistan. For nearly two centuries, Turkistan was the geographical bridge for trade between East and West. The first imperial power to control the region was Persia (Iran) in 500 bc. In c.330 bc, Alexander the Great defeated the Iranians and for the next few centuries, Bactria, Parthia, and China disputed the region. Market towns developed around the oases, becoming centres for trade and religion. In the 8th century, the Arabs conquered the region and converted the local population to Islam. During the 13th century, the Mongols controlled the region, but then it fractured into small, independent khanates. In 1867, the Russian Empire imposed military rule over the area, and in 1918 Turkistan became an autonomous region within the Soviet Union. In 1924, the s part of Turkistan divided into the republics of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. In 1929, Tajikistan became a republic and Kyrgyzstan followed in 1936. The n part of Russian Turkistan was incorporated into the Kazak republic, and Russian Turkistan became known as Soviet Central Asia.
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