Turanistan & the Scythians of India

Rajasthan could be an honorary member. It’s interesting to note that the largest concentrations of Scythians aren’t in Europe, where they are best remembered, but in the border zones of the Subcontinent.

If memory serves me right (and I could be wrong here) but the Gujjars (the Punjabi tribe & Gujarat), the Kambojas, the Rajputs and Jats all have Scythic/Iranian associations. So even in India states such as Haryana, Punjab, Rajastan, Sindh and Gujarat have all seen these influxes.

The difference of course is that these Northwestern invaders had no rival ideology or high culture hence they accommodated themselves into the prevailing milieu with scant memory. I do remember though that the Rajput clans have complicated systems of lineage involving the sun and the moon though..

83 thoughts on “Turanistan & the Scythians of India”

  1. No thanks. Pakistan is fine without the mess that is Afghanistan or Uzbekistan.

    We have a distinct South Asian Muslim culture which is not shared by the Central Asian “stans”. The majority of Pakistan’s population is east of the Indus (60% in Punjab alone). The Pathans have a lot in common with their brothers in Afghanistan, but the vast majority of Pakistanis have more in common with India (we’ve discussed this to death on the ethnicity thread).

    Also, Urdu would not be the national language of “Stanistan” I’m not willing to let go of the language of Ghalib and Faiz.

    Note: The population numbers in your graphic seem off. Pakistan just by itself has 210 million people according to the 2017 census. The population of Karachi is more like 20 million (the graphic says 9 million). Lahore has 10 million.

      1. Kazakh, Turkmen, Uzbeks and Kyrghyz are all Turks and I doubt that they would accomodate Persian.

        But yes, for Afghans, Pakistanis, Iranians and Tajiks, Persian will emerge as a binding force, if not as a standard language, but then as a base ‘high culture’. The biggest roadblock is the intense Shia orientation of the Iranian state, but this will give way to a more secular Persian/Persianate culturism at some point.

        1. Uzbeks and Turkmen have strong Persianate cultures.

          the Slavs/Russians replaced the Iranian-Scythians as the dominant population of Inner Eurasia and industrialised accordingly.

          For the Stans the attraction of Karachi as a warm water port and China is quite powerful.

          I also like SAARC but that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere..

          1. “Uzbeks and Turkmen have strong Persianate cultures”

            No longer. They are completely Russofied now. Plugged into the Russosphere. Elite speak Russian and the ones who are overtly religious are Sunnis, so not really into Iran except maybe Tojikiston to an extent.

          2. Zack, eventually I see BIMSTEC becoming the EU like body in this part of Asia, and SAARC to become totally defunct.

          3. If Persian culture is your link for this motley crew of countries, why isn’t Iran itself in the grouping?

      2. Pakistanis are not Persian and we don’t speak Persian. If there is going to be an alternative to Urdu it is Punjabi, the native language of 60% of the population.

        1. how about persian as a link language/lingua franca? 😉

          i think these arguments remind me of stuff i used to hear as a kid about how all indian/south asian muslims should speak urdu because it was the language of islamic high culture, and how bengalis disliked that line of thought despite some empirical basis.

          persian for pakistan is a non-starter. this is like fantasy football.

          1. No disagreement. This said Persian was the main language of law, business and elites throughout Bengal, South India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, northern Stans until recently.

          2. I am not replacing my culture with someone else’s culture. We saw how that worked out for the former East Pakistan.
            Pakistan’s national language will remain Urdu. We are the Muslims of British India, not an extension of Persia.
            If anything, we should embrace our Punjabiness, but that will alienate the smaller provinces.

          3. It was the British who made Urdu the official language of Punjab, after their annexation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s kingdom. They were already using Urdu in the united provinces, which they had conquered earlier.

  2. If we are suggesting alternative scenarios, I think its far more likely for Pakistan to break up into its constituent ethnicities.

    Punjab could be a country on its own. It already has 100 million people, more than many sovereign countries. Lahore could be our new capital.

    The Pathans can join Afghanistan. The Baloch don’t like Pakistan anyway. Sindh can be ruled by the Bhuttos forever.

    But Punjab would need access to the sea and for that we’d have to keep Karachi.

      1. I’m happy to include Indian Punjab if they would want to be included. It would definitely be more natural than combining Pakistan with Uzbekistan.

  3. Stanistan? Where we are up to with the meaning of Stan? Also, how Kurdistan, Tatarstan, Dagestan, etc, got their Stans even they do not have strong links with Sanskrit?

      1. Is the meaning of both names are the same? Why is so similar, the pronunciations are basically identical (e.g. Pakistan and Rajasthan), right? And how Persians influenced, for e.g. Dagestan to make their country’s name by using a Persian word?

        Recently I wrote about the Serbian/Sanskrit origins and meaning of Stan. So as in India/Pakistan there are also traces of Serbian presence in ancient Persia (in Aryan expeditions they passed through Persia to get to Hindustan, one branch even went to China). Iranian embassy in Belgrade couple years ago published some historical documents on their web site stating that in one period Serbian language was officially used in ancient Persia. I will find in which period.

        My acquaintance several years ago visited Media in Iran and had a dinner in one ethnic restaurant. All employees were wearing traditional clothes which were almost identical with traditional clothes in Serbia, where old people in villages still wear it. The following is a Serbian Gypsies song (sbarrkum’s favourite) where the band is wearing such clothes.

        Just couple additional details about the song – the girl is waiting for her sympathy Omer to visit her but he was drinking vine with friends in some tavern. Also, for those interested, more than 80% of Serbian Gypsies are Muslims (very secular) or have Muslim’s names.


        1. The Croat descend from ancient Iranian tribes..
          Maybe the Serbians as well..

          So basically Iranians invited the neck-tie. I love this game!

          1. The Croats haven’t descended from Iranian tribes. They were left by Avars during their invasions in Europe, basically almost 90% of Croats are ethnically Serbs converted over centuries by Vatican after Christian church split in 11-th century AC, but now they do not want to confess this and extremely hate Serbs. Serbs are indigenous European people. Actually, I’ve heard that one official Croat’s delegation couple years ago visited Iran in a search for their roots. The hosts took them to the similar ethnic restaurant and when they saw traditional clothes they were thinking that was a provocation. The host explained them that it was their local traditional apparel. You did not answer my question maybe it is not on the top of your mind. I hope you liked the Gypsies song.

  4. The Ummahstan! I like. As my fellow Central Asian bro Borat also concurs.

    He hates on Uzbeks for some reason though. We don’t hate our Kazakh bredrin. Nazarbayev is a model for all Uzbeks as they have more pure blood of Atta Ghengis, Atta Chagtay, Atta Timur and other such humble humanitarian heroes coursing through their veins. They have sorted the Jew problem and their horses taste better too .. mmm!

    Does Islamabad have any good bolt-your-colt joints?

  5. “The difference of course is that these Northwestern invaders had no rival ideology or high culture hence they accommodated themselves into the prevailing milieu with scant memory.”

    There were lots of ‘rival’ high ideologies available, native (Buddhist for example) as well as foreign (say Zoroastrian), and these were probably even adopted at various points. But what really drives ‘accomodation’ is the need for coexistence with a significant population from the prevailing milieu.

    The difference today is simply the demographics of the Muslim states that have emerged in the subcontinent at a critical stage (industrial modernization). They are overwhelmingly Abrahamic (Muslim/Christian) in demographics, with Pakistan in particular having just 1.5% Hindus. Accomodation with ‘prevailing milieu’ is simply not necessary. That force simply isnt present anymore to shape identities.

  6. Why would Pakistan gravitate(if it had to) more towards the stans and not towards middle east aka Saudi Arabia. Saudi can provide energy security while the stans are just a nuanced version of Afghanistan tribal wars.

    “. I do remember though that the Rajput clans have complicated systems of lineage involving the sun and the moon though..”

    Its interesting how rajputs highlight different thing in either countries. In India they highlight hindu-ness, protectors,warriors who fought against the invaders, subtly downplaying their role in colluding with mughals post akbar. While in pakistan rajput highlight their clan-ness, their royal background and downplaying their obvious origins in hindu background. Its similar to skanderberg history in Albania, the muslims champion if as the nationalist who fought the turks, while the christians champion him as the alpha crusader. Same figure different history.

    1. If Pakistan had any sense it would gravitate towards India. We are a country made up of the Muslims of British India. Our history and culture come from the subcontinent not central Asia or the middle east.

    2. India virtually cut off Pakistan from South Asia and has steadily built up regional isolation which culminated in the SAARC boycott. I think Pakistanis generally think that they have no future in a subcontinent where their participation can be shutdown on India’s whims so you have these frustrated attempts to fit into regions where we have no real place. Now I think of it, our foreign policy has often been a frustrated reaction to getting cockblocked in some way.

      1. Yes, India has imposed a total blockade of Pakistan in South Asia. Pakistan cannot export or import within South Asia. Flights from Pakistan cannot fly over South Asia. Pakistani diplomats are confined and restricted in all South Asian countries. All these just because India hates Pakistan. After all Pakistan never tried to do any mischief in South Asia except in India. Pakistan has never tried to stir up trouble by instigating, fomenting, supporting Muslims extremists in Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, everywhere.

        1. >Yes, India has imposed a total blockade of Pakistan in South Asia. Pakistan cannot export or import within South Asia. Flights from Pakistan cannot fly over South Asia. Pakistani diplomats are confined and restricted in all South Asian countries.

          This argument is so full of bull and you know it. Of course there’s no rule written by India that all countries must avoid Pakistan. Just like there’s no written rule that Sri Lanka can’t buy Pakistani defense hardware. Sri Lanka or Nepal or Bangladesh can do whatever they want, but if they do something like say, buy JF-17s, India will do it’s best to pressure and lobby them out of it.

          > All these just because India hates Pakistan.

          Yes, exactly. You have to be a dunce not to realize this. You use Sri Lanka and Nepal as examples of Pakistan’s troublesome meddling in South Asia, but the existential threats for both countries over the last few decades have come from India. Pakistan was an ally, like during the civil war in Sri Lanka when the military chipped in and helped Sri Lanka fight the insurgency during their civil war when most of the world was sanctioning them. If another George Fernandes appears in the future to start another uprising, it’s going to be countries like Pakistan which will bail their ass. Nepalese politicians spend their time worrying about their dependency on India and how their economy can come to a standstill if Modi decides he doesn’t like their attitude and shuts the border down, and here you are telling me they’re more concerned about the 4% of Muslims in the country. Bangladesh is the only country which had an excuse to follow India’s command, and at this point, with the level of scrutiny their government places on Pakistani diplomats and the heavy-handedness of the Hasina regime, I can bet their extremists are all home-grown and don’t need Pakistanis to generate unrest.

      2. India- Pakistan relations and the SAARC boycott cannot change the geographical and historical facts that Pakistan is a South Asian country not a Central Asian one.
        We need to sort out our issues with India on terms of soverign equality.
        Are you a Pakistani? I somehow thought you were a Kashmiri Muslim.

        1. Why must we sort it out; let the two countries make their own destiny and look in separate directions.

          The loss of Bangladesh dramatically reduces our stake in core South Asia..

          1. By “We”, I mean Pakistan. For Pakistan to progress we need normal ties with India (not necessarily super friendly ties). The Kashmir Dispute is the biggest obstacle in the way. Of course, India has to also be willing to look at it beyond the framework of “terrorism”.

      3. Where it matters for the ruling Pakistani elite ie Army +ISI they are doing quite well for international relations. India or Saarc doesn’t matter; or rather India matters negatively. Basically A+I has no intention of running a modern state. For their medieval aspirations they’re doing alright. Till there’s another catastrophe like Bangladesh, they will keep going.

      4. Exactly

        But I think Pakistan has very real connections into the Muslim world. 20-30% of the population will do Ziarat in Mashad, Najaf & Karbala.

        India is not a magnanimous regional power; the expulsion of Bengalis from Assam etc.

        1. I hope next time a Bangladesh type situation develops India delivers coup de grace on Pakistan.

        2. Seeing how Iranians treat Afghan refugees, I doubt there’s anything beyond the occasional pilgrimage.

          I think a connection you ignore is Pakistan’s relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan. There’s genuine goodwill and strong defense ties between them. Much better than ties with Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan.

          1. The Sharifs love Erdogan and Erdogan loves them back. Our Metrobuses in Lahore are based on the Metrobuses in Istanbul.

  7. Is it me, but have the posts increasingly become completely random? Now we are just taking five countries in a map and just joining together? Merge Russia, China and Korea, because both nations end in the letter “A”?

    Has Zack been to known anyone from Kazakh or Kirgizstan? Kazakh people in the north near the capital city speak mainly Russian, and Kazakh people themselves seem to prefer education and day-to-day business in Russian. The main business is oil and gas and some mining. Kazakh and Kirgiz are as distant to Pakistan as Russia to India, and would make as much sense as merging China with India.

    This follows a bizarre picture of Imran khan after an all night bender and calling him the handsomest leader of nation.

    1. I don’t think that’s a fair comparison; this is the Eastern Wing of the Iranian world for better or for worse. Iran radiates in four direction:

      (1.) Her historic southwestern axis towards Mesopotamia and arguably her strongest identity (Cyrus in Babylon, Islam from Hejaz, Safavid wars with Ottoman).

      (2.) Her northwestern tilt towards Turkey & the Caucasus, which is a land bridge towards the West. Iran suffered ignoble losses against the Ottomans and the Russians and this is always been the greatest threats towards the Iranian Plateau.

      (3.) The Northeast (Turan).

      (4.) The South East (Indus & Baluchistan).

      Iran has four faces; don’t forget I feel for my Motherland and her promised greatness.

      As for Imran Khan; I’m proud Pakistan has a decent looking leader, optics do matter!

      1. I wouldn’t have put it the way Vijay did but I also think the idea of merging Pakistan with these Central Asian countries is quite bizarre. Pakistan’s destiny lies in South Asia in my opinion. If only we could solve the Kashmir Dispute and make friends with our siblings across the Radcliffe Line.

        Sorry Zack.

          1. Maybe not. But we have much more in common with South Asia than with anyone else.

            At least, I don’t relate to Central Asia at all. I relate to Iran a little bit because Urdu high culture is quite Persianate. But nothing like the way I relate to India and Bangladesh. We are “desi” whether we like it or not.

  8. Pakistan has speciated away so there’s little I could say that would be of much consequence (or relevance) to its citizens.

    Yet purely as an exercise in classification, the country is “Indic” (a cultural/geographical label shorn of political baggage). I say this for the following clinical and quantifiable reasons:

    a) The history of the country cannot be written without recourse to Indian history, even if to highlight differences from Indians.

    b) India is the place of second-largest concentration of speakers of its majority native tongue.

    c) India is the place of the largest concentration of native speakers of its majority second language.

    d) Both b and c were true when Pakistan had both its wings.

    e) The majority population of its largest cities moved to India on its founding, due to cultural, geographical and religious proximity.

    f) Conversely most immigrants of foreign-extraction within Pakistan originate from within India.

    g) India is Pakistan’s largest neighbour and the neighbour with its newest, longest, most densely-populated and most geographically accessible land border.

    h) India is also Pakistan’s closest maritime neighbour (shortest avg distance in nautical miles per km of coastline)

    1. I could make a similar ten points as to why we are Islamic. Pakistan is a cleft culture; to over-define it would be to shoe-horn the country and push it in an unnatural direction..

      1. There is a difference though. slapstik’s points are mostly about the past, whereas the Islamization of Pakistan is about the present and is an ongoing process. Pakistan cannot be called a cleft culture, with the exception of the Sanskrit grammar of Urdu, there is very little Indic about it.

        Script: Arabic and Latin. No Indic script at all.
        Vocabulary for complex thought: Persian or Arabic (often via Persian), also English. No Sanskrit.
        Diet: Little rice (India eats 5 times more per capita), very little lentils/dal (India eats 10 times more capita), heavily meat based (Pakistan eats 4 times more capita despite being poorer). Vegetarianism is rarer than US.
        Proportion of Hindus or other Indian religions: ~ 1% (US has more). No significant engagement with Indic religious thought, but elites seem to like playing Holi.
        Architecture: Overwhelmingly Persian, along with usual modern Western influence. No Hindu or other Indian styles prominent or active as an inspiration.

        The Sanskrit grammar of Urdu and prevalence of English implies that Indians and Pakistanis can understand each other, but there’s very little that is common between the countries on a day to day basis.

        Ethnic cleansing has consequences.

        1. Mind you – ethnic cleansing happened both ways.. there aren’t many Muslims left in the Punjab..

          I’ve become very Pak/Persian because of Imran Bhai!

          Omar is totally right that deep down I can’t give up the ghost.

          I do think Pakistan is very Indic fwiw – though the State has tried to stamp that out

          1. Yes, but there are plenty of Muslims who stayed back in Delhi and UP, in fact the proportion barely changed by a couple of percent during partition. They play an important part in Indian national life, which continues to impact India’s Punjabis. There simply isnt any counterpart to this in Pakistan.

            Pakistanis do like Indian entertainment, but that is basically due to a lack of alternatives.

        2. Which Pakistanis do you know who don’t eat daal chawwal? This is frankly bizarre. Daal roti is a quintessential Punjabi thing.

          1. Zack,
            Its not newfound. I’ve always been extremely proud to be part Kashmiri- Punjabi. After all, punjabis run Pakistan. Mian Sahab himself is Kashmiri-Punjabi.

      2. Just mechanical classification based on language and geography.

        I agree identity is a lot more complex, as much (if not more) informed by the ought as by is. Don’t doubt for a moment that Pakistani speciation is very real.

    2. I agree. Pakistan is a South Asian country whether we like it or not. You can’t change geography.

      Minor quibble: I don’t think the majority population of Lahore moved from India. Yes, lots of people were refugees from East Punjab. But I think most Pakistani Punjabis are descended from people who were always here. I could be wrong though.

      1. I mean that majority population of Lahore (and Karachi and Rawalpindi) moved to India on Pakistan’s founding, not the other way round. They were are all Hindu or Hindu-Sikh majority cities.

        PS: My maternal great-grand father maintained a large second house in Lahore. He owned a business of exporting apples to Punjab and that earned him the nickname (ryetsh in Kashmiri) “chaman”. Now that entire family goes by Kaul-Chaman or simply Chaman.

        1. I think Lahore was 50% Hindu. But yes, most of the upper middle class that lived in Model Town was Hindu.
          Ethnic cleansing happened both ways. My own relatives had to flee Amritsar for Sialkot, where my maternal grandfather was practicing law.

          1. The bit about my great-grand dad was just an aside. I don’t hold Pakistanis of today responsible for ethnic cleansing of Hindus that happened before they were even conceived. Indeed terrible Partition violence was perpetrated on Muslims too across North India.

          2. Yes of course for the Hindus/Sikhs of Indus Valley; Partition was a complete disaster. The economic elite..

            Vidhi’s family (both sides) lost everything in Sindh etc; there is no doubt that Partition in the West was also about economic appropriation from a very prosperous minority..

            I blame Mountbatten ultimately. He completely messed it up; we should have a decade of transition. The Quaid would have passed away in the meantime, the Pakistan demand would have abated and we should have kept the Raj as highly autonomous units in a confederation.

            An autonomous Sultan of Hyderabad could have counteracted Nehru’s centralising tendencies. Our mistake was in abolishing and absorbing the Principalities when we should have kept them on but bind them forever (centre should have handled military, foreign affairs, trade etc)..

      2. Who defined South Asia? Doesn’t the UN category for Southern Asia include Iran?

        Also even if Pakistan’s deepest ties were into South Asia (our High Culture is firmly rooted West frankly) why can’t we synergise elsewhere.

        The initial European trading area spanned many cultures and religions; historically at odds with one another..

        BP is a good example of how South Asians can’t actually find common ground most of the time.. it’s nice to have constant quibbles but for trade, migration and capital investment Turanistan is a great idea..

        1. China has already taken a lead in this matter. Any such Turanistan will be under the management and hegemony of PRC

        2. I don’t think the UN counts Iran as south Asia ( I think it is West Asia technically). As far as I am concerned, Afghanistan is barely south Asia.
          I’m all for having good ties with Iran. They are our neighbors after all. But my culture is from Punjab and UP thank you very much. Pakistan was formed out of British India. I relate to Indians much better than I do to middle eastern Muslims. For me , Urdu and north Indian culture trump religion every time.
          I don’t think BP debates represent reality very well. The Indians that I knew in real life were not hindutva types. Our similarities were much greater than our differences. I don’t expect to find an Iranian who loves Hindustani classical music for example. Iranians don’t wear saris like my mother does. Their food is also very different from desi food.

          1. Pakistanis don’t wear saris too haha

            Also Persian food has influenced Mughlai cuisine..

            Kabir I think u and I take turns at Brown Provocateur haha

          2. My mother wears saris on formal occasions and she was born a Pakistani. My daadi wore saris till the end of her life, but then she was a proud UPite from Agra and she represented the sophistication of Ganga Jamuni tehzeeb.

            There is no denying that Persian food influenced Mughlai cuisine.

          3. OK, I stand corrected on the UN counting Iran as South Asia. I still feel it is not a core South Asian country though. For one thing it is on the Iranian plateau and not the Indian subcontinent. I feel like Afghanistan is a border zone and Pakistan is where core south Asia actually begins.

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