"Map of Iran and Turan", dated 1850 (during the Qajar
dynasty), Turan territory indicated by orange line (here enhanced).
The name "Turan" appears to the east of the Aral Sea.
According to the legend (bottom right of the map), Turan encompasses
regions including modern Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and northern parts
of Afghanistan and Pakistan. This area roughly corresponds to what
is called Central Asia today.
List of the areas mentioned in the map as part of Turan: 1. Khwarezm
2. Bukhara with Balkh 3. Shehersebz (near Bukhara) 4. Hissar 5.
Khokand 6. Durwaz 7. Karategin 8. Kunduz 9. Kafiristan 10. Chitral
11. Gilgit 12. Iskardu 13.14. The northern steppes (Kazakhstan).
Turan is a historical region in Central Asia. The term is of Iranian
origin and may refer to a particular prehistoric human settlement,
a historic geographical region, or a culture. The original Turanians
were an Iranian tribe of the Avestan age.
is the ancient Iranian name for Central Asia, literally meaning
"the land of the Tur". As described below, the original
Turanians are the Tuirya Iranian people of the Avesta age. According
to Shahnameh's account, at least 1500 years later after the Avesta,
the nomadic tribes who inhabited these lands, were ruled by Tur
who was the emperor Fereydun's elder son. The association with Turks
is also primarily based on the Shahnameh's geographical account
where Turkification of Central Asia was partially completed during
that time. Tur/Turaj(Tuzh in Middle Persian) is the son of emperor
Fereydun in ancient Iranian mythology. In the Shahnameh, he is identified
with the Turks although culturally, there is no relationship between
Turanians of the Shahnameh and the culture of ancient Turks. In
19th century and early 20th century discourse, now obsolete, it
was primarily an ideological term designating Turkic, Ugric languages,
Uralic languages, Dravidian people and people more or less indiscriminately,
implying a common ancestry and common culture of the various ethnicities
ancient Iranian mythology, Tur or Turaj (Tuzh in Middle Persian)
is the son of the emperor Fereydun. According to the account in
the Shahnameh the nomadic tribes who inhabited these lands were
ruled by Tur. In that sense, the Turanians could be members of two
Iranian peoples both descending from Fereydun, but with different
geographical domains and often at war with each other. Turan, therefore,
comprised five areas: the Kopet Dag region, the Atrek valley, the
eastern Alborz mountains, Helmand valley, Bactria and Margiana.
A later association of the original Turanians with Turkic peoples
is based primarily on the subsequent Turkification of Central Asia,
including the above areas. According to C. E. Bosworth, however,
there was no cultural relationship between the ancient Turkic cultures
and the Turanians of the Shahnameh.
oldest existing mention of Turan is in the Farvardin yashts, which
are in the Young Avestan language and have been dated by linguists
to approximately 2300 BCE. According to Gherardo Gnoli, the Avesta
contains the names of various tribes who lived in proximity to each
other: "the Airyas [Aryans], Tuiryas [Turanians], Sairimas
[Sarmatians], Sainus [Ashkuns] and Dahis [Dahae]". In the hymns
of the Avesta, the adjective Turya is attached to various enemies
of Zoroastrism like Fra?rasyan (Shahnameh: Afrasiab). The word occurs
only once in the Gathas, but 20 times in the later parts of the
Avesta. The Tuiryas as they were called in Avesta play a more important
role in the Avesta than the Sairimas, Sainus and Dahis. Zoroaster
himself hailed from the Airya people but he also preached his message
to other neighboring tribes.
According to Mary Boyce, in the Farvardin Yasht, "In it (verses
143–144) are praised the fravashis of righteous men and women
not only among the Aryas (as the "Avestan" people called
themselves), but also among the Turiyas, Sairimas, Sainus and Dahis;
and the personal names, like those of the people, all seem Iranian
character". Hostility between Tuirya and Airya is indicated
also in the Farvardtn Yast (vv. 37-8), where the Fravashis of the
Just are said to have provided support in battle against the Danus,
who appear to be a clan of the Tura people. Thus in the Avesta,
some of the Tuiryas believed in the message of Zoroaster while others
rejected the religion.
Similar to the ancient homeland of Zoroaster, the precise geography
and location of Turan is unknown. In post-Avestan traditions they
were thought to inhabit the region north of the Oxus, the river
separating them from the Iranians. Their presence accompanied by
incessant wars with the Iranians, helped to define the latter as
a distinct nation, proud of their land and ready to spill their
blood in its defense. The common names of Turanians in Avesta and
Shahnameh include Frarasyan, Aghraethra, Biderafsh, Arjaspa Namkhwast.
The names of Iranian tribes including those of the Turanians that
appear in Avesta have been studied by Manfred Mayrhofer in his comprehensive
book on Avesta personal name etymologies.
Sassanid and early Islamic era :
was one of the regions of the Sasanian Empire, here seen at the
the 5th century CE, the Sasanian Empire defined "Turan"
in opposition to "Iran", as the land where lay its enemies
to the northeast.
The continuation of nomadic invasions on the north-eastern borders
in historical times kept the memory of the Turanians alive. After
the 6th century the Turks, who had been pushed westward by other
tribes, became neighbours of Iran and were identified with the Turanians.
The identification of the Turanians with the Turks was a late development,
possibly made in the early 7th century; the Turks first came into
contact with the Iranians only in the 6th century.
to Clifford E. Boseworth :
In early Islamic times Persians tended to identify all the lands
to the northeast of Khorasan and lying beyond the Oxus with the
region of Turan, which in the Shahnama of Ferdowsi is regarded as
the land allotted to Fereydun's son Tur. The denizens of Turan were
held to include the Turks, in the first four centuries of Islam
essentially those nomadizing beyond the Jaxartes, and behind them
the Chinese. Turan thus became both an ethnic and a geographical
term, but always containing ambiguities and contradictions, arising
from the fact that all through Islamic times the lands immediately
beyond the Oxus and along its lower reaches were the homes not of
Turks but of Iranian peoples, such as the Sogdians and Khwarezmians.
The terms "Turk" and "Turanian" became used
interchangeably during the Islamic era. The Shahnameh, or the Book
of Kings, the compilation of Iranian mythical heritage, uses the
two terms equivalently. Other authors, including Tabari, Hakim Iranshah
and many other texts follow like. A notable exception is the Abl-Hasan
Ali ibn Masudi, an Arab historian who writes: "The birth of
Afrasiyab was in the land of Turks and the error that historians
and non-historians have made about him being a Turk is due to this
reason". By the 10th century, the myth of Afrasiyab was adopted
by the Qarakhanid dynasty. During the Safavid era, following the
common geographical convention of the Shahnameh, the term Turan
was used to refer to the domain of the Uzbek empire in conflict
with the Safavids.
Some linguists derive the word from the Indo-Iranian root *tura-
"strong, quick, sword(Pashto)", Pashto turan (thuran)
"swordsman". Others link it to old Iranian *tor "dark,
black", related to the New Persian tar(ik), Pashto tor (thor),
and possibly English dark. In this case, it is a reference to the
"dark civilization" of Central Asian nomads in contrast
to the "illuminated" Zoroastrian civilization of the settled
the Persian epic Shahnameh, the term Turan ("land of the Turya"
like Eran, Iran = "land of the Arya") refers to the inhabitants
of the eastern-Iranian border and beyond the Oxus. According to
the foundation myth given in the Shahnameh, King Firedun (= Avestan
Traetaona) had three sons, Salm, Tur and Iraj, among whom he divided
the world: Asia Minor was given to Salm, Turan to Tur and Iran to
Iraj. The older brothers killed the younger, but he was avenged
by his grandson, and the Iranians became the rulers of the world.
However, the war continued for generations. In the Shahnameh, the
word Turan appears nearly 150 times and that of Iran nearly 750
Some examples from the Shahnameh :
No earth is visible, no sea, no mountain,
From the many blade-wielders of the Turan horde
Tahamtan (Powerful-Bodied) Rustam took the fight to the Turan army
just as a leopard sights its prey.
In European discourse, the words Turan and Turanian can designate
a certain mentality, i.e. the nomadic in contrast to the urbanized
agricultural civilizations. This usage probably matches the Zoroastrian
concept of the Turya, which is not primarily a linguistic or ethnic
designation, but rather a name of the infidels that opposed the
civilization based on the preaching of Zoroaster.
Combined with physical anthropology, the concept of the Turanian
mentality has a clear potential for cultural polemic. Thus in 1838
the scholar J.W. Jackson described the Turanid or Turanian race
in the following words:
The Turanian is the impersonation of material power. He is the merely
muscular man at his maximum of collective development. He is not
inherently a savage, but he is radically a barbarian. He does not
live from hand to mouth, like a beast, but neither has he in full
measure the moral and intellectual endowments of the true man. He
can labour and he can accumulate, but he cannot think and aspire
like a Caucasian. Of the two grand elements of superior human life,
he is more deficient in the sentiments than in the faculties. And
of the latter, he is better provided with those that conduce to
the acquisition of knowledge than the origination of ideas.
philosopher Feliks Koneczny claimed the existence of a distinctive
Turanian civilization, encompassing both Turkic and some Slavs,
such as Russians. This alleged civilization's hallmark would be
militarism, anti-intellectualism and an absolute obedience to the
ruler. Koneczny saw this civilization as inherently inferior to
Latin (Western European) civilization.
of the opera by Puccini, Turandot (1926). The name of the opera
is based on Turan-Dokht ("daughter of Turan"), which is
a common name used in Persian poetry for Central Asian princesses
In the declining days of the Ottoman Empire, some Turkish nationalists
adopted the word Turanian to express a pan-Turkic ideology, also
called Turanism. As of 2013 Turanism forms an important aspect of
the ideology of the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), whose
members are also known as Grey Wolves.
In recent times, the word Turanian has sometimes expressed a pan-Altaic
nationalism (theoretically including Manchus and Mongols in addition
to Turks), though no political organization seems to have adopted
such an ambitious platform.
Turandot — or Turandokht — is a female name in Iran
and it means "Turan's Daughter" in Persian. (It is best
known in the West through Puccini's famous opera Turandot (1921–24).)
Turan is also a common name in the Middle East, and as family surnames
in some countries including Bahrain, Iran, Bosnia and Turkey.
The Ayyubid ruler Saladin had an older brother with the name Turan-Shah.
Turaj, whom ancient Iranian myths depict as the ancestor of the
Turanians, is also a popular name and means Son of Darkness. The
name Turan according to Iranian myths derives from the homeland
of Turaj. The Pahlavi pronunciation of Turaj is Tuzh, according
to the Dehkhoda dictionary. Similarly, Iraj, which is also a popular
name, is the brother of Turaj in the Shahnameh. An altered version
of Turaj is Zaraj, which means son of gold.