When a story is set in a Fictional Country, you have to come up with a foreign-sounding name. The easy way is to take a Meaningful Name, a random word, or a stereotypically Central Asian-sounding name and slap a "-stan" at the end. Expect to see a primarily Islamic Dirty Commie-style regime with a cool climate, possibly complete with a "Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell" attitude, led by a dictator who is kept in office via a rigged election. If the dictator dies, they may be succeeded by a living relative. The official language is usually Russian or has a Cyrillic or faux-Cyrillic script. It may be a Puppet State of Russia or a Western country.
The suffix -stan means "place of" or "country" in Persian, and is analogous to -land in English and other Germanic languages, so for example "Afghanistan" literally means "land of the Afghans". It appears in various Real Life place names in Central and South Asia. Persian is an Indo-European language and "-stan" came from a Proto-Indo-European root; the words "state" and "estate" are from the same PIE root, and some other words in English descended from the same root include "stand", "stem", and "stool". All of these have the related meaning of "standing up, place of position", which in Persian is eventually extended to mean place in general.
For a seemingly insignificant region, Central Asia has had historical significance, being the homelands of apples, domesticated horses, and many Hordes from the East, yet also a melting pot formed by The Silk Road. Why we now associate Central Asia with Ruritania and Qurac is because of the Russian and Persian influence there; in particular, most of the Real Life Countrystans were formerly part of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, and Central Asia was primarily inhabited by Iranian peoples before the Turkic peoples arrived from East Asia and became the dominant population of the region, with much of the region being part of many Persian empires and dynasties even afterwards. Thus Interchangeable Asian Cultures takes effect and the -stan suffix is also sometimes applied to Middle Eastern and even Eastern European countries in fiction, even though there are few such places in Real Life (Kurdistan being the only Middle Eastern exception, and Kazakhstan and some republics of Russia for Eastern Europe).
- Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection has the nation of Zilkistan. According to a map analyzed by C.C., it's located in South Asia in the southern parts of the continent somewhere between India and Pakistan.
- Full Metal Panic!
- Helmajistan is a South Asian country similar to Afghanistan. Averted in the actual light novel, where it's specifically mentioned to be Afghanistan.
- In the Episode 0 prequel to The Second Raid, Mithril is deployed to Manistan to take out Manistani guerrillas holding civilians hostage.
- The first few episodes of Gasaraki are set in the middle of a conflict in Belgistan.
- Ghost in the Shell: Arise has an OVA episode that concerns potential war crimes committed by JGSDF-trained Ranger soldiers in Qhardistan. Turns out that the refugees who were supposedly killed were all hostile and were gunning for them.
- Mobile Suit Gundam 00: Azadistan, said to be an evolution of Iran prior to the start of the series, features a Constitutional Monarchy style of government.
- Afbagistan is the fictional setting of Rick Veitch's scabrous War On Terror satire Army@Love.
- Dastardly & Muttley has the nation of Unliklistan, which is ruled King Ahuk-Ahuk-Harem, seems to be both incredibly poor and anti-West, and gets blown up by Unstabilium-239 at the start of the story. The Senators investigating the Unstabilium realize that no one's ever heard of Unliklistan, to the point that it appears to have popped up over night. It's eventually concluded that the Unstabilium must have created it wholesale.
- Norwegian Donald Duck comics will occasionally reference Langtvekkistan as some far away, undefined nation. "Langt vekk" means "Far away".
- In the French more-or-less hard Sci-Fi comic Gipsy, there's a "Socialist Republic of Turdistan" in chapter #5.
- Justice League of America: Superpower: Superpower, rookie hero Antaeus attempts to liberate the country of Vudistan (an obvious stand-in for Kurdistan) which has been trying to break away from the nation of Kirai, which is ruled by a Saddam Hussein expy named Gosner Mehtan.
- In one Superman story arc, Pokolistan is a fictional Soviet state that was conquered by the reimagined Post-Crisis General Zod.
- Doonesbury has Uncle Duke's public relations firm hired to improve the image of the brutal lout Trff Bmzklfrpz, President-for-life of Berserkistan. No amount of spin-doctoring can save Trff's case; he ends up deposed and living with Duke.
- In Pearls Before Swine, Pig digs a hole to "Kukistan". Unfortunately, the natives want to eat Pig for dinner. In the first strip of the story arc, Pig and Rat comment to each other that Kukistan doesn't exist because the editors felt that digging to the actual countrynote mentioned would offend their central Asian readers. As a result, Stephan Pastis digitally altered the strips in that series.
Rat: What are you doing?
Pig: Digging a hole to Kukistan.
Rat: There's no such country.
Pig: I know...see, when Stephan originally drew this week's strips, he named an actual country, but his editors told him that if he did that, the people from that country would get mad and complain, so he had to alter all of the strips on the computer. On a positive note, the originals should be worth a bundle.
- Tank Mc Namara often makes references to a backward Central Asian nation called Carjackistan.
- Team America: World Police realize that the nation of "Derk-Derka-Stan" was responsible for the attack on the Panama Canal and go there to try and retaliate. However they never get to land there (as they're shot down above their airspace). Cairo, Egypt is, however, portrayed this way.
- 6 Underground features Turgistan, a nation seemingly in the Middle East, likely based on Syria, though its people speak Turkmen.
- Played for laughs in Austin Powers International Man of Mystery. Dr. Evil steals a nuclear warhead from a breakaway Russian republic called Kreplachistan. Kreplach are a type of dumpling.
- A particularly blunt example in London Has Fallen:
Banning: Why don't you boys pack up your shit and head back to Fuckheadistan or wherever it is you're from?
- One of the Qurac-esque countries in Ernest in the Army is Karifistan.
- The Man Who Would be King is set in the fictional Kafiristan.
- War, Inc. is set in the fictional Turaqistan.
- Absurdistan is set in the titular fictional country.
- The Conan the Barbarian franchise has a counterpart of Afghanistan named "Afghulistan".
- Dear Dumb Diary: Jamie often uses the phrase "Wheretheheckistan" to refer to hypothetical far away places. The first usage is when her mother suggests children in poor countries would be grateful to eat her cooking, and Jamie remarks, "The kids in Wheretheheckistan have enough problems without dumping Mom's meatloaf on them."
- In the Discworld, Klatchistan serves as the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Afghanistan. Small Gods also mentions Ushistan and Istanzia among the countries conquered by Omnia.
- The final season of 24 revolves around a peace conference between the United States and the Middle Eastern state of Kamistan.
- Ambassadors is set in the fictional Central Asian country of Tazbekistan.
- The Blacklist: Redemption has Kyrkistan, located in the eastern part of Turkey, which borders Armenia. Its leader is an Expy of President Erdogan, complete with a crackdown on all forms of opposition. It's depicted to have Arabic as a main language despite the fact that it's located in Central Asia and is right next to Armenia.
- In the British series Bugs, one episode deals with learning the national language of Kazbekistan in order to pilot a stealth bomber built there and smuggled to Great Britain.
- Turmezistan makes two appearances in the Capaldi era of Doctor Who. The first is in "The Zygon Invasion"/"The Zygon Inversion", in which an area within it has been taken over by militant Zygons. It then appears in "The Pyramid at the End of the World", in which it's suddenly become a major geopolitical flashpoint, with American, Russian and Chinese military forces openly confronting each other there.
- One episode of I Love Lucy has Lucy try to get on Ricky's show by posing as a princess from the fictional country of Franistan. While discussing her plan with Ethel, they realize that a princess of a country ending in "-stan" would have a different title.
- Relic Hunter has an episode set in the Middle Eastern sultanate of Endostan.
- The 2011 revival of Yes, Minister renamed Qumran, the original show's Qurac, as Qumranistan.
- The second game features Takistan, a mash-up of Iraq and Afghanistan, ruled under obvious Saddam Hussein expy Muhammed R. Aziz.
- Karzeghistan, a small oil-rich nation located south of Takistan. It appears only in the backstory (although the map "Shapur" is said to be located in the border) as a stand-in for Kuwait.
- Battlefield: Bad Company has Serdaristan, named after its dictator, Zavimir Serdar.
- Beyond: Two Souls has Kazirstan, a communist Central Asian nation that is an obvious stand-in for China.
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) has Urzikstan, located hell-knows-where (Season 5 trailer places it on the Northeast side of what most probably is the Azov Sea, and Northwest of the distinctly Eastern European city of Verdansk). Despite having the -stan suffix, it's an Arab country, which as noted above is unheard of in real life. What makes it even more bizarre is that, even though it is located in the Caucasus Mountains like Chechnya (so it should've been a temperate, mountainous forest country), the landscape is nothing but a sandy wasteland the likes of Syrian Desert. (Funnily enough, Syria has a region similar to Chechnya (mountains of Latakia), but Urzikstan — despite being located in the same mountain range as Chechnya — doesn't.)
- Command & Conquer: Generals has Aldastan, a union between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It's located next to Kazakhstan.
- Diablo II has Kehjistan, which is based on South Asia, though interestingly has plenty of Mayincatec influences, a Darkest Africa feel, and is the seat of power of a monotheistic, very Christian influenced world religion.
- Diablo III elaborates on the kingdom's geography, by having the city of Kurast from the 2nd game be located in the southern jungle of the kingdom. The northern desert regions introduced in the 3rd game, especially the new capital city of Caldeum, take significantly larger amount of inspiration from Ottoman Turkey.
- Full Spectrum Warrior and Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers has Zekistan, said to be located in Central Asia, bordering Tajikistan, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- The nations of North and South Azbaristan in JASF: Jane's Advanced Strike Fighters. The countries are named "Phrase-istan", North Azbaristan is a military dictatorship, the island they're on is mostly scrubby desert, and the voice-overs all have vaguely Arabic- or Persian-sounding accents.
- Papers, Please:
- One of the countries featured is Obristan. In one of the endings, it's the country you and your family flee to.
- Jorji, a drug dealer who makes repeated attempts to cross the border, at one point tries to enter with a passport for a country called Cobrastan. This country doesn't actually exist in the game's universe, the reason you will be cited if you let him through. (It doesn't help that said passport is drawn in crayon.)
- The SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs series has the nation of Adjikistan, first featured as an ally of the West before it's revealed that they've been doing nasty things to its own citizens. It's located near Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- Melody mentions Donutistan, which is an obvious stand-in for America.
- Jreg has the country of Ancapistan, which has no government and is completely driven by capitalism. Communist and Nazi have to go through it to reach the Centrist HQ, but Anarcho-Capitalist makes them pay the toll and sings about it with several other inhabitants.
- Discussed by the Super Best Friends Zaibatsu in certain videos, with the name "Fakelandistan". It's brought up again in a podcast episode when they are discussing an attempt by the president of Kazakhstan to change the name to avert this trope. Pat theorizes that the negative reputation of certain countries with this nomenclature may be the reason.
- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: Bolbi Stroganovsky is a Foreign Exchange Student from Backhairistan.
- The Amazing World of Gumball: During his musical number, Gumball mentioned an unknown country and refered it as "Somewhere-stan".
Gumball: Send you to a wedding in Somewhere-stan with you as the bride
- Code Monkeys had Khakistan, whose population is 90% terrorists (according to text at the top of the screen), and the main export was khaki pants (which grow on cacti), and whose leader, King Huj Asman had kidnapped Dave and Todd (believing Todd to be Jerry) as to make games for the ImpalaVision consoles he stole to corner the market (as the US had pants subsidies, allowing The Gap to flood the market with cheap knockoffs, causing Kakhistan's economy to suffer). However, the Game-A-Vision staff manages to rescue them in time before the US bombs the hell out of the country (having thought that they had stolen the consoles to make a supercomputer that was capable of targeting the greatest infidel cities of the West; Dave had thought that too, only to have Asman to dismiss that as being "crazy" and then introduce his real plan). Also, they used to have magic and flying carpets, but the Jews somehow "stole their magic" (according to Asman).
- In The Fairly Oddparents, Timmy's maternal grandfather and grandmother, Vlad and Gladys, are yak farmers who come from a poor eastern European nation called "Ustinkistan" and speak with thick Slavic accents while wearing lederhosen and Horny Vikings helmets. The end of the episode reveals that they've become wealthy and fully accustomed to the American lifestyle and only go back to their roots around Yaksgiving.
- M.K. 22's first episode gives us Tanjakistan, an ex-Soviet Central Asian republic and home of the Free Armenian National Tanjakistan Army - a rebel group that offers nuclear weapons for sale.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, the yaks live in a place called Yak Yakistan. It is a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to Central Asia with some European elements like a festival called Yickslurbertfest.
- Yin Yang Yo!: There's a country called Redneckistan, which — as the name indicates — is full of Deep South stereotypes.
- There are seven countries with this name in Real Life: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The latter five are self-explanatory; Afghanistan means "land of the Afghans", Afghan being the historical name for ethnic Pashtuns, who form a plurality of the country's population; while Pakistan is an acronym of "Punjab, Afghanianote , Kashmir, Sindh, Balochistan", the names of the regions making up the country (it also coincides with the Persian word for "land of the pure"). The Central Asian ex-Soviet countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have on occasion been collectively referred to as "The Stans".
- In Central Asia itself, locals sometimes perceive the suffix as offensive, and there were several attempts to change it. The Russian Government officially refers to Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan as "Kyrgyzia" and "Turkmenia".
- Some countries have regional divisions suffixed with "-stan":
- Russia has the Republics of Bashkortostan, Dagestan and Tatarstan.
- The aforementioned Uzbekistan has an autonomous region called Karakalpakstan.
- Afghanistan has Nuristan ("land of light"), so named because its population eventually accepted Islam after centuries brushing it off (before then, it was Kafiristan, "land of infidels").
- Baltistan is a region in Pakistan where the second-highest mountain the world, K2, is located.
- Iran, being the place where the suffix came from in the first place, is rife with this. From the provinces' names alone, there are Kurdistan, Lorestan, Khuzestan, and Sistan and Baluchestan. In fact, the Persian word for "province" is ostan, which is simply "stan" with a prefix added. The Persian language also has a few other, non-regional terms derived from "stan", like bostan (literally "place of flowers" but actually meaning "garden").
- Balochistan is a region encompassing most of Pakistan and parts of Iran and Afghanistan.
- Kurdistan is a vaguely delineated region that encompasses parts of Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and Syria. While not an officially recognized entity,note the area is primarily populated by people of Kurdish descent; use of Kurdish language and a sense of Kurdish cultural identification is prevalent.
- Turkestan is the historical name of Central Asia. It was given that name because, as the name implies, the region has been populated mainly by Turkic-speaking peoples for a long time. When the Russians subjugated it, their part of the region was known as "Russian Turkestan". The part conquered by the Qing dynasty was known as the "East Turkestan" and today better known as Xinjiang. The modern Kazakh city of Turkistan is a shortening of "Hazrat-i Turkistan", meaning "the Blessed One of Turkestan", because it contains the mausoleum of Khoja Ahmad Yasavi, the earliest poet to write in Turkic.
- Despite its association with Central Asia and Islamic countries, "-stan" is still a linguistic rather than a religious designation and there are many examples where it denotes non-Muslim places or things.
- Armenia, the oldest Christian nation in the world, is known in Armenian as "Hayastan" ("Hay" being the endonym for Armenians). The "-stan" used here is not from Persian, but rather a loan from Parthian, an extinct Iranian language that was the prestige language of the Iranian Plateau during the era of the Arsacids (3rd century BCE-3rd century CE). It literally means the same thing as "-stan" in Persian, though. Armenian borrowed a great deal from Parthian because the country had an Arsacid ruling dynasty for three centuries; 50% of Classical Armenian's vocabulary consists of Parthian loanwords.
- Hindustan ("land of the Sindhu") is the Persian name for India. Native Indians started using it because the subcontinent was ruled by Persian-speaking overlords for centuries. Technically, the name is used for a specific region of northern India, where the Hindi and Urdu languages are spoken; taken together, Hindi and Urdu are also known as Hindustani. In modern India, "Bharat" is used to mean the country in general, while "Hindustan" is used specifically for that region where Hindustani is spoken.
- Rajasthan (note the "h"),note a state in modern India, has the same situation as Armenia in that the "-stan" suffix is not a Persian borrowing. It's actually Sanskrit, which, being an Indo-Iranian language, is distantly related to Persian. Not so coincidentally, it is also a productive suffix for place names.
- Turkish, which borrows "-stan" from Persian, refers to many countries in the world with it, not just Muslim-majority ones. There are Yunanistan (Greece), Bulgaristan (Bulgaria), Hırvatistan (Croatia), Macaristan (Hungary), Gürcistan (Georgia), Ermenistan (Armenia), Moğolistan (Mongolia), and Hindistan (India).
- Arabistan (... take a guess) is the Persian name for the Arabian Peninsula, but it's also at times been used as a name for the Iranian province of Khuzestan, where the majority of ethnically Arab Iranians live.
- The Bantustans were territories in apartheid-era South Africa (including what is now Namibia) reserved for various segments of the black majority. They were replaced in 1994 by the current provinces.
- Sometimes, Western cities with a large Muslim population will have a derogatory nickname with a "-stan" or "-istan" suffix, such as "Londonistan" (London, UK) and "Dearbornistan" (Dearborn, Michigan), which usually invokes xenophobic stereotypes against Muslim immigrants.
- A mean-spirited meme about North American politics does this. The most common version of this joke is pro-liberal, it labels all the USA states that voted Democrat ("blue states") along with Canada the United States of Canada, and the states that voted Republican ("red states") Dumbfuckistan. The less common pro-conservative version labels the red states (and occasionally the more conservative Canadian territories) the United States of America and the blue states and Canada as "Soviet Canuckistan".
- When asked about how he would answer a "gotcha" question during his 2012 presidential campaign, Herman Cain replied, "When they ask me who's the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, I'm going to say, 'You know, I don't know. Do you know?'"
- Absurdistan is a term used satirically to describe a country with an absurd government.
- On the Balkans, adding the "-stan" suffix to one's country name (such as a Bulgarian saying "Bulgaristan") has a derogatory undertone, referring to the late years of Ottoman rule which is remembered as backwards, corrupt and cruel. "Absurdistan" above is used in the same context.
- There have been multiple proposals to give the Romani a country to call their own. One of the more popular names for a hypothetical Romani homeland is "Romanistan".
- Sikh separatists have called for a Sikh-based state in South Asia known as "Khalistan". The Indian government doesn't tolerate this and calls anyone backing this a separatist.