Central Asia

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Central Asia map

Central Asia or Central Asia is a summary term for the greater region in the center of the continent of Asia . Over the past few decades, ideas about which countries should belong have changed again and again.

Delimitation and terms

Central Asia in the general sense
Central Asia in the strict sense
The topography of Central Asia

Today, Central Asia in the narrower sense mostly includes Kazakhstan , Kyrgyzstan , Uzbekistan , Tajikistan and Turkmenistan . In 2012 these five states had 64.7 million inhabitants. This classification of Central Asia is used, among others, by the UN Statistics Commission (UNSD).

Some representations complement Afghanistan , Mongolia , eastern Iran , northern Pakistan , Kashmir as well as Xinjiang and Tibet in western China in changing combinations . This corresponds to the more comprehensive definition of Central Asia by UNESCO , it includes not only the Central Asian steppe country but also the inner-continental high mountain areas around the Hindu Kush , Himalayas and Tienshan .

Another definition includes all states or regions in Central Asia that have no access to the ocean, or the regions in the interior of Asia whose rivers do not drain into an ocean. According to this point of view, in addition to the five states mentioned above, there are also the peripheral states on the Caucasus, Armenia , Azerbaijan , Georgia and the centrally located Mongolia.

Among geography and social scientists, however, the definition of Central Asia as all 5 "stans" of the former Soviet Union and Afghanistan is the most widespread and generally accepted.

In the past, Central Asia was referred to as the country of the Tatars due to the Turkish population , as Bukhara due to the political dominance of Tajik populations, or as Turkestan in the course of the Russian colonization , whereby a distinction was made between West and East Turkestan, and North and South Turkestan. In some cases, South Turkestan , Afghanistan, as well as Mongolia and the Gobi Desert ( Inner Mongolia ) in the east are included in Central Asia. Geographically, southern Russia , which borders Kazakhstan, would also be part of it .

CAC countries

The Central Asia and Caucasus (short: CAC ) countries are eight states, five of which belong to Central Asia and three to the Caucasus . Central Asia includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and the Caucasus includes Armenia , Azerbaijan and Georgia .

Central Asia, Central Asia, Inner Asia

formerly Soviet Central Asia (political), 2010

Russian and Soviet geographers differentiate between "Central Asia" (Srednjaja Asija) , which includes the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, and "Kazakhstan", which had a special position, and the rarely used term "Central Asia" (Zentralnaja Asija) . According to this definition, the latter includes Mongolia and the Central Asian parts of China. Based on this Russian usage, a distinction was made between Central Asia and Central Asia in the GDR . In the Federal Republic of Germany, the term “Soviet Central Asia” was used as a collective term for the area of ​​the then Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Turkmen and Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic .

The vast inner-Asian endorheic basin

In non-German Western European language usage, the terms Central Asia and Central Asia were often used synonymously, while Inner Asia was distinguished from them. To Central Asia in the strict sense only to Xinjiang (East Turkestan), the Outer Mongolia , Tibet and the Republic of Tuva counted in Siberian Russia. In a broader sense, however, it includes the entire Inner Asian Basin , the ( endorheic ) depression hydrographically isolated from all oceans from the area around Moscow over the Caspian Sea to Mongolia and not far from the Bay of Bengal.

Recently - more politically than geographically - the term “Central Asia” has often been restricted to the five now independent former Soviet republics in the center of Asia.


In ancient times and the Middle Ages , Central Asia was characterized by tribal societies, some of which were very successful in forming great empires or in the area of ​​the Chinese, Indian, Iranian and European high cultures. Examples are the Scythians , Xiongnu , Huns , Saken , Wusun and Mongols .

The history of Central Asia has some peculiarities, including the interplay of nomads and settled people (agriculture, cities), the very high importance of the horse and the peculiarity of steppes . Central Asia was also an important crossroads of many influences from the surrounding cultures from the Mediterranean region in the west to the Iranian and Indian cultures to China in the east. Not only goods, but also technical, cultural and religious ideas were exchanged. The cultural-historical importance of Central Asia “... consisted in creating wide and dense land connections, communication and traffic systems between the great cultures of the Old World and thus becoming a multicultural meeting place and exchange between the ancient and medieval cultures of the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia and Iran as well as India and East Asia. "


Alexander Reich

In the 5th century BC Chr. Handed the Persian Achaemenid Empire under King Darius I to Central Asia, although it always came back to fighting with nomadic tribes at the city's border. The Macedonian king Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire in the course of the Alexanderzug and established it by 323 BC. A large empire of its own, which also reached as far as Central Asia in the Ferghana Valley and provided diverse cultural impulses. The Alexander empire soon collapsed and the successors in Syria, Mesopotamia and Iran were the Seleucids . The Greek influence in the age of Hellenism , which was very effective in Central Asia, was evident both in the Seleucid Empire and in the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom (both 3rd and 2nd centuries BC). In the course of the Hellenization attempt , new cities were founded and Greeks settled in smaller numbers; A relatively well-researched example of this is the excavation of Ai Khanoum in what is now northern Afghanistan.

In the 3rd century BC The Seleucids lost control in this area after the previously mentioned Greek-Bactrian kingdom established itself and spread to northern India (see also Indo-Greek kingdom ). Although Greek Bactria soon perished in the course of attacks by various steppe peoples, there was a mutual and productive process of cultural and economic exchange in the period that followed.

The development of the Silk Road with its wedding in antiquity from the 2nd century BC. BC until the Middle Ages in the 13th century AD shaped at least the southern part of the region.

The Silk Road in Central Asia in the Middle Ages

The Silk Road stretched in Central Asia from the eastern Iranian plateau and the city of Merw in the west to the Gobi desert and the city of Dunhuang in the east and the branch in the south to Kashmir and Peshawar . It connected three of the most important Asian cultural areas: Iran , India and China . The country is characterized by deserts with old oasis cities, the Kazak steppe in the west and the Mongolian steppe in the east as well as high mountains.

A large number of peoples worked in Central Asia during this time:

  • The Saks already met Alexander the Great and appeared in the 1st century BC. BC in northern India and formed an empire in the Tarim Basin until the 10th century .
  • The nomadic Xiongnu established in Gansu and Mongolia in the 3rd century BC. An empire that was founded in 48 BC. Split. Some tribes later settled the Ordos Plateau , their rule in Mongolia ended in 155 AD.
  • The Yuezhi migrated from Gansu to Bactria in the 2nd century BC. From about 100 to 250 AD the Kushana empire emerged from their dominion, stretching from Amu Darya in the north to far into India. Parts of the empire existed until the beginning of the 4th century. The Yuezhi are usually equated with the Tochars known from ancient Greek and Latin as well as late ancient Chinese sources .
The Ili River , 2006
  • The so-called Iranian Huns , which most likely had no direct relationship with the Huns in Europe, built in the 5th / 6th centuries. Century own rulers in Bactria. These include the Kidarites , the Alchon group, the Nezak group and finally the Hephthalites . The Chionites , who were probably connected with the Kidarites , appeared before that in the 4th century .
  • The Sogdians did not form a state, but for a long time shaped the cultural life in the oasis cities and played an important role in the economic life of the Silk Road. The Sogdian city-states, like other formations of rule along the old trade routes, went under in connection with the Islamic expansion and the Turkish conquest of Central Asia (see Dēwāštič and Ghurak ).
  • The nomadic Rouran established an empire in AD 400 that stretched from the Tarim Basin to the far east and lasted until AD 552.
  • The originally nomadic Tabgatsch settled down, founded the Northern Wei Dynasty and in the 5th and 6th centuries ruled the area between Northern China, the Tarim Basin and the Mongolian steppe
The First Kaganat of the Kök Turks at the partition in 552.
  • The Kök Turks founded the first Turk Kaganat in 552 AD with two parts: The Eastern Empire comprised the area of ​​what is now Mongolia and extended to the Altai in the west and to Manchuria in the east, while the Western Empire focused on the Ili area and in the west had changeable borders - in 576/77 it conquered Byzantine territories in the Crimea.
  • The Second Turk Kaganat followed in 682 in eastern Central Asia , the Uighur Kaganat in 745 and the Kyrgyz Empire in 840

In late antiquity , the neo-Persian Sassanid Empire (3rd to 7th centuries AD) proved to be an important political power factor on the western edge of Central Asia. Between the Persians and various nomad groups (collectively referred to as the Iranian Huns ) there were often fierce battles in which the Persians could no longer hold the border on the Amu-Darja line and had to surrender Tocharistan (Bactria). As a result of the wars, the economic and cultural center of the region shifted from Tocharistan to Transoxania . The nomad groups were primarily interested in material goods from the Sassanid Empire, some of which had to pay tribute. It was not until the middle of the 6th century (around 562) that the important Sassanid king Chosrau I destroyed the Hephthalite empire in alliance with the Western Turks , who, however, took the place of the Hephthalites as opponents of Persia. In the early 7th century, however, the Sassanid Empire went through a phase of severe military confrontations with the Eastern Roman Empire ; the Persians were defeated in 628 and the weakened Sassanid Empire soon fell victim to the Arab attacks.

See also: Central Asia in Late Antiquity .

Islamic expansion and the beginning of the Middle Ages

The Islamic expansion until 750.

In the course of Islamic expansion , the Arabs from the west advanced to the borders of China and India by 712 . In Transoxania they conquered the Turkish empires, combined with slow Islamization, although the Arabs were stubbornly resisted by various tribes and individual Sogdian city-states. In today's Afghanistan, until the 11th century, first the Turk Shahi , then the Hindu Shahi , opposed the Muslim attackers. The Arab advance into western and central India was prevented by the defeat of 738 by the rulers of Sindh . In 751, the Arabs defeated a Chinese army in the Battle of the Talas , as supposedly large parts of the troops viewed the Arabs as liberators and defected to them. The Arab advance ended here, in the following years the Chinese influence in Central Asia was pushed back in favor of the Arab-Islamic one.

The ruler of the Uighurs adopted the Manichaean faith in 762 . In 846 the Uyghur Kaganat was destroyed by the Kyrgyz and the Uyghurs moved to the oasis cities of the Silk Road, including the Tarim Basin , Turfan and Kocho . To the south of it, the Tibetan monarchy emerged in the 7th century and fell in 842.

From 840 the kingdom of the Turkic-speaking Kyrgyz included the areas between Lena, Irtysh, Lake Baikal and the Tianshan. As early as 924, the Kyrgyz were displaced from the Mongolian steppe by the Kitan and withdrew to their home region. Mongolian tribes infiltrated the resulting power vacuum. The Kyrgyz submitted to the Mongols in 1207/8, but shortly afterwards rebelled unsuccessfully and their name disappeared for almost two centuries. The Lia empire founded by the Kitan ended in 1116.

Other rulers in West Central Asia:

  • The Samanids ruled Transoxania and Khorasan from 819 to 1005 ; they were formally the Caliphate of the Abbasids .
  • The Ghaznavids conquered from 977 the saminidischen provinces south of the Amu Darya and ruled until 1186 in the eastern part of Central Asia.
  • The Qarakhanids conquered Transoxania in 992 and agreed with the Ghaznavids in 1001 on the Amur Darya as the border between their empires.
  • The Seljuks , whose sovereignty also had to recognize the Karakhanids, became the new supremacy, with a heyday between 1047 and 1157.
  • The Kara Kitai defeated the Seljuks allied with the Qarakhanids in 1141.
  • The kingdom of the Anushteginids , who began as vassals of the Seljuks in 1077 and had conquered a large part of Central Asia by 1219.

Mongol Empire and successor states

  • Mongol Empire,
  • from 1260 the empire was divided into:
  • Golden Horde territory
  • Chagatai Khanate
  • Area of ​​the Ilkhan
  • Empire of the Yuan Dynasty
  • The Mongols were nomadic peoples who were surrounded by highly developed agricultural and urban cultures in the 13th century, but none of which had strong central authority. Thanks to superior warfare, the Mongols combined these regions into a kind of association of states with political and economic interests. From 1206 to 1260 the unified Mongolian Empire existed , which was divided into several parts: Golden Horde , Chagatai Khanate , Empire of the Ilkhan and the Empire of the Yuan Dynasty . In 1468 there was another unified empire.

    Between the 13th and 17th centuries, the Chagatai Khanate , which emerged from the Mongol Empire, ruled large parts of Central Asia. The ruling Khan had his residence in the city of Almalyq, today's Gulja .

    The Timurid dynasty was a Muslim ruling house founded by Timur (Tamerlane), who ruled an empire in Central and Southwest Asia (in the area of ​​today's states Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan) from 1370 to 1507. The capital was initially Samarkand , later also Herat . Descendants of this dynasty, who could no longer assert their dominion in Central Asia and Khorasan against the Uzbeks and Safavids , extended their influence to almost all of India in the 16th century and founded the Mughal empire there , which continued into the mid-19th century duration.

    Trade between India and Central Asia is likely to have grown rapidly as a result of this conquest from 1526 onwards. The cavalry of the Timurids and later the successor states alone needed around 100,000 horses annually in the 17th century, most of which were supplied from Central Asia. Fruits were also traded. Conversely, cotton, textiles, dyes such as indigo and slaves came from India to Central Asia.

    The Kazakh Khanate with the territory
  • of the Little Horde
  • of the Middle Horde
  • of the Great Horde
  • In the 15th century, more steppe peoples appeared:

    • From 1447 the Uzbeks established the Uzbeks Khanate , which in 1506 became the Bukhara Khanate and was later called the Emirate of Bukhara . The Khiva Khanate was founded in Khorezm in 1512 and ended in 1873. The Kokand Khanate existed from 1710 to 1876 .
    • From the 15th century, the Central Asian steppe nomads called themselves again Kazak-Kyrgyz and residents of the mountainous region Kazak-Kyrgyz - both were in a loose alliance. The Kazakhs emerged from the Kazak Kyrgyz - they tried to establish their own rule in the northern steppe areas, in competition with the Uzbeks, and in 1509 founded the Kazakh Khanate, which existed until 1848 . From the Kara-Kyrgyz, who came under the rule of the Oirats from 1640, the present-day Kyrgyz emerged.
    • The Oirats were a western Mongolian tribe in the time of Genghis Khan, who controlled large parts of Central Asia as a tribal confederation from the 15th to the 18th century. A subgroup of the Oirats were the Djungars , who established the Djungarian Khanate in 1638 .

    The time from 1700

    External powers became dominant in Central Asia: China under the Qing dynasty , which occupied Tibet in 1730, Russia, which, after reaching the Pacific, now expanded south and had concluded a first border treaty with China, the Treaty of Nerchinsk , in 1689 , and finally Great Britain which expanded its influence in India. The historian J. Paul regards the year 1740 as the limit of the epoch, also because on the one hand the first requests from steppe peoples to be accepted as Russian subjects (from 1731) gave the Russian advance a new impetus and on the other hand the conquests of Nadir Shah 1740–47 the power structure of Central Asia changed: instead of one khanate there were now three, and the rule of the Durrani was established in Afghanistan ; all four empires managed without Genghisid legitimation.

    Russian advance

    As early as the 16th century, Russia had built a long line of Cossack settlements on its southeastern borders from the Caspian Sea to the Altai Mountains , the bases of which were Orenburg , Petropawl , Omsk , Semipalatinsk (today Semei ) and Ust-Kamenogorsk (today Öskemen ) and the Kazakhs to prevent incursions into the Volga region and western Siberia . However, the Kazakhs often broke through the Russian lines and attacked settlements.

    In the early age of imperialism , Russia extended its sphere of influence to Turkestan . After the dissolution of both the Small Horde in 1822 and the Middle Horde in 1824, Kazakh independence was undermined. Border posts were set up in the steppe. Unsuccessful expeditions against the Khiva Khanate followed . In the 1840s the bases were pushed out into the steppe. Russia invaded areas claimed by the Kokand Khanate but practically undefended. Kasalinsk (now Qasaly ) was reached in 1853, and Alma-Ata was founded a year later . The advance was halted by the Crimean War .

    In 1864 new operations began and Djambul (today Taras ), Jassy and Tschimkent (today Schymkent ) were conquered. The Russians reached the Chu River and surrounded the Kazak Steppes with a ring of forts. In 1867 the newly won territories were placed under a military governor as "Oblast Turkestan". After that, the city of Khujand was conquered, and as a result, the Khan of Kokand, Khudayar Khan, declared himself a vassal of the tsar. A new campaign against the emirate of Bukhara followed, in 1868 the Russians took Samarqand .

    Central Asia at the end of the 19th century

    The ceded areas were incorporated into the General Government of Turkestan , which was founded on July 11, 1867. In 1873 the Khiva Khanate was finally conquered. After a period of uncertainty and an unsuccessful uprising, Kokand was conquered by General Skobelev in 1876 and incorporated as an oblast.

    Russia had already gained a foothold in the area south of the Amur Darya . In 1881–1885, the Trans-Caspian region was annexed during a campaign, and Ashgabat and Merw came under Russian control.


    1748 in Khorasan the Pashtun dynasty Durrani founded whose emirs as "ruler of Khorasan" forerunners of the modern state of Afghanistan were. In 1863 Herat finally fell to Afghanistan.

    The Russian expansion southward came to a standstill in 1887 when the northern Afghan border was established with the adversary Great Britain, which at the same time formed the demarcation line of the spheres of interest and influence.

    Great Britain had acquired Kashmir as a protectorate in 1846 , but could not prevail in two wars 1839–1842 and 1878–1880 in Afghanistan. Afghanistan became a buffer state between the two imperial powers, which was confirmed in the Treaty of Saint Petersburg in 1907 (see The Great Game ).


    In the east of Central Asia, the Chinese Empire of the Qing Dynasty managed to expand its influence. From 1640 it was able to gradually attract the Mongols to its side. In campaigns from 1690–97 to northern Mongolia, the Djungars were defeated and the Khalka were subdued. In further campaigns, the Djungars could also be subdued and the Tarim Basin conquered from 1756–59 . Claims were also made in the areas on the Ili and north of the Tienschan. Thus, under Emperor Qianlong around 1757, the area of Sinkiang was under Chinese control.

    Since 1825/26 there have been repeated uprisings among the Muslim populations of the cities, the khans of Kokand constantly causing unrest in the areas around Yarkant and Kashgar . In 1867 the autocratic warlord Jakub Bek proclaimed an Islamic emirate in the region . The Chinese general Zuo Zongtang succeeded in driving out the self-proclaimed emir in 1877 and uniting Djungaria and the Tarim Basin to form Sinkiang Province (Chinese: "New Frontier").

    Russia conquered Kokand in 1876 and integrated this area into Russian Turkestan . The Ili region was also part of Russia from 1871 to 1881 . Until the Xinhai Revolution in 1911, Sinkiang was de facto the zone of influence of the Russian Empire, although the province was part of China. After the founding of the Republic of China (1912–1949) , various warlords dominated the region , some of whom received financial and military support from the Soviet Union from 1921 onwards.

    In 1934 the Soviet invasion of Sinkiang took place . In fact, the province was then a Soviet protectorate until 1944. First the USSR supported the warlord Sheng Shicai , then Kazakh nationalists, who in 1944 proclaimed the Republic of East Turkestan based on the Soviet model . Until the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the USSR maintained military bases in Xinjiang, dominated the economy and led military expeditions in the Ili -type region against both the Nationalist Chinese under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek and against the Chinese Communists led by Mao Zedong by . It was not until December 17, 1949 that Sinkiang came fully under control of the Chinese central government.


    Golden stupa in the monastery complex Erdene Dsuu ( Mongolia )

    After the collapse of the Chinese Qing Dynasty in 1911, Outer Mongolia declared itself independent with Russian support. China did not recognize the secession and only signed a Russian-Chinese agreement on November 5, 1913, under threat of military occupation of Mongolia, the content of which was confirmed on June 25, 1915 by the Treaty of Kyakhta (1915) . In this, Russia renounced its influence in Inner Mongolia , while China had to undertake to grant Outer Mongolia extensive autonomy rights. After the October Revolution , the national Chinese took advantage of Russia's weakness and reintegrated Outer Mongolia into the Republic of China on November 27, 1919 .

    Between 1920 and 1921 troops of the White Army under the leadership of Roman von Ungern-Sternberg occupied most of Mongolia, who on March 13, 1921, proclaimed an independent state with a monarchical regime in Outer Mongolia and nominally appointed Bogd Khan as head of state. On July 3, 1921, the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Army , consisting of 260 guerrilla fighters and 10,000 Russian Red Army soldiers, marched into Outer Mongolia and quickly occupied Urga, today's Ulaanbaatar . The Soviet Union then set up a puppet government , but temporarily retained the form of government of a constitutional monarchy with Bogd Khan as the representative head. After his death, Outer Mongolia was declared a " People's Republic " on July 13, 1924 as the first Soviet satellite state. On November 26, 1924, the Mongolian People's Republic received a constitution that set the goal of “socialist transformation while circumventing capitalism”.


    Until the beginning of the 18th century, Tibet remained a state under Mongolian influence. In 1717, the Djungars occupied the Tibetan capital Lhasa and weakened the power of the Mongols. As a result, the Manchurian Emperor Kangxi gave orders to march to Lhasa in 1720, put the 7th Dalai Lama in office and declared Tibet a protectorate . From 1727 the Manchurian emperors exerted direct influence on the Tibetan government without questioning its existence. Phola Tedji (1728–1747) received as ruler of Tibet from the Manchu Emperor Qianlong a royal title and created his own Tibetan army with 25,000 soldiers. From 1751 to 1756 the 7th Dalai Lama Kelsang Gyatsho also took over the political government. With the expansion of the powers of a Dalai Lama, the Manchurian protectorate effectively ended as a form of rule in Tibet and the construct of sovereignty that existed for 160 years began.

    The British first attempted contact with Tibet in 1774. During the Great Games in the 19th century, Russia wanted to gain strong diplomatic influence over Tibet. The attempts of Lord George Curzon , the British Viceroy of India , to use diplomatic means to curb this influence in return have been ignored by the Tibetan government. In response to this attitude, which was seen as an affront , the British Tibet campaign began in November 1903 under the direction of Francis Younghusband . After the occupation of Lhasa and the flight of the 13th Dalai Lama to Mongolia , the British dictated an agreement to the Tibetan representatives and the Amban of the Qing Emperor in September 1904 to open the border for trade with British India . In 1906 this contract was confirmed by the Chinese government.

    Lhasa in 1938

    In the Treaty of St. Petersburg of 1907 , England and Russia agreed on their spheres of interest in Central Asia and established Manchu-China suzerainty over Tibet. In 1910 the Manchurians sent their own military expedition to reinforce this claim. The Dalai Lama, having barely returned from exile , fled again, this time to India. As a result of the Chinese Revolution in October 1911, most of the Chinese troops left Tibet. The Dalai Lama returned and entered Lhasa in June 1912. After the last Manchu-Chinese troops had been driven out, the Dalai Lama solemnly proclaimed the independence of Tibet on February 14, 1913. In Tibet, a state that was now independent of China developed and existed for over four decades. At the same time a friendship treaty was signed with Mongolia . Weakened China made no serious attempts to fend off Tibetan independence.

    After the First World War

    "Bureaucrat" in Bukhara, around 1910
    Fires in Bukhara following attacks by the Red Army, September 1, 1920

    As a result of the turmoil of the Russian Revolution, various state structures emerged in Russian Central Asia from 1917: 1917 to 1920 in the north of Alasch Orda , in 1917 the Kokander Autonomy and 1918 to 1924 the Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic of Turkestan .

    The ousted Emir of Bukhara, Said Alim Khan , rallied fighters against the Soviets with British help, but was pushed to Afghanistan by the Red Army in early 1921. At the end of 1921 his followers crossed the border again and allied themselves with the Basmati and Enver Pasha . Enver, appointed by Alim Khan as commander in chief, wanted to unite the Islamic and Turkic peoples of Central Asia in a separate state. He conquered Dushanbe and occupied all of eastern Bukhara (Tajikistan), but was defeated by the Soviets in the summer of 1922 and fell in battle.

    The victory of the Soviet power in Central Asia led to a wave of opposition, especially conservative Uzbeks and Turkmens, emigrating to northern Afghanistan, where the refugees settled mainly around Mazar-e Sharif in the 1920s .

    In October 1920 Alasch Orda became part of the (first) Kyrgyz Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic , from which the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic emerged in 1925/36 .

    In 1924/25 the Soviet republics in Central Asia were restructured according to national criteria. In October 1924, the Turkestan ASSR was dissolved and the (second) Kyrgyz Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was formed, which in 1936 became the Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic . In the years up to 1929, the Uzbek SSR , the Turkmen SSR and the Tajik SSR were established .

    After the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, China extended its supremacy back to Tibet and Xinjiang. In May / October 1951 the " Tibet Autonomous Region " was created, and in September 1955 the " Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region " was created.

    In Afghanistan , during the Saur Revolution in 1978, the communist-style Democratic People's Party of Afghanistan took power in Kabul and tried to transform society with Soviet support. This met with military resistance in some regions. With the invasion of Soviet troops in December 1979, the civil war developed into a ten-year proxy war (→ Soviet intervention in Afghanistan ) between the Soviet occupying power and the Islamic guerrillas ( mujahideen ). In 1989 the Soviet troops withdrew; the Soviet-backed government under President Mohammed Najibullah was able to hold out until 1992.

    In 1991 the five Central Asian Soviet republics became independent in the course of the dissolution of the Soviet Union .


    With the end of the Soviet Union and the strengthening of China, the areas of Central Asia, which had long been on the outskirts, are again attracting more public attention. In a broader sense it includes

    Railroad with TE 33A locomotive at a cemetery near Scholoman, Issyk Kul region , Kazakhstan

    There is an accumulation of unsolved, often bloody conflicts in the region . There is an overlap between ethnic conflicts and Islamist tendencies, as well as the attempts by Russia to restore lost influence and the attempts by China and the USA to gain influence and the efforts of all three great powers to oppose Islamism.

    The mineral resources are also important , such as the oil and gas deposits in western Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, as well as the routes for the pipelines required for transport . China, in particular, is planning to purchase extensive natural gas from the region in the future.

    At the end of 2014, the situation was as follows: The USA reduced its commitment, Russia lacks the funds for its further plans and China seems to be gaining the upper hand - China is now the most important trading partner for Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

    Organizations and initiatives in the region

    The Organization for Economic Cooperation (ECO), founded by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey in 1985, joined Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

    Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan have been members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) founded in the same year ; Turkmenistan has only been a member since 2005.

    In 1996, the Shanghai Five Group (Shanghai Five) was founded in Shanghai; it consisted of the People's Republic of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In 2001, after the accession of Uzbekistan, this became the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), whose goals are to promote trust, cooperation and peace in the region.

    Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, but not Tajikistan, are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which was founded in 2002 and to which Russia and other former Soviet republics belong.

    In 1999, US interests in Central Asia were defined in the USA with the “ Silk Road Strategy ”.

    Numerous Western troops have been stationed in Afghanistan since 2001 as part of the ISAF mission. They are supplied via a German air force base in Termez ( Uzbekistan ) and a French air force base in Dushanbe ( Tajikistan ).

    In December 2007, the “UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia” (UNRCCA) was established in Ashgabad (Turkmenistan ). The facility aims to support the governments of Central Asia in facing common “challenges”; Organized crime, drug smuggling, terrorism and environmental damage are mentioned.

    On September 22nd, 2011, 30 states and organizations founded the “New Silk Road” initiative as part of the support for Afghanistan. Her goal: "As in the times of the historic Silk Road, Afghanistan should become a regional hub between Central and South Asia and the Middle East".

    On June 12, 2012, the first India-Central Asia Dialogue took place in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), organized by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA). The Indian Foreign Minister E. Ahamed formulated the Indian Connect Central Asia policy there (something like: "Include Central Asia").

    Geography and vegetation

    Lake Balkhash

    The vegetation is characterized by the extreme continental and dry climate. In the north of Central Asia there are wide, treeless steppes , parts of a steppe belt that extends to Eastern Europe, called the Eurasian steppe . These include the Kazakh steppe , the Kulunda steppe and the Mongolian steppe.

    In the south there are large deserts: Karakum , Kyzylkum , Taklamakan and Gobi . In the south-east rise large mountains on and beyond the borders of the region: Tian Shan , Alai Mountains , Altai and Pamir Mountains . Large parts of the area are too dry or too rocky for agricultural use. A large part of the population lives from cattle breeding, mostly as nomads . Industry is concentrated in the urban centers.

    Important rivers are Amu Darya , Syr Darya , Serafshan , Hari Rud , Murgab , Ili and the Tarim . Large bodies of water are the Aral Sea and the Balkhash Sea , both lost in size because too much water was taken from their tributaries for artificial irrigation. The Caspian Sea forms the border of the region to the west.


    Ethnic map of Central Asia

    The western and central part is mainly inhabited by Turkic peoples and culturally influenced by Islam . These include the Kazakhs in the north, the Kyrgyz in the southeast, the Uzbeks in the south, the Turkmens in the southwest, the Karakalpak minority living on the Aral Sea in the west and the Uyghurs living in the east and in Sinkiang . The Tajiks , an Iranian people , live in the southeast, most of them also Islamic. In the north, especially on the border with Russia, there are many predominantly Christian Orthodox Russians and Ukrainians . Other minorities are Tatars and Germans (especially Kyrgyz Germans and Kazakh Germans ).

    The sparsely populated Sinkiang is inhabited by Tibetans and Mongols and shaped by Lamaist Buddhism . In recent times the proportion of Chinese has increased due to immigration .

    Historically, peoples lived in the region who were able to cultivate the steppe and followed a more nomadic way of life, as well as townspeople who gave the oases their character through trade and handicrafts.

    In the cities dominated as lingua franca , the Persian market activity and craft, while Turkish and Mongolian dialects were spoken in the steppe regions.

    Due to Central Asia being part of the Russian Empire and later to the Soviet Union , the Russian language has now replaced Persian as the lingua franca in the region. Several million Russians and members of other peoples of the former Soviet Union live all over Central Asia .



    • Central Asian Survey
    • Central Asia analyzes

    Web links

    Wiktionary: Central Asia  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


    1. ^ Svante E. Cornell: Modernization and Regional Cooperation in Central Asia: A New Spring? . Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and the Silk Road Studies,.
    2. See also regional breakdowns
    3. Central Asia ( Memento of October 5, 2010 in the Internet Archive ), unesco.org → Regions , as of 2010.
    4. ^ Svante E. Cornell, S. Frederick Starr: Modernization and Regional Cooperation in Central Asia: A New Spring? (2018); Sally N. Cummings: Understanding Central Asia: Politics and Contested Transformations. London 2012.
    5. ^ Jürgen Paul : Central Asia. Frankfurt am Main 2012, p. 46ff.
    6. Bert Fragner: Does Central Asia have a chance with us? Questions to research and development policy. Working paper, lecture in Banz at the conference of the Working Group on the Contemporary Orient. 1993, p. 3f., Quoted from: Marion Linska, Andrea Handl, Gabriele Rasuly-Paleczek: Introduction to the ethnology of Central Asia. Script. Vienna 2003, p. 49.
    7. ↑ In summary, cf. Michael Alram: The history of Eastern Iran from the Greek kings in Bactria and India to the Iranian Huns (250 BC - 700 AD). In: Wilfried Seipel (Hrsg.): Weihrauch und Silk. Ancient cultures on the Silk Road. Vienna 1996, pp. 119-140.
    8. Hans-Joachim Klimkeit: The Silk Road. DuMont-Buchverlag, Cologne 1990, p. 8.
    9. Hans-Joachim Klimkeit: The Silk Road. DuMont-Buchverlag, Cologne 1990, p. 50ff.
    10. The concept of the Iranian Huns goes back to the numismatic research of Robert Göbl : Robert Göbl: Documents on the history of the Iranian Huns in Bactria and India. 4 volumes. Wiesbaden 1967.
    11. ^ Jürgen Paul: Central Asia. Frankfurt am Main 2012, p. 77.
    12. ^ Hugh Kennedy: The Great Arab Conquests. Philadelphia 2007, p. 225 ff.
    13. ^ Jürgen Paul: Central Asia. Frankfurt am Main 2012, pp. 305f.
    14. ^ Jürgen Paul: Central Asia. Frankfurt am Main 2012, pp. 353f
    15. ^ Gavin Hambly: Central Asia. (= Weltbild [Fischer] Weltgeschichte. Vol. 16). Augsburg 1998, p. 217.
    16. ^ Gavin Hambly: Central Asia. (= Weltbild Weltgeschichte. Vol. 16). Augsburg 1998, p. 219.
    17. Gavin Hambly: Central Asia (= Weltbild Weltgeschichte. Vol. 16). Augsburg 1998, p. 220.
    18. Gavin Hambly: Central Asia (= Weltbild Weltgeschichte. Vol. 16). Augsburg 1998, p. 221.
    19. ^ Jürgen Paul: Central Asia. Frankfurt am Main 2012, p. 371f
    20. ^ Jürgen Paul: Central Asia. Frankfurt am Main 2012, p. 371f.
    21. Michael Weiers: History of China. Basics of a political history of the country. W. Kohlhammer Verlag, Stuttgart 2009, p. 190; Sabine Dabringhaus: Territorial Nationalism in China. Böhlau Verlag, Cologne 2006, p. 122.
    22. ^ Mark Dickens: The Soviets in Xinjiang. Oxus Communications, 1990.
    23. ^ Robert Arthur Rupen: Mongols of the Twentieth Century. Indiana University, 1964, p. 276.
    24. James Palmer: The Bloody White Baron. The story of a nobleman who became the last Khan of Mongolia. Eichborn, 2010, p. 26 f.
    25. Achitsaikhan Battushig: Economic Transformation in Mongolia. Herbert Utz Verlag, 2000, p. 13.
    26. ^ Marion Wisotzki, Ernst von Waldenfels, Erna Käppeli: Mongolei. Out and about in the land of the nomads. Mongolian People's Republic. Trescher Verlag, 2014, p. 65.
    27. Eva-Maria Stolberg : Stalin and the Chinese Communists. A study of the history of the origins of the Soviet-Chinese alliance against the backdrop of the Cold War. Franz Steiner Verlag, 1997, p. 113.
    28. ^ Tibet Justice Center: Proclamation Issued by His Holiness the Dalai Lama XIII. 1913 (engl.)
    29. Nikolas K. Gvosdev: The Soviet Victory That Never Was. Foreign Affairs December 10, 2009.
    30. ^ A b Régis Genté: Central Asia, region under influence. In: Le Monde diplomatique . December 2014, p. 6 f.
    31. un.org
    32. ^ Page of the Federal Foreign Office, accessed on February 17, 2013

    Coordinates: 45 °  N , 64 °  E