Central Asia
CKM 2018-19 / Aziz Yardımlı


Central Asia

  🕑 Central and North Asia, 8000 BC-1 AD

🕑 Central and North Asia, 8000 BC-1 AD (Timelina)

Central and North Asia, 8000 BC-1 AD (LINK)



  🕑 Central and North Asia, 1-1600 AD

🕑 Central and North Asia, 1-1600 AD (Timeline)

Central and North Asia, 1-1600 AD (W)



  Central Asia
  • the meeting ground of shamans, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians, and Muslims
  • two interacting yet fundamentally different lifeways — the settled folk of its oases and the nomads of the steppes
  • the “heartland” or “pivot” of Eurasian history
  • occupies approximately one-seventh of Earth’s landmass (4,000,000 km2; pop: 70,000,000)
  • Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan
  • extended into Hungary, Ukraine, Russia, and the Middle East
  • Turan, the fierce Iranian (and later Turkic) world of nomads vs.
Central Asia in World History, Peter B. Golden ( Oxford University Press, 2011)

Central Asia

Central Asia (W)

Map of Central Asia (including Afghanistan)

Central Asia
stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China in the east and from Afghanistan in the south to Russia in the north. The region consists of the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Central Asia has a population of about 105 million, consisting of five republics: Kazakhstan (pop. 17,987,736), Kyrgyzstan (5,955,734), Tajikistan (8,734,951), Turkmenistan (5,662,544), and Uzbekistan (31,446,795). Afghanistan (34,656,032) is also sometimes included in Central Asia.

Central Asia has historically been closely tied to its nomadic peoples and the Silk Road. It has acted as a crossroads for the movement of people, goods, and ideas between Europe, Western Asia, South Asia, and East Asia. The Silk Road connected Muslim lands with the people of Europe, India, and China. This crossroads position has intensified the conflict between tribalism and traditionalism and modernization.

In pre-Islamic and early Islamic times, Central Asia was predominantly Iranian, populated by Eastern Iranian-speaking Bactrians, Sogdians, Chorasmians and the semi-nomadic Scythians and Dahae. After expansion by Turkic peoples, Central Asia also became the homeland for the Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Tatars, Turkmen, Kyrgyz, and Uyghurs; Turkic languages largely replaced the Iranian languages spoken in the area.

Definitions of Central Asia

Three sets of possible boundaries for the region

The borders of Central Asia are subject to multiple definitions. Historically built political geography and geoculture are two significant parameters widely used in the scholarly literature about the definitions of the Central Asia.

The most limited definition was the official one of the Soviet Union, which defined Middle Asia as consisting solely of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, hence omitting Kazakhstan. This definition was also often used outside the USSR during this period.

Soon after independence, the leaders of the four former Soviet Central Asian Republics met in Tashkent and declared that the definition of Central Asia should include Kazakhstan as well as the original four included by the Soviets. Since then, this has become the most common definition of Central Asia.

The UNESCO History of the Civilizations of Central Asia, published in 1992, defines the region as "Afghanistan, northeastern Iran, Pakistan, northern India, western China, Mongolia and the former Soviet Central Asian republics."


Central Asian Countries

Central Asian Countries (W)

Nomadic horse peoples of the steppe dominated the area for millennia.

Relations between the steppe nomads and the settled people in and around Central Asia were marked by conflict. The nomadic lifestyle was well suited to warfare, and the steppe horse riders became some of the most militarily potent people in the world, due to the devastating techniques and ability of their horse archers. Periodically, tribal leaders or changing conditions would organise several tribes into a single military force, which would then often launch campaigns of conquest, especially into more 'civilised' areas. A few of these types of tribal coalitions included the Huns' invasion of Europe, various Turkic migrations into Transoxiana, the Wu Hu attacks on China and most notably the Mongol conquest of much of Eurasia.

The dominance of the nomads ended in the 16th century as firearms allowed settled people to gain control of the region. The Russian Empire, the Qing Dynasty of China, and other powers expanded into the area and seized the bulk of Central Asia by the end of the 19th century. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviet Union incorporated most of Central Asia; only Mongolia and Afghanistan remained nominally independent, although Mongolia existed as a Soviet satellite state and Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in the late 20th century. The Soviet areas of Central Asia saw much industrialisation and construction of infrastructure, but also the suppression of local cultures and a lasting legacy of ethnic tensions and environmental problems.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, five Central Asian countries gained independence — Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. In all of the new states, former Communist Party officials retained power as local strongmen.


Territorial and regional data

Territorial and regional data

Country Area
Nominal GDP (2017)
GDP per capita
HDI (2017) Capital Official languages
2,724,900 17,987,736 $225.619 billion $12,950 0.788 Astana Kazakh, Russian
199,950 5,955,734 $6.854 billion $1,106 0.655 Bishkek Kyrgyz, Russian
142,550 8,734,951 $7.242 billion $819 0.624 Dushanbe Tajik, Russian
488,100 5,662,544 $42.355 billion $7,645 0.688 Ashgabat Turkmen
447,400 31,446,795 $68.324 billion $2,154 0.701 Tashkent Uzbek



Pontic-Caspian steppe

Pontic-Caspian steppe (W)

The Pontic-Caspian steppe, Pontic steppe or Ukrainian steppe is the vast steppeland stretching from the northern shores of the Black Sea (called Euxeinos Pontos [Εὔξεινος Πόντος] in antiquity) as far east as the Caspian Sea, from Moldova and eastern Ukraine across the Southern Federal District and the Volga Federal District of Russia to western Kazakhstan, forming part of the larger Eurasian steppe, adjacent to the Kazakh steppe to the east. It is a part of the Palearctic temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands ecoregion of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome.

The area corresponds to Cimmeria, Scythia, and Sarmatia of classical antiquity. Across several millennia the steppe was used by numerous tribes of nomadic horsemen, many of which went on to conquer lands in the settled regions of Europe and in western and southern Asia.

The term Ponto-Caspian region is used in biogeography for plants and animals of these steppes, and animals from the Black, Caspian, and Azov seas. Genetic research has identified this region as the most probable place where horses were first domesticated.

According to the dominant Kurgan hypothesis in Indo-European studies, the Pontic-Caspian steppe was the homeland of the speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language, and these same speakers were the original domesticators of the horse.

The steppe in Azov-Syvash National Nature Park, Ukraine, with reintroduced horses.


Central Asia — History

Central Asia — History (W)

Relations between the steppe nomads and the settled people in and around Central Asia were long marked by conflict. The nomadic lifestyle was well suited to warfare, and the steppe horse riders became some of the most militarily potent people in the world, limited only by their lack of internal unity. Any internal unity that was achieved was most probably due to the influence of the Silk Road, which traveled along Central Asia. Periodically, great leaders or changing conditions would organize several tribes into one force and create an almost unstoppable power. These included the Hun invasion of Europe, the Wu Hu attacks on China and most notably the Mongol conquest of much of Eurasia.

During pre-Islamic and early Islamic times, southern Central Asia was inhabited predominantly by speakers of Iranian languages. Among the ancient sedentary Iranian peoples, the Sogdians and Chorasmians played an important role, while Iranian peoples such as Scythians and the later on Alans lived a nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle. The well-preserved Tarim mummies with Caucasoid features have been found in the Tarim Basin.

The main migration of Turkic peoples occurred between the 5th and 10th centuries, when they spread across most of Central Asia. The Tang Chinese were defeated by the Arabs at the battle of Talas in 751, marking the end of the Tang Dynasty's western expansion. The Tibetan Empire would take the chance to rule portion of Central Asia along with South Asia. During the 13th and 14th centuries, the Mongols conquered and ruled the largest contiguous empire in recorded history. Most of Central Asia fell under the control of the Chagatai Khanate.


📹 The History of Central Asia Every Year (VİDEO)

The History of Central Asia Every Year (LINK)

Central Asia has long been the point of transmission between eastern and western culture; such is reflected in its history. This video shows how it changed over time from 209 BCE to 1244.



  Prehistory of Central Asia

Overview map of the peopling of the world by anatomically modern humans (numbers indicate dates in thousands of years ago [ka])

Overview map of the peopling of the world by anatomically modern humans (numbers indicate dates in thousands of years ago [ka]) (W)

Overview map of the peopling of the world by anatomically modern humans (numbers indicate dates in thousands of years ago [ka])

Map showing the early (pre-LGM) dispersal of Homo sapiens, 200,000 to 32,000 years ago. Original caption: "Map of sites with ages and postulated early and later pathways associated with modern humans dispersing across Asia during the Late Pleistocene. Regions of assumed genetic admixture are also shown. ka, thousand years ago."


Central Asia — Prehistory

Central Asia — Prehistory (W)

Anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens) reached Central Asia by 50,000 to 40,000 years ago. The Tibetan Plateau is thought to have been reached by 38,000 years ago. Populations who lived in Siberia during the Last Glacial Maximum have also contributed significantly to the populations of both Europe and the Americas.

The term Ceramic Mesolithic is used of late Mesolithic cultures of Central Asia, during the 6th to 5th millennia BC (in Russian archaeology, these cultures are described as Neolithic even though farming is absent). It is characterized by its distinctive type of pottery, with point or knob base and flared rims, manufactured by methods not used by the Neolithic farmers. The earliest manifestation of this type of pottery may be in the region around Lake Baikal in Siberia. It appears in the Elshan or Yelshanka or Samara culture on the Volga in Russia by about 7000 BC and from there spread via the Dnieper-Donets culture to the Narva culture of the Eastern Baltic.

In the Pontic-Caspian steppe, Chalcolithic cultures develop in the second half of the 5th millennium BC, small communities in permanent settlements which began to engage in agricultural practices as well as herding. Around this time, some of these communities began the domestication of the horse. According to the Kurgan hypothesis, the north-west of the region is also considered to be the source of the root of the Indo-European languages. The horse-drawn chariot appears in the 3rd millennium BC, by 2000 BC, in the form of war chariots with spoked wheels, thus being made more manoeuvrable, and dominated the battlefields. The growing use of the horse, combined with the failure, roughly around 2000 BC, of the always precarious irrigation systems that had allowed for extensive agriculture in the region, gave rise and dominance of pastoral nomadism by 1000 BC, a way of life that would dominate the region for the next several millennia, giving rise to the Scythian expansion of the Iron Age.

Scattered nomadic groups maintained herds of sheep, goats, horses, and camels, and conducted annual migrations to find new pastures (a practice known as transhumance). The people lived in yurts (or gers) – tents made of hides and wood that could be disassembled and transported. Each group had several yurts, each accommodating about five people.

While the semi-arid plains were dominated by the nomads, small city-states and sedentary agrarian societies arose in the more humid areas of Central Asia. The Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex of the early 2nd millennium BC was the first sedentary civilisation of the region, practicing irrigation farming of wheat and barley and possibly a form of writing. Bactria-Margiana probably interacted with the contemporary Bronze Age nomads of the Andronovo culture, the originators of the spoke-wheeled chariot, who lived to their north in western Siberia, Russia, and parts of Kazakhstan, and survived as a culture until the 1st millennium BC. These cultures, particularly Bactria-Margiana, have been posited as possible representatives of the hypothetical Aryan culture ancestral to the speakers of the Indo-Iranian languages (see Indo-Iranians).

Later the strongest of Sogdian city states of the Fergana Valley rose to prominence. After the 1st century BC, these cities became home to the traders of the Silk Road and grew wealthy from this trade. The steppe nomads were dependent on these settled people for a wide array of goods that were impossible for transient populations to produce. The nomads traded for these when they could, but because they generally did not produce goods of interest to sedentary people, the popular alternative was to carry out raids.


A wide variety of people came to populate the steppes. Nomadic groups in Central Asia included the Huns and other Turks, as well as Indo-Europeans such as the Tocharians, Persians, Scythians, Saka, Yuezhi, Wusun, and others, and a number of Mongol groups. Despite these ethnic and linguistic differences, the steppe lifestyle led to the adoption of very similar culture across the region.




Indo-European migrations

Indo-European migrations (W)

Animated map of Indo-European migrations.

(W) Haak et al. (2015) "Massive migration from the steppe was a source for Indo-European languages in Europe", Nature, 522: 207–211

The animated map gives an overall impression; in the details, many things are not exactly right. The first migration into the Danube Valley, for example, did not proceed from the Yamna culture, which started almost a millennium later. But altogether, the idea is to give an general impression of the migrations.

Indo-European migrations were the migrations of pastoral peoples speaking the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE), who departed from the Yamnaya and related cultures in the Pontic–Caspian steppe, starting at c. 4000 BCE. Their descendants spread throughout Europe and parts of Asia, forming new cultures with the people they met on their way, including the Corded Ware culture in Northern Europe and the Vedic culture in the Indian subcontinent. These migrations ultimately seeded the cultures and languages of most of Europe, Greater Iran, and much of the Indian subcontinent (and subsequently resulted in the largest and most broadly spoken language family in the world).

Scheme of Indo-European migrations from c. 4000 to 1000 BCE according to the Kurgan hypothesis
The assumed Urheimat (Samara culture, Sredny Stog culture) and the subsequent Yamnaya culture.
Area possibly settled up to c. 2500 BCE.
Area settled up to 1000 BCE

(W) Indo-European expansion 4000-1000 BC, according to the Kurgan hypothesis. Even within the Kurgan hypothesis, there is considerable uncertainty, mainly depending on assumptions about the w:Tocharians, the w:Corded ware culture and the w:Beaker culture. The central purple area is supposed to show early w:Yamna culture (4000-3500 BC); the dark red area could show expansion to about 2500 BC, and the lighter red area expansion to about 1000 BC.

Modern knowledge of these migrations is based on data from linguistics, archaeology, anthropology and genetics. Linguistics describes the similarities between various languages, and the linguistic laws at play in the changesin those languages (see Indo-European studies). Archaeological data describes the spread of the Proto-Indo-European culture and language in several stages: from the Proto-Indo-European homeland (probably situated in the Pontic–Caspian steppe), into Western Europe, Central, South and (very sporadically) Eastern Asia by migrations and by language shift through elite-recruitment as described by anthropological research. Recent genetic research has a growing contribution to the understanding of the historical relations between various historical cultures.

The Indo-European languages and cultures spread in various stages. Early migrations from c. 4200-3000 BCE brought archaic proto-Indo-European into the lower Danube valley, Anatolia, and the Altai region.

Proto-Celtic and Proto-Italic probably developed in and spread from Central Europe into western Europe after new Yamnaya migrations into the Danube Valley, while Proto-Germanic and Proto-Balto-Slavic may have developed east of the Carpathian mountains, at present-day Ukraine, moving north and spreading with the Corded Ware culture in Middle Europe (third millennium BCE). Alternatively, a European branch of Indo-European dialects, termed "North-west Indo-European" and associated with the Beaker culture, may have been ancestral to not only Celtic and Italic, but also to Germanic and Balto-Slavic.

The Indo-Iranian language and culture emerged at the Sintashta culture (c. 2100-1800 BCE), at the eastern border of the Yamnaya horizon and the Corded ware culture, growing into the Andronovo culture (c. 1800-800 BCE). Indo-Aryans moved into the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (c. 2300-1700 BCE) and spread to the Levant (Mitanni), northern India (Vedic people, c. 1500 BCE), and China (Wusun). The Iranian languages spread throughout the steppes with the Scyths and into Iran with the Medes, Parthians and Persians from ca. 800 BCE.




İdea Yayınevi Site Haritası | İdea Yayınevi Tüm Yayınlar
© Aziz Yardımlı 2018-2019 | aziz@ideayayinevi.com