Orta Asya
CKM 2018-20 / Aziz Yardımlı


Orta Asya

🗺️ Central Asia and the Silk Road

Central Asia and the Silk Road

Central Asia (CA) and the Silk Road (SR)

Location and borders of CA.

CA: elements of physical geography.

CA: natural resources .

Additional topographic information presented in text.

CA: boundaries and capitals, as of 2015.


From the Beginnings to the Emergence of the Silk Road (SR)

Andronovo, Oxos, and other Copper and Bronze Age cultures in CA (ca. 3000-1200 BCE).

CA and the Achaemenid (Persian) Empire (ca. 520-450 BCE).

CA 323 to 150 BCE: from the Empire of Alexander to the Xiongnu Empire.

First heyday of the Great Silk Road connecting Roman and Chinese empires (ca. 100 BCE-100 CE).

(Close-up) first heyday of the Great SR connecting . . . (ca. 100 BCE-100 CE).


From the Migration Period to the Pinnacle of Nomadic Power: The Mongol Eurasian Empire

CA and what remained of the SR during the migration of peoples (ca. 350-575).

Second heyday of the Great SR under the Turkic steppe empires, the Tang dynasty, and the Caliphate (ca. 575-850).

(Close-up) second heyday of the Great SR under the Turkic steppe empires, the Tang dynasty, and the Caliphate (ca. 575-850).

CA under the influence of the Samanid, Khazar, and Uighur trading states (ca. 900-950).

Turkic and other dynasties from the Eurasian steppe take control of CA (ca. 975-1125).

Third heyday of SR and political integration of trade network under Mongol rule.

(Close-up) third heyday of SR and political integration of trade network under Mongol rule.


Brushed Aside by Outside Progress: From Relative Decline to Colonization

CA during the Great Emirate of Tamerlane and the early Timurids (ca. 1375-1425).

CA at the time of interregional mercantilist renaissance of SR trade (late sixteenth/early seventeenth century).

(Close-up) CA at the time of interregional mercantilist renaissance of SR trade (late sixteenth/early seventeenth century).

CA at the time of the last major steppe empire—Grand Tartary (the Dzungar Khanate)—in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

CA at the time of the “last glimmer” of the SR (ca. 1800-1820).

CA in the late nineteenth century. Object of Russian and Chinese colonialism and of dependent integration into the capitalist world economy.



  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

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.

Ecoregion PA0814: Pontic steppe.


  History of Central Asia

History of Central Asia

History of Central Asia (W)

The history of Central Asia concerns the history of the various peoples that have inhabited Central Asia. The lifestyle of such people has been determined primarily {!} by the area's climate and geography. The aridity of the region makes agriculture difficult and distance from the sea cut it off from much trade. {!} Thus, few major cities developed in the region. 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 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.

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 industrialization 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.

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.



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.


Ancient era

Ancient era (W)

In the 2nd and 1st millennia BC, a series of large and powerful states developed on the southern periphery of Central Asia (the Ancient Near East). These empires launched several attempts to conquer the steppe people but met with only mixed success. The Median Empire and Achaemenid Empire both ruled parts of Central Asia. The Xiongnu Empire (209 BC-93 (156) AD) may be seen as the first central Asian empire which set an example for later Göktürk and Mongol empires. Xiongnu's ancestor Xianyu tribe founded Zhongshan state (c. 6th century BC – c. 296 BC) in Hebei province, China. The title chanyu was used by the Xiongnu rulers before Modun Chanyu so it is possible that statehood history of the Xiongnu began long before Modun's rule.

Following the success of the Han–Xiongnu War, Chinese states would also regularly strive to extend their power westwards. Despite their military might, these states found it difficult to conquer the whole region.

When faced by a stronger force, the nomads could simply retreat deep into the steppe and wait for the invaders to leave. With no cities and little wealth other than the herds they took with them, the nomads had nothing they could be forced to defend. An example of this is given by Herodotus’s detailed account of the futile Persian campaigns against the Scythians. The Scythians, like most nomad empires, {!} had permanent settlements of various sizes, representing various degrees of civilisation. The vast fortified settlement of Kamenka on the Dnieper River, settled since the end of the 5th century BC, became the centre of the Scythian kingdom ruled by Ateas, who lost his life in a battle against Philip II of Macedon in 339 BC.

Some empires, such as the Persian and Macedonian empires, did make deep inroads into Central Asia by founding cities and gaining control of the trading centres. Alexander the Great's conquests spread Hellenistic civilisation all the way to Alexandria Eschate (Lit. “Alexandria the Furthest”), established in 329 BC in modern Tajikistan. After Alexander's death in 323 BC, his Central Asian territory fell to the Seleucid Empire during the Wars of the Diadochi.

In 250 BC, the Central Asian portion of the empire (Bactria) seceded as the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, which had extensive contacts with India and China until its end in 125 BC. The Indo-Greek Kingdom, mostly based in the Punjab region but controlling a fair part of Afghanistan, pioneered the development of Greco-Buddhism. The Kushan Kingdom thrived across a wide swath of the region from the 2nd century BC to the 4th century AD, and continued Hellenistic and Buddhist traditions. These states prospered from their position on the Silk Road linking China and Europe.

Likewise, in eastern Central Asia, the Chinese Han Dynasty expanded into the region at the height of its imperial power. From roughly 115 to 60 BC, Han forces fought the Xiongnu over control of the oasis city-states in the Tarim Basin. The Han was eventually victorious and established the Protectorate of the Western Regions in 60 BC, which dealt with the region's defence and foreign affairs. Chinese rule in Tarim Basin was replaced successively with Kushans and Hephthalites.

Later, external powers such as the Sassanid Empire would come to dominate this trade. One of those powers, the Parthian Empire, was of Central Asian origin, but adopted Persian-Greek cultural traditions. This is an early example of a recurring theme of Central Asian history: occasionally nomads of Central Asian origin would conquer the kingdoms and empires surrounding the region, but quickly merge into the culture of the conquered peoples.

At this time Central Asia was a heterogeneous region with a mixture of cultures and religions. Buddhism remained the largest religion, but was concentrated in the east. Around Persia, Zoroastrianism became important. Nestorian Christianity entered the area, but was never more than a minority faith. More successful was Manichaeism, which became the third largest faith.

Turkic expansion began in the 6th century; the Turkic speaking Uyghurs were one of many distinct cultural groups brought together by the trade of the Silk Route at Turfan, which was then ruled by China's Tang Dynasty. The Uyghurs, primarily pastoral nomads, observed a number of religions including Manichaeism, Buddhism, and Nestorian Christianity. Many of the artefacts from this period were found in the 19th century in this remote desert region.



Medieval (W)

Sui and early Tang Dynasty

It was during the Sui and Tang dynasties that China expanded into eastern Central Asia. Chinese foreign policy to the north and west now had to deal with Turkic nomads, who were becoming the most dominant ethnic group in Central Asia. To handle and avoid any threats posed by the Turks, the Sui government repaired fortifications and received their trade and tribute missions. They sent royal princesses off to marry Turkic clan leaders, a total of four of them in 597, 599, 614, and 617. The Sui stirred trouble and conflict amongst ethnic groups against the Turks.

As early as the Sui Dynasty, the Turks had become a major militarised force employed by the Chinese. When the Khitans began raiding north-east China in 605, a Chinese general led 20,000 Turks against them, distributing Khitan livestock and women to the Turks as a reward. On two occasions between 635 and 636, Tang royal princesses were married to Turk mercenaries or generals in Chinese service.

Throughout the Tang Dynasty until the end of 755, there were approximately ten Turkic generals serving under the Tang. While most of the Tang army was made of fubing (府兵) Chinese conscripts, the majority of the troops led by Turkic generals were of non-Chinese origin, campaigning largely in the western frontier where the presence of fubing (府兵) troops was low. Some "Turkic" troops were nomadisized Han Chinese, a desinicized people.

Civil war in China was almost totally diminished by 626, along with the defeat in 628 of the Ordos Chinese warlord Liang Shidu; after these internal conflicts, the Tang began an offensive against the Turks. In the year 630, Tang armies captured areas of the Ordos Desert, modern-day Inner Mongolia province, and southern Mongolia from the Turks.

After this military victory, Emperor Taizong won the title of Great Khan amongst the various Turks in the region who pledged their allegiance to him and the Chinese empire (with several thousand Turks traveling into China to live at Chang'an). On June 11, 631, Emperor Taizong also sent envoys to the Xueyantuo bearing gold and silk in order to persuade the release of enslaved Chinese prisoners who were captured during the transition from Sui to Tang from the northern frontier; this embassy succeeded in freeing 80,000 Chinese men and women who were then returned to China.

While the Turks were settled in the Ordos region (former territory of the Xiongnu), the Tang government took on the military policy of dominating the central steppe. Like the earlier Han Dynasty, the Tang Dynasty, along with Turkic allies like the Uyghurs, conquered and subdued Central Asia during the 640s and 650s. During Emperor Taizong's reign alone, large campaigns were launched against not only the Göktürks, but also separate campaigns against the Tuyuhun, and the Xueyantuo. Taizong also launched campaigns against the oasis states of the Tarim Basin, beginning with the annexation of Gaochang in 640. The nearby kingdom of Karasahr was captured by the Tang in 644 and the kingdom of Kucha was conquered in 649.

The expansion into Central Asia continued under Taizong's successor, Emperor Gaozong, who invaded the Western Turks ruled by the qaghan Ashina Helu in 657 with an army led by Su Dingfang. Ashina was defeated and the khaganate was absorbed into the Tang empire. The territory was administered through the Anxi Protectorate and the Four Garrisons of Anxi. Tang hegemony beyond the Pamir Mountains in modern Tajikistan and Afghanistan ended with revolts by the Turks, but the Tang retained a military presence in Xinjiang. These holdings were later invaded by the Tibetan Empire to the south in 670. For the remainder of the Tang Dynasty, the Tarim Basin alternated between Tang and Tibetan rule as they competed for control of Central Asia.


Tang rivalry with the Tibetan Empire

The Tang Empire competed with the Tibetan Empire for control of areas in Inner and Central Asia, which was at times settled with marriage alliances such as the marrying of Princess Wencheng (d. 680) to Songtsän Gampo (d. 649). A Tibetan tradition mentions that after Songtsän Gampo's death in 649 AD, Chinese troops captured Lhasa. The Tibetan scholar Tsepon W. D. Shakabpa believes that the tradition is in error and that "those histories reporting the arrival of Chinese troops are not correct" and claims that the event is mentioned neither in the Chinese annals nor in the manuscripts of Dunhuang.

There was a long string of conflicts with Tibet over territories in the Tarim Basin between 670–692 and in 763 the Tibetans even captured the capital of China, Chang'an, for fifteen days during the An Shi Rebellion. In fact, it was during this rebellion that the Tang withdrew its western garrisons stationed in what is now Gansu and Qinghai, which the Tibetans then occupied along with the territory of what is now Xinjiang. Hostilities between the Tang and Tibet continued until they signed a formal peace treaty in 821. The terms of this treaty, including the fixed borders between the two countries, are recorded in a bilingual inscription on a stone pillar outside the Jokhang temple in Lhasa.


Islamic empires

In the 8th century, Islam began to penetrate the region, the desert nomads of Arabia could militarily match the nomads of the steppe, and the early Arab Empire gained control over parts of Central Asia. The early conquests under Qutayba ibn Muslim (705-715) were soon reversed by a combination of native uprisings and invasion by the Turgesh, but the collapse of the Turgesh khaganate after 738 opened the way for the re-imposition of Muslim authority under Nasr ibn Sayyar.

The Arab invasion also saw Chinese influence expelled from western Central Asia. At the Battle of Talas in 751 an Arab army decisively defeated a Tang Dynasty force, and for the next several centuries Middle Eastern influences would dominate the region. Large-scale Islamization however did not begin until the 9th century, running parallel with the fragmentation of Abbasid political authority and the emergence of local Iranian and Turkic dynasties like the Samanids.


Steppe empires

Steppe empires (W)

Over time, as new technologies were introduced, the nomadic horsemen grew in power. The Scythians developed the saddle, and by the time of the Alans the use of the stirrup had begun. Horses continued to grow larger and sturdier so that chariots were no longer needed as the horses could carry men with ease. This greatly increased the mobility of the nomads; it also freed their hands, allowing them to use the bow from horseback.

Using small but powerful composite bows, the steppe people gradually became the most powerful military force in the world. From a young age, almost the entire male population was trained in riding and archery, both of which were necessary skills for survival on the steppe. By adulthood, these activities were second nature. These mounted archers were more mobile than any other force at the time, being able to travel forty miles per day with ease.

The steppe peoples quickly came to dominate Central Asia, forcing the scattered city states and kingdoms to pay them tribute or face annihilation. The martial ability of the steppe peoples was limited, however, by the lack of political structure within the tribes. Confederations of various groups would sometimes form under a ruler known as a khan. When large numbers of nomads acted in unison they could be devastating, as when the Huns arrived in Western Europe. However, tradition dictated that any dominion conquered in such wars should be divided among all of the khan's sons, so these empires often declined as quickly as they formed.

Once the foreign powers were expelled, several indigenous empires formed in Central Asia. The Hephthalites were the most powerful of these nomad groups in the 6th and 7th century and controlled much of the region. In the 10th and 11th centuries the region was divided between several powerful states including the Samanid dynasty, that of the Seljuk Turks, and the Khwarezmid Empire.

The most spectacular power to rise out of Central Asia developed when Genghis Khan united the tribes of Mongolia. Using superior military techniques, the Mongol Empire spread to comprise all of Central Asia and China as well as large parts of Russia, and the Middle East. After Genghis Khan died in 1227, most of Central Asia continued to be dominated by the successor Chagatai Khanate. This state proved to be short lived, as in 1369 Timur, a Turkic leader in the Mongol military tradition, conquered most of the region.

Even harder than keeping a steppe empire together was governing conquered lands outside the region. While the steppe peoples of Central Asia found conquest of these areas easy, they found governing almost impossible. The diffuse political structure of the steppe confederacies was maladapted to the complex states of the settled peoples. Moreover, the armies of the nomads were based upon large numbers of horses, generally three or four for each warrior. Maintaining these forces required large stretches of grazing land, not present outside the steppe. Any extended time away from the homeland would thus cause the steppe armies to gradually disintegrate. To govern settled peoples the steppe peoples were forced to rely on the local bureaucracy, a factor that would lead to the rapid assimilation of the nomads into the culture of those they had conquered. Another important limit was that the armies, for the most part, were unable to penetrate the forested regions to the north; thus, such states as Novgorod and Muscovy began to grow in power.

In the 14th century much of Central Asia, and many areas beyond it, were conquered by Timur (1336-1405) who is known in the west as Tamerlane. It was during Timur’s reign that the nomadic steppe culture of Central Asia fused with the settled culture of Iran. One of its consequences was an entirely new visual language that glorified Timur and subsequent Timurid rulers. This visual language was also used to articulate their commitment to Islam. Timur's large empire collapsed soon after his death, however. The region then became divided among a series of smaller Khanates, including the Khanate of Khiva, the Khanate of Bukhara, the Khanate of Kokand, and the Khanate of Kashgar.


Early modern period (16th to 19th centuries)

Early modern period (16th to 19th centuries) (W)

The lifestyle that had existed largely unchanged since 500 BCE began to disappear after 1500. Important changes to the world economy in the 14th and 15th century reflected the impact of the development of nautical technology. Ocean trade routes were pioneered by the Europeans, who had been cut off from the Silk Road by the Muslim states that controlled its western termini. The long-distance trade linking East Asia and India to Western Europe increasingly began to move over the seas and not through Central Asia. However, the emergence of Russia as a world power enabled Central Asia to continue its role as a conduit for overland trade of other sorts, now linking India with Russia on a north-south axis.

An even more important development was the introduction of gunpowder-based weapons. The gunpowder revolution allowed settled peoples to defeat the steppe horsemen in open battle for the first time. Construction of these weapons required the infrastructure and economies of large societies and were thus impractical for nomadic peoples to produce. The domain of the nomads began to shrink as, beginning in the 15th century, the settled powers gradually began to conquer Central Asia.

The last steppe empire to emerge was that of the Dzungars who conquered much of East Turkestan and Mongolia. However, in a sign of the changed times they proved unable to match the Chinese and were decisively defeated by the forces of the Qing Dynasty. In the 18th century the Qing emperors, themselves originally from the far eastern edge of the steppe, campaigned in the west and in Mongolia, with the Qianlong Emperor taking control of Xinjiang in 1758. The Mongol threat was overcome and much of Inner Mongolia was annexed to China.

The Chinese dominions stretched into the heart of Central Asia and included the Khanate of Kokand, which paid tribute to Beijing. Outer Mongolia and Xinjiang did not become provinces of the Chinese empire, but rather were directly administered by the Qing dynasty. The fact that there was no provincial governor meant that the local rulers retained most of their powers and this special status also prevented emigration from the rest of China into the region. Persia also began to expand north, especially under the rule of Nadir Shah, who extended Persian dominion well past the Oxus. After his death, however, the Persian empire rapidly crumbled.


Russian expansion into Central Asia (19th century)

Russian expansion into Central Asia (19th century) (W)

The Russians also expanded south, first with the transformation of the Ukrainian steppe into an agricultural heartland, and subsequently onto the fringe of the Kazakh steppes, beginning with the foundation of the fortress of Orenburg. The slow Russian conquest of the heart of Central Asia began in the early 19th century, although Peter the Great had sent a failed expedition under Prince Bekovitch-Cherkassky against Khiva as early as the 1720s.

By the 1800s, the locals could do little to resist the Russian advance, although the Kazakhs of the Great Horde under Kenesary Kasimov rose in rebellion from 1837–46. Until the 1870s, for the most part, Russian interference was minimal, leaving native ways of life intact and local government structures in place. With the conquest of Turkestan after 1865 and the consequent securing of the frontier, the Russians gradually expropriated large parts of the steppe and gave these lands to Russian farmers, who began to arrive in large numbers. This process was initially limited to the northern fringes of the steppe and it was only in the 1890s that significant numbers of Russians began to settle farther south, especially in Zhetysu (Semirechye).



📹 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."



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.



  🕑 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)




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