The Info List - Asian Steppe

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The Eurasian Steppe, also called the Great Steppe
or the steppes, is the vast steppe ecoregion of Eurasia
in the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome. It stretches from Romania
and Moldova through Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Xinjiang, and Mongolia
to Manchuria, with one major exclave, the Pannonian steppe
Pannonian steppe
or Puszta, located mostly in Hungary.[1] Since the Paleolithic
age, the Steppe
route has connected Eastern Europe, Central Asia, China, South Asia, and the Middle East economically, politically, and culturally through overland trade routes. The Steppe
route is a predecessor not only of the Silk Road which developed during antiquity and the Middle Ages, but also of the Eurasian Land Bridge
Eurasian Land Bridge
in the modern era. It has been home to nomadic empires and many large tribal confederations and ancient states throughout history, such as the Xiongnu, Scythia, Cimmeria, Sarmatia, Hunnic Empire, Chorasmia, Transoxiana, Sogdiana, Xianbei, Mongols, and Göktürk Khaganate


1 Geography

1.1 Divisions

1.1.1 Western Steppe 1.1.2 Ural–Caspian Narrowing 1.1.3 Central Steppe 1.1.4 Dzungarian Narrowing 1.1.5 Eastern Steppe

1.2 Fauna 1.3 Ecoregions

2 Human activities

2.1 Trade habits 2.2 Agriculture 2.3 Language 2.4 Religion

3 History

3.1 Warfare 3.2 Relations with neighbors

4 Historical peoples and nations 5 Gallery 6 See also 7 References 8 Bibliography

Geography[edit] Divisions[edit]

A map of Eurasia
with emphasis on deserts. Note the oval Tarim Basin at the center of the map.

The Eurasian Steppe
extends thousands of miles from near the mouth of the Danube
almost to the Pacific Ocean. It is bounded on the north by the forests of European Russia, Siberia
and Asian Russia. There is no clear southern boundary although the land becomes increasingly dry as one moves south. The steppe narrows at two points, dividing it into three major parts. Western Steppe[edit]

The Pontic–Caspian Steppe

The Western Steppe, or Pontic–Caspian steppe, begins near the mouth of the Danube
and extends northeast almost to Kazan
and then southeast to the southern tip of the Ural Mountains. Its northern edge was a broad band of forest steppe which has now been obliterated by the conversion of the whole area to agricultural land. In the southeast the Black Sea–Caspian Steppe
extends between the Black Sea
Black Sea
and Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
to the Caucasus Mountains. In the west, the Great Hungarian Plain is an island of steppe separated from the main steppe by the mountains of Transylvania. On the north shore of the Black Sea, the Crimean Peninsula
Crimean Peninsula
has some interior steppe and ports on the south coast which link the steppe to the civilizations of the Mediterranean basin.

Ural–Caspian Narrowing[edit]

The Ural Mountains
Ural Mountains
extend south to a point about 650 km (400 mi) northeast of the Caspian Sea. This is not a major barrier to movement, but the area near the Caspian is quite dry.

Central Steppe[edit]

The Kazakh Steppe
in the north with the Tarim Basin
Tarim Basin
(Takhlamakan) and Dzungaria

The Central Steppe
or Kazakh Steppe
extends from the Urals to Dzungaria. To the south, it grades off into semi-desert and desert which is interrupted by two great rivers, the Amu Darya
Amu Darya
(Oxus) and Syr Darya (Jaxartes), which flow northwest into the Aral Sea
Aral Sea
and provide irrigation agriculture. In the southeast is the densely populated Fergana Valley
Fergana Valley
and west of it the great oasis cities of Tashkent, Samarkand
and Bukhara
along the Zeravshan River. The southern area has a complex history (see Central Asia
Central Asia
and Greater Iran), while in the north, the Kazakh Steppe
proper was relatively isolated from the main currents of written history.

Dzungarian Narrowing[edit] On the east side of the former Sino-Soviet border mountains extend north almost to the forest zone with only limited grassland in Dzungaria. Eastern Steppe[edit]

is the northwestern province of China. The east-west Tien Shan Mountains divide it into Dzungaria
in the north and the Tarim Basin to the south. Dzungaria
is bounded by the Tarbagatai Mountains on the west and the Mongolian Altai Mountains
Altai Mountains
on the east, neither of which is a significant barrier. Dzungaria
has good grassland around the edges and a central desert. It often behaved as a westward extension of Mongolia
and connected Mongolia
to the Kazakh steppe. To the north of Dzungaria
are mountains and the Siberian forest. To the south and west of Dzungaria, and separated from it by the Tian Shan mountains, is an area about twice the size of Dzungaria, the oval Tarim Basin. The Tarim Basin
Tarim Basin
is too dry to support even a nomadic population, but around its edges rivers flow down from the mountains giving rise to a ring of cities which lived by irrigation agriculture and east-west trade. The Tarim Basin
Tarim Basin
formed an island of near civilization in the center of the steppe. The Northern Silk Road
Silk Road
went along the north and south sides of the Tarim Basin
Tarim Basin
and then crossed the mountains west to the Fergana Valley. At the west end of the basin the Pamir Mountains
Pamir Mountains
connect the Tien Shan Mountains to the Himalayas. To the south, the Kunlun Mountains
Kunlun Mountains
separate the Tarim Basin
Tarim Basin
from the thinly peopled Tibetan Plateau. The Mongol Steppe
includes both Mongolia
and the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia. The two are separated by a relatively dry area marked by the Gobi Desert. South of the Mongol Steppe
is the high and thinly peopled Tibetan Plateau. The northern edge of the plateau is the Gansu or Hexi Corridor, a belt of moderately dense population that connects China
proper with the Tarim Basin. The Hexi Corridor
Hexi Corridor
was the main route of the Silk Road. In the southeast the Silk Road
Silk Road
led over some hills to the east-flowing Wei River
Wei River
valley which led to the North China

and surrounding regions. Note the oval Tarim Basin, the dryer area separating Inner and Outer Mongolia
and the projection of steppe into Manchuria

is a special case. Westerners tend to think of Manchuria
as the northeast projection of China
that they see on maps. The Chinese now call this, or the eastern two thirds of it, Northeast China. The dryer western third west of the Greater Khingan
Greater Khingan
Mountains has normally been part of Inner Mongolia. Before 1859, Manchuria
also included Outer Manchuria
to the north and east, which is now part of Russia. South of the Khingan Mountains and north of the Taihang Mountains, the Mongolian-Manchurian steppe
Mongolian-Manchurian steppe
extends east into Manchuria
as the Liao Xi steppe. In Manchuria, the steppe grades off into forest and mountains without reaching the Pacific. The central area of forest-steppe was inhabited by pastoral and agricultural peoples, while to the north and east was a thin population of hunting tribes of the Siberian type.

Fauna[edit] Big mammals of the Eurasian steppe were the Przewalski's horse, the saiga antelope, the Mongolian gazelle, the goitered gazelle, the wild Bactrian camel and the onager.[2][3][4][5][6][7] The gray wolf and the corsac fox and occasionally the brown bear are predators roaming the steppe.[8][9][10] Smaller mammal species are the Mongolian gerbil, the little souslik and the bobak marmot.[11][12][13] Furthermore, the Eurasian steppe is home to a great variety of bird species. Threatened bird species living there are for example the imperial eagle, the lesser kestrel, the great bustard, the pale-back pigeon and the white-throated bushchat.[14]

Przewalski horse

Corsac fox

Saiga antelope


The primary domesticated animals raised were sheep and goats with fewer cattle than one might expect. Camels were used in the drier areas for transport as far west as Astrakhan. There were some yaks along the edge of Tibet. The horse was used for transportation and warfare. The horse was first domesticated on the Pontic–Caspian or Kazakh steppe sometime before 3000 BC, but it took a long time for mounted archery to develop and the process is not fully understood. The stirrup does not seem to have been completely developed until 300 AD (see Stirrup, Saddle, Composite bow, Domestication of the horse
Domestication of the horse
and related articles). Ecoregions[edit] The World Wide Fund for Nature
World Wide Fund for Nature
divides the Euro-Asian Steppe's temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands into a number of ecoregions, distinguished by elevation, climate, rainfall, and other characteristics, and home to distinct animal and plant communities and species, and distinct habitat ecosystems.

Alai–Western Tian Shan
Tian Shan
steppe (Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan) Altai steppe and semi-desert (Kazakhstan) Daurian forest steppe (China, Mongolia, Russia) Emin Valley steppe (China, Kazakhstan) Kazakh forest steppe (Kazakhstan, Russia) Kazakh Steppe
(Kazakhstan, Russia) Kazakh Uplands
Kazakh Uplands
(Kazakhstan) Mongolian-Manchurian grassland
Mongolian-Manchurian grassland
(China, Mongolia, Russia) Pontic–Caspian steppe
Pontic–Caspian steppe
(Moldova, Romania, Russia, Ukraine) Sayan Intermontane steppe (Russia) Selenge–Orkhon forest steppe (Mongolia, Russia) South Siberian forest steppe (Russia) Tian Shan
Tian Shan
foothill arid steppe (China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan) Pannonian Steppe[15] (Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia)

Human activities[edit] See also: Nomad studies Trade habits[edit] The major centers of population and high culture in Eurasia
are Europe,the Middle East, India and China. For some purposes it is useful to treat Greater Iran
Greater Iran
as a separate region. All these regions are connected by the Eurasian Steppe
route which was an active predecessor of the Silk Road. The latter started in the Guanzhong region of China
and ran west along the Hexi Corridor
Hexi Corridor
to the Tarim Basin. From there it went southwest to Greater Iran
Greater Iran
and turned southeast to India or west to the Middle East
Middle East
and Europe. A minor branch went northwest along the great rivers and north of the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. When faced with a rich caravan the steppe nomads could either rob it, or tax it, or hire themselves out as guards. Economically these three forms of taxation or parasitism amounted to the same thing. Trade was usually most vigorous when a strong empire controlled the steppe and reduced the number of petty chieftains preying on trade. The silk road first became significant and Chinese silk began reaching the Roman Empire about the time that the Emperor of Han pushed Chinese power west to the Tarim Basin. Agriculture[edit] The nomads would occasionally tolerate colonies of peasants on the steppe in the few areas where farming was possible. These were often captives who grew grain for their nomadic masters. Along the fringes there were areas that could be used for either plowland or grassland. These alternated between one and the other depending on the relative strength of the nomadic and agrarian heartlands. Over the last few hundred years, the Russian steppe and much of Inner Mongolia
has been cultivated. The fact that most of the Russian steppe is not irrigated implies that it was maintained as grasslands as a result of the military strength of the nomads. Language[edit] According to the most widely held hypothesis of the origin of the Indo-European languages, the Kurgan hypothesis, their common ancestor is thought to have originated on the Pontic-Caspian steppe. The Tocharians
were an early Indo-European branch in the Tarim Basin. At the beginning of written history the entire steppe population west of Dzungaria
spoke Iranian languages. From about 500 AD the Turkic languages replaced the Iranian languages
Iranian languages
first on the steppe, and later in the oases north of Iran (the reasons for this are poorly understood). Additionally, Hungarian speakers, a branch of the Uralic language family, who previously lived in the steppe in what is now Southern Russia, settled in the Carpathian basin
Carpathian basin
in year 895. Mongolic languages are in Mongolia. In Manchuria
one finds Tungusic languages and some others. Religion[edit] If the Kurgan hypothesis
Kurgan hypothesis
of Indo-European origins is accepted, then the earliest hypothesised steppe religion would have been the mythology of the Indo-Europeans. Later, Tangriism
was introduced by Turko-Mongol
nomads. Nestorianism
and Manichaeism
spread to the Tarim Basin and into China
but they never became an established majority religion. Buddhism
spread from India north to the Tarim Basin
Tarim Basin
and found a new home in China. By about 1400 the entire steppe west of Dzungaria
had adopted Islam. By about 1600 Islam
was established in the Tarim Basin
Tarim Basin
while Dzungaria
and Mongolia
had adopted Tibetan Buddhism. History[edit]

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Further information: History of the eastern steppe, History of the central steppe, and History of the western steppe Warfare[edit] Raids between tribes were prevalent throughout the region's history. This is connected to the ease with which a defeated enemy's flocks can be driven away, making raiding profitable. In terms of warfare and raiding, in relation to sedentary societies, the horse gave the nomads an advantage of mobility. Horsemen could raid a village and retreat with their loot before an infantry-based army could be mustered and deployed. When confronted with superior infantry, horsemen could simply ride away and retreat and regroup. Outside of Europe and parts of the Middle East, agrarian societies had difficulty raising a sufficient number of war horses, and often had to enlist them from their nomadic enemies(as mercenaries). Nomads could not easily be pursued onto the steppe since the steppe could not easily support a land army. If the Chinese sent an army into Mongolia, the nomads would flee and come back when the Chinese ran out of supplies. But the steppe nomads were relatively few and their rulers had difficulty holding together enough clans and tribes to field a large army. If they conquered an agricultural area they often lacked the skills to administer it. If they tried to hold agrarian land they gradually absorbed the civilization of their subjects, lost their nomadic skills and were either absorbed by their subjects or driven out. Relations with neighbors[edit] Along the northern fringe the nomads would collect tribute from and blend with the forest tribes (see Khanate of Sibir, Buryats).[citation needed] From about 1240 to 1480 Russia
paid tribute to the Golden Horde.[citation needed] South of the Kazakh steppe the nomads blended with the sedentary population, partly because the Middle East
Middle East
has significant areas of steppe (taken by force in past invasions) and pastoralism. There was a sharp cultural divide between Mongolia
and China
and almost constant warfare from the dawn of history until 1757.[citation needed] The nomads collected large amounts of tribute from the Chinese and several Chinese dynasties were of steppe origin. Perhaps because of the mixture of agriculture and pastoralism in Manchuria
its inhabitants knew how to deal with both nomads and the settled populations, and therefore were able to conquer much of northern China
when both Chinese and Mongols
were weak. Historical peoples and nations[edit]

13th–3rd centuries BC Cimmerians
12th–7th centuries BC Magyars
11th century BC – 8th century AD Scythians
8th–4th centuries BC Sogdiana
8th–4th centuries BC Issedones 7th–1st century BC Massagatae
7th–1st century BC Thyssagetae
7th–3rd century BC Donghu 7th – 2nd century BC Dahae
7th BC-5th century AD Saka
6th–1st centuries BC Sarmatians
5th century BC – 5th century AD Bulgars
7th century BC–7th century AD[16] Transoxiana
4th century BC – 14th century AD Xiongnu
3rd century BC – 2nd century AD Iazyges
3rd century BC – 5th century AD Yuezhi
2nd century BC – 1st century AD Tauri Wusun
1st century BC – 6th century AD Xianbei
1st–3rd centuries Goths
3rd–6th centuries Huns
4th–8th centuries Alans
5th–11th centuries Avars 5th–9th centuries Hepthalites 5th–7th centuries Eurasian Avars 6th–8th centuries Göktürks
6th–8th centuries Sabirs
6th–8th centuries Khazars
7th–11th centuries Onogurs
8th century Pechenegs
8th–11th centuries Bashkirs
10th century-present day Kipchaks
and Cumans
11th–13th centuries Crimean Goths Mongol Empire
Mongol Empire
13th–14th centuries Tsagadai Ulus 13th–15th centuries Golden Horde
Golden Horde
13th–15th centuries Cossacks, Kalmyks, Crimean Khanate, Volga Tatars, Nogais
and other Turkic states and tribes 15th–18th centuries Russian Empire
Russian Empire
18th–20th centuries Soviet Union
Soviet Union
20th century Gagauzia, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, Ukraine
20th–21st centuries


south of Siberia, Altai Krai.

south of Siberia, Altai Krai.

in east Kazakhstan, in summer.

Flowering of spring in Rostov oblast, Russia. Tulipa suaveolens and Iris pumila
Iris pumila
are among the most widespread species in Eurasian steppe.

adjacent to the Khopyor River, Volgograd Oblast, Russia.

on calcareous plate adjacent to the Khopyor River, Volgograd Oblast, Russia.

Eastern Steppe
south of Siberia, Zabaykalsky Krai.

Kyrgyz Steppe.

See also[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Eurasian Steppe.

Route Izyumsky Trail Great Alföld Little Alföld


^ Canada's vegetation: a world perspective – Geoffrey A. J. Scott – Google Knihy. Books.google.sk. Retrieved 2012-02-09.  ^ "Equus ferus ssp. przewalskii (Asian Wild Horse, Mongolian Wild Horse, Przewalski's Horse)". www.iucnredlist.org.  ^ "Saiga tatarica (Mongolian Saiga, Saiga, Saiga Antelope)". www.iucnredlist.org.  ^ "Procapra gutturosa (Dzeren, Mongolian Gazelle)". www.iucnredlist.org.  ^ "Gazella subgutturosa (Goitered Gazelle)". www.iucnredlist.org.  ^ "Camelus ferus (Bactrian Camel, Two-humped Camel, Wild Bactrian Camel)". www.iucnredlist.org.  ^ "Equus hemionus (Asian Wild Ass, Asiatic Wild Ass)". www.iucnredlist.org.  ^ "Canis lupus (Arctic Wolf, Common Wolf, Gray Wolf, Grey Wolf, Mexican Wolf, Plains Wolf, Timber Wolf, Tundra Wolf, Wolf)". www.iucnredlist.org.  ^ "Vulpes corsac (Corsac Fox)". www.iucnredlist.org.  ^ Gutleb, Bernhard; Ziaie, Hooshang (1999). "On the distribution and status of the Brown Bear, Ursus arctos, and the Asiatic Black Bear, U. thibetanus, in Iran". Zoology in the Middle East. 18: 5. doi:10.1080/09397140.1999.10637777 ^ "Meriones unguiculatus (Mongolian Gerbil, Mongolian Jird)". www.iucnredlist.org.  ^ "Spermophilus pygmaeus (Little Ground Squirrel)". www.iucnredlist.org.  ^ "Marmota bobak (Bobak Marmot)". www.iucnredlist.org.  ^ http://www.birdlife.org/action/science/asia_strategy/pdf_downloads/grasslandsGO1.pdf ^ Természettudományi Múzeum (Hungary) (1969). Annales historico-naturales Musei Nationalis Hungarici.  ^ "The Proto-Turkic Urheimat and the Early Migrations of Turkic Peoples". Archived from the original on December 24, 2013. Retrieved April 20, 2014. 


John of Plano Carpini, "History of the Mongols," in Christopher Dawson, (ed.), Mission to Asia, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005, pp. 3–76. Barthold, W., Turkestan Down to the Mongol Invasion, T. Minorsky, (tr.), New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 1992. Christian, David, A History of Russia, Central Asia
Central Asia
and Mongolia, Volume 1: Inner Eurasia
from Prehistory to the Mongol Empire’, Malden MA, Oxford, UK, Carlton, Australia: Blackwell Publishing 1998. Fletcher, Joseph F., Studies on Chinese and Islamic Inner Asia, Beatrice Forbes Manz, (ed.), Aldershot, Hampshire: Variorum, 1995, IX. Grousset, René, The Empire of the Steppes: a History of Central Asia, Naomi Walford, (tr.), New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1970. Krader, Lawrence, "Ecology of Central Asian Pastoralism," Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, Vol. 11, No. 4, (1955), pp. 301–326. Lattimore, Owen, "The Geographical Factor in Mongol History," in Owen Lattimore, (ed.), Studies in Frontier History: Collected Papers 1928–1958, London: Oxford University Press, 1962, pp. 241–258. Sinor, Denis, "The Inner Asian Warrior," in Denis Sinor, (Collected Studies Series), Studies in Medieval Inner Asia, Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate, Variorum, 1997, XIII. Sinor, Denis, "Horse and Pasture in Inner Asian History," in Denis Sinor, (Collected Studies Series), Inner Asia and its Contacts with Medieval Europe, London: V