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CENTRAL ASIA stretches from the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
in the west to China
China
in the east and from Afghanistan
Afghanistan
in the south to Russia
Russia
in the north. It is also colloquially referred to as "the -stans " as the countries generally considered to be within the region all have names ending with the Persian suffix "-stan", meaning "land of".

Central Asia's five former Soviet republics are Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
(pop. 18 million), Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan
(5.7 million), Tajikistan
Tajikistan
(8.0 million), Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
(5.2 million), and Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
(30 million), giving the region a total population of about 66 million. Although not a former Soviet republic, Afghanistan
Afghanistan
(pop. 29 million) is also sometimes included.

Central Asia has historically been closely tied to its nomadic peoples and the Silk Road
Silk Road
. It has acted as a crossroads for the movement of people, goods, and ideas between Europe
Europe
, Western Asia
Western Asia
, South Asia
South Asia
, and East Asia
East Asia
. The Silk Road
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
Bactrians
, Sogdians
Sogdians
, Chorasmians and the semi-nomadic Scythians
Scythians
and Parthians
Parthians
. After expansion by Turkic peoples
Turkic peoples
, Central Asia also became the homeland for the Kazakhs
Kazakhs
, Uzbeks
Uzbeks
, Turkmen , Kyrgyz and Uyghurs and Turkic languages largely replaced the Iranian languages spoken in the area. Central Asia is sometimes referred to as Turkestan .

From the mid-19th century until almost the end of the 20th century, most of Central Asia was part of the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
and later the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
, both Slavic -majority countries, and the five former Soviet "-stans" are still home to about 7 million Russians
Russians
and 500,000 Ukrainians
Ukrainians
.

CONTENTS

* 1 Definitions * 2 Geography

* 3 Divisions

* 3.1 Climate

* 4 History

* 5 Culture

* 5.1 Arts * 5.2 Sports

* 6 Economy

* 7 Science and technology

* 7.1 Modernization of research infrastructure * 7.2 Financial investment in research * 7.3 Trends in researchers * 7.4 Research output * 7.5 International cooperation

* 8 Territorial and regional data

* 9 Demographics

* 9.1 Languages * 9.2 Religions

* 10 Geostrategy

* 10.1 War
War
on Terror

* 11 Major cultural, scientific and economic centres * 12 See also * 13 Notes * 14 Sources * 15 References * 16 Further reading * 17 External links

DEFINITIONS

Three sets of possible boundaries for the region Map of Central Asia (including Afghanistan)

The idea of Central Asia as a distinct region of the world was introduced in 1843 by the geographer Alexander von Humboldt
Alexander von Humboldt
. 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
Middle Asia
as consisting solely of Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
, Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
, Tajikistan
Tajikistan
and Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan
. This definition was also often used outside the USSR during this period.

However, the Russian culture
Russian culture
has two distinct terms: _Средняя Азия_ (_Srednyaya Aziya_ or " Middle Asia
Middle Asia
", the narrower definition, which includes only those traditionally non-Slavic, Central Asian lands that were incorporated within those borders of historical Russia) and _Центральная Азия_ (_Tsentralnaya Aziya_ or "Central Asia", the wider definition, which includes Central Asian lands that have never been part of historical Russia).

Soon after independence, the leaders of the four former Soviet Central Asian Republics met in Tashkent
Tashkent
and declared that the definition of Central Asia should include Kazakhstan
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
UNESCO
general history of Central Asia, written just before the collapse of the USSR, defines the region based on climate and uses far larger borders. According to it, Central Asia includes Mongolia
Mongolia
, Tibet
Tibet
, northeast Iran
Iran
(Golestan , North Khorasan and Razavi provinces), central-east Russia
Russia
south of the Taiga
Taiga
, large parts of China
China
, Afghanistan
Afghanistan
, Pakistan
Pakistan
, and the former Central Asian Soviet republics (the five "Stans" of the former Soviet Union
Soviet Union
).

An alternative method is to define the region based on ethnicity, and in particular, areas populated by Eastern Turkic , Eastern Iranian , or Mongolian peoples. These areas include Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Uyghur Autonomous Region , the Turkic regions of southern Siberia
Siberia
, the five republics, and Afghan Turkestan
Turkestan
. Afghanistan
Afghanistan
as a whole, the northern and western areas of Pakistan
Pakistan
and the Kashmir Valley
Kashmir Valley
of India may also be included. The Tibetans
Tibetans
and Ladakhi are also included. Insofar, most of the mentioned peoples are considered the "indigenous" peoples of the vast region.

There are several places that claim to be the geographic center of Asia, for example Kyzyl
Kyzyl
, the capital of Tuva
Tuva
in the Russian Federation , and a village 200 miles (320 km) north of Ürümqi
Ürümqi
, the capital of the Xinjiang
Xinjiang
region of China.

GEOGRAPHY

On the southern shore of Issyk Kul lake, Issyk Kul Region .

Central Asia is an extremely large region of varied geography, including high passes and mountains ( Tian Shan
Tian Shan
), vast deserts (Kyzyl Kum , Taklamakan
Taklamakan
), and especially treeless, grassy steppes . The vast steppe areas of Central Asia are considered together with the steppes of Eastern Europe
Europe
as a homogeneous geographical zone known as the Eurasian Steppe
Steppe
.

Much of the land of Central Asia is too dry or too rugged for farming. The Gobi desert
Gobi desert
extends from the foot of the Pamirs , 77° E, to the Great Khingan (Da Hinggan) Mountains, 116°–118° E.

Central Asia has the following geographic extremes:

* The world's northernmost desert (sand dunes ), at Buurug Deliin Els, Mongolia
Mongolia
, 50°18′ N. * The Northern Hemisphere\'s southernmost permafrost , at Erdenetsogt sum, Mongolia
Mongolia
, 46°17′ N. * The world's shortest distance between non-frozen desert and permafrost : 770 km (480 mi). * The Eurasian pole of inaccessibility .

A majority of the people earn a living by herding livestock. Industrial activity centers in the region's cities.

Major rivers of the region include the Amu Darya
Amu Darya
, the Syr Darya
Syr Darya
, Irtysh
Irtysh
, the Hari River and the Murghab River . Major bodies of water include the Aral Sea
Aral Sea
and Lake Balkhash
Lake Balkhash
, both of which are part of the huge west-central Asian endorheic basin that also includes the Caspian Sea .

Both of these bodies of water have shrunk significantly in recent decades due to diversion of water from rivers that feed them for irrigation and industrial purposes. Water is an extremely valuable resource in arid Central Asia and can lead to rather significant international disputes.

DIVISIONS

Central Asia map of Köppen climate classification.

The northern belt is part of the Eurasian Steppe. In the northwest, north of the Caspian Sea, Central Asia merges into the Russian Steppe. To the northeast, Dzungaria
Dzungaria
and the Tarim Basin
Tarim Basin
may sometimes be included in Central Asia. Just west of Dzungaria, Zhetysu
Zhetysu
, or Semirechye, is south of Lake Balkhash
Lake Balkhash
and north of the Tian Shan Mountains. Khorezm
Khorezm
is south of the Aral Sea
Aral Sea
along the Amu Darya
Amu Darya
. Southeast of the Aral Sea, Maveranahr is between the Amu Darya
Amu Darya
and Syr Darya. Transoxiana
Transoxiana
is the land north of the middle and upper Amu Darya (Oxus). Bactria
Bactria
included northern Afghanistan
Afghanistan
and the upper Amu Darya. Sogdiana
Sogdiana
was north of Bactria
Bactria
and included the trading cities of Bukhara
Bukhara
and Samarkhand. Khorasan and Margiana approximate northeastern Iran. The Kyzyl
Kyzyl
Kum Desert
Desert
is northeast of the Amu Darya, and the Karakum Desert
Desert
southwest of it.

CLIMATE

Because Central Asia is not buffered by a large body of water, temperature fluctuations are severe, outside the sunny, hot summer months. In most areas the climate is dry and continental, with hot summers and cool to cold winters, with occasional snowfall. Outside high-elevation areas, the climate is mostly semi-arid to arid. In lower elevations, summers are hot with blazing sunshine. Winters feature occasional rain and/or snow from low-pressure systems that cross the area from the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
. Average monthly precipitation is extremely low from July to September, rises in autumn (October and November) and is highest in March or April, followed by swift drying in May and June. Winds can be strong, producing dust storms sometimes, especially toward the end of the dry season in September and October. Specific cities that exemplify Central Asian climate patterns include Samarkand
Samarkand
, Uzbekistan, Tashkent
Tashkent
and Ashgabat , Turkmenistan, and Dushanbe
Dushanbe
, Tajikistan, the last of these representing one of the wettest climates in Central Asia, with an average annual precipitation of over 22 inches.

According to the WWF Ecozones system , Central Asia is part of the Palearctic
Palearctic
ecozone . The largest biomes in Central Asia are the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome. Central Asia also contains the montane grasslands and shrublands , deserts and xeric shrublands as well as temperate coniferous forests biomes.

HISTORY

Geographical extent of Iranian influence in the 1st century BC. Scythia
Scythia
(mostly Eastern Iranian ) is shown in orange. Main article: History of Central Asia

Although, during the golden age of Orientalism the place of Central Asia in the world history was marginalized, contemporary historiography has rediscovered the "centrality" of the Central Asia. The history of Central Asia is defined by the area's climate and geography. The aridness of the region made agriculture difficult, and its distance from the sea cut it off from much trade. Thus, few major cities developed in the region; instead, the area was for millennia dominated by the nomadic horse peoples of the steppe .

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
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
China
and most notably the Mongol conquest of much of Eurasia
Eurasia
. Uzbek men from Khiva
Khiva
, ca. 1861–1880

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

The main migration of Turkic peoples
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
Chagatai Khanate
. Kazakh man on a horse with golden eagle

The dominance of the nomads ended in the 16th century, as firearms allowed settled peoples to gain control of the region. Russia
Russia
, China , and other powers expanded into the region and had captured the bulk of Central Asia by the end of the 19th century. After the Russian Revolution , the western Central Asian regions were incorporated into the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
. The eastern part of Central Asia, known as East Turkistan or Xinjiang
Xinjiang
, was incorporated into the People\'s Republic of China
China
. Mongolia
Mongolia
remained independent but became a Soviet satellite state . Afghanistan
Afghanistan
remained relatively independent of major influence by the USSR until the Saur Revolution
Saur Revolution
of 1978.

The Soviet areas of Central Asia saw much industrialization and construction of infrastructure , but also the suppression of local cultures, hundreds of thousands of deaths from failed collectivization programs, and a lasting legacy of ethnic tensions and environmental problems. Soviet authorities deported millions of people, including entire nationalities, from western areas of the USSR to Central Asia and Siberia
Siberia
. According to Touraj Atabaki and Sanjyot Mehendale, "From 1959 to 1970, about two million people from various parts of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
migrated to Central Asia, of which about one million moved to Kazakhstan."

With the collapse of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
, five countries gained independence. In nearly all the new states, former Communist Party officials retained power as local strongmen. None of the new republics could be considered functional democracies in the early days of independence, although in recent years Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan
, Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
and Mongolia
Mongolia
have made further progress towards more open societies, unlike Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
, Tajikistan
Tajikistan
, and Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
, which have maintained many Soviet-style repressive tactics.

CULTURE

Mosque in Petropavlovsk , Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan

ARTS

Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi in Hazrat-e Turkestan, Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
. Timurid architecture consisted of Persian art
Persian art
. Saadi Shirazi is welcomed by a youth from Kashgar
Kashgar
during a forum in Bukhara
Bukhara
.

At the crossroads of Asia, shamanistic practices live alongside Buddhism
Buddhism
. Thus, Yama , Lord of Death, was revered in Tibet
Tibet
as a spiritual guardian and judge. Mongolian Buddhism, in particular, was influenced by Tibetan Buddhism. The Qianlong Emperor
Qianlong Emperor
of Qing China
China
in the 18th century was Tibetan Buddhist and would sometimes travel from Beijing
Beijing
to other cities for personal religious worship.

Central Asia also has an indigenous form of improvisational oral poetry that is over 1000 years old. It is principally practiced in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan
and Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
by _akyns_, lyrical improvisationists. They engage in lyrical battles , the _aitysh_ or the _alym sabak_. The tradition arose out of early bardic oral historians . They are usually accompanied by a stringed instrument —in Kyrgyzstan, a three-stringed komuz , and in Kazakhstan, a similar two-stringed instrument, the dombra.

Photography in Central Asia began to develop after 1882, when a Russian Mennonite
Russian Mennonite
photographer named Wilhelm Penner moved to the Khanate of Khiva
Khiva
during the Mennonite migration to Central Asia led by Claas Epp, Jr.
Claas Epp, Jr.
. Upon his arrival to Khanate of Khiva
Khiva
, Penner shared his photography skills with a local student Khudaybergen Divanov, who later became the founder of Uzbek photography .

Some also learn to sing the _Manas _, Kyrgyzstan's epic poem (those who learn the _Manas_ exclusively but do not improvise are called _manaschis_). During Soviet rule, _akyn_ performance was co-opted by the authorities and subsequently declined in popularity. With the fall of the Soviet Union, it has enjoyed a resurgence, although _akyns_ still do use their art to campaign for political candidates. A 2005 _ The Washington Post
The Washington Post
_ article proposed a similarity between the improvisational art of _akyns_ and modern freestyle rap performed in the West.

As a consequence of Russian colonization, European fine arts – painting, sculpture and graphics – have developed in Central Asia. The first years of the Soviet regime saw the appearance of modernism, which took inspiration from the Russian avant-garde movement. Until the 1980s, Central Asian arts had developed along with general tendencies of Soviet arts. In the 90's, arts of the region underwent some significant changes. Institutionally speaking, some fields of arts were regulated by the birth of the art market, some stayed as representatives of official views, while many were sponsored by international organizations. The years of 1990 – 2000 were times for the establishment of contemporary arts. In the region, many important international exhibitions are taking place, Central Asian art is represented in European and American museums, and the Central Asian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale has been organized since 2005.

SPORTS

Equestrian sports are traditional in Central Asia, with disciplines like endurance riding , buzkashi , dzhigit and kyz kuu .

Association football
Association football
is popular across Central Asia. Most countries are members of the Central Asian Football Association
Central Asian Football Association
, a region of the Asian Football Confederation
Asian Football Confederation
. However, Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
is a member of the UEFA
UEFA
.

Wrestling
Wrestling
is popular across Central Asia, with Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
having claimed 14 Olympic medals and Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
seven. As former Soviet states, Central Asian countries have been successful in gymnastics .

Cricket
Cricket
is the most popular sport in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
. The Afghanistan national cricket team , first formed in 2001, has claimed wins over Bangladesh, West Indies
West Indies
and Zimbabwe.

Notable Kazakh competitors include cyclists Alexander Vinokourov
Alexander Vinokourov
and Andrey Kashechkin , boxer Vassiliy Jirov , runner Olga Shishigina
Olga Shishigina
, decathlete Dmitriy Karpov
Dmitriy Karpov
, gymnast Aliya Yussupova , judoka Askhat Zhitkeyev and Maxim Rakov , skier Vladimir Smirnov , weightlifter Ilya Ilyin , and figure skater Denis Ten .

Notable Uzbekistani competitors include cyclist Djamolidine Abdoujaparov , boxer Ruslan Chagaev
Ruslan Chagaev
, canoer Michael Kolganov , gymnast Oksana Chusovitina
Oksana Chusovitina
, tennis player Denis Istomin and chess player Rustam Kasimdzhanov
Rustam Kasimdzhanov
.

ECONOMY

GDP growth trends in Central Asia, 2000–2013. Source: UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030 (2015), Figure 14.1

Since gaining independence in the early 1990s, the Central Asian republics have gradually been moving from a state-controlled economy to a market economy. The ultimate aim is to emulate the Asian Tigers by becoming the local equivalent, Central Asian snow leopards. However, reform has been deliberately gradual and selective, as governments strive to limit the social cost and ameliorate living standards. All five countries are implementing structural reforms to improve competitiveness. In particular, they have been modernizing the industrial sector and fostering the development of service industries through business-friendly fiscal policies and other measures, to reduce the share of agriculture in GDP. Between 2005 and 2013, the share of agriculture dropped in all but Tajikistan, where it progressed to the detriment of industry. The fastest growth in industry was observed in Turkmenistan, whereas the services sector progressed most in the other four countries.

Public policies pursued by Central Asian governments focus on buffering the political and economic spheres from external shocks. This includes maintaining a trade balance, minimizing public debt and accumulating national reserves. They cannot totally insulate themselves from negative exterior forces, however, such as the persistently weak recovery of global industrial production and international trade since 2008. Notwithstanding this, they have emerged relatively unscathed from the global financial crisis of 2008–2009. Growth faltered only briefly in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
and not at all in Uzbekistan, where the economy grew by more than 7% per year on average between 2008 and 2013. Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
flirted with growth of 15% (14.7%) in 2011. Kyrgyzstan’s performance has been more erratic but this phenomenon was visible well before 2008. GDP in Central Asia by economic sector, 2005 and 2013. Source: UNESCO
UNESCO
Science Report: towards 2030, Figure 14.2

The republics which have fared best surfed on the wave of the commodities boom during the first decade of the new century. Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
and Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
have abundant oil and natural gas reserves and Uzbekistan’s own reserves make it more or less self-sufficient. Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan
Tajikistan
and Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
all have gold reserves and Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
has the world’s largest uranium reserves. Fluctuating global demand for cotton, aluminium and other metals (except gold) in recent years has hit Tajikistan
Tajikistan
hardest, since aluminium and raw cotton are its chief exports − the Tajik Aluminium Company is the country’s primary industrial asset. In January 2014, the Minister of Agriculture announced the government’s intention to reduce the acreage of land cultivated by cotton to make way for other crops. Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
and Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
are major cotton exporters themselves, ranking fifth and ninth respectively worldwide for volume in 2014.

Although both exports and imports have grown impressively over the past decade, Central Asian republics countries remain vulnerable to economic shocks, owing to their reliance on exports of raw materials, a restricted circle of trading partners and a negligible manufacturing capacity. Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan
has the added disadvantage of being considered resource poor, although it does have ample water. Most of its electricity is generated by hydropower.

The Kyrgyz economy was shaken by a series of shocks between 2010 and 2012. In April 2010, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was deposed by a popular uprising, with former minister of foreign affairs Roza Otunbayeva assuring the interim presidency until the election of Almazbek Atambayev in November 2011. Food prices rose two years in a row and, in 2012, production at the major Kumtor gold mine fell by 60% after the site was perturbed by geological movements. According to the World Bank, 33.7% of the population was living in absolute poverty in 2010 and 36.8% a year later.

Despite high rates of economic growth in recent years, GDP per capita in Central Asia was higher than the average for developing countries only in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
in 2013 (PPP$23 206) and Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
(PPP$14 201). It dropped to PPP$5 167 for Uzbekistan, home to 45% of the region’s population, and was even lower for Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan
and Tajikistan.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

See also: Science and technology in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
, Science and technology in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan
, Science and technology in Tajikistan
Tajikistan
, Science and technology in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
, and Science and technology in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan

MODERNIZATION OF RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE

Bolstered by strong economic growth in all but Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan
, national development strategies are fostering new high-tech industries, pooling resources and orienting the economy towards export markets. Many national research institutions established during the Soviet era have since become obsolete with the development of new technologies and changing national priorities. This has led countries to reduce the number of national research institutions since 2009 by grouping existing institutions to create research hubs. Several of the Turkmen Academy of Science’ s institutes were merged in 2014: the Institute of Botany was merged with the Institute of Medicinal Plants to become the Institute of Biology and Medicinal Plants ; the Sun Institute was merged with the Institute of Physics and Mathematics to become the Institute of Solar Energy ; and the Institute of Seismology merged with the State Service for Seismology to become the Institute of Seismology and Atmospheric Physics . In Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
, more than 10 institutions of the Academy of Sciences have been reorganized, following the issuance of a decree by the Cabinet of Ministers in February 2012. The aim is to orient academic research towards problem-solving and ensure continuity between basic and applied research. For example, the Mathematics and Information Technology Research Institute has been subsumed under the National University of Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
and the Institute for Comprehensive Research on Regional Problems of Samarkand
Samarkand
has been transformed into a problem-solving laboratory on environmental issues within Samarkand
Samarkand
State University . Other research institutions have remained attached to the Uzbek Academy of Sciences , such as the Centre of Genomics and Bioinformatics .

Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
and Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
are also building technology parks as part of their drive to modernize infrastructure. In 2011, construction began of a technopark in the village of Bikrova near Ashgabat, the Turkmen capital. It will combine research, education, industrial facilities, business incubators and exhibition centres. The technopark will house research on alternative energy sources (sun, wind) and the assimilation of nanotechnologies. Between 2010 and 2012, technological parks were set up in the east, south and north Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
oblasts (administrative units) and in the capital, Astana. A Centre for Metallurgy was also established in the east Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
oblast, as well as a Centre for Oil and Gas Technologies which will be part of the planned Caspian Energy Hub. In addition, the Centre for Technology Commercialization has been set up in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
as part of the Parasat National Scientific and Technological Holding, a joint stock company established in 2008 that is 100% state-owned. The centre supports research projects in technology marketing, intellectual property protection, technology licensing contracts and start-ups. The centre plans to conduct a technology audit in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
and to review the legal framework regulating the commercialization of research results and technology. Trends in research expenditure in Central Asia, as a percentage of GDP, 2001–2013. Source: UNESCO
UNESCO
Science Report: 2030 (2015), Figure 14.3

Countries are seeking to augment the efficiency of traditional extractive sectors but also to make greater use of information and communication technologies and other modern technologies, such as solar energy, to develop the business sector, education and research. In March 2013, two research institutes were created by presidential decree to foster the development of alternative energy sources in Uzbekistan, with funding from the Asian Development Bank
Asian Development Bank
and other institutions: the SPU Physical−Technical Institute (Physics Sun Institute ) and the International Solar Energy Institute . Three universities have been set up since 2011 to foster competence in strategic economic areas: Nazarbayev University
Nazarbayev University
in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
(first intake in 2011), an international research university, Inha University in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
(first intake in 2014), specializing in information and communication technologies, and the International Oil and Gas University in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
(founded in 2013). Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
and Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
are both generalizing the teaching of foreign languages at school, in order to facilitate international ties. Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
and Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
have both adopted the three-tier bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degree system, in 2007 and 2012 respectively, which is gradually replacing the Soviet system of Candidates and Doctors of Science. In 2010, Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
became the only Central Asian member of the Bologna Process
Bologna Process
, which seeks to harmonize higher education systems in order to create a European Higher Education Area.

FINANCIAL INVESTMENT IN RESEARCH

The Central Asian republics' ambition of developing the business sector, education and research is being hampered by chronic low investment in research and development. Over the decade to 2013, the region's investment in research and development hovered around 0.2–0.3% of GDP. Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
broke with this trend in 2013 by raising its own research intensity to 0.41% of GDP.

Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
is the only country where the business enterprise and private non-profit sectors make any significant contribution to research and development – but research intensity overall is low in Kazakhstan: just 0.18% of GDP in 2013. Moreover, few industrial enterprises conduct research in Kazakhstan. Only one in eight (12.5%) of the country's manufacturing firms were active in innovation in 2012, according to a survey by the UNESCO
UNESCO
Institute for Statistics . Enterprises prefer to purchase technological solutions that are already embodied in imported machinery and equipment. Just 4% of firms purchase the license and patents that come with this technology. Nevertheless, there appears to be a growing demand for the products of research, since enterprises spent 4.5 times more on scientific and technological services in 2008 than in 1997. Central Asian researchers by sector of employment (HC), 2013. Source: UNESCO
UNESCO
Science Report: towards 2030 (2015), Figure 14.5

TRENDS IN RESEARCHERS

Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
and Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
count the highest researcher density in Central Asia. The number of researchers per million population is close to the world average (1,083 in 2013) in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
(1,046) and higher than the world average in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
(1,097).

Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
is the only Central Asian country where the business enterprise and private non-profit sectors make any significant contribution to research and development. Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
is in a particularly vulnerable position, with its heavy reliance on higher education: three-quarters of researchers were employed by the university sector in 2013 and just 6% in the business enterprise sector. With most Uzbek university researchers nearing retirement, this imbalance imperils Uzbekistan’s research future. Almost all holders of a Candidate of Science, Doctor of Science or PhD are more than 40 years old and half are aged over 60; more than one in three researchers (38.4%) holds a PhD degree, or its equivalent, the remainder holding a bachelor’s or master's degree. Central Asian researchers by field of science, 2013. Source: UNESCO
UNESCO
Science Report: towards 2030 (2015), Figure 14.4

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan
and Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
have all maintained a share of women researchers above 40% since the fall of the Soviet Union. Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
has even achieved gender parity, with Kazakh women dominating medical and health research and representing some 45–55% of engineering and technology researchers in 2013. In Tajikistan, however, only one in three scientists (34%) was a woman in 2013, down from 40% in 2002. Although policies are in place to give Tajik women equal rights and opportunities, these are underfunded and poorly understood. Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
has offered a state guarantee of equality for women since a law adopted in 2007 but the lack of available data makes it impossible to draw any conclusions as to the law’s impact on research. As for Turkmenistan, it does not make data available on higher education, research expenditure or researchers.

TABLE: PHDS OBTAINED IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING IN CENTRAL ASIA, 2013 OR CLOSEST YEAR

PhDs PhDs in science PhDs in engineering

Total Women (%) Total Women (% Total per million population Women PhDs per million population Total Women (% Total per million population Women PhDs per million population

Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
(2013) 247 51 73 60 4.4 2.7 37 38 2.3 0.9

Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan
(2012) 499 63 91 63 16.6 10.4 54 63 – –

Tajikistan
Tajikistan
(2012) 331 11 31 – 3.9 – 14 – – –

Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan

(2011) 838 42 152 30 5.4 1.6 118 27.0 – –

Source: _ UNESCO
UNESCO
Science Report: towards 2030_ (2015), Table 14.1

_Note: PhD graduates in science cover life sciences, physical sciences, mathematics and statistics, and computing; PhDs in engineering also cover manufacturing and construction. For Central Asia, the generic term of PhD also encompasses Candidate of Science and Doctor of Science degrees. Data are unavailable for Turkmenistan._

TABLE: CENTRAL ASIAN RESEARCHERS BY FIELD OF SCIENCE AND GENDER, 2013 OR CLOSEST YEAR

TOTAL RESEARCHERS (HEAD COUNTS) RESEARCHERS BY FIELD OF SCIENCE (HEAD COUNTS)

Natural Sciences Engineering and technology Medical and health sciences Agricultural sciences Social sciences Humanities

Total researchers Per million pop. Number of women Women (% Total Women (% Total Women (%) Total Women (%) Total Women (%) Total Women (%) Total Women (%)

Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan

2013 17 195 1 046 8 849 51.5 5 091 51.9 4 996 44.7 1 068 69.5 2 150 43.4 1 776 61.0 2 114 57.5

Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan

2011 2 224 412 961 43.2 593 46.5 567 30.0 393 44.0 212 50.0 154 42.9 259 52.1

Tajikistan
Tajikistan

2013 2 152 262 728 33.8 509 30.3 206 18.0 374 67.6 472 23.5 335 25.7 256 34.0

Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan

2011 30 890 1 097 12 639 40.9 6 910 35.3 4 982 30.1 3 659 53.6 1 872 24.8 6 817 41.2 6 650 52.0

Source: _ UNESCO
UNESCO
Science Report: towards 2030_ (2015), Table 14.1

RESEARCH OUTPUT

Scientific publications from Central Asia catalogued by Thomson Reuters' Web of Science, Science Citation Index Expanded, 2005–2014, UNESCO
UNESCO
Science Report: towards 2030 (2015), Figure 14.6

The number of scientific papers published in Central Asia grew by almost 50% between 2005 and 2014, driven by Kazakhstan, which overtook Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
over this period to become the region's most prolific scientific publisher, according to Thomson Reuters' Web of Science (Science Citation Index Expanded). Between 2005 and 2014, Kazakhstan’s share of scientific papers from the region grew from 35% to 56%. Although two-thirds of papers from the region have a foreign co-author, the main partners tend to come from beyond Central Asia, namely the Russian Federation, USA, German, United Kingdom and Japan.

Five Kazakh patents were registered at the US Patent and Trademark Office between 2008 and 2013, compared to three for Uzbek inventors and none at all for the other three Central Asian republics, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan
Tajikistan
and Turkmenistan. Cumulative total of articles by Central Asians between 2008 and 2013, by field of science. Source: UNESCO
UNESCO
Science Report: towards 2030 (2015), Figure 14.6

Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
is Central Asia’s main trader in high-tech products. Kazakh imports nearly doubled between 2008 and 2013, from US$2.7 billion to US$5.1 billion. There has been a surge in imports of computers, electronics and telecommunications; these products represented an investment of US$744 million in 2008 and US$2.6 billion five years later. The growth in exports was more gradual – from US$2.3 billion to US$3.1 billion – and dominated by chemical products (other than pharmaceuticals), which represented two-thirds of exports in 2008 (US$1.5 billion) and 83% (US$2.6 billion) in 2013.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

The five Central Asian republics belong to several international bodies, including the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
Europe
, the Economic Cooperation Organization
Economic Cooperation Organization
and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation . They are also members of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Programme, which also includes Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Mongolia
Mongolia
and Pakistan. In November 2011, the 10 member countries adopted the _CAREC 2020 Strategy_, a blueprint for furthering regional co-operation. Over the decade to 2020, US$50 billion is being invested in priority projects in transport, trade and energy to improve members’ competitiveness. The landlocked Central Asian republics are conscious of the need to co-operate in order to maintain and develop their transport networks and energy, communication and irrigation systems. Only Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
and Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
border the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
and none of the republics has direct access to an ocean, complicating the transportation of hydrocarbons, in particular, to world markets.

Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
is also one of the three founding members of the Eurasian Economic Union in 2014, along with Belarus and the Russian Federation. Armenia and Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan
have since joined this body. As co-operation among the member states in science and technology is already considerable and well-codified in legal texts, the Eurasian Economic Union is expected to have a limited additional impact on co-operation among public laboratories or academia but it should encourage business ties and scientific mobility, since it includes provision for the free circulation of labour and unified patent regulations.

Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
and Tajikistan
Tajikistan
participated in the Innovative Biotechnologies Programme (2011–2015) launched by the Eurasian Economic Community , the predecessor of the Eurasian Economic Union
Eurasian Economic Union
, The programme also involved Belarus and the Russian Federation. Within this programme, prizes were awarded at an annual bio-industry exhibition and conference. In 2012, 86 Russian organizations participated, plus three from Belarus, one from Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
and three from Tajikistan, as well as two scientific research groups from Germany. At the time, Vladimir Debabov, Scientific Director of the Genetika State Research Institute for Genetics and the Selection of Industrial Micro-organisms in the Russian Federation, stressed the paramount importance of developing bio-industry. ‘In the world today, there is a strong tendency to switch from petrochemicals to renewable biological sources,’ he said. ‘Biotechnology is developing two to three times faster than chemicals.’

Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
also participated in a second project of the Eurasian Economic Community, the establishment of the Centre for Innovative Technologies on 4 April 2013, with the signing of an agreement between the Russian Venture Company (a government fund of funds), the Kazakh JSC National Agency and the Belarusian Innovative Foundation. Each of the selected projects is entitled to funding of US$3–90 million and is implemented within a public–private partnership. The first few approved projects focused on supercomputers, space technologies, medicine, petroleum recycling, nanotechnologies and the ecological use of natural resources. Once these initial projects have spawned viable commercial products, the venture company plans to reinvest the profits in new projects. This venture company is not a purely economic structure; it has also been designed to promote a common economic space among the three participating countries.

Four of the five Central Asian republics have also been involved in a project launched by the European Union
European Union
in September 2013, IncoNet CA. The aim of this project is to encourage Central Asian countries to participate in research projects within Horizon 2020 , the European Union's eighth research and innovation funding programme. The focus of this research projects is on three societal challenges considered as being of mutual interest to both the European Union
European Union
and Central Asia, namely: climate change, energy and health. IncoNet CA builds on the experience of earlier projects which involved other regions, such as Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and the Western Balkans. IncoNet CA focuses on twinning research facilities in Central Asia and Europe. It involves a consortium of partner institutions from Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Poland, Portugal, Tajikistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan. In May 2014, the European Union launched a 24-month call for project applications from twinned institutions – universities, companies and research institutes – for funding of up to €10, 000 to enable them to visit one another’s facilities to discuss project ideas or prepare joint events like workshops.

The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) was established in 1992 by the European Union, Japan, the Russian Federation and the USA to engage weapons scientists in civilian research projects and to foster technology transfer. ISTC branches have been set up in the following countries party to the agreement: Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan
and Tajikistan. The headquarters of ISTC were moved to Nazarbayev University
Nazarbayev University
in Kazakhstan in June 2014, three years after the Russian Federation
Russian Federation
announced its withdrawal from the centre.

Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan
Tajikistan
and Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
have been members of the World Trade Organization since 1998, 2013 and 2015 respectively.

TERRITORIAL AND REGIONAL DATA

COUNTRY Area km² Population (2016) Population density per km2 Nominal GDP millions of USD (2015) GDP per capita in USD (IMF 2015) HDI (2015) CAPITAL OFFICIAL LANGUAGES

Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
2,724,900 17,067,216 6.3 216,036 9,796 0.788 Astana
Astana
Kazakh , Russian

Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan
199,950 5,940,743 29.7 7,402 1,113 0.655 Bishkek
Bishkek
Kyrgyz , Russian

Tajikistan
Tajikistan
142,550 8,628,742 60.4 9,242 922 0.624 Dushanbe
Dushanbe
Tajik , Russian

Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
488,100 5,417,285 11.1 47,932 6,622 0.688 Ashgabat
Ashgabat
Turkmen

Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
447,400 30,932,878 69.1 62,613 2,121 0.675 Tashkent
Tashkent
Uzbek

DEMOGRAPHICS

Main article: Demographics of Central Asia The ethnolinguistic patchwork of Central Asia Uzbek children in Samarkand
Samarkand

By a broad definition including Mongolia
Mongolia
and Afghanistan, more than 90 million people live in Central Asia, about 2% of Asia's total population. Of the regions of Asia, only North Asia
North Asia
has fewer people. It has a population density of 9 people per km2, vastly less than the 80.5 people per km2 of the continent as a whole.

LANGUAGES

Russian , as well as being spoken by around six million ethnic Russians
Russians
and Ukrainians
Ukrainians
of Central Asia, is the de facto lingua franca throughout the former Soviet Central Asian Republics. Mandarin Chinese has an equally dominant presence in Inner Mongolia
Mongolia
, Qinghai and Xinjiang
Xinjiang
.

The languages of the majority of the inhabitants of the former Soviet Central Asian Republics come from the Turkic language group . Turkmen , is mainly spoken in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
, and as a minority language in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
, Russia
Russia
, Iran
Iran
and Turkey . Kazakh and Kyrgyz are related languages of the Kypchak group of Turkic languages and are spoken throughout Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
, Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan
, and as a minority language in Tajikistan
Tajikistan
, Afghanistan
Afghanistan
and Xinjiang
Xinjiang
. Uzbek and Uyghur are spoken in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
, Tajikistan
Tajikistan
, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan
Afghanistan
and Xinjiang
Xinjiang
.

The Turkic languages may belong to a larger, but controversial, Altaic language family, which includes Mongolian . Mongolian is spoken throughout Mongolia
Mongolia
and into Buryatia , Kalmyk, Tuva
Tuva
, Inner Mongolia , and Xinjiang
Xinjiang
.

Middle Iranian languages
Iranian languages
were once spoken throughout Central Asia, such as the once prominent Sogdian , Khwarezmian , Bactrian and Scythian , which are now extinct and belonged to the Eastern Iranian family. The Eastern Iranian Pashto language is still spoken in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
and northwestern Pakistan
Pakistan
. Other minor Eastern Iranian languages such as Shughni , Munji , Ishkashimi , Sarikoli , Wakhi , Yaghnobi and Ossetic are also spoken at various places in Central Asia. Varieties of Persian are also spoken as a major language in the region, locally known as Dari (in Afghanistan), Tajik (in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), and Bukhori (by the Bukharan Jews of Central Asia).

Tocharian , another Indo-European language group, which was once predominant in oases on the northern edge of the Tarim Basin
Tarim Basin
of Xinjiang, is now extinct.

Other language groups include the Tibetic languages , spoken by around six million people across the Tibetan Plateau and into Qinghai , Sichuan , Ladakh
Ladakh
and Baltistan , and the Nuristani languages of northeastern Afghanistan. Dardic languages , such as Shina , Kashmiri , Pashayi and Khowar , are also spoken in eastern Afghanistan, the Gilgit- Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan
Pakistan
and the disputed territory of Kashmir .

RELIGIONS

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Islam is the religion most common in the Central Asian Republics, Afghanistan
Afghanistan
, Xinjiang
Xinjiang
and the peripheral western regions, such as Bashkortostan . Most Central Asian Muslims are Sunni , although there are sizable Shia minorities in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
and Tajikistan.

Buddhism
Buddhism
and Zoroastrianism were the major faiths in Central Asia prior to the arrival of Islam. Zoroastrian influence is still felt today in such celebrations as Nowruz , held in all five of the Central Asian states.

Buddhism
Buddhism
was a prominent religion in Central Asia prior to the arrival of Islam, and the transmission of Buddhism
Buddhism
along the Silk Road eventually brought the religion to China. Amongst the Turkic peoples , Tengrianism was the popular religion before arrival of Islam. Tibetan Buddhism
Buddhism
is most common in Tibet, Mongolia, Ladakh
Ladakh
and the southern Russian regions of Siberia.

The form of Christianity most practiced in the region in previous centuries was Nestorianism , but now the largest denomination is the Russian Orthodox Church , with many members in Kazakhstan.

The Bukharan Jews were once a sizable community in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
and Tajikistan, but nearly all have emigrated since the dissolution of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
.

In Siberia, Shamanism is practiced, including forms of divination , such as Kumalak .

Contact and migration with Han people from China
China
has brought Confucianism , Daoism , Mahayana Buddhism
Buddhism
, and other Chinese folk beliefs into the region.

GEOSTRATEGY

Main article: Geostrategy in Central Asia Kazakh prostrating before Qianlong Emperor
Qianlong Emperor
of China
China
(1757).

Central Asia has long been a strategic location merely because of its proximity to several great powers on the Eurasian landmass. The region itself never held a dominant stationary population nor was able to make use of natural resources. Thus, it has rarely throughout history become the seat of power for an empire or influential state. Central Asia has been divided, redivided, conquered out of existence, and fragmented time and time again. Central Asia has served more as the battleground for outside powers than as a power in its own right.

Central Asia had both the advantage and disadvantage of a central location between four historical seats of power. From its central location, it has access to trade routes to and from all the regional powers. On the other hand, it has been continuously vulnerable to attack from all sides throughout its history, resulting in political fragmentation or outright power vacuum, as it is successively dominated. Political cartoon from the period of the Great Game showing the Afghan Amir Sher Ali with his "friends" Imperial Russia and the United Kingdom (1878)

* To the North, the steppe allowed for rapid mobility, first for nomadic horseback warriors like the Huns
Huns
and Mongols, and later for Russian traders, eventually supported by railroads. As the Russian Empire expanded to the East, it would also push down into Central Asia towards the sea, in a search for warm water ports. The Soviet bloc would reinforce dominance from the North and attempt to project power as far south as Afghanistan. * To the East, the demographic and cultural weight of Chinese empires continually pushed outward into Central Asia since the Silk road period of Han Dynasty . However, with the Sino-Soviet split and collapse of Soviet Union, China
China
would project its soft power into Central Asia, most notably in the case of Afghanistan, to counter Russian dominance of the region. * To the Southeast, the demographic and cultural influence of India was felt in Central Asia, notably in Tibet, the Hindu Kush , and slightly beyond. From its base in India, the British Empire competed with the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
for influence in the region in the 19th and 20th centuries. * To the Southwest, Western Asian powers have expanded into the southern areas of Central Asia (usually Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan). Several Persian empires would conquer and reconquer parts of Central Asia; Alexander the Great's Hellenic empire would extend into Central Asia; two Islamic empires would exert substantial influence throughout the region; and the modern state of Iran
Iran
has projected influence throughout the region as well. Turkey, through a common Turkic nation identity, has gradually increased its ties and influence as well in the region. Furthermore, all Central Asian Turkic-speaking states are together with Turkey part of the Turkic Council .

In the post–Cold War
War
era, Central Asia is an ethnic cauldron, prone to instability and conflicts, without a sense of national identity, but rather a mess of historical cultural influences, tribal and clan loyalties, and religious fervor. Projecting influence into the area is no longer just Russia, but also Turkey, Iran, China, Pakistan, India and the United States:

* Russia
Russia
continues to dominate political decision-making throughout the former SSRs; although, as other countries move into the area, Russia's influence has begun to wane though Russia
Russia
still maintains military bases in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan
and Tajikistan
Tajikistan
. * The United States, with its military involvement in the region and oil diplomacy, is also significantly involved in the region's politics. The United States and other NATO members are the main contributors to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
and also exert considerable influence in other Central Asian nations. * China
China
has security ties with Central Asian states through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
, and conducts energy trade bilaterally. * India has geographic proximity to the Central Asian region and, in addition, enjoys considerable influence on Afghanistan. India maintains a military base at Farkhor , Tajikistan, and also has extensive military relations with Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
and Uzbekistan. * Turkey also exerts considerable influence in the region on account of its ethnic and linguistic ties with the Turkic peoples
Turkic peoples
of Central Asia and its involvement in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline . Political and economic relations are growing rapidly (e.g., Turkey recently eliminated visa requirements for citizens of the Central Asian Turkic republics). * Iran, the seat of historical empires that controlled parts of Central Asia, has historical and cultural links to the region and is vying to construct an oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
to the Persian Gulf. * Pakistan
Pakistan
, a nuclear-armed Islamic state, has a history of political relations with neighboring Afghanistan
Afghanistan
and is termed capable of exercising influence. For some Central Asian nations, the shortest route to the ocean lies through Pakistan. Pakistan
Pakistan
seeks natural gas from Central Asia and supports the development of pipelines from its countries. According to an independent study, Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
is supposed to be the FIFTH largest natural gas field in the world. The mountain ranges and areas in northern Pakistan
Pakistan
lie on the fringes of greater Central Asia; the Gilgit– Baltistan region of Pakistan
Pakistan
lies adjacent to Tajikistan, separated only by the narrow Afghan Wakhan Corridor . Being located on the northwest of South Asia, the area forming modern-day Pakistan
Pakistan
maintained extensive historical and cultural links with the central Asian region.

Russian historian Lev Gumilev wrote that Xiongnu , Mongols
Mongols
(Mongol Empire , Zunghar Khanate ) and Turkic peoples
Turkic peoples
( Turkic Khaganate , Uyghur Khaganate ) played a role to stop Chinese aggression to the north . The Turkic Khaganate had special policy against Chinese assimilation policy. Another interesting theoretical analysis on the historical-geopolitics of the Central Asia was made through the reinterpretation of Orkhun Inscripts.

The region, along with Russia, is also part of "the great pivot" as per the Heartland Theory of Halford Mackinder , which says that the power which controls Central Asia—richly endowed with natural resources—shall ultimately be the "empire of the world".

WAR ON TERROR

Uzbekistan's authoritarian leader Islam Karimov in the Pentagon , March 2002

In the context of the United States' War
War
on Terror , Central Asia has once again become the center of geostrategic calculations. Pakistan's status has been upgraded by the U.S. government to Major non-NATO ally because of its central role in serving as a staging point for the invasion of Afghanistan, providing intelligence on Al-Qaeda operations in the region, and leading the hunt on Osama bin Laden.

Afghanistan, which had served as a haven and source of support for Al-Qaeda under the protection of Mullah Omar and the Taliban , was the target of a U.S. invasion in 2001 and ongoing reconstruction and drug-eradication efforts. U.S. military bases have also been established in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
and Kyrgyzstan, causing both Russia
Russia
and the People's Republic of China
China
to voice their concern over a permanent U.S. military presence in the region.

Western governments have accused Russia, China
China
and the former Soviet republics of justifying the suppression of separatist movements, and the associated ethnics and religion with the War
War
on Terror.

MAJOR CULTURAL, SCIENTIFIC AND ECONOMIC CENTRES

Cities within the regular definition of Central Asia and Afghanistan
Afghanistan

CITY COUNTRY POPULATION IMAGE INFORMATION

Astana
Astana
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
7005835153000000000♠835,153 (2014) The capital and second largest city in Kazakhstan. After Kazakhstan gained its independence in 1991, the city and the region were renamed Aqmola. The name was often translated as "White Tombstone", but actually means "Holy Place" or "Holy Shrine". The "White Tombstone" literal translation was too appropriate for many visitors to escape notice in almost all guide books and travel accounts. In 1994, the city was designated as the future capital of the newly independent country and again renamed to the present Astana
Astana
after the capital was officially moved from Almaty in 1997.

Almaty Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
7006155234900000000♠1,552,349 (2015) It was the capital of Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
(and its predecessor, the Kazakh SSR ) from 1929 to 1998. Despite losing its status as the capital, Almaty remains the major commercial center of Kazakhstan. It is a recognized financial center of Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
and the Central Asian region.

Bishkek
Bishkek
Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan
7005865527000000000♠865,527 (2009) The capital and the largest city of Kyrgyzstan. Bishkek
Bishkek
is also the administrative center of Chuy Region , which surrounds the city, even though the city itself is not part of the region, but rather a region-level unit of Kyrgyzstan.

Osh Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan
7005243216000000000♠243,216 (2009) The second largest city of Kyrgyzstan. Osh is also the administrative center of Osh Region , which surrounds the city, even though the city itself is not part of the region, but rather a region-level unit of Kyrgyzstan.

Dushanbe
Dushanbe
Tajikistan
Tajikistan
7005780000000000000♠780,000 (2014) The capital and largest city of Tajikistan. Dushanbe
Dushanbe
means "Monday" in Tajik and Persian , and the name reflects the fact that the city grew on the site of a village that originally was a popular Monday marketplace .

Ashgabat
Ashgabat
Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
7006103200000000000♠1,032,000 (2014) The capital and largest city of Turkmenistan. Ashgabat
Ashgabat
is a relatively young city, growing out of a village of the same name established by Russians
Russians
in 1818. It is not far from the site of Nisa , the ancient capital of the Parthians
Parthians
, and it grew on the ruins of the Silk Road
Silk Road
city of Konjikala, which was first mentioned as a wine-producing village in the 2nd century BCE and was leveled by an earthquake in the 1st century BCE (a precursor of the 1948 Ashgabat earthquake ). Konjikala was rebuilt because of its advantageous location on the Silk Road, and it flourished until its destruction by Mongols
Mongols
in the 13th century CE. After that, it survived as a small village until the Russians
Russians
took over in the 19th century.

Bukhara
Bukhara
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
7005237900000000000♠237,900 (1999) The nation's fifth-largest city and the capital of the Bukhara Region of Uzbekistan. Bukhara
Bukhara
has been one of the main centers of Persian civilization from its early days in the 6th century BCE, and, since the 12th century CE, Turkic speakers gradually moved in. Its architecture and archaeological sites form one of the pillars of Central Asian history and art.

Kokand Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
7005209389000000000♠209,389 (2011) _ KOKAND (Uzbek : QO‘QON / Қўқон_; Tajik : Хӯқанд; Persian : خوقند‎‎; Chagatai : خوقند; Russian : Коканд) is a city in Fergana Region in eastern Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
, at the southwestern edge of the Fergana Valley . It has a population of 192,500 (1999 census estimate). Kokand is 228 km southeast of Tashkent , 115 km west of Andijan , and 88 km west of Fergana . It is nicknamed "City of Winds", or sometimes "Town of the Boar".

Samarkand
Samarkand
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
7005596300000000000♠596,300 (2008) The second largest city in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
and the capital of Samarqand Region . The city is most noted for its central position on the Silk Road between China
China
and the West, and for being an Islamic center for scholarly study. It was here that the ruler Ulugh Beg (1394–1449) built a gigantic astronomical observatory.

Tashkent
Tashkent
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
7006218000000000000♠2,180,000 (2008) The capital and largest city of Uzbekistan. In pre-Islamic and early Islamic times, the town and the region were known as Chach. Tashkent
Tashkent
started as an oasis on the Chirchik River , near the foothills of the Golestan Mountains. In ancient times, this area contained Beitian, probably the summer "capital" of the Kangju confederacy.

Kabul Afghanistan
Afghanistan
7006389500000000000♠3,895,000 (2011) _ The capital and largest city of Afghanistan. The city of Kabul is thought to have been established between 2000 BCE and 1500 BCE. In the Rig Veda (composed between 1700–1100 BCE), the word Kubhā_ is mentioned, which appears to refer to the Kabul River .

Mazar-e Sharif Afghanistan
Afghanistan
7005375181000000000♠375,181 (2008) The fourth largest city in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
and the capital of Balkh province , is linked by roads to Kabul in the southeast, Herat to the west and Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
to the north.

SEE ALSO

* Geography portal * Asia portal

* Chinese Central Asia: Western Regions and Xinjiang
Xinjiang
* Science and technology in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
* Science and technology in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan
* Science and technology in Tajikistan
Tajikistan
* Science and technology in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
* Science and technology in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
* Central Asian studies * Central Asian Union * Central Asian Football Federation * Continental pole of inaccessibility * Economic Cooperation Organization
Economic Cooperation Organization
* Inner Asia * Hindutash * University of Central Asia * Central Asians in Ancient Indian literature * India’s ‘Connect Central Asia’ Policy * Turan * Turkestan
Turkestan

NOTES

* ^ The area figure is based on the combined areas of five countries in Central Asia.

SOURCES

_ This article incorporates text from a free content work. Licensed under CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0 UNESCO
UNESCO
Science Report: towards 2030_, 365–387, UNESCO, UNESCO
UNESCO
Publishing.

To learn how to add open-license text to Wikipedia
Wikipedia
articles, please see:Adding open license text to Wikipedia
Wikipedia
.

REFERENCES

* ^ Paul McFedries (25 October 2001). "stans". Word Spy. Retrieved 16 February 2011. * ^ Emadi, H (2005). _Culture and Customs of Afghanistan_. * ^ Starr, S. F. (2013). _Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia's Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane_. Princeton University Press. * ^ Steppe
Steppe
Nomads and Central Asia Archived 29 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine . * ^ Silkroad Foundation, Adela C.Y. Lee. "Travelers on the Silk Road". Retrieved 14 November 2014. * ^ Ta'lim Primary 6 Parent and Teacher Guide (p.72) – Islamic Publications Limited for the Institute of Ismaili Studies London * ^ Phillips, Andrew; James, Paul (2013). "National Identity between Tradition and Reflexive Modernisation: The Contradictions of Central Asia". _National Identities_. 3 (1): 23–35. In Central Asia the collision of modernity and tradition led all but the most deracinated of the intellectuals -clerics to seek salvation in reconstituted variants of traditional identities rather than succumb to the modern European idea of nationalism. The inability of the elites to form a united front, as demonstrated in the numerous declarations of autonomy by different authorities during the Russian civil war, paved the way for the Soviet re-conquest of Central Asia in the early 1920s. * ^ _A_ _B_ Encyclopædia Iranica, "CENTRAL ASIA: The Islamic period up to the Mongols", C. Edmund Bosworth: "In early Islamic times Persians tended to identify all the lands to the northeast of Khorasan and lying beyond the Oxus with the region of Turan, which in the Shahnama of Ferdowsi is regarded as the land allotted to Fereydun's son Tur. The denizens of Turan were held to include the Turks, in the first four centuries of Islam essentially those nomadizing beyond the Jaxartes, and behind them the Chinese (see Kowalski; Minorsky, "Turan"). Turan thus became both an ethnic and a diareeah term, but always containing ambiguities and contradictions, arising from the fact that all through Islamic times the lands immediately beyond the Oxus and along its lower reaches were the homes not of Turks but of Iranian peoples, such as the Sogdians
Sogdians
and Khwarezmians." * ^ C.E. Bosworth, "The Appearance of the Arabs in Central Asia under the Umayyads and the establishment of Islam", in _History of Civilizations of Central Asia_, Vol. IV: The Age of Achievement: AD 750 to the End of the Fifteenth Century, Part One: The Historical, Social and Economic Setting, edited by M. S. Asimov and C. E. Bosworth. Multiple History Series. Paris: Motilal Banarsidass Publ./ UNESCO
UNESCO
Publishing, 1999. excerpt from page 23: "Central Asia in the early seventh century, was ethnically, still largely an Iranian land whose people used various Middle Iranian languages.". * ^ Polo, Marco; Smethurst, Paul (2005). _The Travels of Marco Polo_. p. 676. ISBN 978-0-7607-6589-0 . * ^ Ferrand, Gabriel (1913), "Ibn Batūtā", Relations de voyages et textes géographiques arabes, persans et turks relatifs à l'Extrème-Orient du 8e au 18e siècles (Volumes 1 and 2) (in French), Paris: Ernest Laroux, pp. 426–458 * ^ Andrea, Bernadette. "Ibn Fadlan's Journey to Russia: A Tenth‐Century Traveler from Baghdad to the Volga River by Richard N. Frye: Review by Bernadette Andrea". _ Middle East Studies Association Bulletin_. 41 (2): 201–202. * ^ Демоскоп Weekly – Приложение. Справочник статистических показателей Archived 16 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine .. Demoscope.ru. Retrieved on 29 July 2013. * ^ "5.01.00.03 Национальный состав населения" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-02-06. * ^ Итоги переписи населения Таджикистана 2000 года: национальный, возрастной, половой, семейный и образовательный составы Archived 25 August 2011 at WebCite . Demoscope.ru (20 January 2000). Retrieved on 2013-07-29. * ^ Mehmet Akif Okur, "Classical Texts Of the Geopolitics and the "Heart Of Eurasia", Journal of Turkish World Studies, XIV/2, pp.74–75 http://tdid.ege.edu.tr/files/dergi_14_2/mehmet_akif_okur.pdf https://www.academia.edu/10035574/CLASSICAL_TEXTS_OF_THE_GEOPOLITICS_AND_THE_HEART_OF_EURASIA_Jeopoliti%C4%9Fin_Klasik_Metinleri_ve_Avrasya_n%C4%B1n_Kalbi_ * ^ 43°40\'52"N 87°19\'52"E Degree Confluence Project. * ^ Mehmet Akif Okur, "Classical Texts Of the Geopolitics and the "Heart Of Eurasia", Journal of Turkish World Studies, XIV/2, pp.86–90 https://www.academia.edu/10035574/CLASSICAL_TEXTS_OF_THE_GEOPOLITICS_AND_THE_HEART_OF_EURASIA_Jeopoliti%C4%9Fin_Klasik_Metinleri_ve_Avrasya_n%C4%B1n_Kalbi_ http://tdid.ege.edu.tr/files/dergi_14_2/mehmet_akif_okur.pdf * ^ A Land Conquered by the Mongols * ^ C.E. Bosworth, "The Appearance of the Arabs in Central Asia under the Umayyads and the establishment of Islam", in _History of Civilizations of Central Asia_, Vol. IV: The Age of Achievement: AD 750 to the End of the Fifteenth Century, Part One: The Historical, Social and Economic Setting, edited by M. S. Asimov and C. E. Bosworth. Multiple History Series. Paris: UNESCO
UNESCO
Publishing, 1998. excerpt from page 23: "Central Asia in the early seventh century, was ethnically, still largely an Iranian land whose people used various Middle Iranian languages. * ^ Saiget, Robert J. (19 April 2005). "Caucasians preceded East Asians in basin". _The Washington Times_. News World Communications. Archived from the original on 20 April 2005. Retrieved 20 August 2007. A study last year by Jilin University also found that the mummies' DNA had Europoid genes. * ^ "Deported Nationalities". Retrieved 14 November 2014. * ^ Anne Applebaum – Gulag: A History Intro * ^ "_Central Asia and the Caucasus: transnationalism and diaspora_". Touraj Atabaki, Sanjyot Mehendale (2005). p.66. ISBN 0-415-33260-5 * ^ "Democracy Index 2011". _Economist Intelligence Unit_. * ^ Walter Ratliff, "Pilgrims on the Silk Road: A Muslim-Christian Encounter in Khiva", Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2010 * ^ ""In Central Asia, a Revival of an Ancient Form of Rap – Art of Ad-Libbing Oral History Draws New Devotees in Post-Communist Era" by Peter Finn, Washington Post Foreign Service, Sunday, March 6, 2005, p. A20.". _The Washington Post_. 6 March 2005. Retrieved 14 November 2014. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ _G_ _H_ _I_ _J_ _K_ _L_ _M_ _N_ _O_ _P_ _Q_ _R_ _S_ _T_ _U_ _V_ _W_ _X_ Mukhitdinova, Nasiba (2015). _Central Asia. In: UNESCO
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Science Report: towards 2030_. Paris: UNESCO. pp. 365–387. ISBN 978-92-3-100129-1 . * ^ Erocal, Deniz; Yegorov, Igor (2015). _Countries in the Black Sea basin. In: UNESCO
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Science Report: towards 2030_ (PDF). Paris: UNESCO. pp. 324–341. ISBN 978-92-3-100129-1 . * ^ "The World Factbook". Retrieved 14 November 2014. * ^ "The World Factbook". Retrieved 14 November 2014. * ^ "The World Factbook". Retrieved 14 November 2014. * ^ "The World Factbook". Retrieved 14 November 2014. * ^ "The World Factbook". Retrieved 14 November 2014. * ^ "IMF World Economic Outlook (WEO) – Recovery Strengthens, Remains Uneven, April 2014". Retrieved 14 November 2014. * ^ Robert Greenall, Russians
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left behind in Central Asia, BBC News , 23 November 2005. * ^ "Ethnographic maps". Retrieved 14 November 2014. * ^ Zürcher, Erik (2007). _The Buddhist Conquest of China: The Spread and Adaptation of Buddhism
Buddhism
in Early Medieval China_. BRILL. p. 23. ISBN 9789004156043 . * ^ Millward, James A. (2007), _Eurasian crossroads: a history of Xinjiang_, Columbia University Press, pp. 45–47, ISBN 0-231-13924-1

* ^ "Why Russia
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Will Send More Troops to Central Asia". _Stratfor_. Retrieved 2015-09-26. * ^ Scheineson, Andrew (24 March 2009). "The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation". _Backgrounder_. Council on Foreign Relations . Retrieved 24 September 2010. * ^ "India: Afghanistan\'s influential ally". _BBC News_. 8 October 2009. Retrieved 14 November 2014. * ^ "India, Pakistan
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and the Battle for Afghanistan". _TIME.com_. 5 December 2009. Retrieved 14 November 2014. * ^ Reiter, Erich; Hazdra, Peter (2004). _The Impact of Asian Powers on Global Developments_. Springer, 2004. ISBN 978-3-7908-0092-0 . * ^ Chazan, Guy. " Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
Gas Field Is One of World\'s Largest". _Wall Street Journal_. ISSN 0099-9660 . Retrieved 2015-09-26. * ^ ЛЮДИ И ПРИРОДА ВЕЛИКОЙ СТЕПИ (RUSSIAN) * ^ Mehmet Akif Okur, "Classical Texts Of the Geopolitics and the "Heart Of Eurasia", Journal of Turkish World Studies, XIV/2, pp.91–100 https://www.academia.edu/10035574/CLASSICAL_TEXTS_OF_THE_GEOPOLITICS_AND_THE_HEART_OF_EURASIA_Jeopoliti%C4%9Fin_Klasik_Metinleri_ve_Avrasya_n%C4%B1n_Kalbi_ http://tdid.ege.edu.tr/files/dergi_14_2/mehmet_akif_okur.pdf * ^ For an analysis of Mackinder's approach from the perspective of "Critical Geopolitics" look: Mehmet Akif Okur, "Classical Texts Of the Geopolitics and the "Heart Of Eurasia", Journal of Turkish World Studies, XIV/2, pp.76–80 https://www.academia.edu/10035574/CLASSICAL_TEXTS_OF_THE_GEOPOLITICS_AND_THE_HEART_OF_EURASIA_Jeopoliti%C4%9Fin_Klasik_Metinleri_ve_Avrasya_n%C4%B1n_Kalbi_ http://tdid.ege.edu.tr/files/dergi_14_2/mehmet_akif_okur.pdf * ^ D. Saimaddinov, S. D. Kholmatova, and S. Karimov, _Tajik-Russian Dictionary_, Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tajikistan, Rudaki Institute of Language and Literature, Scientific Center for Persian-Tajik Culture, Dushanbe, 2006. * ^ Konjikala Archived 29 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine .: the Silk Road
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precursor of Ashgabat * ^ Konjikala, in: MaryLee Knowlton, _Turkmenistan_, Marshall Cavendish, 2006, pp. 40–41, ISBN 0-7614-2014-2 , ISBN 978-0-7614-2014-9 (viewable on Google Books ). * ^ Ehgamberdiev, Shuhrat (January 2009). "Ulugh Beg: the scholar on the throne" (PDF). _A World of Science_. 7(1): 21–23. * ^ Pulleyblank, Edwin G (1963). "The consonantal system of Old Chinese". _ Asia Major_. 9: 94. * ^ _The history of Afghanistan_, Ghandara.com website * ^ _"Kabul"_ Chambers\'s Encyclopaedia: A Dictionary of Universal Knowledge _(1901 edition) J.B. Lippincott Company, NY, page 385_. Retrieved 14 November 2014.

FURTHER READING

* Blank, Stephen J. (2013). _Central Asia After 2014_. ISBN 978-1-58487-593-2 . * Chow, Edward. "Central Asia's Pipelines: Field of Dreams and Reality", in _Pipeline Politics in Asia: The Intersection of Demand, Energy Markets, and Supply Routes_. National Bureau of Asian Research , 2010. * Farah, Paolo Davide, Energy Security, Water Resources and Economic Development in Central Asia, World Scientific Reference on Globalisation in Eurasia
Eurasia
and the Pacific Rim, Imperial College Press (London, UK) Gessner, U.; Kuenzer. "Regional land cover mapping and change detection in Central Asia using MODIS time-series". _Applied Geography_. 35 (1–2): 219–234. doi :10.1016/j.apgeog.2012.06.016 .

* Mandelbaum, Michael , ed. _Central Asia and the World: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan_. New York : Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1994. * Marcinkowski, M. Ismail. _Persian Historiography and Geography: Bertold Spuler on Major Works Produced in Iran, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Pakistan
Pakistan
and Early Ottoman Turkey_. Singapore : Pustaka Nasional , 2003. * Olcott, Martha Brill . _Central Asia's New States: Independence, Foreign policy, and Regional security_. Washington, D.C. : United States Institute of Peace Press , 1996. * Phillips, Andrew; James, Paul (2013). "National Identity between Tradition and Reflexive Modernisation: The Contradictions of Central Asia". _National Identities_. 3 (1): 23–35. * Hasan Bulent Paksoy . _ALPAMYSH: Central Asian Identity under Russian Rule_. Hartford : AACAR , 1989. http://vlib.iue.it/carrie/texts/carrie_books/paksoy-1/ * Soucek, Svatopluk . _A History of Inner Asia_. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press , 2000. * Rall, Ted . _ Silk Road
Silk Road
to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?_ New York: NBM Publishing , 2006. * Stone, L.A. _The International Politics of Central Eurasia_ (272 pp). Central Eurasian Studies On Line: Accessible via the Web Page of the International Eurasian Institute for Economic and Political Research: http://www.iicas.org/forumen.htm * Weston, David. _Teaching about Inner Asia_, Bloomington, Indiana: ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies, 1989.

EXTERNAL LINKS

_ Wikimedia Commons has media related to CENTRAL ASIA _.

_ Wikivoyage has a travel guide for CENTRAL ASIA _.

* The Library: Central on politics, universities, culture, languages, etc. * Central Asian Gateway Project of UNDP and CER, managed by N. Talibdjanov (since 2003). * Modernity, State and Society in Central Asia: A Research Guide * General Map of Central Asia: I is a historic map from 1874

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Regions of

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