Central Asia

Central Asia
Map of Central Asia
Area4,003,451 km2 (1,545,741 sq mi)[note 1]
  • Population
  •  • Density
  •  72,960,000 (2019)
  •  17.43/km2 (45.1/sq mi)
Nominal GDP$260 billion (2017)[1]
Nominal GDP per capita$3,700 (2017)
Official languagesKarakalpak, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Russian, Tajik, Turkmen, Uzbek
Map of Central Asia

Central Asia is a region which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China in the east, and from Afghanistan and Iran in the south to Russia in the north. The region consists of the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.[2] 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".[3]

In pre-Islamic and early Islamic times, Central Asia was predominantly Iranian,[4][5] populated by Eastern Iranian-speaking Bactrians, Sogdians, Chorasmians and the semi-nomadic Scythians and Dahae. After expansion by Turkic peoples, Central Asia also became the homeland for the Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Tatars, Turkmen, Kyrgyz, and Uyghurs; Turkic languages largely replaced the Iranian languages spoken in the area.

Central Asia has historically been closely tied to its nomadic peoples and the Silk Road.[6] It has acted as a crossroads for the movement of people, goods, and ideas between Europe, Western Asia, South Asia, and East Asia.[7] The Silk Road connected Muslim lands with the people of Europe, India, and China.[8] This crossroads position has intensified the conflict between tribalism and traditionalism and modernization.[9]

From the mid-19th century until almost the end of the 20th century, most of Central Asia was part of the Russian Empire and later the Soviet Union, both Slavic-majority countries, and the five former Soviet "-stans" are still home to about 7 million ethnic Russians and 500,000 Ukrainians.[10][11][12]

Central Asia (2019) has a population of about 72 million, consisting of five republics: Kazakhstan (pop. 18 million), Kyrgyzstan (6 million), Tajikistan (9 million), Turkmenistan (6 million), and Uzbekistan (33 million).[13]


Three sets of possible boundaries for the region

The idea of Central Asia as a distinct region of the world was introduced in 1843 by the geographer 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.[14]

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

However, the Russian culture has two distinct terms: Средняя Азия (Srednyaya Aziya or "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 the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the leaders of the four former Soviet Central Asian Republics met in Tashkent and declared that the definition of Central Asia should include Kazakhstan as well as the original four included by the Soviets. Since then, this has become the most common definition of Central Asia.

The UNESCO History of the Civilizations of Central Asia, published in 1992, defines the region as "Afghanistan, northeastern Iran, northern and central Pakistan, northern India, western China, Mongolia and the former Soviet Central Asian republics."[15]

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 Uyghur Autonomous Region, the Turkic regions of southern Siberia, the five republics, and Afghan Turkestan. Afghanistan as a whole, the northern and western areas of Pakistan and the Kashmir Valley of India may also be included. The Tibetans and Ladakhi are also included. Insofar, most of the mentioned peoples are considered the "indigenous" peoples of the vast region. Central Asia is sometimes referred to as Turkestan.[16][17][18]

There are several places that claim to be the geographic center of Asia, for example Kyzyl, the capital of Tuva in the Russian Federation, and a village 320 km (200 mi) north of Ürümqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region of China.[19]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Sentraal-Asië
Ænglisc: Middelasia
العربية: آسيا الوسطى
aragonés: Asia Central
asturianu: Asia Central
Avañe'ẽ: Mbyte Ásia
azərbaycanca: Mərkəzi Asiya
تۆرکجه: اورتا آسیا
Bân-lâm-gú: Tiong A-chiu
башҡортса: Үҙәк Азия
беларуская: Цэнтральная Азія
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Цэнтральная Азія
български: Централна Азия
bosanski: Srednja Azija
brezhoneg: Azia ar C'hreiz
català: Àsia Central
Чӑвашла: Тĕп Ази
čeština: Střední Asie
Deutsch: Zentralasien
eesti: Kesk-Aasia
Ελληνικά: Κεντρική Ασία
español: Asia Central
Esperanto: Centra Azio
français: Asie centrale
galego: Asia Central
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Chûng-Â
한국어: 중앙아시아
हिन्दी: मध्य एशिया
hornjoserbsce: Srjedźna Azija
hrvatski: Srednja Azija
Bahasa Indonesia: Asia Tengah
íslenska: Mið-Asía
italiano: Asia centrale
עברית: מרכז אסיה
қазақша: Орталық Азия
kernowek: Asi Gres
Kiswahili: Asia ya Kati
Кыргызча: Орто Азия
Latina: Media Asia
latviešu: Centrālāzija
Lëtzebuergesch: Zentralasien
lietuvių: Vidurinė Azija
Lingua Franca Nova: Asia sentral
lumbaart: Asia Centrala
मैथिली: मध्य एसिया
македонски: Средна Азија
Malagasy: Azia Afovoany
മലയാളം: മദ്ധ്യേഷ്യ
მარგალური: ცენტრალური აზია
Bahasa Melayu: Asia Tengah
Minangkabau: Asia Tangah
монгол: Төв Ази
မြန်မာဘာသာ: အလယ်အာရှ
Nederlands: Centraal-Azië
नेपाली: मध्य एसिया
日本語: 中央アジア
нохчийн: Юккъера Ази
Nordfriisk: Madelaasien
norsk nynorsk: Sentral-Asia
Nouormand: Âsie du Mitan
occitan: Asia Centrala
ଓଡ଼ିଆ: ମଧ୍ୟ ଏସିଆ
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Markaziy Osiyo
português: Ásia Central
Qaraqalpaqsha: Orayliq Aziya
qırımtatarca: Orta Asiya
română: Asia Centrală
саха тыла: Киин Азия
sicilianu: Asia cintrali
Simple English: Central Asia
slovenčina: Stredná Ázia
slovenščina: Srednja Azija
Soomaaliga: Aasiyada Dhexe
српски / srpski: Средња Азија
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Srednja Azija
svenska: Centralasien
Tagalog: Gitnang Asya
தமிழ்: நடு ஆசியா
татарча/tatarça: Үзәк Азия
తెలుగు: మధ్య ఆసియా
Türkçe: Orta Asya
Türkmençe: Merkezi Aziýa
українська: Центральна Азія
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: ئوتتۇرا ئاسىيا
Tiếng Việt: Trung Á
文言: 中亞
Wolof: Diggu Asi
吴语: 中亞
Yorùbá: Àrin Ásíà
粵語: 中亞
žemaitėška: Vėdorė Azėjė
中文: 中亚