Characteristics of Central Asia

Chapter number two by Cummings called “The Region of Central Asia” explores the characteristics of this area as a region about its political, geographical, cultural, and historical peculiarities. The area known as Central Asia consists of five former Soviet Union republics such as Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan. For a long time, the region was a part of the Soviet Union, and the term “Central Asia” was not used.

Yet, after the collapse of the USSR the region officially was re-named by the leaders of the countries composing it at a summit in 1993. Yet, this particular change concerns Russian terminology mainly, as for Western terminology, the term “Central Asia” is used to refer to the Western part of the region that includes Tibet, Xingjiang, Inner, and Outer Mongolia. Apart from the division into east and west, Central Asia is also divided culturally into Lamaist and Islamic parts. At the same time, geographically, the term Central Asia had no particular boundaries and referred to the landlocked countries of the region.

Yet, topographically Central Asia has several natural borders – it is surrounded by mountains from the southern and eastern sides, in the west it is limited by the Caspian Sea, and steppes are situated along the northern edge of it. Throughout the region’s history, it has been Turkicized and incorporated into the Islamic world. At the same time, there was a cultural clash between various empires, nations, and nomadic and settled agricultural lifestyles.

Chapter one by Golden is called “The Rise of Nomadism and Oasis City-States” explores the development of cultures that inhabited Central Asia since ancient times. The area has been populated by hundreds of thousands of people even before 8000 BCE. The hot climate of the region required the improvements of irrigation systems, which immediately facilitated the growth of population and political power of the most equipped cities.

The Oases were scattered throughout the area and maintained trading relations. Before that, the societies of Central Asia consisted of hunters, gatherers, and cattle breeders, with horses as the main livestock. Large horsepower facilitated the development of mobile societies of nomads who often attacked the neighboring cultures, conquered and spread their influences. Nomadic clans and tribes were structured as authoritative societies with one leader. One such society could include more than one tribe, in this case, the clan was named after the dominant tribe. Tribe unities eventually grew into huge empires incorporating several different cultures.


Cummings, S. N. (2013). Understanding Central Asia: Politics and contested transformations. Routledge.

Golden, P. B. (2011). Central Asia in world history. Oxford University Press.