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General View

Central Asia is an area that was, until recently, inaccessible for independent travellers. That has all changed, although the traveller will still often come up against a wall of Soviet style bureaucracy.. Corruption is also an issue in most Central Asian countries. Despite this, Central Asia is increasing in popularity amongst travellers who want to experience one of the world's last great frontier lands.. Historically and geographically diverse, Central Asia is an interesting region. At one time large parts of it were part of the old Persian Empire..

As a bridge between Europe and Asia, the region was the home of the Silk Road, the ancient trading route between the two continents in the first centuries of the common era.. The following millennia saw much upheaval and conflict, from the expansion of Islam, the period of Mongol domination and the ' Great Game ' between imperial Britain and imperial Russia in the 19th century.. After a traumatic break up from the USSR, Some Central Asian countries are beginning to find their feet and offer good travelling options. There are parts of Central Asia that will have hardly seen a traveller before, and there are many wild and beautiful landscapes to be explored..

That is not to say the region is bereft of problems, chiefly a lack of infrastructure and stifling bureaucracy.. Understand that self identification is an especially touchy issue in Central Asia, more so than most of Europe. Parts of China (Notably Inner Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang) have a native population that has in many instances advocated for secession from China.. Often they emphasise their Central Asian identity, something not well understood by outsiders.. For example, Mongolians and Buryats tend to emphasise their historical ties with the Turkic Muslims to the west (despite being Mongolic Buddhists of the Tibetan Rite) and are offended by being compared to the Chinese, and some even call themselves Europeans (by virtue of Russian influence)..

This situation is not unique to Mongolic peoples; Tibetans are well known in the West for their disdain for China and any ties they may have to it. Many people in Tatarstan and Xinjiang, among other places, would emphasise their Turkicness over any connection to China or Russia.. The problem goes the other way as well. Many ethnic Chinese are quick to point out that the Manchu Empire included parts of Central Asia, including land no longer controlled by the Chinese.. All in all, Central Asian identity is greatly shaped by their nomadic nature. From Kyrgyz to Tibetans, a history of tribal politics have left Central Asia at once totally isolated from the outside world, and intimately connected to whoever conquered them..

General Info

Central Asia is the core region of the Asian continent and stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China in the east and from Afghanistan in the south to Russia in the north.. It is also sometimes referred to as Middle Asia, and, colloquially, " the ' stans " and is within the scope of the wider Eurasian continent.. 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 the Central Asia richly endowed with natural resources shall ultimately be the Empire of the world..

In modern contexts, all definitions of Central Asia include these five republics of the former Soviet Union Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, for a total population of 67.1 million as of 2013-2014.. Afghanistan is also sometimes included.. Various definitions of its exact composition exist, and not one definition is universally accepted. Despite this uncertainty in defining borders, it does have some important overall characteristics. For one, Central Asia has historically been closely tied to its nomadic peoples and the Silk Road..

As a result, it has acted as a crossroads for the movement of people, goods, and ideas between Europe, Western Asia, South Asia, and East Asia.. During pre Islamic and early Islamic times, Central Asia was a predominantly Iranian region that included the sedentary Eastern Iranian speaking Bactrians, Sogdians and Chorasmians, and the semi nomadic Scythians and Alans.. The ancient sedentary population played an important role in the history of Central Asia. After expansion by Turkic peoples, Central Asia also became the homeland for many Turkic peoples, including the Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Turkmen, Kyrgyz, Uyghurs and other extinct Turkic nations..

Central Asia is sometimes referred to as Turkestan.. Since the earliest of times, Central Asia has been a crossroads between different civilizations. The silk route which passed through Central Asia connected Muslim lands with the people of Europe, India, and China.. This crossroads position has intensified the conflict between what Andrew Phillips and Paul James call continuing formations of tribalism and traditionalism and intensifying processes of modernization. They argue that. From the mid 19th century, up to the end of the 20th century, most of Central Asia was part of the Russian Empire and later the Soviet Union, both being Slavic majority countries..

As of 2011, the 5 " stans " are still home to about 7 million Russians and 500,000 Ukrainians..

What To See

The whole region is filled with steppes and mountains, beautiful scenery that has served as the backdrop for a half dozen empires. Most tourists to the region arrive in one of the capitals and immediately book a tour of the mountains or countryside (especially in Kyrgyzstan).. Europe to South Asia over land. Istanbul to New Delhi over land. On the trail of Marco Polo.

How To Get In

As mentioned above, the definition of " Central Asia " can be controversial. One reason why the one used on this page is useful, however, is visas.. All Central Asian countries except for Kyrgyzstan require visas for a lot of countries, and the difficulty of getting them may range from a minor hassle to virtually impossible if not on a tour or with a guide.. Before issuing a visa, some countries will require a letter of invitation, often best obtained via a specialist travel agency. Some hotels will issue letters of invitation for confirmed reservations. Some nationalities may be excluded from the requirement to have one at all..

Start working on your visas well in advance, as it may take weeks for the gears of bureaucracy to grind through your application, and make sure you comply with any local police / bureaucracy registration requirements after you've arrived.. The hub for the region is Tashkent, Uzbekistan, which has the most flights to destinations outside Central Asia. Unfortunately the airport also has a reputation for being unpleasant, and it is best to avoid flights which arrive here late at night.. There are also increasingly good options for flights to Almaty, Kazakhstan. You can fly here directly from London, Frankfurt, Beijing, Seoul, Moscow, Riga and various others..

Most Afghans and Pakistanis travel by air to Islamabad or Lahore and go by road to their final destinations.. To arrive in other Central Asia cities will generally require a transfer in one of these hubs. The cheapest flights from Europe in 2014 could be found to Osh starting at €400 for return flights.. Trains going to Central Asia leave from Moscow Kazansky station. Trains go to Tashkent (56 hours / US $80), Almaty (78 hours / US $120), Bishkek (75 hours / US $70), Samarkand (85 hours / US $100), and others..

There is a line from Urumqi, China to Almaty, but the bus is quicker. An interesting option is the challenging crossing from Kashgar, China to Kyrgyzstan through the Torugart Pass. This was a major link on the old Silk Road.. The border is closed to foreigners, but there are buses running between Mashhad and Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.. Travelling to different areas of Pakistan is quite easy by train, bus or taxi. The route from there into Afghanistan via the Khyber Pass is not currently safe. The Karakoram Highway North into China is challenging but possible..

It gets you to Kashgar; from there routes to Central Asia are either difficult (West to Bishkek) or long (swing North to Urumqi and then Almaty).. There is an irregular service between Baku, Azerbaijan and Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan..

How To Get Around

Getting between Central Asian countries is tricky. Until recently, it was practically impossible to get into Turkmenistan. Get as many visas as you can before you leave. If not, make sure you're " stationed " in one and have time to deal with the bureaucracy at each embassy before you go..

Videos

How To Get In

As mentioned above, the definition of " Central Asia " can be controversial. One reason why the one used on this page is useful, however, is visas.. All Central Asian countries except for Kyrgyzstan require visas for a lot of countries, and the difficulty of getting them may range from a minor hassle to virtually impossible if not on a tour or with a guide.. Before issuing a visa, some countries will require a letter of invitation, often best obtained via a specialist travel agency. Some hotels will issue letters of invitation for confirmed reservations. Some nationalities may be excluded from the requirement to have one at all..

Start working on your visas well in advance, as it may take weeks for the gears of bureaucracy to grind through your application, and make sure you comply with any local police / bureaucracy registration requirements after you've arrived.. The hub for the region is Tashkent, Uzbekistan, which has the most flights to destinations outside Central Asia. Unfortunately the airport also has a reputation for being unpleasant, and it is best to avoid flights which arrive here late at night.. There are also increasingly good options for flights to Almaty, Kazakhstan. You can fly here directly from London, Frankfurt, Beijing, Seoul, Moscow, Riga and various others..

Most Afghans and Pakistanis travel by air to Islamabad or Lahore and go by road to their final destinations.. To arrive in other Central Asia cities will generally require a transfer in one of these hubs. The cheapest flights from Europe in 2014 could be found to Osh starting at €400 for return flights.. Trains going to Central Asia leave from Moscow Kazansky station. Trains go to Tashkent (56 hours / US $80), Almaty (78 hours / US $120), Bishkek (75 hours / US $70), Samarkand (85 hours / US $100), and others..

There is a line from Urumqi, China to Almaty, but the bus is quicker. An interesting option is the challenging crossing from Kashgar, China to Kyrgyzstan through the Torugart Pass. This was a major link on the old Silk Road.. The border is closed to foreigners, but there are buses running between Mashhad and Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.. Travelling to different areas of Pakistan is quite easy by train, bus or taxi. The route from there into Afghanistan via the Khyber Pass is not currently safe. The Karakoram Highway North into China is challenging but possible..

It gets you to Kashgar; from there routes to Central Asia are either difficult (West to Bishkek) or long (swing North to Urumqi and then Almaty).. There is an irregular service between Baku, Azerbaijan and Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan..

How To Get Around

Getting between Central Asian countries is tricky. Until recently, it was practically impossible to get into Turkmenistan. Get as many visas as you can before you leave. If not, make sure you're " stationed " in one and have time to deal with the bureaucracy at each embassy before you go..

What To Buy

Central Asia is a relatively cheap destination for western standards, but more expensive than e.g. Southeast Asia. A decent meal costs around USD5, a beer about USD1. A comfortable double room is about USD30 USD60.. Expect to pay higher prices in the big cities..

What To Eat

The further south you are, the more flavourful the cuisine is. Afghanistan and Tajikistan have far different cuisine than the Mongolic or Turkic cuisines, which are mostly hearty, spice free, meaty fare.. All Central Asian countries are heavily carnivorous. There are local vegetarians in all Central Asian countries (even Afghanistan) but they are in the minority. This means while you can go without meat and survive, you will attract odd looks..

Divisions

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 and the Tarim Basin may sometimes be included in Central Asia.. Just west of Dzungaria, Zhetysu, or Semirechye, is south of Lake Balkhash and north of the Tian Shan Mountains. Khorezm is south of the Aral Sea along the Amu Darya. Southeast of the Aral Sea, Maveranahr is between the Amu Darya and Syr Darya.. Transoxiana is the land north of the middle and upper Amu Darya. Bactria included northern Afghanistan and the upper Amu Darya. Sogdiana was north of Bactria and included the trading cities of Bukhara and Samarkhand..

Khorasan and Margiana approximate northeastern Iran. The Kyzyl Kum Desert is northeast of the Amu Darya, and the Karakum Desert southwest of it. Because Central Asia is not buffered by a large body of water, temperature fluctuations are more severe. In most of the places the climate is moderate.. According to the WWF Ecozones system, Central Asia is part of the 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..

Options For Drink

With the notable exception of ultra conservative regions like Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, alcohol is not uncommon to drink in Central Asia. However, tea still remains the region's favorite beverage. In some countries, green tea is customarily consumed all throughout the day.. The nightlife scene is almost nonexistent in Central Asia. While the region is not the world's number one destination for clubbing, the Russophone party culture ensures a good time in places like Bishkek, Almaty, and Tashkent..

How To Stay Safe

Safety in Central Asia is a complex issue. While Afghanistan is notable for a high risk of kidnappings, terrorism, and Taliban resurgence, most other Central Asian countries risk riots after years of autocratic or near autocratic government.. Tibet and Xinjiang were engulfed by riots in 2008 and 2009, respectively, while Kyrgyzstan suffered through a violent revolution in 2010.. This is not to say that the entire region is a death trap. Most of the time, parts of the region are actually quite peaceful. But even then you may have some issues..

Most likely for the tourist is having one's pocket picked. See each individual country for a more complete summary..

History

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. 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, which traveled along Central Asia. Periodically, great leaders or changing conditions would organize several tribes into one force and create an almost unstoppable power.. These included the Hun invasion of Europe, the Wu Hu attacks on China and most notably the Mongol conquest of much of Eurasia.. During pre Islamic and early Islamic times, southern Central Asia was inhabited predominantly by speakers of Iranian languages. Among the ancient sedentary Iranian peoples, the Sogdians and Chorasmians played an important role, while Iranian peoples such as Scythians and the later on Alans lived a nomadic or semi nomadic lifestyle..

The well preserved Tarim mummies with Caucasoid features have been found in the Tarim Basin.. The main migration of Turkic peoples occurred between the 5th and 10th centuries, when they spread across most of Central Asia. The Tang Chinese were defeated by the Arabs at the battle of Talas in 751, marking the end of the Tang Dynasty's western expansion.. The Tibetan Empire would take the chance to rule portion of Central Asia along with South Asia. During the 13th and 14th centuries, the Mongols conquered and ruled the largest contiguous empire in recorded history..

Most of Central Asia fell under the control of the Chagatai Khanate.. The dominance of the nomads ended in the 16th century, as firearms allowed settled peoples to gain control of the region. 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. The eastern part Central Asia, known as East Turkistan or Xinjiang, was incorporated into the People's Republic of China..

Mongolia remained independent but became a Soviet satellite state. Afghanistan remained relatively independent of major influence by the USSR until the Soviet invasion of 1979.. 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..

According to Touraj Atabaki and Sanjyot Mehendale, " From 1959 to 1970, about two million people from various parts of the Soviet Union migrated to Central Asia, of which about one million moved to Kazakhstan. ". With the collapse of the 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, Kazakhstan and Mongolia have made further progress towards more open societies, unlike Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, which have maintained many Soviet style repressive tactics..

Culture

Islam is the religion most common in the Central Asian Republics, Afghanistan, Xinjiang and the peripheral western regions, such as Bashkortostan. Most Central Asian Muslims are Sunni, although there are sizable Shia minorities in Afghanistan and Tajikistan.. Vedic Hinduism and Zoroastrianism, a religion with origins in Iran, were major faith in Central Asia prior to the arrival of Islam. Its influence is still felt today in such celebrations as Nowruz, held in all five of the " core " Central Asian states..

Buddhism was a prominent religion in Central Asia prior to the arrival of Islam, and the transmission of 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 is most common in Tibet, Mongolia, 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 and Tajikistan, but nearly all have emigrated since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.. In Siberia, Shamanism is practiced, including forms of divination, such as Kumalak.. Contact and migration with Han people from China has brought Confucianism, Daoism, Mahayana Buddhism, and other Chinese folk beliefs into the region.. At the crossroads of Asia, shamanistic practices live alongside Buddhism. Thus, Yama, Lord of Death, was revered in Tibet as a spiritual guardian and judge. Mongolian Buddhism, in particular, was influenced by Tibetan Buddhism..

The Qianlong Emperor of China in the 18th century was Tibetan Buddhist and would sometimes travel from 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 and 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 instrumentin 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 photographer named Wilhelm Penner moved to the Khanate of Khiva during the Mennonite migration to Central Asia led by Claas Epp, Jr.. Upon his arrival to Khanate of Khiva, Penner shared his photography skills with a local student Khudaybergen Divanov, who later became the founder of the Uzbek photography.. Some also learn to sing the Manas, Kyrgyzstan's epic poem. 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 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 80's 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..

Geography

Central Asia is an extremely large region of varied geography, including high passes and mountains, vast deserts, and especially treeless, grassy steppes. The vast steppe areas of Central Asia are considered together with the steppes of Eastern Europe as a homogeneous geographical zone known as the Eurasian Steppe.. Much of the land of Central Asia is too dry or too rugged for farming. The Gobi desert extends from the foot of the Pamirs, 77 E, to the Great Khingan Mountains, 116118 E. Central Asia has the following geographic extremes.

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, the Syr Darya, Irtysh, the Hari River and the Murghab River. Major bodies of water include the Aral Sea and 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..

Demographics

By a broad definition including 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 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.. Russian, as well as being spoken by around six million ethnic Russians and 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, Qinghai and 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, and as a minority language in Afghanistan, Russia, Iran and Turkey.. Kazakh and Kyrgyz are related languages of the Kypchak group of Turkic languages and are spoken throughout Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and as a minority language in Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Xinjiang. Uzbek and Uyghur are spoken in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Xinjiang..

The Turkic languages may belong to a larger, but controversial, Altaic language family, which includes Mongolian. Mongolian is spoken throughout Mongolia and into Buryatia, Kalmyk, Tuva, Inner Mongolia, and Xinjiang.. Middle 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 and northwestern 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, Tajik, and Bukhori.. Tocharian, another Indo European language group, which was once predominant in oases on the northern edge of the 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 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 and the Kashmir state of India..

Cities

Almaty — Kazakhstan's former capital is an infinitely more preferable destination than ad hoc Astana.. Ashgabat — Turkmenistan's capital, with weird dictator monuments galore and natural gas wealth ostentation.. Astana — Kazakhstan's dreary, cold northern capital.. Bishkek — the leafy and drowsy capital of Kyrgyzstan.. Bukhara — a 2,500 year old Silk Road city in Uzbekistan and UNESCO World Heritage Site.. Dushanbe — the sleepiest Central Asian capital by leagues in Tajikistan.. Kabul — Afghanistan's capital and hub for, well, anyone who has to go to Afghanistan..

Samarkand — another of Uzbekistan's world famous 2,500 year old Silk Road cities, and also another UNESCO World Heritage Site.. Tashkent — Uzbekistan's capital, whose ages old history lies below Soviet era construction, and by far the region's biggest city, at some 3 million..

Other Destinations

Aral Sea — a post apocalyptic ecological disaster area of a dead sea, filled with the empty husks of overturned rusting boats and seashells that once moved with life in this now dead region.. Band e Amir — the breath taking sight of five torquoise blue lakes, connected by waterfalls, surrounded by barren wasteland in Afghanistan.. Chimbulak — Central Asia's most accessible ski resort (no helicopters needed), outside Almaty.. Darvaza — Simultaneously Central Asia's strangest and most jaw dropping attraction, the Gates of Hell is a vast flaming crater hundreds of miles from civilization in the middle of the inhospitable Karakarum Desert..

Issyk Kul — an absolutely gorgeous alpine lake, and perhaps Central Asia's most iconic natural wonder.. Merv — the most famous of Turkmenistan's many ruined medieval Silk Road cities.. Nissa — ruined Parthian fortresses comprising a UNESCO World Heritage site within easy striking distance of Ashgabat.. Zeravshan — a rugged and beautiful section of Tajikistan in the trekking and climbing friendly Fan Mountains..

Definitions

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.. 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. This definition was also often used outside the USSR during this period.. However, the Russian culture has two distinct terms and.. Soon after independence, the leaders of the four former Soviet Central Asian Republics met in Tashkent and declared that the definition of Central Asia should include Kazakhstan as well as the original four included by the Soviets..

Since then, this has become the most common definition of Central Asia.. The UNESCO 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, Tibet, northeast Iran, central east Russia south of the Taiga, Afghanistan, Pakistan, northern part of India, and the former Central Asian Soviet republics.. 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.. 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 200 miles north of rmqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region of China..

Countries

Due to culture and history, Iran, Mongolia, Western China (Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai, western Sichuan and northwestern Yunnan), parts of Russia (Buryatia, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Tuva, Altai, Khakassia) and part of Kashmir in India and Pakistan are often also included..