Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: May 18, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412971935 | Print ISBN: 9781412966702 | Online ISBN: 9781412971935| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Central Asia, Ancient
In the modern world, Central Asia broadly refers to the western Chinese provinces (such as Xinjiang, Tibet, and Qinghai); the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan; and the nations of Afghanistan and Mongolia. It has historically been inhabited by Turkic peoples, with Russians forming a significant minority in the modern age and Tajiks (a Persian-speaking Iranian people) making up much of the population of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. When we speak of ancient Central Asia, we are speaking principally of these Turkic peoples (and possibly related groups such as the Mongols), living in the steppes north of the Ancient Near East and the easternmost reaches of the Indo-European peoples. In earliest times, the area was inhabited by nomadic and seminomadic groups who domesticated the horse and the camel. In the last two millennia b.c.e., as empires came to power in the ancient Near East, the steppe ...