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History: Central Asia, 140 years ago

History: Central Asia, 140 Years Ago

In modern contexts, all definitions of Central Asia include these five republics of the former Soviet Union: Kazakhstan (pop. 16.0 million), Kyrgyzstan (5.5 million), Tajikistan (7.3 million), Turkmenistan (5.1 million), and Uzbekistan (27.6 million), for a total population of 61.5 million as of 2009. Other areas included are Afghanistan, Northern Iran, Kashmir, northern Pakistan, Mongolia, and sometimes Xinjiang and Tibet in western China and southern Siberia in Russia.
Various definitions of its exact composition exist, and no 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, West Asia, South Asia, and East Asia.
During pre-Islamic and early Islamic times, Central Asia was a predominantly Iranian region that included sedentary Sogdians, Chorasmians, 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 and Uyghurs. Central Asia is sometimes referred to as Turkestan.
From the 17th century, up to the end of the 20th century, most of Central Asia has been part of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, both being Slavic majority countries. As of 2011, the "stans" are still home to about 7 million Russians and 500 thousand Ukrainians.

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