Central Asia


Uzbeks and other Muslim, Turkic speakers.










This area has long been known as the "Cockpit of Asia" because it is the point where several civilisations and powers meet in competition. To the east is China, increasing in power, with an insatiable demand for oil and gas; to the west and north is Russia with a huge supply of both these; to the south is South Asia also with a rapidly growing economy and ancient cultural ties with the area; to the west and south is the Muslim world to which Central Asia mostly belongs.

There are potential and actual wars in this area which was conquered by the Russians in the 19th century. Their status had something in common with other colonial territories conquered at the same time which have since become independent.

The collapse of the Soviet Union as a functioning state in December 1991 released many unpredictable forces. Each of the successor republics has minorities within it. As in the Caucasus civil disturbance and wars have arisen. Each of the Muslim republics may have affinities with other Muslim states outside the former Soviet Union. A realignment of alliances may take place.

Will the Commonwealth of Independent States be able to keep the peace? It seems to be weak and has not acted. Its mainly Russian troops have remained aloof, except where Russian settlers are involved.

Tadzhikistan has been a source of war recently. The state split into at least two parts with a war between those supporting Islam and those wanting to maintain a Communist system, apparently supported by Russian troops. During the Soviet war in Afghanistan, Afghan guerrillas operated in Tadzhikistan.

Other potential wars are in Xinjiang (Chinese Turkestan). That was written in 1995.

Since then the war in Afghanistan has changed to a guerrilla war against the NATO occupiers and the government, the Tadjikistan war has been resolved by a political settlement. The other ex-Soviet states have remained under dictatorships that prevent war - and all civil liberties. China continues to a have a firm grip on Xinjiang (Chinese Turkestan).

Last revised 18/04/07


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