Central Asia embraces Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, five former Soviet republics. Sometimes western China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, south-central Russia and/or Mongolia are included depending on whether the countries are grouped together by language family, geography, horseman-nomadic traditions or sharing the “stan” suffix.” The core five Central Asian nation, plus western China (Xinjiang) are sometimes called Turkestan (Turkistan) because many of the people that live there speak Turkic languages. The term “Inner Asia” is also used. It includes Tibet and Manchuria, with a particular focus on people with horseman-nomadic traditions.

Central Asia has traditionally provided a bridge between Asia and Europe, which meet on the Eurasia steppe. The region has always regarded as exotic because its association with he Silk Road, the Great Game, and cultures and people that Westerners have known little about. The regions inaccessibility during the Soviet area only augmented this reputation.

Central Asia is mostly an arid landlocked, with steppes in the north and harsh deserts in the south. Majestic mountains — in particular the Tien Sien and the Pamirs — dominate the east and southeast. There are high plateaus around the mountains. The rivers that thread through the region are fed by melting snow and glaciers and carve deep valleys and ravines. Many important agricultural areas are irrigated, sometimes using the ancient qanat system of underground canals. Important crops include cotton, melons, rices and vegetables. Around the mountains and in the steppes people herd sheep, goats and horses. Scattered around the region are large deposits of oil, natural gas, gold, aluminum and other valuable minerals. The largest oil and natural gas deposits are in and around the Caspian Sea in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

Marisa Larson wrote in in National Geographic: “All of Central Asia, from Siberia in the north to Afghanistan in the south, from the Gobi desert in the east to the Caspian Sea in the west, used to be known as Turkistan. The name was meant to indicate the areas inhabited by Turkic people, yet this region also contained other ethnic groups such as the Tajik, and didn’t encompass some Turkic people of the former Ottoman Empire and the Volga River areas. The whole of Turkistan was ruled by various Turkic rulers until the arrival of Mongol Genghis Khan in 1220. Eventually the region was divided into East and West Turkistan with China controlling all of East Turkistan. Much of West Turkistan came under Russian rule starting in 1876. Until the Russian Revolution of 1917 the Russian government didn’t involve itself with the traditional lives of these people. However, after the revolution, European Russians began immigrating to the area. Beginning in 1924, Soviet leaders divided West Turkistan into states with artificial borders, often splitting ethnic groups. Within the newly created states, ethnic groups competed for dominance. Now living in independent nations, the ethnic groups vie for a prominent role in their fledgling governments. [Source:Marisa Larson, National Geographic]

Former Soviet Central Asian Countries

Central Asia is defined geographically by the Caspian Sea to the west, the northern part of the Kazakhstan steppe to the north, the Altay Mountains and Taklamakan Desert of China to the east and the Pamirs and southern Turkmenistan deserts in the south. The dying Aral Sea lies between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

The total area of the five former Soviet Central Asian republics — Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan — is approximately 3.9 million square kilometers, slightly more than 40 percent of the area of the United States and less than one-quarter of the area of Russia. The region stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China in the east, and from central Siberia in the north to Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan in the south. The area of the republics varies greatly: Kazakhstan, by far the largest, occupies about 2.7 million square kilometers, more than two-thirds of the region. The smallest republic, Kyrgyzstan, occupies only 198,500 square kilometers. The Central Asian republics also feature quite different topographies, varying from the wide expanses of desert in primarily flat Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to the steep slopes and river valleys of mountainous Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.[Source: Glenn E. Curtis, Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

The region contains enormous natural and agricultural resources. All five republics have favorable agricultural regions and some combination of attractive minerals and fuels. Their industrial bases include trained workers, and their populations have relatively high educational levels and literacy rates. Unfortunately, the moribund, highly inefficient system through which the Soviet Union exploited those resources has proved very difficult to disassemble. The Central Asians have suffered all the typical transitional ills of former communist states moving toward a market economy: erratic supply of critical industrial inputs, increased unemployment, sharply increased inflation, declining capacity utilization and output by industry, and acute shortages of goods. In response, all five governments have pledged meaningful reform, but obstacles such as unworkable government structure, ethnic rivalries, and a variety of social tensions have made all five move cautiously.*

Central Asian Historical Themes

Central Asia is a meeting point of Turkic, Persian and Mongol cultures. It has a rich history with more than its share of conquests and invasions. It was a lively commercial center that lay at the axis of the Silk Road trade between Asia and Europe. Central Asia has was also a major a center of education, art, architecture, religion, poetry and science. It became isolated from the rest of the world under the Russians and then the Soviet Union.

The British historian Arnold Toynbee described Central Asia as a "roundabout" where routes covered "from all quarters of the compass and from which routes radiate out to all quarters of the compass again." Influences on the region have come from Siberia, Mongolia, China, Persia, Turkey and finally Russia.

Crossroads of history has been used to describe a lot of places but nowhere is it more apt than in Central Asia. So many groups—a lot of the with names Westerners are unfamiliar with—came, inhabited, passed through, settled, conquered, left and stayed it is hard to keep track of them all. They came from all directions, and represented many different religions and ethnic groups from both Europe and Asia.

A “cloud of cruelty” hangs over Central Asian history. The most famous conquerors—Genghis Khan and Tamerlane—were not the only ones notorious for their brutal actions. Some local leaders were equally ruthless on a local scale.

The land occupied by Uzbekistan has traditionally been the home of more settled people while the other Central Asian nations have been the home of nomads. The steppes of Central Asia, Mongolia, the Ukraine and southern-central Russia are the birthplace of the great nomadic horsemen: the Scythians, Huns, Mongols and Turks.

Genetic Data on the Origin of the Central Asian Peoples

Modern Central Asia ethnic groups represents varying degrees of diversity derived from fact that many ethnic groups traveled through Central Asia and had varying impacts on the region. Originally populated by Iranian tribes and other Indo-European peoples, Central Asia experienced numerous invasions and intrusions emanating out of Mongolia, the Altai region and Eurasian steppe. Genetic studies show that the Uzbek population, for example, has substantial Asian and Indo-European ancestry. The Uzbeks display a somewhat closer genetic relationship with Turkic-Mongols than with Iranic populations to the south and west. [Source: protobulgarians.com]

According University of Chicago study on genetic genealogy of Central Asia ethnic groups, the Uzbeks cluster somewhere between the Mongols and the Iranian peoples: From the 3d century B.C., Central Asia experienced nomadic expansions of Altaic-speaking oriental-looking people, and their incursions continued for hundreds of years, beginning with the Hsiung-Nu (who may be ancestors of the Huns), in 300 B.C., and followed by the Turks, in the 1st millennium A.D., and the Mongol expansions of the 13th century. High levels of haplogroup 10 and its derivative, haplogroup 36, are found in most of the Altaic-speaking populations and are a good indicator of the genetic impact of these nomadic groups. [Source: A Genetic Landscape Reshaped by Recent Events: Y-Chromosomal Insights into Central Asia, Tatiana Zerjal, R. Spencer Wells, Nadira Yuldasheva, Ruslan Ruzibakiev, and Chris Tyler-Smith, American Journal of Human Genetics, September 2002]

“The expanding waves of Altaic-speaking nomads involved not only eastern Central Asia, where their genetic contribution is strong, as is shown in figure 7dbut also regions farther west, like Iran, Iraq, Anatolia, and the Caucasus, as well as Europe, which was reached by both the Huns and the Mongols. In these western regions, however, the genetic contribution is low or undetectable (Wells et al. 2001), even though the power of these invaders was sometimes strong enough to impose a language replacement, as in Turkey and Azerbaijan (Cavalli-Sforza et al. 1994). The difference could be due to the population density of the different geographical areas. Eastern regions of Central Asia must have had a low population density at the time, so an external contribution could have had a great genetic impact. In contrast, the western regions were more densely inhabited, and it is likely that the existing populations were more numerous than the conquering nomads, therefore leading to only a small genetic impact. Thus, the admixture estimate from northeast Asia is high in the east, but is barely detectable west of Uzbekistan.”

According to an Uzbekistan study despite the fact that the majority of modern Central Asians speaking Turkic languages, they derive much of their genetic heritage from the conquering Mongol warriors of Genghis Khan. “ The Turkic peoples as a whole share common languages and many common cultural traits, but do not have common origins. The Uzbeks are descended to a large degree from Turkic-Mongol invaders whose invasions span literally millenia from the first millenium CE with the early migrations of the Gokturks to later invasions by the Uzbeks themselves during the early and mid period of the 2nd millenium. These migrating Altaic peoples outnumbered the native Iranian peoples of Central Asia and appear to have assimilated the vast majority through intermarriage, while mainly the Tajiks survived albeit with some Turkic intermingling as well. Thus, in the case of Uzbekistan and most other Central Asian states, it was not a process of language replacement, such as what took place in Turkey and Azerbaijan, but rather a mass migration and population replacement that helped to shape the modern Turkic peoples of Uzbekistan and other Central Asian states.

The Stans

Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan are collectively known as the “the Stans” because they share the “-stan” suffix, which means “place,” “place of” or “land.” It was adopted into several languages from Persian, the court language employed in antique kingdoms of Central Asia. Thus the place or land of the Ukbeks is Kyrgyzstan, the place of the Turkmen, Turkmenistan. [Source: Mike Edwards, National Geographic, February 2002 ^^]

According to a National Geographic article written shortly after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in wake of the September 11 attacks: “Toothy borders carve up a region shaped by centuries of sociopolitical upheaval...The "Stans" weave an Asian carpet of many colors: blue of the Caspian Sea, gold of desert sands, and red of blood spilled in conflict. Their collective population of almost 230 million people exceeds Russia's by more than half. Yet prior to 1991 the map showed only Afghanistan and Pakistan. Then came the Soviet breakup and the birth of five independent nations. A decade later they're all struggling with drought, poverty, and internal strife. With Afghanistan in turmoil, the world has turned a curious eye on these enigmatic Who are the Stans?” ^^

Mike Edwards wrote in National Geographic, “They are a diverse lot, these seven Stans. Only Kazakhstan, one of the five Stans born...in the breakup of the Soviet Union, seems likely to enjoy a prosperous future, thanks to enormous oil reserves. Someday Turkmenistan may also be rich — it has abundant natural gas — but for now it stagnates in one-man rule. Pakistan must be reckoned the most formidable Stan, possessing a large army and nuclear weapons to boot. It is also volatile and violent. Two of the ex-Soviet states, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, seem likely to become welfare nations, depending on the largesse of international lenders. After... years of conflict Afghanistan is the neediest of all, a gutted shell of a state with millions of land mines embedded in its earth. ^^

“The Stans' common denominator is the harshness of their shared landscape, sweeps of desert and near desert rivers by soaring mountain chains: the Hindu Kush, the Pamirs, the Safed Koh. Mountains mean life. Snowmelt feeds the rivers that support cities and farms; in Pakistan the Indus nourishes one of the most intensely irrigated regions on Earth. Engineers in the Soviet Stans harnessed the Amu Darya and Syr Darya to grow cotton on huge farms. The new nations still grapple with the aftereffects, land poisoned by agricultural chemicals and transformed into barren salt marshes. ^^

“In ancient times, the British historian Arnold Toynbee has written, Afghanistan was a "round-about" a traffic circle, with routes converging "from all quarters of the compass and from which routes radiate out to all quarters of the compass again." Those routes — silk roads and spice roads arcing across mountain passes, leaping from spring to well to river valley — knitted Afghanistan and the other Stans into a single skein. Mighty conquerors strode these routes: Cyrus and Darius of Persia, Alexander, Attila, Mahmud, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, Babur. The number of dynasties domestic and foreign grew to more than a score. From India in the third century B.C. came Buddhism with Asoka, a bloody conqueror who became an evangelist of peace, renouncing the killing of any living thing. Buddhism endured for hundreds of years, time enough and more for artisans to carve soaring Buddhas in the rock of Bamian — statues gone forever, the last two destroyed by Taliban dynamite in March,” 2001. ^^

“In turn, the Buddhists were engulfed by Islam, first brought eastward to Iran by Arabs, then to the Stans beginning about A.D. 700. Though still mainly Islamic, the Stans practice markedly different versions of the faith. In Pakistan conservative mullahs exhort street crowds with strident anti-U.S. rhetoric. Islam in the ex-Soviet Stans is mostly moderate, even lax. Uzbekistan, applying harsh Soviet-era rules, has jailed thousands of Muslims out of fear of an Islamic uprising aimed at supplanting the secular government. The Stans are shot through with such issues of human rights and governance... Rigid Soviet ways (one-party rule, a smothered press) have not vanished from the former Soviet regions. For most of the Stans the road to democracy looks long and uphill. Security may be no closer. Nor peace.

Short History of Central Asia

Central Asia has a rich history to which numerous tribes and nationalities have contributed over at least 2,500 years. A vital factor in the history of the southern part of the region was its location astride the most direct trade route between China and Europe, the so-called Silk Route, which began to develop in the heyday of the Roman Empire. Cities such as Samarqand (Samarkand) and Bukhara (Bukhara), founded by Iranians, became powerful cultural and commercial centers as East-West trade increased. That prosperity made part or all of the region the object of many conquests (including those by the Arabs in the eighth century A.D., several Turkic groups beginning in the ninth century, and the Mongols in the early thirteenth century). The Arabs and the Turks brought Islam to much of Central Asia. Meanwhile, the northern part of the region was inhabited by nomadic herding peoples, including the Turkic predecessors of the Kazaks and Kyrgyz, who also fell under the control of the Mongols. [Source: Glenn E. Curtis, Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

In the sixteenth century, the Uzbeks established powerful khanates along the Silk Route. Those entities flourished until the nineteenth century, when they were overtaken gradually by the traders and settlers of the expanding Russian Empire. The Russians moved southward from the steppes of Kazakhstan in search of trade and later of the cotton that could be grown in present-day Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. In the ensuing decades, cotton became the vital economic magnet for increased Russian occupation, and large tracts of the region were devoted to that crop to supply Russia's domestic needs.*

In 1917 the region passed from the Russian Empire to the Soviet Union, with little participation by its inhabitants. Full Soviet control did not occur until the mid-1920s, as guerrilla bands continued to resist Soviet authority. In the 1920s, four of the five republics came into existence for the first time as Soviet authorities drew borders in anticipation of reordering all of Central Asian society. (Kyrgyzstan gained full republic status in 1936.) In the 1930s, the primarily agricultural region was traumatized by the forced collectivization campaign of Joseph V. Stalin's regime; episodes of widespread famine were common. (By 1900 the Kazak, Kyrgyz, and Turkmen nomads already had suffered massive disruption of their traditional lifestyles as a result of Russian settlers taking their grazing land for farms.)

Timeline of Early History in Central Asia

Fifth century B.C.: Bactrian, Soghdian, and Tokharian states dominate area of present-day Uzbekistan, including cities of Bukhara (Bukhara) and Samarqand (Samarkand) and begin profit from trade on Silk Route. Province of Mawarannahr begins long period of prosperity in eastern Uzbekistan.

Fourth-third centuries B.C.: Kyrgyz tribes invade northern China.

329 B.C.: Alexander the Great captures Maracanda (Samarqand) in conquest of southern Central Asia from Persian Achamenid Empire.

First century A.D.: Han Dynasty of China trades with Soghdians and Bactrians of Central Asia.

First-fourth centuries A.D.: Present-day Tajikistan ruled by Buddhist Kushans, who spread their faith to Soghdians.

ca. A.D. 500: Feudal society emerges in present-day Kyrgyzstan.

Timeline of Central Asian History from the 8th to 10th Centuries

750: Arabs complete conquest of Central Asia with victory over Chinese at Talas River, imposing Islam and new culture.

766: Turkic Qarluq confederation establishes state in present-day eastern Kazakhstan.

Eighth-ninth centuries: Under Arab Abbasid Caliphate, golden age of Central Asia; Bukhara becomes a cultural center of Muslim world.

Late eighth-tenth centuries: Turkic Oghuz tribes migrate into Central Asia from Mongolia and southern Siberia.

Ninth century: Islam becomes dominant religion of all Central Asia.

840: Kyrgyz Khanate reaches greatest extent, defeating Uygur Khanate in Mongolia.

Tenth century: Term Turkmen first applied to southern Islamic Oghuz tribes; Persian Samanid Dynasty replaces Abbasids, continues cultural activity of Mawarannahr.

Late tenth century: Seljuk Empire founded, based on Oghuz tribes, including Turkmen.

999: Turkic Qarakhanids overthrow Samanids, ending last major Persian state in Central Asia.

Timeline of Central Asian History from the 11th to 16th Centuries

Eleventh century: Seljuks and Qarakhanids end dominance of Ghaznavid Empire in south Central Asia, dominating west and east, respectively.

ca. 1100: Persian replaces Arabic as standard written language in most of Central Asia, remains in official use through fifteenth century.

1130s: Turkic Karakitais conquer Qarakhanids; dominate region for 100 years.

Mid-twelfth century: Revolts by Turkmen hasten disintegration of Seljuk Empire; Turkmen begin settling present-day Turkmenistan, notably Merv on Silk Route.

1200: Khorazm (Khorezm, Khwarazm), split from Seljuk Empire, consolidates empire including Mawarannahr and most of Central Asia; cultural activity continues.

1219-25: Mongols conquer Central Asia, pushing Turkmen westward toward Caspian Sea, intensifying Turkification of Mawarannahr, reducing Iranian influence, and destroying cultural centers.

ca. 1250: Son of Genghis (Genghis) Khan conquers Yenisey Kyrgyz, beginning 200 years of Mongol domination.

1380-1405: Timur (Tamerlane) unifies Mongol holdings in Central Asia, fosters last cultural flowering of Mawarannahr; Turkish first rivals Persian as literary language.

Fourteenth-sixteenth centuries: Turkmen tribes reorganize and consolidate.

Sixteenth century: Uzbek empire fragmented by fighting among khanates; decline of Silk Route.

1501-10: Uzbek nomadic tribes conquer Central Asia, establish Khanate of Bukhara.

1511: Khan Kasym unites Kazak tribes.

Sixteenth-nineteenth centuries: Migration east and southeast of large nomadic Turkmen tribal groups descending from Salor group.

Timeline of Central Asian History in 17th and 18th Centuries

Seventeenth-eighteenth centuries: Kazak nomads and Mongols raid and weaken Uzbek khanates; conflict with Iran isolates Uzbeks in Muslim world; Kyrgyz tribes overrun by Kalmyks and Manchus.

ca. 1700: Khanate of Bukhara loses Fergana region; Quqon (Kokand) Khanate founded, based in Fergana Valley.

1726: Kazak Khan Abul Khair seeks Russian protection from Kalmyk invaders, beginning permanent Russian presence in Kazakhstan.

Mid-eighteenth century: Turkmen Yomud tribes invade Khorazm.

1758: Kyrgyz tribes become Chinese subjects with substantial autonomy.

1785: Kyrgyz seek Russian protection from Quqon Khanate.

Eighteenth-early nineteenth centuries: Three Uzbek khanates revived by strong dynasties, centralized states; British and Russians begin rivalry for Central Asia.

Timeline of Central Asian History in the 19th Century

1820s: Kazak Great Horde is last of three hordes to come under Russian control.

1836-47: Under Khan Kene (Kenisary Kasimov), Kazaks rise up against Russian occupation.

1855-67: Yomud tribes rebel against Uzbek authority, which disperses the eastern Yomud.

1860s: Jadidist reform movement founded.

1861: Abolition of serfdom in Russian Empire begins migration of Russian peasants to Kazakhstan.

1865-68: Russian conquest of Tashkent, Bukhara, and Samarqand; Khanate of Bukhara becomes Russian protectorate.

1867: Guberniya (Governorate General) of Turkestan established as central Russian administration, eventually including (1899) present-day Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and southeastern Kazakhstan; remainder of Kazakhstan becomes Steppe District.

1869: Russians establish foothold in Turkmen territory at Krasnovodsk.

1870s: Russian cotton cultivation significantly expanded; Russians carry out punitive raids against Turkmen in Khorazm.

1873: Russians capture Khiva.

1876: Russians incorporate Quqon Khanate; all Uzbekistan and northern Kyrgyzstan in Russian Empire.

1881: Russians crush Turkmen resistance at Gokdepe fortress; Turkmen territory annexed into Guberniya of Turkestan.

1890s: Uzbek revolts against Russian rule quelled easily; large-scale Russian settlement begins in northern Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, diminishing Kazak and Kyrgyz nomadism.

Timeline of Central Asian History in the Early 20th Century

1900: Jadidism becomes first major movement of Central Asian political resistance.

1906-07: Central Asians have six seats in first and second Russian Dumas.

1907-17: Central Asians have no seats in third and fourth Russian Dumas.

1916: Kazaks, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, and Uzbeks rebel against Russian land confiscation, conscription; many Kazaks, Kyrgyz flee to China.

1917 May: Russian provisional government abolishes Guberniya of Turkestan; power divided among various groups, including Tashkent Soviet.

November: Bolshevik Revolution begins establishment of Soviet state.

1918: Bolsheviks declare Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, including most of present-day Central Asia in Russia; Bolsheviks crush autonomous government in Quqon; Jadidists and others begin decade-long Basmachi revolt involving elements from all five republics and mercenaries; Alash Orda establishes independent Kazak state.

1918-19: Widespread famine.

Timeline of Central Asian History in the 1920s and 30s

1920: Soviet General Frunze captures Ashgabat, ending anticommunist government there, and Bukhara, ending khanate; Faizulla Khojayev becomes president of newly established Soviet Bukhoran People's Republic; Kyrgyz Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic established, including Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

1921: Communists win in Russian Civil War, reduce power of Central Asian party branches.

1921-27: New Economic Policy (NEP) expands cotton cultivation in Central Asia.

1924: Soviet socialist republics of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan formed, with Tajikistan an autonomous republic in latter.

1925: Most Basmachi resistance in Tajikistan overcome; large-scale refugee movement from eastern Bukhara; Kazak Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (Kazak ASSR) separated from Kyrgyz ASSR.

1927-34: Waves of communist party purges in all republic branches; Central Asian autonomy drives intensify purges there.

1929: Soviet Socialist Republic of Tajikistan established, northern territory added.

1929-34: Soviet collectivization induces widespread famine in Central Asia.

1930s: Khojayev, other Central Asian communist leaders executed in Stalin purges, replaced by Russians.

1936: Kazak and Kyrgyz ASSRs given full republic status in Soviet Union; Karakalpakstan transferred from Russia to Republic of Uzbekistan.

Late 1930s: Nomadic lifestyle ends for most Turkmen.

Timeline of Central Asian History After World War II

1941-43: Many European Soviet plants moved to Central Asia to avoid capture by invading Nazis.

1956-64: Rehabilitation of some Central Asian communist leaders purged by Stalin; Russification remains prerequisite for party advancement; Virgin Lands program restructures agriculture in Central Asian republics.

1959-82: Tenure of Sharaf Rashidov as first secretary of Communist Party of Uzbekistan.

Timeline of Central Asian History in the 1980s

1985: Election of Mikhail S. Gorbachev as first secretary of Communist Party of Soviet Union, heralding impact of Moscow reform programs in Central Asia.

1986: Widespread purge of Communist Party of Uzbekistan leadership begins after exposure of corruption in Rashidov regime; nationalism, anti-Russian feeling intensify.

December: Widespread demonstrations in Kazakhstan after appointment of Gennadiy Kolbin as party leader in Kazakhstan; Kazak opposition groups appear; unrest continues through 1989.

Late 1980s: Uzbekistani intellectuals begin forming opposition political groups.

1989: Uzbeks clash with Meskhetian Turks and Kyrgyz in Osh; Moscow names Islam Karimov first secretary of Communist Party of Uzbekistan.

Political opposition group Agzybirlik formed in Turkmenistan; refused credentials.

June: Nursultan Nazarbayev named communist party head in Kazakhstan.

Timeline of Central Asian History in 1990

1990 February: Riots in Dushanbe protest communist housing policy in Tajikistan; state of emergency declared, opposition parties suppressed.

June- August: Violent conflict between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks and anticommunist demonstrations in Kyrgyz cities; opposition group, Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan, emerges.

August: Republic of Turkmenistan declares sovereignty within Soviet Union.

October: Saparmyrat Niyazov elected president of Turkmenistan, running unopposed.

November: Askar Akayev elected president of Republic of Kyrgyzstan, defeating communist incumbent.

Timeline of Central Asian History in 1991

1991 August: Coup against Gorbachev government fails in Moscow; Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan declare independence from Soviet Union.

September: Tajikistan declares independence from Soviet Union; communist Rahmon Nabiyev named president after ban of Communist Party of Tajikistan fails.

October: Turkmenistan declares independence from Soviet Union; Akayev elected president of independent Kyrgyzstan, running unopposed.

November: Communist Party of Uzbekistan reorganized, renamed People's Democratic Party of Uzbekistan.

December: Nazarbayev elected president of Kazakhstan, which declares independence from Soviet Union; five Central Asian states sign Alma-Ata Declaration formally establishing Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS); Communist Party of Turkmenistan renamed Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, retains political domination; Uzbekistan elects new parliament and Karimov its first president.

Timeline of Central Asian History in 1992

1992: Five Central Asian states join Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO).

Niyazov introduces "Ten Years of Prosperity" economic reform program for Turkmenistan.

March: Antigovernment riots begin in Dushanbe, escalate into civil war in April.

May: Turkmenistan adopts new constitution; Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan sign treaties of friendship and cooperation with Russia.

June: Niyazov reelected president of Turkmenistan, running unopposed; Kyrgyzstan signs treaty of friendship and cooperation with Russia.

Mid-year: Five Central Asian states begin taking over former Soviet military installations on their respective territories.

July: Tajikistan signs treaty of cooperation and assistance with Russia, allowing Russian forces to clear antigovernment forces from Tajikistan.

September: Tajikistan's president Nabiyev forced to resign; coalition government takes power.

November: Tajikistan's coalition government resigns, communist Rahmonov named head of state; opposition forces continue civil war.

December: Uzbekistan adopts new constitution; Birlik, main opposition party, banned in Uzbekistan; Dushanbe falls to Tajikistani government forces.

Timeline of Central Asian History in 1993

1993: "Cult of personality" of Niyazov extended in Turkmenistan with renaming of streets, buildings, and city of Krasnovodsk (Turkmenbashy).

Repression of opposition and media increases in Uzbekistan; by December, only state organs can register.

January: New Kazakhstani constitution adopted, names Kazak official state language; Akayev requests government emergency measures to end Kyrgyzstan's drastic economic decline. Kazakhstani government forms National Council for Economic Reform; government of Tajikistan makes criminal charges against opposition leader Hajji Akbar Turajonzoda.

April: Chevron Oil finalizes joint venture to develop Tengiz offshore oil fields with Kazakhstan.

June: Tajikistan bans three major opposition parties; Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province ends claims of independence from Tajikistan.

July: Kyrgyzstan signs military cooperation agreements with Russia; Afghan and Tajik rebels kill twenty-eight Russians in capturing border post in Tajikistan.

September: Agreement for new ruble zone signed by Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; four Central Asian states, excluding Turkmenistan, join five other CIS states, including Russia, in economic union.

November: Tenge becomes official currency of Kazakhstan; Tajik rebels resume fighting in Gorno-Badakhshan.

December: Turkmenistan signs treaty of cooperation, mutual assistance, and joint border security with Russia; Akayev dismisses Kyrgyzstani government of Tursunbek Chyngyshev after vote of no confidence; Kazakhstan approves Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as non-nuclear signatory; Kazakhstan's parliament dissolves itself.

Timeline of Central Asian History in 1994

1994 January: Referendum approves extension of Niyazov's term as president of Turkmenistan to 2002.

March: First multiparty elections in Kazakhstan (for parliament), dominated by Nazarbayev supporters.

May-July: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan join North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Partnership for Peace.

June: Kyrgyzstan eases language, citizenship restrictions to slow emigration of Russians.

September: Kyrgyzstani government resigns; parliament dissolved.

October: Cease-fire begins in Tajikistani civil war.

November: Rahmonov elected president of Tajikistan, without participation of major opposition parties; plebiscite approves new Tajikistani constitution.

December: New Majlis (assembly) elected in Turkmenistan, dominated by Democratic Party.

December-January 1995: Uzbekistan's parliamentary elections dominated by People's Democratic Party.

Timeline of Central Asian History in 1995

1995: Sporadic cease-fires, peace talks, and resumption of fighting in Tajikistan.

February: Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan sign ten-year partnership and cooperation agreement with European Union (EU); parliamentary elections in Tajikistan boycotted by opposition; first of three election rounds for new bicameral parliament of Kyrgyzstan.

March: Referendum extends Karimov's term as president of Uzbekistan to 2000; Kazakhstani parliament resigns, Nazarbayev begins rule by decree.

April: Referendum extends Nazarbayev's term to 2000.

May: Tajikistan introduces new currency, Tajikistani ruble.

June: Two Turkmen opposition leaders sentenced to prison terms.

August: Kazakhstan's new constitution approved by popular referendum.

December: Parliamentary elections held in Kazakhstan under protest by opposition parties.

Timeline of Central Asian History in 1996

1996 February: Referendum extends presidential powers of Akayev; Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan sign extended customs union agreement with Belarus and Russia; Turkmenistan signs major natural gas sales agreement with Turkey.

March: After resignation of Kyrgyzstan's government, Akayev names new cabinet headed by Apas Jumagulov, prime minister of previous government.

April: Directors of seventeen banks in Kyrgyzstan charged with illegal use of funds, triggering national bank scandal; Kyrgyzstan bans Ittipak, Uygur separatist organization; Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan sign Shanghai border security treaty with China and Russia, pledging aid to China against separatists from Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

May: Kazakhstan bans Russian newspaper Komsomol'skaya pravda for article by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn claiming parts of Kazakhstan as Russian territory; to ease severe economic crisis, Kazakhstani government cancels US$300 million of agriculture sector's debts; Uzbekistan's Karimov threatens withdrawal from Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) for Iran's "politicization" of ECO by criticism of Israel and United States; Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan support Karimov.

June: Kazakhstan opens widespread antinarcotics offensive and amnesties 20,000 prisoners to relieve prison overcrowding; Tajikistan signs plan for energy export to Russia; Karimov makes official visit to

United States to improve bilateral and UN relations; Uygurs in Kazakhstan continue protests against Shanghai treaty; Nazarbayev's threat to dissolve parliament gains passage of unpopular pension bill; chairman of Kazakhstan's Supreme Court dismissed for corruption.

July: Rahmonov of Tajikistan consolidates power by organizing National Security Council under presidential control and by antinarcotics campaign in rebel stronghold Gorno-Badakhshan, using nominally neutral Russian border troops.

August: Presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan sign accord for creation of single economic market by 1998; UN-sponsored cease-fire of July is broken by heavy fighting in Tajikistan's central region, as rebels renew thrust toward Dushanbe.

October: Antigovernment United Tajikistan Opposition proposes National Reconciliation Council including 80 percent opposition and 20 percent government members; Tajikistan government rejects formula. Japan commits US$140 million to upgrade three airports in Uzbekistan and US$200 million for infrastructure and medical centers in Kazakhstan; bilateral accords with Iran and Russia reaffirm Turkmenistan's "permanent neutrality."

Turkmenistan's Nabiyev confers in Moscow with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, reaching no agreement on natural gas deliveries to Russia or on ownership of Caspian Sea resources.

October-November: Rebel forces open corridors from Afghanistan into eastern Tajikistan, threatening to take full control of eastern and central regions; government forces offer weak resistance.

November: Acute energy shortage brings winter rationing of electric power and heat in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

December: Tajikistan's Rahmonov signs new cease-fire agreement with rebel coalition; ensuing peace agreement calls for reconciliation council to amend constitution; Kazakhstan sells its first bond issue on the international bond market; Turkmenistan's 1996 inflation rate estimated at 140 percent, highest among Central Asian republics; Kazakhstan and international consortium set terms for pipeline construction to export Kazakhstan's Tengiz oil.

Timeline of Central Asian History in 1997

1997 January: Kazakhstan begins shipping oil from its Tengiz field by tanker across Caspian Sea for resale by Iran; 2 million tons to be shipped annually until new export pipeline completed; two Japanese firms agree to build $US138 million telephone network in Uzbekistan; at meeting of Central Asian Economic Union, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan sign mutual defense treaty and discuss mutual convertibility of currencies; Topchubek Turgunaligev, head of opposition Erkin Party in Kyrgyzstan, sentenced to prison for embezzlement as political repression tightens.

January-March: Six rounds of peace talks between Tajikistan government and United Tajikistan Opposition yield significant agreements on reintegration of political and military organizations.

February: Japan signs US$580 million agreement to build polypropylene plant in Turkmenistan.

March: Kyrgyzstan extends Russian border troop presence through end of 1997.

Nazarbayev restructures Kazakhstan's government, reducing power of Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin.

May: Terms set for pipeline connecting Tengiz oil field in Kazakhstan with Russia's Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, to open September 1999.

June: Peace accord between Rahmonov government and United Tajik Opposition formally ends civil war in Tajikistan.

July: New National Reconciliation Commission scheduled to begin work on procedures for parliamentary elections to be held in Tajikistan by the end of 1998.

Andijan-Osh-Kashgar Highway opens, connecting points in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan with China.

August: Kazakhstan and Russia sign treaty easing conditions for Russians in Kazakhstan, aimed at reducing emigration of Russian technical experts.

Political negotiations in Tajikistan delayed by scattered fighting and disagreements over conditions.

September: United States forces join troops of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkey, and Uzbekistan in peacekeeping exercise in south-central Kazakhstan, the first such combined exercise.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated April 2016

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