History, Politics, and Resources between East and West
Central Asia is home to young countries with an ancient past. This former piece of the USSR is not generally well-understood by the West (often referred to as simply "the Stans") but is of growing political and economic importance as Russia, China, and the US vie for shares of its rich energy and mineral resources.
Despite the generalizations, the region and its history is vastly diverse: it is home to mountains, deserts, grasslands, and seas; it has been ruled by empires of Pagans, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, and Atheists; and it is home to some of mankind's oldest petroglyphs and newest states.
Primitive man arrived here (from where is debated) and founded nomadic societies. By the Bronze Age, they were master horsemen (and still are). They were conquered by Alexander the Great and adopted Greek ideals. The Silk Road brought their cities new ideas and prosperity. The armies of Islam and China fought here, on land later conquered by Genghis Khan and then Tamerlane. A number of local governments and groups then ruled until the Russian Empire's expansion in the 19th century, giving concern to the British Empire in India and initiating "The Great Game." The Bolsheviks gained control, building mines, factories, nuclear testing fields and space platforms. Only with the fall would independence and prosperity be seen again here, though inequitably distributed. Today the young governments are closely watched by the world.
Of course, this vastly simplified history leaves out the Scythians and Sarmatians on the northern steppes that would greatly affect the development of Russian civilization. Nor does it name some of the great thinkers who were born here: Al-Khorezmi, the founder of Algebra; Abu Ali ibn-Sina, who wrote medieval Europe's "medical bible;" and Al-Biruni, who was one of the first to calculate the distance to the moon.
The area is one that must be studied in depth, traveled and experienced to be truly understood.
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