Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

Central Asia: A Historical Overview

Demographic Map of Central Asia

Demographic Map of Central Asia



The Roles of China and Russia in the post-Mongol Period
Once the Mongols were out of the picture, the role of Central Asia changed. This has a lot to do with the after-effects of the Mongol rule. In the east, the Chinese became increasingly xenophobic. As a result, China was more and more isolated. In Persia, there was also an aversion towards foreign influences. Central Asia could no longer play the role of a transmitter of culture and technology. The Silk Road also began to decline during this period. When trade diminished, the Central Asian people also became impoverished.

In the early 16th century, Iran was converted to the Shiite form of Islam. This put them at odds with the Muslims in the west as well as the east. This development also had a negative impact on trade. Between the 16th and 18th centuries, this area became the backwater. This region has lost its significance. The discovery of sea routes is an additional strike against Central Asia. The population by this time decreased in this area. This region became culturally stagnant.

Starting around the 17th century, both Russia and China made incursions into Central Asia. The Russians initially wanted to build up a buffer zone from the east by expanding into this region. China did the same kind of thing from the east. The Russians eventually were also interested in trading with China. They are interested in tea, silk, porcelain, etc. These commodities could fetch tremendous prices in Europe. They, in the end, signed a treaty with the Chinese in 1689. This treaty allowed the Russians to enter China to trade for these products. In return, the Chinese got additional territory in Central and Inner Asia. Simultaneously, the Russians demanded the Chinese to accept a number of Russian students to study the Chinese and Manchu languages. As a result, Orthodox mission was also set up in China in the 18th century The Russians were the only foreign country to have a presence in China during this time. However, this kind of exchange was not very popular on either side.

Russians also began to take over gradually Central Asia during this period. By the 19th century, Central Asia was completely taken over by Russia. In 1868, the Russians moved into Tashkent and made the city their capital in Central Asia. China moved into the region of Xinjiang even earlier in 1760s. The results in both cases were disastrous. The Tsarist and Chinese governments tried to prevent problems by instructing their: 1) not to interfere with the practice of Islam, 2) not to impose discriminatory taxation on the local population, and 3) not to let Chinese and Russian nationals to take advantage of the local people.

Unfortunately, the group of officials who were sent out to Central Asia did not observe these instructions. The results were riots and revolts. Considerable local oppositions against foreign powers existed in Russian Central Asia in 19th century, such as the revolts by the Kazakhs in 1840s and the revolts among the oases of Central Asia in 1860s. These rebellions continued into the 20th century. It was not until 1928 that these rebellions were completely quelled. Similar situation also applied to the region of Xinjiang (Chinese Central Asia or Tarim Basin).

The Great Game and its Effect on Local Islamic Population in Central Asia
Meanwhile, the British were trying to build a buffer zone to protect India, particularly from Russia, by expanding into areas such as Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim. In addition, they also tried to expand into Tibet and Afghanistan. These activities were later referred to as the Great Game.

As a result, the Islamic population in Central Asia was being surrounded by Great Britain, Russia, and China in the 19th century. These foreign powers attacked Islam as a religion, the infrastructure that existed in these oases, and the nomadic way of life.

The situation in Central Asia during the 20th & 21st centuries is very much related to the events that took place in the 18th & 19th centuries.

Meanwhile, the British were trying to build a buffer zone to protect India, particularly from Russia, by expanding into areas such as Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim. In addition, they also tried to expand into Tibet and Afghanistan. These activities were later referred to as the Great Game.

As a result, the Islamic population in Central Asia was being surrounded by Great Britain, Russia, and China in the 19th century. These foreign powers attacked Islam as a religion, the infrastructure that existed in these oases, and the nomadic way of life.

The situation in Central Asia during the 20th & 21st centuries is very much related to the events that took place in the 18th & 19th centuries.