Central Asia

A brief look at Central Asia mid 1997

Kazakstan was one of the last republics to declare full independence from the USSR. It is considered about third in importance after Russia and Ukraine. Kazakstan contains about 20% of the cultivated land of the old USSR, where it grows mostly grain. It has rich mineral resources, heavy engineering and chemical works in the north. Kazakstan was the nuclear testing site for the USSR and still contains some Russian nuclear weapons. It is also the home of the Soviet space centre at Baikonur which is now rented out to Russia

  • Capital: Almaty. Pop. 1,151,000
  • Area: 2,717,000 sq. km from the Volga to the Altai mountains and from the West Siberian plains to the Central
  • Asian deserts. It has a frontier with China to the south-east and a huge 8,000 km border with Russia.
  • Population: 16,600,000 of which about 50% are Kazakh who live in the south and just under 37% Russian who live in the north. The balance is shifting, gently, more and more towards the Kazakhs.

Uzbekistan was one of the first Central Asian republics to declare independence. It is the most populous of the republics with probably the most economic potential. It has large reserves of gas, coal, oil and various minerals including gold, uranium, copper and aluminium. Its industry is concentrated on the extraction and processing of these minerals but it also has some other light and heavy industrial output. Agriculture is dominated by cotton.

  • Capital: Tashkent. Population 2,200,000 – the biggest city in Central Asia.
  • Area: 447,400 sq km. Uzbekistan lies in the middle of Central Asia. It has borders with all the other republics and a short border with Afghanistan to the south.
  • Population: 22,000,000 of which about 70% are Uzbeks and 8% Russians. There are also numbers of Tajiks, Koreans and Kazakhs. 50% or so of the population is under the age of 18, and the population density in some areas is very high, especially in Fergana.

Kyrgyzstan was one of the first republics to declare independence, after the failed coup in Moscow in August 1991. Like Tajikistan, it is extremely poor. But it has a highly mechanised agricultural sector and is self-sufficient in most crops and livestock. It makes consumer goods and has well-develoned hydroelectric power stations. There are also some rare metals.

  • Capital: Bishkek. Population 630,000
  • Area: 198,000 sq. km. Small, landlocked and mountainous, Kyrgyzstan has a frontier with China to the south-east, Kazakstan to the north and Tajikistan to the south as well as Uzbekistan to the north.
  • Population: 4,300,000 of which just over 50% are Kirghiz, about 25% Russian and 13% Uzbek
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