Who Lives Here?

For our purposes, Central Asia means the former Soviet Republics of Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – a huge expanse of land stretching from China to the Caspian Sea, where the Aryan and Turkic worlds meet. Kazakstan alone is about the size of western Europe. The borders between the republics were mainly drawn by Stalin, which makes for a mixture of people in each country. The Fergana valley, for instance, is split between Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The cities of Samarkand and Bukhara are in Uzbekistan but most people who live there speak Tajik. Khojand, in the north of Tajikistan, and Osh in Kyrgyzstan, are largely Uzbek.

Apart from the indigenous and Russian populations, there are other big groups of people we should take into account.
Karakalpaks: have their own autonomous republic in the north of Uzbekistan.
: are a European Turkic people who live throughout the region.
: were dumped in Central Asia by Stalin, after famine at home had brought them to the Soviet Far East. During the Second World War Chechens, Greeks and Crimean Tatars met the same fate.
Central Asian Jews
– famously the Persian-speaking Bukharan Jews – have been in the region for centuries.
: when Dr Najibullah fell in Afghanistan, lots of his supporters fled north to the USSR. Many went to Moscow, but others have made their homes in Dushanbe, Tashkent and Turkmenistan.
settled in the Volga region under Catherine the Great until Stalin moved them to Central Asia -Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan – and Siberia.
live in Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan, next to the Muslim Chinese province of Xinjang. All this is the tip of the iceberg: other groups abound – Ukrainians, Poles, Turks, Gypsies, Armenians …. to name but a few.

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