The Central Asia region in the narrower sense comprises the five former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The term Central Asia is often used in a broader sense including parts of Mongolia, the Russian Altai, northwest China, northern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan.
In terms of landscape, it stretches from the Caspian Sea and the regions of the Caspian Valley and the lowlands of Turan in western Kazakhstan, some of which are below sea level, across vast steppe and desert landscapes to the ridges of the Tien Shan Mountains and the Pamir in the east with their seven thousand meter peaks . Due to the distance to the world’s oceans, the climate is strictly continental. The main seasons summer and winter alternate almost seamlessly.
A lively exchange of cultures, ideas, religions and goods has taken place in this region since the times of the great Silk Road. A wide variety of peoples met and mingled, leaving behind a rich cultural heritage and a population and cultural diversity which, during the period of Russian and Soviet rule, was enriched by populations from all parts of Russia and the Soviet Union through the settlement and deportation.
Traditionally, there is a Uyghur minority in most Central Asian countries that plays an important role in cultural life. Conversely, there are Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Turkmen and Kazakh minorities in China, Afghanistan, Russia and Turkey as well as indigenous Georgian-speaking and Armenian minorities in Turkey.