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Identity and Space in Central Asia

Author(s): Sebastian Stride

Journal: Revista CIDOB d'Afers Internacionals
ISSN 1133-6595

Issue: 70-71;
Start page: 9;
Date: 2005;
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Keywords: Asia Central | cultura | lengua | geografía | historia

This article aims to provide an introduction to Central Asia from a geographic, historical and ethnolinguistic perspective. It demonstrates how the environment has conditioned the patterns of human settlement and, in particular, the relationship betweensemi-nomadic, pastoral populations and sedentary, agricultural populations. Logically, this human geography of Central Asia has had and continues to have a profound effect on notions of identity, which have little to do with those of the modern European concept of Nation-State. Thus, while the languages, ethnic groups and cultures of the current five former Soviet republics of Central Asia seem to have existed for centuries, in reality they were invented by the Soviet regime in the 1920’s. Nevertheless, far from being rejected by the new independent countries, the Soviet categories have been ratified and are today considered unquestionable. It is, however, of fundamental importance that this fact be taken into account in an analysis of the region, because in many cases the current CentralAsian regimes purposefully use notions such as Islamic fundamentalism, natural resources or economic liberalisation, which are very much in vogue at the present time, in order to mask problems which in reality are linked to identities and events from a distant past.
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