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Summary Article: Central Asian Republics from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Geographical region covering the territory of five nation-states: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. These republics were part of the Soviet Union before gaining their independence in 1991. Central Asia is bordered on the north by the Russian Federation, on the south by Iran and Afghanistan, and on the east by the Chinese region of Xinjiang Uygur. The western boundary of Central Asia is marked by the Caspian Sea. The topography of the region is characterized by several major mountain ranges, including the Tien Shan range and the Pamirs, and extensive deserts, principally the Kara-Kum and Kyzyl-Kum. The people of Central Asia are predominantly Muslim.

Central Asia covers a large part of the geographical region of Turkestan. The principal rivers of the area are the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya. The territories of Central Asia first came under the influence of Russia only in the mid- to late 19th century. The division of the region along nationalist lines during the Soviet era has resulted in the emergence of a number of inter-ethnic tensions since independence.

History Russian domination over the whole of Central Asia was established by the late 19th century. Conquest began when the southern part of what is now Kazakhstan and the Kokand Khanate were merged in 1876 to form the province of Turkestan, while the Khiva and Bukhara khanates became vassal states of Russia. Transcaspia (present-day Turkmenistan) was incorporated into the province of Turkestan in 1884. This nominal division of the region ended in 1917–18, with the advent of the Soviet regime. In April 1918 Turkestan became the Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, and in 1920 the Khan of Khiva and the Emir of Bokhara were deposed and People's Republics set up.

Major administrative reorganizations in the 1920s and 1930s shaped the modern regional political boundaries, with the creation (in 1924–25) of the Uzbek and Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republics (SSR); the Tajik Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR); and the Kara-Kirgiz, Kara-Kalpak, and Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous oblasti. The Tajik ASSR became an SSR in 1929; the Kara-Kalpak Autonomous Oblast an ASSR in 1932, which was subsequently incorporated in the Uzbek SSR in 1936; and the Kara-Kirgiz Autonomous Oblast became the Kirgiz SSR in 1936. In this same year, areas in neighbouring republics that were populated by Kazakhs were united with Kazakhstan.

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