Greater Central Asia
Of late, there has been much reference to Greater Central Asia (GCA), which is taken to mean a much broader definition than ‘Central Asia’, and usually refers to the five former Soviet republics of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan plus adjacent places, sometimes including Mongolia, parts of western China and Afghanistan (see Orlovsky & Orlovsky, 2018 for an elaboration). In the Russian-speaking scientific community, ‘Middle Asia’ unambiguously refers to the regions stretching from the Caspian Sea to the Chinese Dzungaria (Junggar Basin in Xinjiang) and from the southern Ustyurt Plateau and the Aral Sea to northern Iran and Afghanistan (Rachkovskaya et al., 2003). Biogeographic studies habitually use ‘Central Asia’ for the territory covering Mongolia (Jigjidsuren & Johnson, 2003) and the Gobi Desert in Chinese Inner Mongolia (Petrov, 1966, 1973). In this book, we will use the broader definition as proposed by UNESCO. This definition includes the five former Soviet republics (the five ‘stans’), plus Afghanistan, Mongolia, and most of western China (Xinjiang and the Tibet Plateau).