chapter  2
25 Pages

Biogeography and natural resources of Greater Central Asia

An overview
WithLeah Orlovsky, Nikolai Orlovsky

What countries/regions are included in the concept of “Greater Central Asia”? About two hundred years ago, Alexander von Humboldt took 44.50N as the median latitude to define the region, and all areas five degrees to the north and to the south were considered as Central Asia (von Humboldt, 1843). According to Humboldt, the western border of the region was the Caspian Sea, and the eastern limit was undefined. Since then, in the Russian (and later Soviet) literature, there has been a division between “Middle” and “Central” Asia. In the narrow sense, Middle Asia is an area between the Caspian Sea in the west and the Pamir Mountains in the east, the Aral-Irtysh watershed in the north, and the Kopetdag-Hindukush Mountains in the south. At present, administratively, “Middle” Asia includes the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union (FSU): Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and southern Kazakhstan (Alexeyeva and Ivanova, 2003). According to the same source, “Central” Asia is an inland part of Asia between the Big Khingan mountain range in the east, the upstream valleys of the Indus and Brahmaputra Rivers in the south, and the mountains of eastern Kazakhstan in the west and north.