Central Asia stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China in the east and from Afghanistan in the south to Russia in the north. The region consists of the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, it is colloquially referred to as "the stans" as the countries considered to be within the region all have names ending with the Persian suffix "-stan", meaning "land of". Central Asia has a population of about 72 million, consisting of five republics: Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Afghanistan, a part of South Asia, is sometimes included in Central Asia. Central Asia has been tied to its nomadic peoples and the Silk Road, it has acted as a crossroads for the movement of people and ideas between Europe, Western Asia, South Asia, East Asia. The Silk Road connected Muslim lands with the people of Europe and China; this crossroads position has intensified the conflict between tribalism and traditionalism and modernization. In pre-Islamic and early Islamic times, Central Asia was predominantly Iranian, populated by Eastern Iranian-speaking Bactrians, Sogdians and the semi-nomadic Scythians and Dahae.
After expansion by Turkic peoples, Central Asia became the homeland for the Kazakhs, Tatars, Turkmen and Uyghurs. From the mid-19th century until the end of the 20th century, most of Central Asia was part of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, both Slavic-majority countries, the five former Soviet "-stans" are still home to about 7 million ethnic Russians and 500,000 Ukrainians; the idea of Central Asia as a distinct region of the world was introduced in 1843 by the geographer Alexander von Humboldt. The borders of Central Asia are subject to multiple definitions. Built political geography and geoculture are two significant parameters used in the scholarly literature about the definitions of the Central Asia; the most limited definition was the official one of the Soviet Union, which defined Middle Asia as consisting of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan, hence omitting Kazakhstan. This definition was often used outside the USSR during this period. However, the Russian culture has two distinct terms: Средняя Азия and Центральная Азия.
Soon after independence, the leaders of the four former Soviet Central Asian Republics met in Tashkent and declared that the definition of Central Asia should include Kazakhstan as well as the original four included by the Soviets. Since this has become the most common definition of Central Asia; the UNESCO History of the Civilizations of Central Asia, published in 1992, defines the region as "Afghanistan, northeastern Iran and central Pakistan, northern India, western China and the former Soviet Central Asian republics."An alternative method is to define the region based on ethnicity, in particular, areas populated by Eastern Turkic, Eastern Iranian, or Mongolian peoples. These areas include Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the Turkic regions of southern Siberia, the five republics, Afghan Turkestan. Afghanistan as a whole, the northern and western areas of Pakistan and the Kashmir Valley of India may be included; the Tibetans and Ladakhi are included. Insofar, most of the mentioned peoples are considered the "indigenous" peoples of the vast region.
Central Asia is sometimes referred to as Turkestan. There are several places that claim to be the geographic center of Asia, for example Kyzyl, the capital of Tuva in the Russian Federation, a village 200 miles north of Ürümqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region of China. Central Asia is an large region of varied geography, including high passes and mountains, vast deserts, treeless, grassy steppes; the vast steppe areas of Central Asia are considered together with the steppes of Eastern Europe as a homogeneous geographical zone known as the Eurasian Steppe. Much of the land of Central Asia is too rugged for farming; the Gobi desert extends from the foot of the Pamirs, 77° E, to the Great Khingan Mountains, 116°–118° E. Central Asia has the following geographic extremes: The world's northernmost desert, at Buurug Deliin Els, Mongolia, 50°18' N; the Northern Hemisphere's southernmost permafrost, at Erdenetsogt sum, Mongolia, 46°17' N. The world's shortest distance between non-frozen desert and permafrost: 770 km.
The Eurasian pole of inaccessibility. A majority of the people earn a living by herding livestock. Industrial activity centers in the region's cities. Major rivers of the region include the Amu Darya, the Syr Darya, the Hari River and the Murghab River. Major bodies of water include the Aral Sea and Lake Balkhash, both of which are part of the huge west-central Asian endorheic basin that includes the Caspian Sea. Both of these bodies of water have shrunk in recent decades due to diversion of water from rivers that feed them for irrigation and industrial purposes. Water is an valuable resource in arid Central Asia and can lead to rather significant international disputes. Central Asia is bounded on the north by the forests of Siberia; the northern half of Cent
Tajiks are a Persian-speaking Iranian ethnic group native to Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. Tajiks are the largest ethnicity in Tajikistan, the second largest in Afghanistan which constitutes over half of the global Tajik population, they speak varieties of a Western Iranian language. In Tajikistan, since the 1939 Soviet census, its small Pamiri and Yaghnobi ethnic groups are included as Tajiks. In China, the term is used to refer to its Pamiri ethnic groups, the Tajiks of Xinjiang, who speak the Eastern Iranian Pamiri languages. In Afghanistan, the Pamiris are counted as a separate ethnic group; as a self-designation, the literary New Persian term Tajik, which had some previous pejorative usage as a label for eastern Persians or Iranians, has become acceptable during the last several decades as a result of Soviet administration in Central Asia. Alternative names for the Tajiks are Eastern Persian, Fārsīwān, Dīhgān which translates to "farmer or settled villager", in a wider sense "settled" in contrast to "nomadic" and was used to describe a class of land-owning magnates as "Persian of noble blood" in contrast to Arabs and Romans during the Sassanid and early Islamic period.
The Tajiks are an Iranian people, speaking a variety of Persian, concentrated in the Oxus Basin, the Farḡāna valley and on both banks of the upper Oxus, i.e. the Pamir Mountains and northeastern Afghanistan and western Afghanistan. The ancient Tajiks were chiefly agriculturalists before the Arab Conquest of Iran. While agriculture remained a stronghold, the Islamization of Iran resulted in the rapid urbanization of historical Khorasan and Transoxiana that lasted until the devastating Mongolian invasion. Several surviving ancient urban centers of the Tajik people include Herat, Bukhara, Khujand and Kabul. Contemporary Tajiks are the descendants of ancient Eastern Iranian inhabitants of Central Asia, in particular, the Sogdians and the Bactrians, other groups, with an admixture of Western Iranian Persians and non-Iranian peoples. According to Richard Nelson Frye, a leading historian of Iranian and Central Asian history, the Persian migration to Central Asia may be considered the beginning of the modern Tajik nation, ethnic Persians, along with some elements of East-Iranian Bactrians and Sogdians, as the main ancestors of modern Tajiks.
In works, Frye expands on the complexity of the historical origins of the Tajiks. In a 1996 publication, Frye explains that many "factors must be taken into account in explaining the evolution of the peoples whose remnants are the Tajiks in Central Asia" and that "the peoples of Central Asia, whether Iranian or Turkic speaking, have one culture, one religion, one set of social values and traditions with only language separating them." Regarding Tajiks, the Encyclopædia Britannica states:The Tajiks are the direct descendants of the Iranian peoples whose continuous presence in Central Asia and northern Afghanistan is attested from the middle of the 1st millennium bc. The ancestors of the Tajiks constituted the core of the ancient population of Khwārezm and Bactria, which formed part of Transoxania. Over the course of time, the eastern Iranian dialect, used by the ancient Tajiks gave way to Farsi, a western dialect spoken in Iran and Afghanistan; the geographical division between the eastern and western Iranians is considered and to be the desert Dasht-e Kavir, situated in the center of the Iranian plateau.
According to John Perry The most plausible and accepted origin of the word is Middle Persian tāzīk'Arab', or an Iranian cognate word. The Muslim armies that invaded Transoxiana early in the eighth century, conquering the Sogdian principalities and clashing with the Qarluq Turks consisted not only of Arabs, but of Persian converts from Fārs and the central Zagros region. Hence the Turks of Central Asia adopted a variant of the Iranian word, täžik, to designate their Muslim adversaries in general. For example, the rulers of the south Indian Chalukya dynasty and Rashtrakuta dynasty referred to the Arabs as "Tajika" in the 8th and 9th century. By the eleventh century, the Qarakhanid Turks applied this term more to the Persian Muslims in the Oxus basin and Khorasan, who were variously the Turks' rivals, models and subjects. Persian writers of the Ghaznavid, Seljuq and Atābak periods adopted the term and extended its use to cover Persians in the rest of Greater Iran, now under Turkish rule, as early as the poet ʿOnṣori, ca.
1025. Iranians soon accepted it as an ethnonym, as is shown by a Persian court official's referring to mā tāzikān "we Tajiks"; the distinction between Turk and Tajik became stereotyped to express the symbiosis and rivalry of the nomadic military executive and the urban civil bureaucracy. According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, the oldest known usage of the word Tajik as a reference to Persians in Persian literature can be found in the writings of the Persian poet Jalal ad-Din Rumi; the 15th century Turkic-speaking poet Mīr Alī Šer Navā'ī used Tajik as a reference to Persians. An exampl
Ahmad Shah Massoud
Ahmad Shah Massoud was an Afghan politician and military commander. He was a powerful guerilla commander during the resistance against the Soviet occupation between 1979 and 1989. In the 1990s he led the government's military wing against rival militias and, after the Taliban takeover, was the leading opposition commander against their regime, who he fought against until his assassination in 2001. Massoud came from an ethnic Tajik, Sunni Muslim background in the Panjshir valley of northern Afghanistan, he began studying engineering at Polytechnical University of Kabul in the 1970s, where he became involved with religious anti-communist movements around Burhanuddin Rabbani, a leading Islamist. He was part of a failed uprising against Mohammed Daoud Khan's government, he joined Rabbani's Jamiat-e Islami party. During the Soviet–Afghan War, his role as a powerful mujahideen insurgent leader earned him the nickname of "Lion of Panjshir" among his followers as he resisted the Soviets from taking Panjshir Valley.
In 1992 he signed the Peshawar Accord, a peace and power-sharing agreement, in the post-communist Islamic State of Afghanistan, was so appointed as the Minister of Defense as well as the government's main military commander. His militia fought to defend the capital Kabul against militias led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and other warlords who were bombing the city—and the Taliban, who started to lay siege to the capital in January 1995 after the city had seen fierce fighting with at least 60,000 civilians were killed. Following the rise of the Taliban in 1996, who rejected the Taliban's fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, returned to armed opposition until he fled to Kulob, strategically destroying the Salang Tunnel on his way north, he became the military and political leader of the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan or Northern Alliance, which by 2000 controlled only between 5 and 10 percent of the country. In 2001 he visited Europe and in high-level meetings with the European Parliament urged leaders to pressure Pakistan on its support for the Taliban.
He asked for humanitarian aid to help the people's gruesome conditions under the Taliban. Massoud was assassinated at the instigation of al-Qaeda and Taliban in a suicide bombing on September 9, 2001. Two days the September 11 attacks in the United States occurred, which led to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation invading Afghanistan, allying with Massoud's forces, his forces won the two-month long war in December 2001, removing the Taliban from power. Massoud was posthumously named "National Hero" by the order of President Hamid Karzai after the Taliban were ousted from power; the date of Massoud's death, September 9, is observed as a national holiday known as "Massoud Day". His followers call him Amer Sāhib-e Shahīd, which translates to " martyred commander." Massoud has been described as one of the greatest guerilla leaders of the 20th century and has been compared to Tito, Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevara. One of the reasons was because he managed to defend his local Panjshir Valley from being taken by the Soviets and thereafter by the Taliban.
Ahmad Shah Massoud was born in 1953 in Bazarak, Panjshir, to a well-to-do family native to the Panjshir valley. His name at birth was "Ahmed Shah", his father, Dost Mohammad Khan, was a colonel in the Royal Afghan Army. From his native Panjshir, his family moved to Herat and to Kabul, where Massoud spent most of his childhood. Massoud attended the renowned Franco-Afghan Lycée Esteqlal. Regarded as a gifted student, he studied engineering at Kabul University after his graduation from the Lycée. Massoud's native tongue was Dari but could speak Pashto and French and had good English reading skills. During his youth, Massoud read the works of Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong and Argentine Che Guevara, he said he found Guevara's thinking to be too simple. In 1973, former Prime Minister Mohammed Daoud Khan was brought to power in a coup d'état backed by the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, the Republic of Afghanistan was established; these developments gave rise to an Islamist movement opposed to the increasing communist and Soviet influence over Afghanistan.
During that time, while studying at Kabul University, Massoud became involved with the Muslim Youth, the student branch of the Jamiat-e Islami, whose chairman was the professor Burhanuddin Rabbani. Kabul University was a centre for political activism during that time. In July 1975, the Muslim Youth, with help from the Pakistani intelligence, staged an uprising against the government in Massoud's Panjshir Valley; the group, which included Massoud, hoped to gain civilian support, but the plan backfired when the locals instead chased them to the mountains. After this failure, a "profound and long-lasting schism" within the Islamist movement began to emerge; the Islamic Society split between supporters of the more moderate forces around Massoud and Rabbani, who led the Jamiat-i Islami, more radical Islamist elements surrounding Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who founded the Hezb-i Islami. The conflict reached such a point that Hekmatyar tried to kill Massoud 22 years old; the government of Mohammed Daoud Khan tried to scale back the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan's influence, dismissing PDPA members from their government posts, appointing conservatives to replace them, announcing the dissolution of the PDPA, with the arrests of senior party members.