Central Asia – The story of a brave traveller
Once upon a time, in the Middle Ages, a traveler was winding his way along the trails of the famous overland trade route – the Great Silk Road. He was crossing Central Asia in order to reach the western territories beyond.
The journey was not an easy one and as many other travellers before and after him he had to risk life and limb treading the dangerous wind-scoured mountain passes in the Pamirs and Hidukush, traversing lifeless Karakum desert and endless expanse of Kazakh steppes.
The traveller was none other than a Venetian merchant – Marco Polo.
A daring globetrotter and enlightening explorer rather than a prudent trader looking for high profit, he opened new vistas to the European mind in his account of the travels and experiences in the world outside Europe, and encouraged others, including Christopher Columbus, to travel west in search of the riches of the East.
Polo’s way was paved by the pioneering efforts of his predecessors. The first major step in opening the world’s first “Internet” linking the East and the West, came with the expansion of Alexander the Great‘s empire into Central Asia, which became a natural bridge between Europe and the countries of Eastern Asia.
From the early origin of the Silk Road in the 2nd century B.C. until its final decline around 1500 when sea routes took over as a better trade connection, Central Asia hosted the key stretch of this long haul. What Polo saw during his travels was numerous caravanserais which dotted the route at about 25-kilometre intervals (the average daily distance traveled) and offered living quarters, stables for the animals and secure storage for valuable cargo; as well as cities (like Samarkand, Bukhara, Taraz, Yasy) – the luxuriant points of transit where goods changed hands, fresh animals were procured and guides were hired.
The history of Central Asia, just as that of the Silk Road, is fascinating and full of military conquest, fearless explorers, religious pilgrims and great thinkers, along with the humble tradesmen who led their loaded caravans from East to West.
This region gives a perfect example of how people dealt with other cultures; it can become a guide for dealing with twentieth century effects of globalized economy.
Central Asia – The Heart of Eurasia
Central Asia – the vast area in the heart of the Eurasian continent, which stretches from the Himalayas to the Russian steppes, from the Caspian Sea to the highlands of Tibet, is characterized by great contrasts in climate and topography. The vertical lines of the lofty mountains of Tajikistan contrast with endless flat steppes of Kazakhstan and curved lines of sandy dunes and numerous oases of Uzbekistan.
Today Central Asia is a fast changing and developing region. Modern railway lines and long distance autobahns cross the territory. The plentiful natural resources of Central Asia, oil, non-ferrous and rare metals deposits in particular, attract billions of dollars of foreign investments.
The Independence, which countries of Central Asia obtained in 1991, have begun to give its benefits. Each of these countries, with its own features, its own peculiarities in internal structure and in international relations, seeks its worthy place in the world community.