When leaders of Azerbaijan and Georgia took part in a session titled “The Silk Road Effect” at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, they were predictably eager to promote the importance of the China-led Silk Road Economic Belt to the economic and infrastructure projects in the Caucasus.
Ethnic Turkic-speaking Uighurs in China have long faced restrictions relating mainly to the practice of their religion, Islam. Now, under new regulations implemented last fall, their ability to travel apparently is being restricted, with residents of western Xinjiang province required to hand over their passports to police for "safekeeping."
Three of Central Asia’s republics, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, border Afghanistan along a frontier agreed to by Russia and Britain during the late 19th century. The border deal was an outcome of the so-called Great Game.
The Pamir Mountains served as a natural boundary between two old empires – Chinese and Russian. Stretching for hundreds of miles, and reaching an elevation of 7,500 meters (24,000 feet), the Pamirs are so remote that, even in this era of globalization, few travelers ever reach this corner of the world.
Imagine if the Olympic Games were held in Genghis Khan’s day – with fields full of galloping archers, competitive birds of prey, horse races and wrestling, and of course, horsemen clashing over a goat carcass. Now add selfie sticks and shuttle buses – and you’ve got what the World Nomad Games were like.
While attention in Central Asia in late August was fixated on the looming leadership transition in Uzbekistan, another event with even greater potential to reshape the region occurred in Kyrgyzstan: an apparent suicide bomber attacked the Chinese embassy in Bishkek, killing himself and wounding at least three others.
Turkmenistan sits upon around one-tenth of the world’s proven natural gas reserves. Tajikistan is so poverty-stricken that around half its adult male population is forced to travel abroad in search of work.