Courtesy Reuters


Central Asia, scene of the Great Game between England and Russia in the nineteenth century, is once more a key to the security of all Eurasia. Since the fifteenth century the region has mainly been politically organized from without; from the 1870s Russia controlled most of its vast territory. The collapse of the Soviet Union four years ago left five new states and placed the area's fate in question. Whether stability comes, and how, will affect Eurasia as a whole, and particularly Russia in its transition to democracy.

Central Asia--Afghanistan and the five former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan--is strategic despite its seeming remoteness. It borders China, Russia, Iran, and Pakistan and the four major cultural zones they represent; Islam is a significant force without and within. The region possesses some of the world's largest deposits of oil, natural gas, gold, and

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  • S. Frederick Starr, Distinguished Fellow at the Aspen Institute, is the author of 13 books on Russian and Eurasian history, politics, and culture.
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