It’s Central, and its Asia, but what exactly does that mean?
Asia is a vast continent, and so identifying whats counts as its “center” is not as easy as it might seem. For the Central Asia Rally, we stick with the consensus (whereby Central Asia more or less is exactly equal to the “Stans”), but if you want to be exact, it might not be that simple!
Cover Photo via Creative Commons
The Center of Asia
To figure out the center, first you have to know where Asia begins and ends. Do we include islands hundreds of miles from the Russian or Japanese coasts? Do we include the Caucasus? (The answer to both is “maybe”). Scientists have tried to officially establish the dead center of Asia, variously claiming points in Western China, or Central Russia. However, if you’re wondering what “Central Asia” means as a greater region, then its slightly more complicated.
Where Central Asia Isn’t
A point in Russia or China may be in the exact center of Asia, but both these countries also extend to the far Eastern reaches of the continent. To say the countries of Russia or China are “Central Asia” seems absurd, when Beijing is well to the East of so-called “South-East Asia” and Russian city Vladivostok (which translates, roughly, as “ruler of the East”) is located East of both North and South Korea. Indeed, Asia’s most easterly point is Russia’s Big Diomede Island.
Where Central Asia Might be
So, to find “Central Asia” we must look to the West of China. Here there is Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. The countries to the South — Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran — are general regarded as “Middle Eastern”, but the latter two also reach the Arabian Sea, prohibiting any “Central Asia” description. The Western endpoint of Central Asia is the Caspian Sea, beyond which are countries whose position in Asia is uncertain: Turkey and the Caucasus.
The Central Asia Rally
On the Central Asia Rally, we enter “Central Asia” at its most Westerly point: Western Kazkahstan, just North of the Caspian Sea. We then journey South into Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, briefly Afghanistan, and finally Kyrgyzstan. Dushanbe, Kyrgyzstan’s capital, is a fitting ending to the rally. If any country truly deserves the label Central Asian, then its Kyrgyzstan, land-locked on all sides and in fact the furthest country from any ocean.