The Legacy of History in Russia and the New States of Eurasia - Vol. 1

By S. Frederick Starr | Go to book overview

9
Central Asia's Foreign Relations A Historical Survey

Firuz Kazemzadeh

With the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union, Central Asia, a land almost forgotten for the last hundred years, has reemerged onto the world stage. Peoples that have long lived in isolation are beginning to develop relations with their neighbors as well as with distant nations with which they have never before had any contact. The foreign relations of the newly independent states of Central Asia are obviously of interest to the rest of the world. To better understand the present, one may briefly look into the past and its uses.

History, that most political of disciplines, has served countless contenders for power in Central Asia. The Achaemenian legacy, the empire of Alexander the Great and his successors, Muslim dominion, descent from Chingiz Khan, ancient legends, and half-forgotten treaties have been invoked over the centuries to justify conquests, usurpations, and rebellions. Today, as in the past, the elites of Central Asian states are constructing mythologies to legitimize their claims to independence, nationhood, or territory. It is therefore important to attempt to study Central Asia's past without succumbing to the influence of partisan mythmakers, whether tsarist, Stalinist, Pan-Turkist, or nationalist.

The area that stretches from the eastern shore of the Caspian into China and from the tree line of Siberia to the mountain fastness of the south has for millennia played a dramatic and important role in the history of humanity and human culture. Sitting astride the land route from the Mediterranean to China, forming at various times part of

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