The Great Game
Central Asia has been playing a prominent bridging role in world history, yet it usually receives little attention.
The Great Game

The Great Game

01/08/2023 08:20

Levente Horváth, Ph.D.,
Director of the Eurasia Center,
Editor-in-Chief of the Eurasia Magazine

Central Asia has been playing a prominent bridging role in world history, yet it usually receives little attention. Great migratory movements took place at the turn of the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC, but the East Asian peoples who later reached Europe also passed through Central Asia. Central Asia was also the link between ancient and later civilisations, so important routes of the ancient Silk Road passed through the region, and many significant stations were established.

Throughout history, Central Asia has been the meeting place for the ancient knowledge of different cultures and civilisations and later for religions, technologies and different ways of thinking.

In the Middle Ages, with the establishment of maritime routes, the role of the overland Silk Road, and hence Central Asia, was relegated to the background, but in the 13th century, the Mongol conquests again focused on the occupation of Central Asian territories, through which they reached the Middle East and then Europe.

Levente Horváth

By the mid-19th century, it had become a geopolitical arena of great powers, with Britain and the Russian Empire competing to dominate the region in "The Great Game". At the same time, several Western and Russian geographic explorers travelled to the region to map it, but in the process, made great discoveries, such as the Hungarian explorers Béla Széchenyi, Lajos Lóczy and Aurél Stein, who "rediscovered" the ancient Silk Road during their expeditions. "The Great Game" lasted until the early 20th century, and the region eventually became part of the Soviet Union until the 1990s, when the Central Asian states gained their independence.

In the 21st century, this vast region has once again become important in international politics, with several significant powers establishing joint international cooperation with the Central Asian countries: in 2001, they formed the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation with China and Russia, and in 2009 established the Organisation of Turkic States with Turkey, but they have also expressed their intention to join the Eurasian Economic Union, created by Russia. They also play a prominent role in the Belt and Road Initiative in the framework of the China-Central Asia Summit.

In May, we visited Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan on a trip to Central Asia, where the countries' openness and economic development were evident. European countries, including Hungary, are increasingly focusing on Central Asia, and there is a growing international presence in the region.

As we can see, Central Asia has historically always been important for the great powers and has become a region of particular importance for the 21st century, but now as independent states, they can decide of their own free will how to participate in international organisations. For the time being, however, it appears that emerging Central Asia has joined the institutions of Asian countries, promoting Eurasian connectivity and peaceful cooperation based on mutual respect.

Cover photo: iStock

We use cookies on our website. If you consent to their use, we use them to measure and analyze the use of the website.
Information and Settings