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Central Asia

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As aridity made the agriculture difficult in Central Asia and that trade routes did not develop there, it was nomadic peoples who dominated this region of the steppes. As permanent, agricultural settlements began in 4500 B.C. and that horses were domesticated to pull chariots by about 3000 B.C., the rule of Indo-Iranians peoples, a failure, by 2000 B.C. of the irrigation systems led to the dominance of the pastoral nomadism as a way of life by 1000 B.C. Riches of the steppes consist into grass which allows to hosts of horses. Living in yurts -tents easily disassembled and transported- the nomadic groups conducted annual migrations to find pastures for their herds of sheeps, goats, horses and camels. Some areas of the region however in more humid areas, had small city-states and agrarian societies, like in Bactria or the Fergana Valley. Such cities were part, after the 1st century B.C., of the Silk Road. The nomadic people either traded what they needed with those, as the most usual way was rather to carry out raids. Part of those sedentary steppe people might have been at the origin of the Indo-Iranian and possibly the Uralic and Altaic groups of peoples. The peoples of the steppe were similar in culture but different in ethnicity with such different peoples -but all mostly originating from above northern China, or even from Siberian peoples - like the Huns (4th-6th centuries A.D.; likely descending from the Xiongnu, Asiatic people won over by the Chinese), the Turks (peoples designated 'Tujue' by the Chinese), the Scythians (8th B.C.-2nd centuries A.D., in the West of the area, a Indo-European people) or the Indo-Europeans (like the Tokarians, or the Persians, and some proto-people of this group), with a number of Mongol groups (centered on the Mongolian Plateau). Periodically mighty rulers federated several tribes into a single military force, as this led to invasions of the settled people around the area, in the Far East, the Middle East, or Europe

->The Tokharians
The northern edge of the Tarim Basin (modern Xinjiang, China) had been inhabited by Tocharians or Tokharians since the 2nd century B.C., under the form of oasis city-states. They were Indo-European people, maybe originating from the Afanasevo culture (c. 3500–2500 BC), a early Indo-European culture in Siberia, North of the Tarim. Tarim's southern area also had had the Iranian-speaking Sakas settling during the 1st millenium B.C. The Tokharians also have a link to the Yuezhi people, Indo-Europeans who were nomads dwelling in West of the western Chinese Gansu province, which on the other hand were defeated by Siberian Xiongnu by the turn of Christian era. Tocharians largely embraced Buddhism as 36 Tokharian statelets existed in the Tarim basin in the last two centuries B.C., serving like steps to the Silk Road passing along the northern and southern edges of the Taklamakan Desert. Largest were Kucha with 81,000 inhabitants and Agni (Yanqi or Karashar) at 32,000, which conceded tributary relations to northern nomads, or China or acted independently when they could. The -- warying betweem themselves -- Xiongnu (of which the Tokharians turned subjects by about 130 B.C.), the Han Chinese dynasty, or the Kushan Empire, the Rouran and the Turks eventually accelerated the decay of the Tokharians until about 550 A.D., as a increased dry climate conditions in the 4th and 5th centuries had also contributed. Chinese Tangs eventually overruled the area about 650 A.D. and alternating with the Tibetan Empire until about 800 A.D. It's after that that the Uyghurs, a nomadic Turkic language-speaking people coming from Mongolia, settled in the region and the oasis' agricultural peoples of the Tarim city states intermixed with them as the Tocharian languages are believed to have become extinct during the 9th century

During the 2nd and 1st millenia B.C. the empires at the southern periphery of the steppes made inroads against the nomads (the Persians, for example, who founded satrapies or vassal kingdoms, or the Chinese) or founded cities and controled trade centers (like Alexander the Great, or the Persians) as the Greek influence there translated into kingdoms like the Greco-Bactrian, the Indo-Greek or the Kushan ones, which thrieved from the Silk Road as those regions were further absorbed by the Sassanid empire, based in Persia. Buddhism in the East, Zoroastrianism and manichaeism, and shamanism were the main cultural traits of the area. Since the times of the Xiongnu, Tengrism was the basis of social organization in Central Asia. The Tengrism, which was the religion of the Huns or the Magyars, was a shamanism which could oppose or mix with neighbouring religions like Buddhism, Christianity, or Islam) and which, like all the primitive nomadic religions of the world, was honoring the sky, the Sun and the Moon. Wolves were the divine animals of Tengrism and the way of life of these animals had influence on the principles of government or life, for example. Xiongnu, the likely ancestors to the Huns, which had appeared in the confines of Mongolia and China, expanded and turned a local power. First Chinese emperors worried as their interest to the area, by 130 B.C. was at the origin of the Silk Road. China also was interested into horses of the Fergana region, which they thought the heirs to dragons, to use for their military defending their northern borders. The Kushans, a dynasty which appeared among the Yuezhi, a people the Xiongnu had pushed West, as a part of Central Asia had converted to Buddhism, turned a empire ruling from northern India to the Ara Sea, between 250 B.C. et 226 A.D. The Kushan empire became then one of the 4 powers of the time, with Rome, China and Parthians. The Silk Road then was spreading the Kushan culture (the 'Gandhara art') along with Buddhism, which eventually created a 'Serindian' cultural area between China and India. About 200 B.C., powers which had a influence in Central Asia declined, like the Kushans, China, Rome, or the Parthians, as the Silk Road did too. Persia passed to Sassanids and a dryer climate favoured nomadic peoples like the Huns, the Hephtalite Huns, or the Turks, a people which originated in the Altai (as their expansion was to last since the 6th century A.D. into the 11th). A first decline of Turks, by the late 7th century A.D. was coincidental with the Islamic expansion, the armies of which turned prominent at Bukhara (709) and Samarkand (712). As the Turks also were retreating from the Chinese Tang dynasty, a coalition settled between them, the Tibetans and Muslims which reached to the famed battle of Talas, by 751 A.D. That battle, for long, defined the Chinese border beyond the Tian Shan mounts as the move of China westwards was halted. Specialized craftsmen (like in terms of silk, or paper) had also be taken prisoners, which allowed their techniques to foreigners. Turks eventually had converted to Islam by the 8th century A.D. even if they remained Buddhist in the East of their territories. It was Sufi predicators who really converted Central Asia to Islam and the nomadic peoples kept considering their customs superior to 'charia.' Powers of Central Asia, by the Carolingian times were thus Muslims, the Hephthalites, an ephemere kingdom in the 6th and 7th century, which threatened Persia and India, or the Samanids (875-999) a Persian dynasty, at the origin of the Tadjik nation, with their capitals at Bukhara, Samarqand and Herat. Under the Abassid caliphs of Baghdad, the Samanid dynasty had settled in the area by the 9th century A.D. with Bukhara their capital city and like their culture the Persian one. Bukhara was a rival, as far as science and culture were concerned, with Baghdad, Cairo or Corbova. From that, since 1000 A.D., the Turkish dynasties of the Ghaznevids and Karakhanids took over from the Samanids as they themselves were defeated by the Seljuks by 1050. That was the beginning of a period of troubles which eventually saw the arrival of Gingiz Khan's Mongols by 1219 A.D.

Mongolian identity in the region did not appear until the year 1200 A.D., with Genghis Khan -- whose name meant 'absolute sovereign.' Mongols were associated with the Turkish peoples of inner Asia and had been vassalized by them since the 6th century A.D., the time of the ancestral unity of the Turks. Genghis Khan was a heir to a warlord from around 875 A.D., Bodonchar Munkhag. Like the Arabs, Mongols had a sharp sense of their genealogies

Might of steppes peoples resided in their perfect mastering of the art of archery atop horses. From a young age, almost the entire male population was trained in riding and archery, as those mounted archers were able to travel 40 miles a day with ease! The peoples of the steppe greatly contributed to the history of the cavalry, as the Scythians invented the saddle, in the Antiquity, and the Alans the stirrup by about 400 A.D.! This martial ability of the nomadic peoples was enhanced when they came to unite under a chieftain, like under the Huns or the Turks, for example. Such devastating large invasions were swift however as the loose structure of such confederacies, the need of vast grazing land for the horses, or the mandatory division of the territories between the chief's sons, had their empire and conquests to disappear as swiftly as well, and the conquerors were eventually assimilated in the conquered culture, through the use of the local administrators

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