Central Asia Links

I have selected here primarily sites that seem to offer excellent connections to much more and sites that have what I judge to be material of some substance that could be useful for teaching and learning about Central Asia.  There is obviously no point in my trying to duplicate lists as extensive as can be found elsewhere, nor do I have any enthusiasm for keeping a huge number of links updated.

The contents here are:  I.  General.   II. Maps.  III. Photographs.  IV.  Environment.  V. History, culture, etc.  VI.   Mountains.

I.  General

Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library.  The major resource for links to information about almost every part of Asia.   The links are organized under a variety of topics.  Some are rather insubstantial.  Different individuals maintain sections of the WWW Virtual Library, of which the two most pertinent here are:

The Soros Foundation's Central Eurasia Project covers both the Caucasus and the countries of Central Asia in the narrower sense (Kyrgyzstan, etc.).  Good organization of material under topical headings.  Valuable for daily news updates.

The Center for Civil Society International is the main clearing house for information about civil society issues and activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), especially in the former Soviet space and Eastern Europe.  The web site is very well organized, enabling one to locate links to and information about organizations, articles, and so on.  CCSI also has some valuable hard-copy publications that serve as guides to NGOs.

II.  Maps

The most extensive collection of maps for the region, some quite detailed, can be found in Russia and The Former Soviet Republics Maps (The Perry-Castenada Library Map Collection, University of Texas [Austin]).

See also, the International Dunhuang Project site below under V.

III.  Photographs

UNESCO's The Virtual Memory of Central Asia has a lot of nice pictures ranging over historical/cultural artifacts, people, crafts, scenics.  The arrangement is by the modern country designations, although images under one country in fact in some instances really belong under another, pointing out the cultural absurdity of the modern borders.  The collection under Tajikistan is quite large, and the one under Uzbekistan is noteworthy for its inclusion of a lot of historic photographs.  The site also has four art works (unfortunately not identified--three are statues and one the interior of one of the Mogao Caves) which can be viewed in "3-D" if one has Quicktime software.

See also the International Dunhuang Project site below under V.

IV.  Environment

Apart from CCSI's site (above), the best guide to resources seems to be Mike Thurman's Central Asia--Environment, Economy, and History.  There is a lot that can be accessed here regarding, for example, the Aral Sea crisis.  He has written an interesting paper, posted on the site, entitled "Perspectives on Nomads, Development and Desertification in Central Asia."

V.  History, culture, etc.

The Silk Road Foundation offers extensive resources, with a particular emphasis on the early history and culture connected with the Silk Road.  There are some illustrated essays of some substance, time-lines, bibliography and the single most extensive photo collection on the web showing the murals inside the Buddhist Mogao Caves at Dunhuang (on the opening page, click on "Dunhuang Showcase" which will start the slide show).

A major resource for images of art from areas along the "Silk Road" is The John C. and Susan L. Huntington Archive of Buddhist and Related Art:  A Photographic Research and Teaching Archive, located at Ohio State University.  It has extensive photo collections on-line, including works formerly in museums in Afghanistan but now lost, as well as links to many other valuable art resources.  The core of the collection is the photographs made over many years by the professors Huntington, who teach courses on Asian Art History at Ohio State.

A major resource that is under development and already contains very valuable material is the International Dunhuang Project at the British Library.  The ambitious goal is to make available on-line
    *as complete as possible a collection of original documents and annotations to them, beginning with the Aurel Stein Collection.  In the first instance this is the material that had been kept in Mogao Cave 17--documents in a variety of languages for the period prior to the 11th century CE; but there also are materials from other locations, unearthed during Stein's archaeological excavations.  The initial postings of these documents is in facsimile--that is, one needs to read the scripts and languages to access the content; but perhaps eventually translations will be provided.  Some of the documents include drawings; other Stein collection material that presumably will be posted eventually includes significant Buddhist art.
    *photographs, maps and drawings of the important Silk Road archaeological sites.   Some of the remarkable Stein maps and photos are already available.
    *other material (most still to be created) on the history and culture of Inner Asia.
To access the material, you need to establish and enter a userid and password, which the system keeps in its memory.  The director of this project is Dr. Susan Whitfield, a leading expert on the Silk Road, who has published, among other things, a fine book for general readers, Life Along the Silk Road (Murray/UCalPr).

Pages on the Pre-Islamic Heritage of Central Asia are maintained by the Martin-Luther-Universitaet Halle-Wittenberg Institut fuer orientalische Archaeologie und Kunst.  Text in English is available.  There is a major rubric "Buddhist Monuments of Western Central Asia," which has brief verbal description, a sampling of excellent photographs including sculptures, and bibliography, for sites such as Adzhina-Tepe, Termez, Fayaz-Tepe.  There is also a somewhat more substantial page on Pandzhikent (an important Sogdian town on the eve of the Islamic conquest of Central Asia), and a very extensive bibliography of scholarly literature on Early Nomadic Horseman of the Eurasian Steppes.

Oxus Communications (Mark Dickens) has a Central Asia Site with a lot of general links (not annotated, but arranged by subject), a couple of extensive chronologies of the history of Central Asia, a well-documented if insufficiently illustrated overview of Timurid Architecture in Samarkand, and materials on the history of Xinjiang.  His Nestorian Pages offer some helpful tables, chronologies and references for further investigation of one of the important groups of Christians found in Central Asia in early times.

The Khazars were an important Turkic group who ruled in the area north of the Caucasus beginning in about the 7th century CE and adopted Judaism as their official religion in the 8th century, partly because of the trade connections East-West on which Jewish merchants were active.  Kevin Alan Brook's Khazaria Information Center has some useful photographs of artifacts and sites, a few text selections, and a lot of guidance for further reading.  Brook also maintains a very extensive set of links on a separate page entitled "Turkic Republics and Communities."   The organization is by country or region; under each are business, news, and institutional links, many leading to pages in Turkic languages or Russian, but with little selectivity or annotation.  For those interested in history, if one scrolls down to "General Interest," there is a section entitled "History, Archaeology and Culture."

One of the few sites (other than my own) which provide extensive photographic documentation of an important Central Asian architectural monument is The Mausoleum of Hodja Ahmed Yasevi.   The building is one of the important Timurid ones, the mausoleum complex for one of the most important Sufi religious leaders, located now in Turkestan city in Kazakhstan.   This site has an introductory essay on the history and setting and including an extensive verbal description of the building.  Then one can click on collections of photos for various external and internal views.

VI.  Mountains

Unknown Grandeur of Russian Mountains, despite the somewhat misleading imperial pretensions of its title, is probably the best overview of the some of the most spectacular mountain regions of the countries formerly part of the Soviet Union.  This is a partial translation of the excellent book by Vladimir Kolylov and Paola Pozzolini Sicouri, Forbidden Mountains:  The Most Beautiful Mountains in Russia and Central Asia (Milan:  Indutech, 1994) and includes many of the book's fabulous photos and route sketches.

2000 Daniel C. Waugh                       Last updated October 25, 2000.