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date: 22 August 2019

Central Asialocked

  • Stephen Blum


The musical cultures of Central Asia have been shaped by a long process of interaction between speakers of Iranian and Turkic languages, and by a longer history of interaction between settled and nomadic peoples. The present article covers the three major geographic regions of what has been called the ‘Turco-Iranian world’: the vast plain (including steppe, desert-steppe and desert) that falls from the Altai, Tian Shan and Pamir Mountains westwards to the Urals and the Caspian Sea; the Iranian plateau, with the Hindu Kush on the east and the Zagros mountains to the west; and the plateau of Anatolia, ringed by the Pontus Mountains along the Black Sea and the Taurus along the Mediterranean. Politically, Central Asia may be said to comprise the republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Republic of, Tajikistan and the southern third of Kazakhstan; Afghanistan north of the Hindu Kush; northern Iran; Azerbaijan; and eastern Turkey.

The major Iranian languages are Persian, Kurdish, Pashto and Baluchi. Different dialects of Persian are spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan; more speakers of Tajik Persian live in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan than in Tajikistan. Small groups of Pamir peoples living on both sides of the Pyandzh river in southern Tajikistan, north-east Afghanistan and the adjacent area of Pakistan speak several different eastern Iranian languages (Yaghnobi, Wakhi, Munji, Yidgha etc.). Turkic languages are spoken in much of northern Iran and Afghanistan as well as in Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Unlike the political boundaries, the principal ethnolinguistic divisions of Central Asia have remained relatively stable since the end of the 16th century....

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