Central Asia is located below Russia, spreading from the Caspian Sea on the west to China’s western edge. It is home to the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
The region contains a variety of geographical features, including towering mountains, forests, sand dunes, arid areas like the Gobi desert, and grassy steppes. The highly-prized water from its major rivers is used for industrial reasons and for irrigation, as much of the land is naturally too dry for farming.
Many inhabitants herd livestock for a living, and nomadic groups have freely traversed the steppes for thousands of years. Agriculture supports the economy in the south, and industry and mining are a focus in Kazakhstan. Because of its distance from the ocean and its general dryness, Central Asia has historically found international trade challenging.
Islam is the most common religion, and the ethnic groups from the main countries mostly speak languages related to Turkish. Due to historical ties with Russia, significant numbers of Ukrainians and Russians contribute to the multi-ethnic character of Central Asia.