Central Asia: Between Peril and Promise
Grade Level: High School
Includes curriculum unit + CD-ROM
Central Asia is one of the most important regions of the world. A major exporter of oil, natural gas, and other natural resources, it occupies a prominent place in the global economy. These resources have given the region great potential for wealth. Yet most Central Asians remain among the poorest people in the world, and their societies confront some of the most serious political, economic, environmental, and social challenges on the planet. How do we explain this paradox?
This unit explores the extraordinary range of challenges facing contemporary Central Asia. At the same time, the lessons suggest how students might think about how these difficulties originated in the past, and encourage them to reflect on what might be done to solve them now.
This curriculum is based on the premise that political choices lie at the root of the region's challenges. The study of Central Asia is particularly complex because the politics of the region intersect with more powerful states. Many of the political choices that have most affected the lives of Central Asians have been made elsewhere. Between the 1820s and the 1880s, the Russian empire conquered and incorporated the territory now occupied by Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. When this empire collapsed in 1917, a new one replaced it. The Soviet Union ruled this area until 1991, when these republics emerged as independent states. These two states laid the foundations of the political and economic institutions that exist in the region today. Despite independence, foreign powers continue to shape the Central Asian states.
Central Asia: Between Peril and Promise demonstrates how creative solutions might help solve many of the problems in Central Asia, and the vast potential of the region and its diverse peoples might be still be realized. This unit begins with an overview of the Central Asian republics, which prepares students for the remainder of the lessons focusing on their economic systems, the importance of regional cooperation in distributing natural resources among them, and social issues they currently face.