Central Asia

Imperial Russia uses various weights and measures, which (much like China) often change value and even hold more than one value simultaneously. Russian weights and measures come from ancient Rus but Peter the Great redefines them relative to the English system. Russia legalizes the metric system in 1899.
The Soviet Union adopts the metric system in 1918 and abandons their now obsolete units of measurement mandating compulsory metric Implementation in 1927.

Flags of Central Asia

Flags of Central Asia

Russia absorbs much of Central Asia, which adopts the metric system in 1922, but seventy years later, the Soviet Union dissolves and five former Soviet republics break away and become independent United Nations members on 2 Mar 1992.
Afghanistan adopts the metric system in 1926.

Central Asia Map

This chart shows the latest available human population figures at time of publication – 12 Jan 2017:

Central Asia Population

This chart shows a population comparison:

Population Comparison


Almaty – capital of Kazakhstan for nearly seven decades from 1929 to 1998 – loses its status as the capital, but remains a major commercial center of Kazakhstan. The Central Asian region recognizes Almaty as a financial center.

Astana is the second largest city in Kazakhstan and is known by several different names since 1830. Kazakhstan moves its capital from Almaty to Astana in 1997. Kazakhstan on 6 May 1998 renames the city Astana, which means “the capital” in Kazakh.


Ancient people find an oasis on the Chirchik River near the foothills of the Golestan Mountains known as Chach in pre-Islamic and early Islamic times – Tashkent is now capital and largest city of Uzbekistan.

Tashkent comes under Sogdian and Turkic influence early in its history due to its position in Central Asia before Islam in the eighth century CE. The locals rebuild and profit from the Silk Road after Genghis Khan destroys Tashkent in 1219 CE. The Russian Empire conquers Tashkent in 1865. Soviet Tashkent witnesses major growth and demographic changes due to forced deportations from throughout the Soviet Union. Tashkent retains a multi-ethnic population with ethnic Uzbeks as the majority.

Samarkand – most noted for its central position on the Silk Road between China and the West – is the second largest city in Uzbekistan and the capital of Samarqand Region. Samarkand is capital of the Sogdian satrapy by the time of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia. Alexander the Great in 329 BCE takes Samarkand when it is known by its Greek name of Marakanda. A succession of Iranian and Persian and Turkic peoples rule Samarkand until the Mongols under Genghis Khan conquer Samarkand in 1220 CE.


Ashgabat – capital and largest city of Turkmenistan – is a relatively young city, growing out of a village of the same name established by Russians in 1818. An earthquake levels the city in the first century BCE (a precursor of the 1948 Ashgabat earthquake). Ashgabat is not far from the site of Nisa, the ancient capital of the Parthians. Ashgabat grows on the ruins of the Silk Road city of Konjikala, which is first mentioned as a wine-producing village in the second century BCE. Konjikala is rebuilt because of its advantageous location on the Silk Road and it flourishes until Mongols destroy it in the thirteenth century CE. After that, it survives as a small village until the Russians take over in the nineteenth century.


Bishkek – capital and largest city of Kyrgyzstan – is originally a caravan rest stop on one of the branches of the Silk Road through the Tian Shan range.

Kyrgyzstan is roughly comparable to the American State of Maryland in terms of population – about six million people.

Bishkek is situated at an altitude of about 800 meters just off the northern fringe of the Kyrgyz Ala-Too range, an extension of the Tian Shan mountain range. These mountains rise to a height of 4855 meters and provide a spectacular backdrop to the city. North of the city, a fertile and gently undulating steppe extends far north into neighboring Kazakhstan. Bishkek is a city of wide boulevards and marble-faced public buildings combined with numerous Soviet-style apartment blocks surrounding interior courtyards.


Dushanbe – capital and largest city of Tajikistan – means “Monday” in Tajik and Persian. The city is originally a popular Monday marketplace.

A Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic separate from the Uzbek SSR was created in 1929 and its capital Dyumshambe was renamed Stalinabad for Soviet leader Joseph Stalin on 16 Oct 1929. The Soviets transform the area into a center for cotton and silk production and tens of thousands of people relocate to the city. The population also increases with thousands of Tajiks migrating to Tajikistan following the transfer of Bukhara and Samarkand to the Uzbek SSR as part of national delimitation in Central Asia. Stalinabad is renamed Dushanbe on 10 Nov 1961. Severe rioting breaks out in February of 1990 after rumors of Soviet government plans to relocate tens of thousands of Armenian refugees to Tajikistan. The Dushanbe riots are primarily due to concerns about housing shortages for the Tajik population, but they coincide with a wave of nationalist unrest that sweeps Transcaucasia and other Central Asian states during the twilight of the Gorbachev Era.


Kabul – capital and largest city of Afghanistan – is probably established between 2000 BCE and 1500 BCE.

Kabul is over 3500 years old. Many empires historically control Kabul, which is at a strategic location along trade routes of South and Central Asia and a key location of the ancient Silk Road. Achaemenids and Seleucids and Mauryans and Kushans and Kabul Shahis and Saffarids and Ghaznavids and Ghurids historically rule Kabul. The Mughal Empire later controls the city until Kabul finally becomes part of the Durrani Empire with help from the Afsharid dynasty. Kabul is located high up – 1791 meters above sea level – in a narrow valley between the Hindu Kush mountains. Kabul is capital of Afghan kingdoms and republics since the formation of modern Afghanistan in 1919. A civil war in the 1990s between militant groups devastate Kabul and cause the deaths of thousands of civilians, serious damage to infrastructure and an exodus of refugees. The Afghan government and other countries attempt to rebuild Kabul since the decline of Taliban power in November 2001, but Taliban insurgents slow reconstruction efforts.

This chart shows Central Asian currencies and values at time of publication – 12 Jan 2017:

Central Asia Currency Value

The people of Central Asia on the Silk Road are early pioneers of international trade. Adopting common units of measure makes good sense to people with such a background.

12 Jan 2017

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