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Because of its vast size and diverse character, Asia is divided into five major realms. The fifth realm consists of the area of Russia that lies east of the Ural Mountains (Russian Asia) and the states of Central Asia that were formerly part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). These states are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan. Plains occupy more land area in Asia than any other type of physical feature. Most of the western and northeastern parts of Russian Asia consist of plains. Large deserts are also spread throughout Central Asia. The Garagum (Turkic for black sand) occupies most of Turkmenistan. Southern Kazakhstan and northern Uzbekistan share the Qyzylkum (Turkic for red sand), which lies southeast of the Aral Sea. Asia’s mightiest mountain ranges radiate in great sweeping arcs from the Pamirs of Central Asia, a highland region where Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and China intersect.
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Several plateaus lie between the mountain ranges of Central Asia. The highest is the Tibetan Plateau, often referred to as the Roof of the World, which is bounded by the Kunlun Mountains and the Himalayas. About 1,300,000 sq km (500,000 sq mi) of this plateau lies at an elevation above 4,300 m (14,000 ft). Major rivers The Syr Darya and the Amu Darya of Central Asia both drain into the Aral Sea, also a saltwater lake. Since the 1960s the diversion of much water from the Syr Darya and Amu Darya for irrigation has caused the Aral Sea to shrink to less than half its former size. In 1988 the lake split in two, forming the Large Aral Sea, which receives water from the Amu Darya, and the Small Aral Sea, which receives water from the Syr Darya. The decreased water intake has also increased the salt content of the lake. The Caspian Sea is the largest saltwater lake in the world. Lake Balqash in Kazakhstan is another major saltwater lake. Vast areas of Central and Southwest Asia are arid or semiarid. In Central Asia, mountains and highlands block moisture-bearing winds from the sea. Only a few areas of Asia have climates that are typical of the west coasts of continents.
Central Asia Studies
Comprehensive Resources for the Study of Central Asia.
The Times of Central Asia
English language newspaper in Central Asia, featuring news and information from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tadjikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. Media, military, oil, gas, tourism, politics, finance and more.
Map of Central Asia