Demographics of Central Asia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Population pyramid of Central Asia in 2023
The ethnolinguistic patchwork of Central Asia in 1992
Map of the countries of Central Asia, Afghanistan (occasionally included), the Caspian Sea, and surrounding countries

The nations which make up Central Asia are five of the former Soviet republics: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, which have a total population of about 76 million.[1][2] Afghanistan is not always considered part of the region, but when it is, Central Asia has a total population of about 122 million (2016); Mongolia and Xinjiang (part of China) is also sometimes considered part of Central Asia due to its Central Asian cultural ties and traditions, although geographically it is East Asian.[1][2] Most central Asians belong to religions which were introduced to the area within the last 1,500 years, such as Sunni Islam, Shia Islam, Ismaili Islam, Tengriism and Syriac Christianity (mostly East Syriac).[3] Buddhism, however, was introduced to Central Asia over 2,200 years ago, and Zoroastrianism, over 2,500 years ago.[4]

Ethnic groups[edit]

The below are demographic data on the ethnic groups in Central Asia[3]

Ethnic Group Center of population in Central Asia Total roughly estimated population in Central Asia
Uzbek Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan 36,000,000
Tajik Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. It includes the Pamiri people, who are officially categorized as Tajiks in Tajikistan. 25,000,000[5]
Kazakh Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan 16,500,000
Kyrgyz Kyrgyzstan 4,900,000[6]
Mongolians Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan 3,237,000
Russians Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan 4,000,000 [7][8][9][10]
Koreans Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan 500,000 [11]
Ukrainian Northern Kazakhstan 250,000 [7][9][10]
Turkmen Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Iran 6,500,000
Volga German Kazakhstan 200,000[9][10]
Uyghur Northwest China, Eastern Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan 13,000,000
Dungan or Hui Northwest China, Kyrgyzstan 10,500,000
Bukharian Jew Uzbekistan 1,000
Tatar Uzbekistan 700,000
Karakalpaks North western Uzbekistan 500,000
Bashkirs Kazakhstan 30,000
Meskhetian Turks Kazakhstan 200,000
Armenians Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan 100,000
Altai Northern Kazakhstan 10,000
Pashtun Afghanistan[12] 12,500,000
Hazara Afghanistan 6,500,000
Aimak Central and Northwest Afghanistan 1,500,000
Baloch Southern Afghanistan, Turkmenistan 600,000[13][14]
Nuristani Far eastern and northern Afghanistan 200,000+
Belarusians Northern Kazakhstan 100,000-200,000 [10]
Romanians Kazakhstan 20,000
Greeks Kazakhstan 30,000
Mordvins Kazakhstan 20,000
Moldovans Kazakhstan 25,000
Chechens Kazakhstan 40,000
Poles Northern Kazakhstan 50,000-100,000
Azeri Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan 100,000
Chuvash Northern Kazakhstan 35,000

Genetic history[edit]

An analysis of Scytho-Siberian matrilineal DNA lineages of Iron Age human remains from the Altai region found evidence of a mixture of West Eurasian and East Asian maternal lineages.[15] Prior to the Iron Age, all ancient maternal lineages in the Altai region were of West Eurasian origin, however Iron Age specimens show that Western Eurasian lineages were reduced by 50%, and East Asian lineages increased by 50%.[16][17] The authors suggested that the rise of East Asian mtDNA lineages likely happened within the Iron Age Scythian period.[18]

The ancestry of modern Central Asian populations is significantly derived from later Indo-Iranian and Turkic populations.[19]

A genetic study published in Nature in May 2018 examined the remains of four elite Türk soldiers buried between ca. 300 AD and 700 AD.[20] 50% of the samples of Y-DNA belonged to the West Eurasian haplogroup R1, while the other 50% belonged to East Eurasian haplogroups Q and O.[21] The extracted samples of mtDNA belonged mainly to East Eurasian haplogroups C4b1, A14 and A15c, while one specimen carried the West Eurasian haplogroup H2a.[22] The authors suggested that central Asian nomadic populations may have been Turkicized by an East Asian minority elite, resulting in a small but detectable increase in East Asian ancestry. However, these authors also found that Türkic period individuals were extremely genetically diverse, with some individuals being of near complete West Eurasian descent. To explain this diversity of ancestry, they propose that there were also incoming West Eurasians moving eastward on the Eurasian steppe during the Türkic period, resulting in admixture.[23][24]

A 2020 study analyzed genetic data from 7 early medieval Türk skeletal remains from Eastern Turkic Khaganate burial sites in Mongolia.[25][26] The authors described the Türk samples as highly diverse, carrying on average 40% West Eurasian, and 60% East Eurasian ancestry. West Eurasian ancestry in the Türks combined Sarmatian-related and BMAC ancestry, while the East Eurasian ancestry was related to Ancient Northeast Asians. The authors also observed that the Western Steppe Herder ancestry in the Türks was largely inherited from male ancestors, which also corresponds with the marked increase of paternal haplogroups such as R and J during the Türkic period in Mongolia.[27] Admixture between East and West Eurasian ancestors of the Türkic samples was dated to 500 CE, or roughly 8 generations prior.[28] Three of the Türkic-affiliated males carried the paternal haplogroups J2a and J1a, two carried haplogroup C-F3830, and one carried R1a-Z93. The analyzed maternal haplogroups were identified as D4, D2, B4, C4, H1 and U7.[29]

The Kyrgyz people derive a significant part of their ancestry from East Asian-related populations (c. 59.3–69.8%), as well as from Iranian-related sources. Modern Iranian-speaking Central Asians have less Northeast Asian ancestry (7.7–17.1%).[30] Ancestry related to the earliest inhabitants, the Ancient North Eurasians, is still found in low amounts among modern day Central Asians.[30]

Mongolians and Kazakhs carry 6-40% West Eurasian ancestry from a Bronze Age Western Steppe Herder source.[31]


Religion[3] Approximate population Center of population
Sunni Islam 103,000,000[32][33][34][35][36][37] South and East of region: Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Eastern Xinjiang and Southern Kazakhstan.(most dense in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan)
Buddhism 9,084,000[38][39][40][41][42] 700,000 and 1.5 million Buddhists in Russia, 8.44 million in Xinjiang, 140,000 people in Kazakhstan and Afghanistan; (Mongols, Koreans, Daur, Mongour, Tungusic peoples, Tibetans, Tuvans, Yugur)
Shia Islam 4,000,000 Hazaras, Afghanistan. While a significant number of them are Sunni.
Eastern Christianity 4,000,000 Mainly in northern Kazakhstan, significant communities are also located in the other four Soviet republics in the region.
Atheism and Irreligion 2,500,000+ Throughout the region
Western Christianity 510,000 Kazakhstan
Judaism 27,500 Uzbekistan
Zoroastrianism 10,000 Historically Afghanistan

See also[edit]


  • Guarino-Vignon, P., Marchi, N., Bendezu-Sarmiento, J. et al. Genetic continuity of Indo-Iranian speakers since the Iron Age in southern Central Asia. Sci Rep 12, 733 (2022).


  1. ^ a b "World Population Prospects 2022". United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. Retrieved July 17, 2022.
  2. ^ a b "World Population Prospects 2022: Demographic indicators by region, subregion and country, annually for 1950-2100" (XSLX) ("Total Population, as of 1 July (thousands)"). United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. Retrieved July 17, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c "The World Factbook — Central Intelligence Agency". Archived from the original on June 1, 2007. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  4. ^ "The History of Zoroastrianism". Archived from the original on 2009-09-25. Retrieved 2010-02-18.
  5. ^ Foltz, Richard (2019). A History of the Tajiks: Iranians of the East. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 1. ISBN 978-1784539559.
  6. ^ "Total population by nationality (assessment at the beginning of the year, people)". Bureau of Statistics of Kyrgyzstan. 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Демоскоп Weekly - Приложение. Справочник статистических показателей". Archived from the original on 2010-03-24. Retrieved 2009-01-02.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-08-25. Retrieved 2012-07-22.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ a b c "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-02-06. Retrieved 2012-01-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ a b c d "Демоскоп Weekly - Приложение. Справочник статистических показателей". Archived from the original on 2010-03-16. Retrieved 2013-05-02.
  11. ^ Alekseenko, Aleksandr Nikolaevich (2000). Республика в зеркале переписей населения [Republic in the Mirror of the Population Censuses] (PDF). Population and Society: Newsletter of the Centre for Demography and Human Ecology (in Russian). Institute of Economic Forecasting of the Russian Academy of Sciences (47): 58–62. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  12. ^ "Ethnologue report for Southern Pashto: Iran (1993)". SIL International. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  13. ^ "Cultural Orientation Balochi" (PDF). Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. 2019. p. 111. An estimated 500,000–600,000 Baloch live in southern Afghanistan, concentrated in southern Nimroz Province, and to a lesser degree in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
  14. ^ KOKAISLOVÁ, Pavla, KOKAISL Petr. Ethnic Identity of The Baloch People. Central Asia and The Caucasus. Journal of Social and Political Studies. Volume 13, Issue 3, 2012, p. 45-55., ISSN 1404-6091
  15. ^ González-Ruiz, Mercedes (2012). "Tracing the Origin of the East-West Population Admixture in the Altai Region (Central Asia)". PLOS ONE. 7 (11): e48904. Bibcode:2012PLoSO...748904G. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048904. PMC 3494716. PMID 23152818. "Studies on ancient mitochondrial DNA of this region suggest that the Altai Mountains played the role of a geographical barrier between West and East Eurasian lineages until the beginning of the Iron Age. After the 7th century BC, coinciding with Scythian expansion across the Eurasian steppes, a gradual influx of East Eurasian sequences in Western steppes is detected. However, the underlying events behind the genetic admixture in Altai during the Iron Age are still unresolved: 1) whether it was a result of migratory events (eastward firstly, westward secondly), or 2) whether it was a result of a local demographic expansion in a ‘contact zone’ between European and East Asian people. In the present work, we analyzed the mitochondrial DNA lineages in human remains from Bronze and Iron Age burials of Mongolian Altai"
  16. ^ González-Ruiz 2012: "Archaeological findings, almost entirely provided by burial site discoveries, documented that the Scythians had European morphological features [7], [8], [12]. However, several recent works focusing on ancient mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of Eastern Scythian burials [9], [10], [11], [16], [17], [18], [19] revealed that this population has a mixed mtDNA composition of West and East Eurasian lineages. This is particularly interesting for the timing of the early contacts between European and Asian people in Altai because all ancient DNA samples analysed so far from Central Asia belonging to a period before the Iron Age bore West Eurasian lineages [18], [20]."
  17. ^ González-Ruiz 2012: "These molecular data raise two likely hypotheses for the origin of the genetic diversity and admixture among the Iron Age inhabitants of the Altai: 1) people holding west Eurasian lineages arrived at Altai Mountains with the eastward migration of Scythians and, once settled, they began to establish relationships with the neighbouring communities from East Asia holding East Eurasian lineages; 2) this was the result of the admixture between the native people inhabiting either sides of the Altai Mountains (people with West Eurasian lineages in Western Altai and East Eurasian lineages in the Eastern Altai), as a result of a demographic expansion during the Scythian period. Hence, the second hypothesis would provide support to the cultural transmission against the demic diffusion during the Scythian period."
  18. ^ González-Ruiz 2012: "Concerning Bronze Age samples from the Mongolian Altai mountains analyzed in the present study, 100% of the mtDNA lineages (3 different lineages from 2 archaeological sites) belong to East Eurasian haplogroups, an opposite profile to that detected in the West side of the Altai [18], [20]. On the other hand, in the Iron Age samples of Mongolian Altai, the same proportion (50%) of East and Western Eurasian lineages were found, evidencing a perfect admixture between East and Western Eurasian lineages as in other Iron Age populations from central Asia and Siberia [10], [18], [19], [20], [40]. Combined with the previous studies performed so far in the Altai region, our results suggest that the Altai represented a boundary to gene flow up to the beginning of the Iron Age and that during the Scythian period of the Altai (5th to 3rd century BC) there were demographic events in the region that led to a population admixture in both sides of the Altai. Half of the shared haplotypes between ancient populations from Central Asia and South Siberia represent lineages present in both pre-Iron Age and Iron Age populations and all of these lineages have a west Eurasian origin. Moreover, considering both shared and non-shared haplotypes, it seems that the number of West Eurasian lineages does not increase in the Iron Age. These results allow us to hypothesise that the substrate of mtDNA lineages is already present in pre-Iron Age populations of the central Asia and that in the Iron Age (Scythian period) a population expansion lead to the admixture of pre-existing lineages. Thus, the admixture profile observed in the region during the Iron Age would not derive from a migratory movement from west to east, as has been hypothesised, but would represent a local population expansion in different directions. This population expansion, however, would be probably be a consequence of the introduction of new technology by the adoption of a new culture, supporting the idea of cultural transmission against the demic diffusion during Scythian period."
  19. ^ Heyer, Evelyne; Balaresque, Patricia; Jobling, Mark A.; Quintana-Murci, Lluis; Chaix, Raphaelle; Segurel, Laure; Aldashev, Almaz; Hegay, Tanya (2009). "Genetic diversity and the emergence of ethnic groups in Central Asia". BMC Genetics. 10: 49. doi:10.1186/1471-2156-10-49. PMC 2745423. PMID 19723301. Our analysis of uniparental markers highlights in Central Asia the differences between Turkic and Indo-Iranian populations in their sex-specific differentiation and shows good congruence with anthropological data.
  20. ^ Damgaard et al. 2018, Supplementary Table 2, Rows 60, 62, 127, 130.
  21. ^ Damgaard et al. 2018, Supplementary Table 9, Rows 44, 87, 88.
  22. ^ Damgaard et al. 2018, Supplementary Table 8, Rows 128, 130, 70, 73.
  23. ^ Damgaard, Peter de Barros; Marchi, Nina (2018). "137 ancient human genomes from across the Eurasian steppes". Nature. Springer Science and Business Media LLC. 557 (7705): 369–374. Bibcode:2018Natur.557..369D. doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0094-2. hdl:1887/3202709. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 29743675. S2CID 256769352.
  24. ^ Damgaard & Marchi 2018, p. 372: "These results suggest that Turk cultural customs were imposed by an East Asian minority elite onto central steppe nomad populations, resulting in a small detectable increase in East Asian ancestry. However, we also find that steppe nomad ancestry in this period was extremely heterogeneous with several individuals being genetically distributed at the extremes of the first principal component (Figure 2) separating Eastern and Western descent. Based on this notable heterogeneity, we interpret that during Medieval times, the steppe populations were exposed to gradual admixture from the East, while interacting with incoming west Eurasians. The strong variation is a direct window into ongoing admixture processes and to the multi-ethnic cultural organization of this period."
  25. ^ Jeong, Choongwon (12 November 2020). "A Dynamic 6,000-Year Genetic History of Eurasia's Eastern Steppe". Cell. 183 (4): 890–904.e29. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2020.10.015. hdl:21.11116/0000-0007-77BF-D. ISSN 0092-8674. PMC 7664836. PMID 33157037.
  26. ^ Jeong 2020: "Türk (550-750 CE). Göktürkic tribes of the Altai Mountains established a political structure across Eurasia beginning in 552 CE, with an empire that ruled over Mongolia from 581-742 CE (Golden, 1992). A brief period of disunion occurred between 659-682 CE, during which the Chinese Tang dynasty laid claim over Mongolia...We analyzed individuals from 5 Türk sites in this study: Nomgonii Khundii (NOM), Shoroon Bumbagar (Türkic mausoleum; TUM), Zaan-Khoshuu (ZAA), Uliastai River Lower Terrace (ULI), and Umuumur uul (UGU)."
  27. ^ Jeong 2020: "We observe a clear signal of male-biased WSH admixture among the EIA Sagly/Uyuk and during the Türkic period (i.e., more positive Z scores; Figure 5B), which also corresponds to the decline in the Y chromosome lineage Q1a and the concomitant rise of the western Eurasian lineages such as R and J (Figure S2A)."
  28. ^ Jeong 2020: "The admixture dates estimated for the ancient Türkic and Uyghur individuals in this study correspond to ca. 500 CE: 8 ± 2 generations before the Türkic individuals and 12 ± 2 generations before the Uyghur individuals (represented by ZAA001 and Olon Dov individuals)."
  29. ^ Jeong 2020: "Table S2, S2C_SexHaplogroups, Supplementary Materials GUID: E914F9CE-9ED4-4E0F-9172-5A54A08E9F6B
  30. ^ a b Shan-Shan Dai, Xierzhatijiang Sulaiman, Jainagul Isakova, Wei-Fang Xu, Najmudinov Tojiddin Abdulloevich, Manilova Elena Afanasevna, Khudoidodov Behruz Ibrohimovich, Xi Chen, Wei-Kang Yang, Ming-Shan Wang, Quan-Kuan Shen, Xing-Yan Yang, Yong-Gang Yao, Almaz A Aldashev, Abdusattor Saidov, Wei Chen, Lu-Feng Cheng, Min-Sheng Peng, Ya-Ping Zhang (25 August 2022). "The Genetic Echo of the Tarim Mummies in Modern Central Asians". Retrieved 2022-12-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) "The major ancestry components in the Kyrgyz are from Baikal hunter-gatherer (i.e., Russia_Shamanka_Eneolithic; 59.3–69.8%) and Iranian farmer–related ancestries (16–23.8%). The remaining minor ancestry components are from Anatolian farmers (5.1–5.6%), Western European hunter-gatherers (5.3–6.6%) and ANE-related Tarim_EMBA1 (3.2–5.3%). The ancestry profiles of Tajik populations can be dissected into five components from related ancestries of Iranian farmer (43.8–52.8%), ANE (13.3–15.8%), Western European hunter-gatherer (9.5–11.8%), Baikal hunter-gatherer (7.7–17.1%), and Anatolian farmer (9.7–15.6%)."
  31. ^ Zhao, Jing; Wurigemule, null; Sun, Jin; Xia, Ziyang; He, Guanglin; Yang, Xiaomin; Guo, Jianxin; Cheng, Hui-Zhen; Li, Yingxiang; Lin, Song; Yang, Tie-Lin; Hu, Xi; Du, Hua; Cheng, Peng; Hu, Rong (December 2020). "Genetic substructure and admixture of Mongolians and Kazakhs inferred from genome-wide array genotyping". Annals of Human Biology. 47 (7–8): 620–628. doi:10.1080/03014460.2020.1837952. ISSN 1464-5033. PMID 33059477. S2CID 222839155. pp. 5-11: "Chinese Kazakhs shared significant more alleles with West Eurasians than any other Mongolian groups. We here confirm the genetic substructure within three Mongolian groups and Chinese Kazakhs was caused by the different amounts of West Eurasian related admixture in them." "We showed that there are genetic substructures within Mongolians corresponding to Ölöd, Chahar, and Inner Mongolian clusters, which is consistent with their tribe classifications. The substructure is shaped by the relatedness of Mongolians to West Eurasians. Mongolians and Kazakhs are on a genetic cline in terms of different proportions of West Eurasian related admixture from 6% to 40%. The genetic source for the West Eurasian ancestry was most likely Bronze Age Steppe population-related. We note that the small number of sampled individuals from different tribes is a limitation of the study. However, our findings are consistent with archaeological and ancient genomic evidence that the Bronze Age Steppe populations shaped the culture and genetic makeup of northern Eurasia through rapid expansion (Allentoft et al., 2015)."
  32. ^ Min Junqing. The Present Situation and Characteristics of Contemporary Islam in China. JISMOR, 8. 2010 Islam by province, page 29. Data from: Yang Zongde, Study on Current Muslim Population in China, Jinan Muslim, 2, 2010.
  33. ^ Religious Composition by Country, 2010–2050 | Pew Research Center Archived 2017-08-02 at the Wayback Machine. (2 April 2015). Retrieved on 2017-01-20.
  34. ^ "Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Muslim Population" (PDF). October 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 June 2018. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  35. ^ Mapping the Global Muslim Population. A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Muslim Population Archived 2011-05-19 at the Wayback Machine. Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (October 2009)
  36. ^ "Religious Composition by Country, 2010-2050". 2 April 2015. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  37. ^ "The World Factbook — Central Intelligence Agency". Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  38. ^ "Religious Intelligence - Country Profile: Kazakhstan (Republic of Kazakhstan)". 30 September 2007. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  39. ^ "Religious Intelligence - Country Profile: Kyrgyzstan (Kyrgyz Republic)". 6 April 2008. Archived from the original on 6 April 2008. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  40. ^ Religious Freedom Page Archived August 29, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  41. ^ "Turkmenistan". Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  42. ^ "The results of the national population census in 2009". Agency of Statistics of the Republic of Kazakhstan. 12 November 2010. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2010.