Transcaucasia and Central Asia


  1. Regional Characteristics
  2. Demographic Analysis
  3. Transcaucasia
  4. Central Asia
  5. References
  6. Review Questions

Regional Characteristics

The three former Soviet Socialist Republics, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan make up Transcaucasia.  The Caucasus Mountains give Transcaucasia its name.  Transcaucasia is squeezed in between Russia to the north, Iran and Turkey to the south, the Black Sea to the west, and the Caspian Sea to the east.  The varieties of languages, religions, and traditions have created much tension between these three ethnically different groups.

The five former Soviet Republics: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan make up Central Asia.  Central Asia is surrounded by Russia to the north, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran to the south, China to the east, and the Caspian Sea to the west.  Because of their border and close ties with Russia, they experience great influence from their northern neighbor.  Islam reigns as the most common faith in Central Asia.

These two regions have much in common.  All eight countries that make up the region are former Soviet Republics.  The area contains many Islamic worshipers.  Dry-land agriculture is the main source of income for this arid climate region.  Due to low precipitation, irrigation plays a major part in not only farming, but also the shrinking of its main water source, the Aral Sea.

Demographic Analysis


2003 Pop. (Millions)

Under 15

Over 65

Infant Mortality

Percent Urban


























































Of the three Transcaucasian countries, Azerbaijan has the largest population with 8.2 million people.  Georgia contains 4.7 million and Armenia has 3.2 million. Uzbekistan has the most people, 25.7 million, of the Central Asian countries followed be Kazakhstan with 14.8 million people.  Tajikistan has 6.6 million, Turkmenistan has 5.7 million, and Kyrgyzstan is the smallest with 5.0 million people (PRB).

Even though Tajikistan is in the middle of the total population for the two areas, it contains the highest percentage of population under the age of 15.  Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Krygyzstan closely follow with 38, 38, and 35 percent respectively.  Georgia has the lowest percentage with 20 percent (PRB).

Tajikistan also has the lowest percentage of people over the age of 65, along with Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.  The Transcaucasia area has the higher of the two areas with Azerbaijan with 6 percent, Armenia with 10 percent, and Georgia with 14 percent (PRB).

Armenia has the highest percentage of infant mortality with 36 percent.  Turkmenistan is a distance 11 percent away with 25 percent.  Azerbaijan has the lowest of the Transcaucasia and Central Asia regions with only 13 percent (PRB).

The two areas have a large range of percent population urban with Armenia containing 64 percent.  Tajikistan only has a percentage of 27.  The three Transcaucasian states contain the highest with Armenia, Georgia with 58 percent, and Azerbaijan with 51 percent (PRB).

Kazakhstan has the highest GNI PPP with $6,150 US dollars.  Kazakhstan is considerably the highest with Turkmenistan coming in second with $4,240 US dollars.  Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan all have a GNI PPP around $2,500 US dollars.  Tajikistan is the lowest with $1,140 US dollars.


Georgia, roughly smaller than South Carolina, has a population of 4.7 million (2003).  Georgians make up the majority of the countries population, but also contains Armenians (8%), Russians (6%), Ossetians (3%), and Abkhazians (2%) (de Blij, 2000).  The Georgian Orthodox Church is the main religion, but Muslims account for 10 percent of the population.  With fertile valleys, Georgia’s diversified economy contains many products.  Agriculture plays a major role in their economy with tea, Georgian wines, tobacco, and citrus fruits at the top of the list.  In 1991, Georgia declared its independence from Russia, but its first elected Government broke up due to disagreeing political groups.  This led to an internal republic in the northwestern Georgia, Abkhazia, to declare its independence and another region in north central Georgia to prefer unification with Russia’s Ossetians.  However, Russia helped bring control back to Georgia by ending support for Abkhazia and changing to support Georgia.  Throughout the whole ordeal, southwest Georgia has remained strong and had no secession attempts.

Armenia, the size of Maryland, has a population of 3.2 million (2003).  In the 17th century, Armenians adopted Christianity. This created a Christianity section in a Muslim dominated region.  However, during World War I, Ottoman Turks massacred many Christians and drove the rest into present-day Iraq.  This was followed by another conflict with neighboring Azerbaijan.  150,000 Christian Armenians lived in a small section of Azerbaijan called Nagorno-Karabakh, which is encircled by many Muslims.  The Christian Armenians sought help from Armenia, which marched troops into Azerbaijan and took control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region.  However, the territory is still internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan has a population of 8.2 million (2003), making it the most populated of the Transcaucasian countries.  Azerbaijan is resource rich in oil along its eastern border with the Caspian Sea.  Pipelines carry oil from the city Baku through the country to the Black Sea for transport.  Islam is the dominant religion throughout the country with a majority being Shi’ite Muslims.  The future of Azerbaijan’s economy relies on the development of more pipelines and the sale of oil, as it could become very rich off the sale of oil.

Central Asia

Kazakhstan is the largest of the five countries in Central Asia.  Of its 14.8 million (2003) people, Kazakhs account for 45 percent.  The Russian minority makes up 31 percent and is declining (de Blij, 2000).  Kazakhstan is rich in oil reserves on its western border with the Caspian Sea.  The oil reserves are estimated to be among the worlds largest.  In the north, Kazakhstan’s industry reigns.  The largest cities and most industries are located in the north along with the Soviet space program and missile-development plants.

Uzbekistan has the biggest population in Central Asia with 25.7 million (2003) people.  Cancer was a major factor in the parts of the country that grew cotton, because of the polluted Aral Sea.  The Soviet Union didn’t listen to the government scientists, so they used so much water to irrigate cotton farms that the rivers stopped flowing into the Aral Sea.  Since this happened, the sea is now half the size that it used to be.  Conflicts occur with the minorities because the Uzbekistan press calls themselves a “greater Uzbekistan,” because Uzbek’s are 75 percent of the population in Uzbekistan and expand to be 25 percent of the population in Tajikistan, 14 percent in Kyrgyzstan, 10 percent in Turkmenistan, and 6 percent in Afghanistan.

Turkmenistan is the smallest of the five countries with a population of 5.7 million (2003).   The Kara Kum Canal takes water to irrigate cotton, grain, fruits, and vegetables in the eastern part of the country.  Astrakhan fur is a famous local product that is from the pelts of young lambs.  Discoveries of natural gas are being found in the west.  Oil and natural gas can be found inn great quantities in Turkmenistan’s sector of the Caspian Sea.

Tajikistan is the poorest of the five Central Asian countries.  It is about the size of Iowa.  The Pamir Mountains cover the eastern part of the county and irrigate the deserts around them.  Soviet rule and economic planning created large industrial enterprises, mining, and irrigated agriculture for the area.  Former communist political managers stayed in major government positions after independence causing Tajikistan to end up in Civil War.

Kyrgyzstan is closely linked to eastern Uzbekistan.  Russians make up 15 percent of the population, but they are slowly fading out of the country (de Blij, 2002).  Most of the people raise sheep and cattle, and they also raise yaks for milk and meat.  Other kinds of livestock couldn’t survive at such a high altitude.  The Tian Shan mountain ranges take up the center of Kyrgyzstan.


Bradshaw, Michael. World Regional Geography: The New Global Order. 2nd ed. Boston, MA. McGraw Hill.  2000. Pages 371, 391-395.

de Blij, H.J., Muller, Peter O. Geography: Realms, Regions, and Concepts. 9th ed. New York, NY. John Wiley & Sons Inc. 2000. Pages 142-146, 328-329.

de Blij, H.J., Muller, Peter O. Geography: Realms, Regions, and Concepts. 10th ed. New York, NY. John Wiley & Sons Inc. 2002. Pages 326-333.

Population Reference Bureau. 2003 World Population Data Sheet.  Washington D.C.  2003.

Review Questions

1. The mountain range located between the Black Sea and the Caspian is the: A. Caucusus; B. Povolzhye; C. Urals; D. Cossocks; E. Sovkhoz.

2.The Transcaucasia area includes all of the following except: A. Georgia; B. Armenia; C. Azerbaijan; D. Nagorno-Karabakh; E. Kirghizia.

3. This former Soviet Republic, with capital at Yerevan, lies near the Turkish border and has recently experienced both an earthquake and ethnic upheaval between its Christian and Muslim population. A. Belorussia; B. Azerbaijan; C. Georgia; D. Armenia; E. Kirghizia.

4. Armenia is in conflict with which other former Soviet Socialist Republic? A. Georgia; B. Armenia; C. Azerbaijan; D. Nagorno-Karabakh; E. Kirghizia.

5.Which of the following cities is an oil center in the Azerbaijan? A. Moscow; B. White Russia; C. Baku; D. Leningrad; E. Bucharest.

6. This former Soviet Republic contains the oil city of Baku and the people have ethnic affinities with Iran: A. Azerbaijan; B. Moldovia; C. Georgia; D. Estonia; E. Turkmenistan.

7. Which of the following people look across their border to Iran because they share a common Shi'ite Muslim faith? A. Georgians; B. Armenians; C. the people of Azerbaijan; D. Nagorno-Karabakhians; E. Russians.

8. Which country is the most prone to earthquakes, A. Armenia B. Azerbaijan C. Turkmenistan.

9. Which country has the largest population A. Armenia B. Azerbaijan C. Turkmenistan.

10. Which country is 60% Kyrgystan and 25% Russian. A. Armenia B. Azerbaijan C. Turkmenistan D. Kyrgystan.

11.  In which century did the Armenians adopt Christianity: A. 14th  B. 15th  C. 16th  D. 17th

  12. Which country has the highest GNI PPP?  A. Tajikistan  B. Turkmenistan  C. Kazakhstan D. Kyrgystan

13.What was a major factor in the parts of Uzbekistan that grew cotton?  A. Drought   B. Famine  C. Cancer  D. Flood

14.  In which country is the Kara Kum Canal located? A. Georgia  B. Armenia  C. Azerbaijan  D. Turkmenistan

15.  Which country is the poorest of the five Central Asian countries? A. Tajikistan  B. Kyrgystan  C. Azerbaijan  D. Turkmenistan

Submitted by Andy Severson and Nathan Ruh on 11-24-03.  Previously submitted by Amy Slater on 11-04-96.  Updated by Marty King on 6-13-97.  Edited by Karen Oyler on 10-10-03.