Central Asian Ethnicity

Bridging China and the Caspian Sea

Discover more about your ethnicity with AncestryDNA. By comparing your genetic signature to the DNA of people from the Central Asian region, AncestryDNA can give you a clearer picture of your ethnic origins.

People in this DNA ethnicity group may identify as:
Afghan, Azerbaijani, Kazakh, Tajik, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, Uzbek, Pashtun

The story of your ethnicity lives in your DNA.

Central Asian Ethnicity

Located at a continental crossroads, the countries of this region are sometimes referred to as "the Stans," the suffix -stan being a Persian term meaning "place of." Whether it was traders' caravans traversing the Silk Road or Mongol horsemen ranging the steppes, for centuries the rugged lands of Central Asia have served as the great road between East and West.

Central Asian History

Eastern Europe, The Middle East, Asia and the Indian subcontinent all meet here in a unique intersection of geography and cultures. Dry, desert basins cover most of the southern part of the region, stretching from the Caspian Sea across Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and southern Afghanistan, whose eastern border soars suddenly into the Hindu Kush. This mountainous terrain dominates the countries of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan before giving way to the northern steppe of Kazakhstan.

It was this vast steppe, stretching from Eastern Europe to mainland China, that served as the overland trade route between East and West along the famous Silk Road. Powerful nomadic tribes inhabited the steppe and swept west on horseback in periodic waves, conquering and dispersing populations in their wake. The Huns, Göktürks and Kublai Khan’s Mongols all dominated the region at various times. Turkic tribes such as the Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Kazakhs and Turkmen migrated to the region from Central Asia, Mongolia and Siberia over the course of centuries, eventually adopting Islam after becoming subjects of the Muslim caliphates in the 7th century.

The southern nations, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, while also overwhelmingly Muslim, are much more closely related in language and ethnicity to neighboring Iran than the predominantly Turkic north. The Pashtun (or Afghan) people of Afghanistan are among the area’s most ancient inhabitants, although their origins are unclear. Their language, Pashto, traces its roots to a common ancestor of modern Persian. The Tajiks represent a sizable minority in Afghanistan in addition to their majority status in Tajikistan. They are historically and linguistically more closely related to modern Iranians, due to the expansion and influence of the Persian Empire. The Hazara of Afghanistan owe much of their identity to the Mongol invaders of the 13th century. Although most today speak Persian, a dwindling few still speak Mogholi, descended from Mongolian.

Your ethnicity reveals the places where your family story began.

Migrations into this Region

After the development of agriculture in the Middle East, farmers and herders spread into Central Asia about 6,000 years ago. They were later joined by the Persians and Greeks, who navigated trade routes to China. From the opposite direction, Turkic nomads from Northern Asia spread into Central Asia during a span of about 1,500 years. The Mongol invasion, led by Genghis Khan in the 13th century, was a product of this nomadic culture; the Mongol warriors conquered and then intermixed with local groups. Central Asia then became an important locus of imperial expansion into neighboring regions. About 400 years ago, the Russian Empire expanded from Eastern Europe into Central Asia, and it remained largely in control of the region until the 20th century.

Migrations from this Region

Populations from Central Asia expanded into the fringes of East Asia. In fact, the 4,000-year-old Tarim mummies of northwestern China, with their red hair and European clothes, are thought to have come across the Eurasian steppes.

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