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History of Central Asia & Afghanistan


Admission requirements



Central Asia is a vast region with a rich history in which a multitude of languages are spoken; the birthplace of great empires and the crossroads of many different cultures. Its fluid borders stretch into present-day Afghanistan, Russia, China, Mongolia, Iran and the Caucasus. The history of this region is closely intertwined with the so-called Silk Road, a pre-modern highway of global interaction. Today Central Asia is increasingly important as a focal point of the geopolitical interests and global ambitions of world powers such as for example China’s New Silk Road initiative. This course will focus on the background of Central Asia and Afghanistan today, starting with a multifaceted historical overview of the region – from the heartland of the Silk Road and its empires to a buffer zone for colonial powers, leading to the more recent history, when the term ‘Central Asia’ became more and more synonymous to the five ‘stans’ which came into existence during the first decennia of the former Soviet Union. How are the now independent republics of Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan grappling with their Soviet heritage and the more distant past and how have these republics tried to shape a national identity by (re)inventing and creating a national history? How about developments in Afghanistan, with its ethnic make-up directly corresponding to the ‘nationalities’ of the Central Asian Republics? What is the role of Islam and other religions in Afghanistan and in present day Central Asian society? How does this relate to what is today understood as the Middle East? Key issues in this course will be empire building, cultural space, identity formation, nationalism, state ideologies, geopolitics and heritage.

Course objectives

This course aims to provide a solid background into the history and current issues of a region that has often been thought of as a periphery, caught between the great powers of Asia and the Middle East.


Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

Course Load

Total course load: 140 hrs

  • Lectures: 26

  • Study of compulsory literature: 70

  • Preparation exam: 40

  • Exam(s):4

Assessment method

  • Mid-term examination: written examination with short open questions and multiple choice questions

  • End-term examination: written examination with short open questions and essay questions


Mid-term: 40%
Examination: 60%
Final grade – The final mark is established by determining the weighted average


Written examination with a combination of short open questions, multiple choice and essay questions (100%).


Blackboard will be used for:

  • information, communication, discussion

  • assignments

Reading list

  • Peter B. Golden, Central Asia in World History. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2011.

  • Thomas J. Barfield, Afghanistan. A Cultural and Political History. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2010.

  • Other readings TBA.


General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte

Registration Contractonderwijs


“Dr. G.R. van den Berg”: