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Related to Asia: Oceania, Continents


(ā`zhə), the world's largest continent 17,139,000 sq mi (44,390,000 sq km) and most populous (2015 est. pop. 4,419,898,000), with nearly three fifths of the world's total population.


Asia's border with Europe—which, geographically, may be regarded as a peninsula of the Eurasian landmass—lies approximately along the Urals, the Ural River, the Caspian Sea, the Caucasus, the Black Sea, the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits, and the Aegean Sea. The connection of Asia with Africa is broken only by the Suez Canal between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. In the far northeast of Asia, Siberia is separated from North America by the Bering Strait. The continent of Asia is washed on the S by the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal; on the E by the South China Sea, East China Sea, Yellow Sea, Sea of Japan, Sea of Okhotsk, and Bering Sea; and on the N by the Arctic Ocean.

Geology and Geography

Geologically, Asia consists of ancient Precambrian landmasses—the Arabian and Indian peninsulas in the south and the central Siberian plateau in the north—enclosing a central zone of folded ridges. In accordance with this underlying structure, Asia falls into the following major physiographic structures: the northern lowlands covering W central Asia and most of Siberia; the vast central highland zone of high plateaus, rising to c.15,000 ft (4,570 m) in Tibet in China and enclosed by some of the world's greatest mountain ranges (the Himalayas, the Karakorum, the Kunlun, the Tian Shan, and the Hindu Kush); the southern peninsular plateaus of India and Arabia, merging, respectively, into the Ganges and Tigris-Euphrates plains; and the lowlands of E Asia, especially in China, which are separated by mountain spurs of the central highland zone. Mt. Everest (29,032 ft/8,849 m), in Nepal, is the world's highest peak; the Dead SeaDead Sea,
salt lake, c.390 sq mi (1,010 sq km), extending c.45 mi (70 km) in the Jordan trough of the Great Rift Valley between the Ghor on the north and Wadi Arabah on the south, on the border between Israel and the West Bank (W) and Jordan (E).
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 (1,312 ft/400 m below sea level) is the world's lowest point. Great peninsulas extend out from the mainland, dividing the oceans into seas and bays, many of them protected by Asia's numerous offshore islands. Asia's rivers, among the longest in the world, generally rise in the high plateaus and break through the great chains toward the peripheral lowlands. They include the Ob-Irtysh, the Yenisei-Argana, and Lena of Siberia; the Amur-Argun, Huang He, Chang (Yangtze), Xi, Mekong, Thanlwin, and Ayeyarwady of E and SE Asia; and the Ganges-Brahmaputra, Indus, and Tigris-Euphrates of S and SW Asia. Central Asia has vast areas of interior drainage, including the Amu Darya, Syr Darya, Ili, and Tarim rivers, which empty into inland lakes or disappear into desert sands. Lake Baykal and Lake Balkash are among the world's largest lakes. Climatically, the continent ranges through all extremes, from torrid heat to arctic cold and from torrential rains (the product of monsoons) to extreme aridity (as in the Tarim Basin).

Asia can be divided into six regions, each possessing distinctive physical, cultural, economic, and political characteristics. Southwest Asia (Iran; Turkey, in Asia MinorAsia Minor,
great peninsula, c.250,000 sq mi (647,500 sq km), extreme W Asia, generally coterminous with Asian Turkey, also called Anatolia. It is washed by the Black Sea in the north, the Mediterranean Sea in the south, and the Aegean Sea in the west.
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; and the nations of the Fertile CrescentFertile Crescent,
historic region of the Middle East. A well-watered and fertile area, it arcs across the northern part of the Syrian desert. It is flanked on the west by the Mediterranean and on the east by the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, and includes all or parts of Israel,
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 and the Arabian peninsula or ArabiaArabia
, peninsula (1991 est. pop. 35,000,000), c.1,000,000 sq mi (2,590,000 sq km), SW Asia. It is bordered on the W by the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea, on the S by the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea, on the E by the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, and on the N by Iraq
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), long a strategic crossroad, is characterized by an arid climate and irrigated agriculture, great petroleum reserves, and the predominance of Islam. South Asia (Afghanistan and the nations of the Indian subcontinent) is isolated from the rest of Asia by great mountain barriers. Southeast Asia (the nations of the southeastern peninsula and the Malay Archipelago) is characterized by monsoon climate, maritime orientation, the fusion of Indian and Chinese cultures, and a great diversity of ethnic groups, languages, religions, and politics. East Asia (China, Mongolia, Korea, and the islands of Taiwan and Japan) is located in the mid-latitudes on the Pacific Ocean, and is characterized by cultures strongly influenced by civilizations of the Huang He and Chang (Yangtze) river systems. It forms the most industrialized region of Asia. Russian Asia (in the northern third of the continent) consists of the vast region of SiberiaSiberia
, Rus. Sibir, vast geographical region of Russia, covering c.2,900,000 sq mi (7,511,000 sq km) and having an estimated population (1992) of 32,459,000. Historically it has had no official standing as a political or territorial division, but it was generally
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 and the Russian Far EastRussian Far East,
formerly Soviet Far East,
federal district (1989 est. pop. 7,941,000), c.2,400,000 sq mi (6,216,000 sq km), encompassing the entire northeast coast of Asia and including the Sakha Republic, Maritime Territory (Primorsky Kray), Khabarovsk Territory,
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. In the center of the continent is Central Asia, formed of a set of independent former republics of the Soviet Union. This region is characterized by desert conditions and irrigated agriculture, with ancient traditions of nomadic herding.

Population, Culture, and Economy

The distribution of Asia's huge population is governed by climate and topography, with the monsoons and the fertile alluvial plains determining the areas of greatest density. Such are the Ganges plains of India and the Chang (Yangtze) and northern plains of China, the small alluvial plains of Japan, and the fertile volcanic soils of the Malay Archipelago. Urbanization is greatest in the industrialized regions of Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, but huge urban centers are to be found throughout the continent.

Almost two thirds of Asia's indigenous population is of Mongolic stock. Major religions are Hinduism (in India); Theravada Buddhism (in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos); Lamaism, or Tibetan Buddhism (in Mongolia and China, particularly Tibet); East Asian Buddhism (in China and Korea, mixed with Confucianism, shamanism, and Taoism; in Japan mixed with Shinto and Confucianism); Islam (in SW and S Asia, W central Asia, and Indonesia); and Catholicism (in the Philippines, East Timor, and Vietnam).

Subsistence hunting and fishing economies prevail in the forest regions of N and S Asia, and nomadic pastoralism in the central and southwestern regions, while industrial complexes and intensive rice cultivation are found in the coastal plains and rivers of S and E Asia. Because of extremes in climate and topography, less than 10% of Asia is under cultivation. Rice, by far the most important food crop, is grown for local consumption in the heavily populated countries (e.g., China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Japan), while countries with smaller populations (Thailand, Vietnam, and Pakistan) are generally rice exporters. Other important crops are wheat, soybeans, peanuts, sugarcane, cotton, jute, silk, rubber, tea, and coconuts.

Although Asia's economy is predominantly agricultural, regions where power facilities, trained labor, modern transport, and access to raw materials are available have developed industrially. Japan, China, Russian Asia, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, and Israel are distinguished for their industrialization. China and India are making considerable strides in this direction. The most spectacular industrialization has occurred in Japan and the "Four Little Dragons"—Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong. The economies of Thailand, Indonesia, and South China are booming thanks to Japanese investment in plants and to cheap indigenous labor. The development of railroads is greatest in the industrialized countries, with Japan, India, China, and Russian Asia having the greatest track mileage.

Also contributing greatly to the income of many Asian countries are vital mineral exports—petroleum in SW Asia, Russian Asia, and Indonesia and tin in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. Asia's other valuable mineral exports include manganese from India and chromite from Turkey and the Philippines; China produces great amounts of tungsten, antimony, coal, and oil.

Outline of History

Asia was the home of some of the world's oldest civilizations. The empires of SumerSumer
and Sumerian civilization
. The term Sumer is used today to designate the southern part of ancient Mesopotamia. From the earliest date of which there is any record, S Mesopotamia was occupied by a people, known as Sumerians, speaking a non-Semitic language.
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, BabyloniaBabylonia
, ancient empire of Mesopotamia. The name is sometimes given to the whole civilization of S Mesopotamia, including the states established by the city rulers of Lagash, Akkad (or Agade), Uruk, and Ur in the 3d millennium B.C.
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, AssyriaAssyria
, ancient empire of W Asia. It developed around the city of Ashur, or Assur, on the upper Tigris River and south of the later capital, Nineveh. Assyria's Rise

The nucleus of a Semitic state was forming by the beginning of the 3d millennium B.C.
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, MediaMedia
, ancient country of W Asia whose actual boundaries cannot be defined, occupying generally what is now W Iran and S Azerbaijan. It extended from the Caspian Sea to the Zagros Mts.
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, and PersiaPersia
, old alternate name for the Asian country Iran. The article Iran contains a description of the geography and economy of the modern country and a short account of its history since the Arab invasion of the 7th cent.
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 and the civilizations of Islam flourished in SW Asia, while in the east the ancient civilizations of IndiaIndia,
officially Republic of India, republic (2015 est. pop. 1,309,054,000), 1,261,810 sq mi (3,268,090 sq km), S Asia. The second most populous country in the world, it is also sometimes called Bharat, its ancient name. India's land frontier (c.
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, ChinaChina,
Mandarin Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo [central glorious people's united country; i.e., people's republic], officially People's Republic of China, country (2015 est. pop. 1,397,029,000), 3,691,502 sq mi (9,561,000 sq km), E Asia.
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, and JapanJapan
, Jap. Nihon or Nippon, country (2015 est. pop. 127,975,000), 145,833 sq mi (377,835 sq km), occupying an archipelago off the coast of E Asia. The capital is Tokyo, which, along with neighboring Yokohama, forms the world's most populous metropolitan region.
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 prospered. Later, nomadic tribes (HunsHuns,
nomadic and pastoral people of unknown ethnological affinities who appeared in Europe in the 4th cent. A.D., and built up an empire there. They were organized in a predominantly military manner.
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, MongolsMongols
, Asian people, numbering about 6 million and distributed mainly in the Republic of Mongolia, the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of China, and Kalmykia and the Buryat Republic of Russia.
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, and TurksTurks,
term applied in its wider meaning to the Turkic-speaking peoples of Turkey, Russia, Central Asia, Xinjiang in China (Chinese Turkistan), Azerbaijan and the Caucasus, Iran, and Afghanistan.
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) in N and central Asia established great empires and gave rise to great westward migration. Their tribal, military-state organizations reached their highest form in the 13th–14th cent. under the Mongols, whose court was visited by early European travelers, notably the Italian Marco PoloPolo, Marco
, 1254?–1324?, Venetian traveler in China. His father, Niccolò Polo, and his uncle, Maffeo Polo, had made (1253–60) a trading expedition to Constantinople.
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The Portuguese explorer Vasco da GamaGama, Vasco da
, c.1469–1524, Portuguese navigator, the first European to journey by sea to India. His epochal voyage (1497–99) was made at the order of Manuel I.
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 reached India by sea in 1498, beginning the era of European imperialism in Asia. In N Asia Russian Cossacks crossed Siberia and reached the Pacific by 1640. With the formation of English, French, Dutch, and Portuguese trading companies in the 17th cent., great trade rivalry developed along the coasts of India, SE Asia, and China and resulted in increasing European control of Asian lands. By exploiting local disputes and utilizing a technological edge brought on by the industrial revolution, European powers extended political control over first the Indian subcontinent, then SW and SE Asia. European pressure opened China and Japan to trade. World War I led to a weakening of European stature in Asia, and the Wilson doctrine of self-determination inspired many nationalist and revolutionary movements.

World War II and the conflicts of its aftermath hit Asia heavily. In the postwar years, the center of conflict in international affairs tended to shift from Europe, the focus of both world wars, to Asia, where the decolonization process and the emergence of the cold war resulted in many smaller wars and unstable nations. The Arab-Israeli WarsArab-Israeli Wars,
conflicts in 1948–49, 1956, 1967, 1973–74, and 1982 between Israel and the Arab states. Tensions between Israel and the Arabs have been complicated and heightened by the political, strategic, and economic interests in the area of the great powers.
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, the Korean WarKorean War,
conflict between Communist and non-Communist forces in Korea from June 25, 1950, to July 27, 1953. At the end of World War II, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel into Soviet (North Korean) and U.S. (South Korean) zones of occupation.
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, and the emergence of Communist governments in China, North Korea, and North Vietnam were among the events that heightened tensions in Asia. In the 1950s the Western powers built up military alliances (the Baghdad Pact—later the Central Treaty Organization—in the Middle East, and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization [SEATO]) to counter the threat of Soviet and Chinese domination of Asia. In the 1960s, however, the Sino-Soviet rift reduced the possibility of joint Communist efforts in Asia.

At the end of World War II the United States, Britain, France, and the Netherlands were still major forces in Asia; but in the postwar period India, Japan, China, Indonesia, and other Asian nations sought a more independent role on the world scene. In the 1960s and 70s the British decision to withdraw "east of Suez" and the U.S. defeat in the Vietnam WarVietnam War,
conflict in Southeast Asia, primarily fought in South Vietnam between government forces aided by the United States and guerrilla forces aided by North Vietnam. The war began soon after the Geneva Conference provisionally divided (1954) Vietnam at 17° N lat.
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 foreshadowed new power alignments in the area. China's growing strength and a Soviet drive to expand relations with Asian states (particularly India and the Middle East Arab nations) polarized perceptions of Asian instability as a contest between pro-Communist and anti-Communist powers.

Other forces, however, were also shaping Asia in the 1970s and 80s. Constant high population growth left many nations struggling with chronic poverty, inadequate health care, a largely underemployed workforce, and rapid degradation of environmentally sensitive areas. Nations with powerful militaries—Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, India, China, Vietnam, and Indonesia—invaded weakly guarded neighbors and fought low-level wars against one another. The former Euro-American–dominated world economic order received rude shocks from the Middle East–led oil embargo crises of 1973–74 and 1979 and the economic strength of Japan and the "Little Dragons." As conflicts with their origins in ethnic self-determination and perceived inequalities of borders ground on in the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Myanmar, and Tibet, a new force, Islamic fundamentalism, swept to power in Iran in 1979 and threatened secular governments throughout S and SW Asia; fundamentalists gained the upper hand in Afghanistan in the 1990s.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, an event in part triggered by its failed invasion of Afghanistan, led to the evaporation of the cold war polarization and to the birth of a new group of independent nations in Asia's center. In the 1990s, China emerged as a growing economic giant, but the booming economies of SE Asia suffered setbacks in the late 1990s. In Indonesia economic collapse led to the downfall of Suharto and the beginning of greater democracy as well as demands for independence or autonomy, particularly in East TimorEast Timor
or Timor-Leste
, Tetum Timor Lorosae, republic, officially Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (2015 est. pop. 1,241,000), 5,950 sq mi (15,410 sq km), in the Lesser Sundas, Malay Archipelago, off the SE Asia mainland.
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, AcehAceh
, special region (1980 pop. 2,875,634), 21,387 sq mi (55,392 sq km), N Sumatra, Indonesia, formerly known as Atjeh or Achin. The capital and largest city is Banda Aceh.
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, and PapuaPapua
or Irian Jaya
, province (2014 est pop. 3,486,000), 123,180 sq mi (319,036 sq km), Indonesia. Comprising most of the western half of New Guinea and a number of offshore islands, it is Indonesia's largest province; the extreme western peninsulas and offshore
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. The 1990s also saw the gradual emergence of peace between a number of former combatants in the Arab-Israeli conflict.


See D. Stamp, Asia: A Regional Geography (1967); G. B. Cressey, Asia's Lands and Peoples (1968); T. Welty, The Asians (1984); V. Ramahappa, Modern Asia (1985); C. Pullapilly and E. J. Van Kley, ed., Asia and the West (1986); N. Nielson, Religions in Asia (1988); R. A. Scalapino et al., ed., Asian Economic Development (1988); L. A. Ziring and D. G. Dickinson, ed., Asian Security Issues (1988); J. Weiss, The Asian Century (1989).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the largest part of the world (about 30 percent of the total landmass area), a part of the Eurasian continent.

Asia straddles all the geographic zones of the northern hemisphere. The Malay Archipelago partially extends into the southern hemisphere. The extreme continental points of Asia are Cape Cheliuskin in the north at 77°43’ N lat., Cape Piai in the south at 1°16’ N lat., Cape Baba in the west at 26°10’ E long., and Cape Dezhnev in the east at 169°40’ W long. Asia is bounded on the north by the Arctic Ocean, on the east by the Pacific, on the south by the Indian Ocean, and on the southwest by the seas of the Atlantic (the Mediterranean, Aegean, Marmara, Black, and Azov) and by the Caspian Sea, which is the largest lake in the world. Significant intracontinental territories of Asia (in particular, many areas of Southwest, Middle, and Central Asia) are not connected to the world ocean and are classified as landlocked areas of the world. Others are considered to be in internal drainage regions (the basins of the Caspian and Aral seas, Lake Balkhash, and others). The Bering Strait separates Asia from America, while the Suez Isthmus connects Asia with Africa (the Suez Canal is considered their hypothetical boundary). The boundary between Asia and Europe is even more hypothetical. In delimiting Eurasia into Europe and Asia according to natural features, the boundary between them is usually drawn along the eastern foot of the Urals and then along the Emba and Manych rivers, leaving the Caucasus in Asia. In the statistical-economic calculations in the USSR the boundary is drawn along political and administrative boundaries of the republics and oblasts of the USSR: along the eastern boundaries of the Komi ASSR and the Arkhangel’sk, Sverdlovsk, and Cheliabinsk oblasts, along the western boundary of the Kazakh SSR, and along the northern boundaries of Stavropol’ and the Krasnodar krais.

The area of Asia is about 43.4 million sq km (including the Caucasus), including about 8 million sq km of peninsulas (Iamal, Taimyr, Chukchi, Kamchatka, the, Korean, Indochina with the Malacca Peninsula, Hindustan, the Arabian, and Asia Minor) and slightly more than 2 million sq km of islands (Severnaia Zemlia, Novosibirsk, Vrangel’, Kuril’, Sakhalin, the Japanese archipelago, Ryukyu, Taiwan, Hainan, the Malay Archipelago, Andaman, Ceylon, and Cyprus). Asia shows the greatest contrasts in terms of absolute elevations in the world. On its territory are located the highest peak in the world, Chomolungma (Everest) in the Himalayas (8,848 m), and the deepest depressions, occupied by lakes (Lake Baikal, with a maximum depth of 1,620 m; the Dead Sea, with a surface 395 m below sea level) and by open basins (the Turfan depression, at 154 m below sea level). Close to the Asian continent lies a series of deep water troughs in the world ocean (for example, the Kuril-Kamchatka and the Philippine). A distinguishing feature of Asia is the chains of islands which constitute its eastern edge. Many Asian coastal areas are characterized by active volcanism (in the east and southeast), by out-croppings of fossil ice (in the northeast of Siberia), and by coral formations (in the south and southeast).

In geographical literature Asia is divided into major sections: North Asia, which includes Siberia and the extreme northeast of the continent; East Asia, which is made up of the continental south of the Soviet Far East, Kamchatka, the Kuril Islands, Sakhalin, Northeast and East China, the Korean peninsula, the Japanese islands, and the Ryukyu Islands; Central Asia, which includes the Tibetan highlands, Dzungaria, Kashgaria, Inner Mongolia, and the Mongolian People’s Republic; Middle Asia, which includes the Turan depression, the Pamir, and the Tien-Shan; South Asia, which consists of the Malay Archipelago, the Indochinese peninsula, Hindustan, the Himalayas, and the Indo-Gangetic Plain; and West Asia, which takes in the peninsula of Asia Minor, the Armenian and Iranian uplands, the Levant, and the Arabian Peninsula.

Basic orographic features Asia is characterized by a predominance of mountains and high plateaus, which make up around three-quarters of the entire area. The highest of them are concentrated in Central and Middle Asia. In Tibet, the Tien-Shan, and the Pamir, high plateaus rise to 4,000–4,500 m, while the elevation of a number of the Middle Asian ranges exceeds 7,000 m. The other mountain chains and ranges rarely exceed 4,000 m.

The mountains are grouped in two large belts. One begins from Chukotka and extends across the Kolyma uplands and the Dzhugdzhur and Stanovoi ranges to the mountains of South Siberia (the Stanovoe Uplands, the Saian Mountains, the Altai), and to the Tien-Shan and Gissaro-Alai. In the southwestern portion of this belt the ranges lie in echelonlike formations. The western spurs of the northern portion of this belt are the Cherskogo and Verkhoiansk mountain arcs. On the west, the Middle Siberian High Plateau abuts the first belt. The second belt is made up of the Southwest Asian highlands (of Asia Minor, Armenia, and Iran), the Pamir, Karakorum, Tibet, and the Himalayas. Then the belt turns to the south and southeast by way of the Rakkhain (Arakan Yoma) mountains and turns into the islands of the Malay Archipelago. In the Pamir region a branch of mountain ranges extends from the second belt to the east, basically with a west-to-east strike. These ranges are the Kun-lun, the Nan Shan, and Ch’in Ling. Between these belts lie the high plains and high plateaus of Central Asia. On the east, Central Asia is bordered by the Sino-Tibetan mountains, by the T’ai-hang Shan and Hsien Shan mountains, and by the Bol’shoi Khingan. On the eastern edge of the continent, the Koriakskoe Uplands and the Sredinnyi Range of Kamchatka rise in the north, the Sikhote-Alin’ and Manchurian-Korean mountains in the middle, and the Nan Ling Mountains and the Annamese Cordillera in the south. The island chain bordering the coastal seas of the Pacific also has predominantly mountainous landforms. The Hindustan and Arabian peninsulas are occupied, respectively, by the extensive Deccan and Syrian-Arabian plateaus with their bordering ranges. In Middle Siberia, the Putorana and Byrranga rise as solitary mountains.

Around 25 percent of Asia’s area is occupied by plains. Particularly vast is the intracontinental Western Siberian Plain, which in the south becomes the Turan depression. The remaining plains are located on the coastal borders (the North Siberian, the Iano-Indigirkan, Kolyman, Great Chinese) or in the piedmont basins (Mesopotamian, Indo-Gangetic). The intermontane plains of Central and Middle Asia (Kashgar, Dzungarian, Gobi, Tsaidam, and Fergana) are more uplifted.

Origin and development of topography The basic schemata of Asian topography were created by the Mesozoic and Alpine folding. The present landforms developed chiefly under the influence of the following factors: the ancient planation processes; the major vertical and horizontal movements of the earth’s crust in the Neocene and Anthropogenic periods; and erosion of the elevated uplands, causing ruggedness at the periphery and a heavy accumulation of deposits in the basins which subsided or remained uplifted. The ancient planation surfaces have been best preserved in the interior portions of the uplands, as well as in the lower plateaus of Hindustan, Arabia, Syria, and East Siberia, which are covered by hard beds of rock (lava covers, sandstone beds, and so forth). The vertical movements of the Neocene and Anthropogenic ages were particularly great in Central Asia (more than 4,000 m in the Pamir, Tibet, and the Himalayas; the eastern edge of the continent was subjected to subsidence with an amplitude of up to 700 m). A great role was played by uplifts confined to the areas of abyssal faults (Kopet Dagh, Fergana Range), and to the areas of large folding (Tien-Shan, Gissaro-Alai). Because of intensive erosion, many ancient plateaus have been changed into deeply dissected mountainous regions. Deep gorges are to be found in the Pamir and Tibet; gorges also slice through the Himalayas, the Kunlun, the Zapadnyi Saian, the Stanovoe Uplands, the Cherskogo Mountains, and the marginal chains of the Southwestern Asian uplands. In many places, particularly in areas with an arid climate, erosion has carved out structural forms and stratification of varying hardness. Vast areas of Middle and Central Asia, particularly in the basin of the Huang Ho (Yellow) River, are covered with loess. So-called badlands are widely found, and in the desert there are aeolian (wind) landforms. Karst phenomena are found in regions where limestone and gypsum are located.

A solid mantle of Anthropogenic continental glaciers covered northwestern Asia to the north of 60° N lat. To the east of the Khatanga River (because of the greater dryness of the climate), only the isolated areas were subject to the mantle and mountain types of glaciation. In the remaining regions of Asia the landforms of old glacial origin are confined to the highest areas and to some extent to the mountains of medium elevation. Traces have been found of several glacial advances separated by warmer interglacial periods. Certain depressions (thalassic plains) are overlaid with marine deposits as a result of recent advances of the Caspian and northern seas. Modern glaciation is characteristic of many mountains; the Karakorum, Pamir, Tien-Shan, Hindu Kush, and Himalayas are renowned for their gigantic glaciers.

Permafrost is found in Asia on a significantly greater scale than in other areas of the world. The permafrost has had a major influence upon the topography, soil formation, and water system. Permafrost ground is encountered down to 47° N lat. (that is, farther south than in North America).

The role of volcanic phenomena has also been great in forming the topography of Asia. Volcanism created extensive lava plateaus and chains of young volcanic domes. Mantles of ancient lavas and bedded magma intrusions (traps) cover the stepped plateaus in Hindustan and Middle Siberia. Large belts of young volcanic landforms and modern volcanism are confined to the particularly active chains of the East Asian islands, Kamchatka, the Philippines, and the Greater and Lesser Sunda Islands. Recent volcanism (continuing into the Quaternary) is inherent to the Southwest Asian uplands, the Syrian-Arabian Plateau, the Caucasus, Mongolia, and the Manchurian-Korean mountains. In historical times there have also been eruptions in the Malyi Khingan and in the Aniui uplands.


Geological structure and minerals Asia consists of several large Precambrian platforms which have not undergone folding since the end of the Proterozoic Age, in addition to broad folded areas which extend between the platforms and partially run out into the sea. The major structural units of the first type are the Siberian platform in the north, the Sino-Korean and South China platforms in the east, and the Indian platform and the platform of the Arabian Peninsula in the south and southwest. These were the ancient ar-chicontinents of Asia. The folded zones which have developed between the platforms and the fractured portions of the platforms from Paleozoic (Caledonian and Hercynian), Mesozoic, and Cenozoic geosynclines have connected these ancient archicontinents into a single whole. The Eastern European platform has played an essential role in the geological history of the western portion of Asia. Folded structures of the Urals and Central Kazakhstan were formed along the eastern edge of this platform at the end of the Paleozoic, and these structures linked Europe and Asia into the single continent of Eurasia.

Participating in the structure of the Siberian Platform are strongly dislocated metamorphic schists, gneisses, and granites of the Precambrian basement; outcroppings of these rocks are found within the Aldan shield and the Anabar massif. This basement is covered almost horizontally by rock from the sedimentary mantle of the platform. These deposits are marine Riffean (Upper Proterozoic), Ordovi-cian, Silurian, continental Carboniferous, and Permian deposits, intrusive beds, and lavas and tuffs from the Permian and Triassic periods. Marine and continental deposits along the northern and eastern edges of the platform, from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, are widely found. These deposits reach particularly great thickness in the Ver-khoiansk sag.

Within the Sino-Korean platform are several shields and smaller massifs, with dislocated and metamorphosed Pre-riffean rock outcroppings on the surface. The largest of the shields are the Liaotung and Shantung shields. Major syneclises adjoin them (the Ordos in the west and the North China in the central part of the platform). Here the basement has subsided deeply. In the syneclises, marine deposits have developed from the Riffean, Lower Paleozoic, and the Middle and Upper Carboniferous ages, as well as continental Permian deposits and thick beds of continental Mesozoic and, in places, Cenozoic rock.

Instead of shields, anteclises—that is, major uplifts on which the platform mantle has been preserved—have developed within the South China platform. Because of this, little rock from the crystalline basement is found on the surface here. The Paleozoic section is thicker and more complete than in the north. Triassic marine deposits have developed widely. The Szechwan syneclise is formed by beds of Jurassic and Cretaceous continental rock.

The sedimentary mantle of the South China and the Sino-Korean platforms has been strongly dislocated (linear folds, fractures) and in a number of places has been broken by ore-bearing intrusions of a granitoid composition. These platforms owe this feature to the effect of intensive tectonic movements which occurred at the end of the Jurassic and the beginning of the Cretaceous ages in the adjacent western Pacific zone.

The oldest area of the Indian platform, which encompasses the greater part of the Hindustan peninsula and the island of Ceylon, is a Precambrian crystalline rock mass (shield) which in places is covered by horizontal continental deposits of the Gondwanaland system (from the Upper Carboniferous to the Jurassic Age inclusively), by mantles of basal lava (traps of the Upper Cretaceous and Paleogenic ages), and, along the edges of the shield, by Jurassic and Cretaceous marine deposits. In the north the Precambrian basement has been submerged beneath a bed of Cenozoic deposits which is thickest in the upper portion of the Ganges Valley, the sub-Himalayan depression, and the Indus River basin.

The ancient basement of Arabia is also composed of Precambrian crystalline rock which outcrops over a large portion of the peninsular surface. In the north and the east its Precambrian basement has subsided beneath thick, horizontal or slightly disturbed beds of mainly continental Paleozoic deposits and marine sedimentary rock belonging to the Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Paleogenic periods.

Areas of Late Proterozoic and Lower Paleozoic folding (Baikalides, Caledonides) border the Siberian platform on the south and the west. Folded structures of the Late Proterozoic and Lower Paleozoic ages form the Baikal area, the Vostochnyi and Zapadnyi Saians, the Enisei Ridge, the Kuznetsk Alatau, the highest portion of the Altai, a significant portion of the Mongolian Altai, the Khangai, and the Tannu-Ola. Caledonian folding is also evident in central Kazakhstan, on the northern chains of the Tien-Shan, and in the southeastern regions of China. In all these regions, thick series of Proterozoic and Lower Paleozoic deposits have been greatly dislocated and broken by intrusions of igneous rock. In the Devonian period, in the zone of Caledonian folding, a number of large cauldron subsidences formed, including the Kuznetsk Basin, the Minusinsk Basin, and central Tuva. The Devonian, Carboniferous, and Permian deposits (chiefly continental) which filled these depressions were dislocated later, in the age of Hercynian folding.

The Hercynian folded structures, which resulted from tectonic movements in the Middle Paleozoic (Devonian) and the Upper Paleozoic (Carboniferous, Permian) ages, take the basic form of a broad arc. They take a north-to-east and meridional strike between the Eastern European and Siberian platforms (the Taimyr, Urals), a north-to-west strike in Kazakhstan, Salair, and the southern Altai, a latitudinal one in the Tien-Shan, Mongolia, and the western parts of China (the Kunlun and Nan Shan), and a north-to-east strike in Tung-pei (Manchuria). Within the bounds of the Western Siberian Plain and the Turgai depression, the Hercynian and more ancient folded structures continue beneath a mantle of virtually undisturbed Mesozoic and Cenozoic deposits, and the strike of these Hercynian structures has been determined from geophysical data.

The Mesozoic folding encompassed thick complexes of geosynclinal deposits of the Carboniferous, Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, and Lower Cretaceous ages in the Verkhoiansk-Kolyma and Chukchi areas of northeastern Asia, in the Sikhote-Alin’ Range, and Indochina. Folded structures were formed in all these areas, and the structures were broken by numerous intrusions of granite. Between the branches of the broad Mesozoic folded region are enclosed large median massifs (Kolyma, Indochinese, and others), blocks similar in their structure to the Precambrian platforms.

The Alpine folding was confined to the enormous Alpine (Alpine-Himalayan) folded region. Here, in the Mesozoic Era, the Tethys geosyncline stretched, separating two distinct continents, Angaraland and Gondwanaland. In the area of Alpine folding, two (and in places three) series of convex folded mountain ranges can be distinguished; these draw closer together in some places and diverge at others. These ranges are a system of scales superimposed on one another or on the edges of the platform, or they are enormous anticlinoria of complex structure. The northern series of these anticlinoria form the Greater Caucasus, the Turkmen-Khurasan Mountains, the Paropamisus, the Hindu Kush, and the ranges of the Pamir andGissaro-Alai. Stretching to the west of this system of ranges is still another series of folded structures, the ranges of Elbrus and the Lesser Caucasus. The southern series of anticlinoria include the Taurus, Zagros, and Makran ranges, the Sulaiman Range, the Hindu Kush, and the Himalayas. In the folded ranges of Burma and the island of Sumatra, the Alpine folded zone joins with the Pacific zone of Late Cenozoic folding and the modern geosynclinal zone. The folded structure of the axial parts of the Alpine Age ranges was basically formed in the Mesozoic from Paleozoic and Mesozoic geosynclinal deposits, while the legs of the anticlinoria are composed of Cenozoic deposits and are frequently broken by slides. In the intervals between the zones of anticlinoria lie synclinoria as well as uplifted median masses or depressions (the Kura, southern Caspian, Black Sea, and others) filled with slightly displaced Quaternary deposits and partially occupied by modern seas.

Areas of Late Cenozoic and modern folding stretch along the periphery of the Pacific (western Kamchatka, Sakhalin, Hokkaido, Taiwan, and Borneo [Kalimantan]) and in the Burmese-Sumatran zone, with extensive formation of Neocene geosynclinal fragmentary beds containing oil pools. These areas are undergoing orogenic development now.

The extreme eastern periphery of Asia is occupied by a modern geosynclinal zone which separates the continent from the floor of the Pacific. It is formed by island chains (geoanticlinal zones), deepwater ocean troughs (geosynclinal trenches), and deepwater geosynclinal basins of the bordering seas. This zone is characterized by a very strong manifestation of modern volcanism, by high seismic action, by contrasting tectonic movements, by young folding, and by disturbances of the gravitational equilibrium.

All the folded zones in the eastern part of Asia lying to the east of the Preriffean platforms and the modern geosynclinal zones adjacent to the ocean floor constitute the Asiatic sector of the circular Pacific tectonic belt.

During the Neocene and Quaternary periods major vertical and horizontal movements of the earth’s crust occurred within the Asian continent. In the highest area, the uplifts reached 1–4 km and more (for example, Tibet and the Pamir), while there were significant subsidences both in the intermontane areas and sags and within the bordering seas (Sea of Japan, Sea of Okhotsk, and others). Many researchers surmise that the Indian Platform was thrust beneath the folded structures of the Himalayas and that the island chains were shifted out into the Pacific along the surfaces of abyssal shear zones, which contain areas of particularly frequent and strong earthquakes.

Thus, the Asian continent in its present form was formed comparatively recently. At the beginning of the Paleozoic (in the Cambrian, Ordovician, and partially the Silurian), the Eastern European, Siberian, Sino-Korean, and the Southern Chinese platforms were areas of dry land or broad shelf areas covered by shallow epicontinental seas. The Indian platform and the platform of the Arabian Peninsula were part of Gondwanaland, the largest southern continent of those times. After the Hercynian folding, the northern platforms were joined into the Angara shield, a monolithic dry massif. But Gondwanaland, on the contrary, was split into separate parts; after the Thethys geosyncline had up-warped and dried up during the Cenozoic, the platform areas of India and Arabia were joined to Angaraland, forming the Asian continent.

The mineral resources of Asia are extremely diverse. The largest deposits of hard coal are concentrated in the Carboniferous deposits of Kazakhstan (the Karaganda Basin and others), in the Permian deposits of Siberia (Kuznetsk, Minusinsk, and Tungus basins), and in Korea, the eastern part of China, and the eastern regions of the Hindustan peninsula. Mesozoic coal deposits are found in Middle Asia, several regions of Siberia, the Far East, China (the Sinkiang-Uigur Autonomous region, southern China), Vietnam, and Japan. Cenozoic coal deposits are mined in the USSR (the island of Sakhalin and the Maritime Krai), Japan (Kyushu Island), and other countries. Among the Jurassic and Cretaceous deposits, the Kansk-Achinsk and Lena basins in the USSR are noteworthy.

The rich oil-producing regions of Asia are Transcaucasia, the Western Siberian Plain, Turkmenia (the Cheleken Peninsula, Nebit-Dag, and others), the Mangyshlak Peninsula, the Caspian Depression, and Sakhalin in the USSR. Outside the Soviet Union, oil-producing regions include the Persian Gulf states (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Iraq, southwest Iran, and the principality of Abu Dhabi), which together account for one-half the oil reserves of non-Soviet nations; Kansu Province in China; Indonesia (chiefly on the island of Sumatra); India; Brunei; and the western coast of Honshu Island in Japan. Natural gas deposits are found in Uzbekistan (Gazli and other deposits in the Bukhara depression), on the Western Siberian Plain and elsewhere inside the USSR; outside, these fuels are found in the above-listed nations of the Near and Middle East. Common salt is found in the Cambrian deposits of the Siberian platform, Pakistan, and southern Iran, as well as in the Permian deposits of the Caspian Depression and in the Upper Jurassic and Lower Cretaceous deposits of Middle Asia. Iron ore deposits are found in a number of regions of Kazakhstan (particularly in Kustanai Oblast), in the Angara-Ili region of the Siberian platform, and within the Aldan shield. Outside the Soviet Union, there is iron in China (particularly in southern Tung-pei and in An-shan), as well as in North Korea and in India. In India and the USSR (Transcaucasia) are major manganese deposits, and chrome iron ores appear in northwestern Kazakhstan, Turkey, the Philippines, and Iran. The region of Noril’sk (USSR) is rich in nickel, while the Kazakh SSR (Dzhezkazgan, Kounrad, and elsewhere) and northern Siberia are rich in copper ores. Outside the Soviet Union, copper is found in Japan. Polymetallic ores are found in Middle Asia (the Karamazar region, the Karatau Range, and elsewhere) and the mining region of the Altai in the USSR. Japan, East China, Burma, and Vietnam also have polymetallic ores. Major bauxite deposits are located in the USSR (Kazakh SSR and Krasnoiarsk Krai), India, Burma, and Indonesia. Phosphorite deposits are found in the USSR (Kazakhstan), tin in the regions of the Soviet Far East and Eastern Siberia. The antimony-mercury and tin-tungsten ores of South China are unique in composition. Outside the Soviet Union, a belt of tin-bearing placers extends across eastern Burma, Thailand, the Malacca Peninsula, and the islands of Indonesia. Inside the USSR, the main gold-bearing regions include northeastern Siberia, the Aldan basin, the upper reaches of the Lena River, the Amur River area, the northern part of Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan; outside, gold is found in Korea, Japan, and other nations. Diamond deposits have been explored and are being tapped in the western part of Yakutia (USSR).


Climate The enormous extent of dry land and the abundance of mountain barriers and landlocked depressions create a great diversity of conditions for solar radiation, atmospheric circulation, and climatic features as a whole. A continental climate predominates over the larger part of Asia. Atlantic air, upon reaching Asia, is transformed into continental air. Because of the westerlies and the isolating effect of the bordering ranges, the influence of the sea air from the Pacific extends only to the eastern edge of Asia. Arctic masses of air move freely into Asia from the north; and, in the summer, equatorial air masses predominate in the south. The latter’s penetration into the interior regions of Asia is limited by the ranges of the mountain zone extending from the west to the east. The contrasts between the strong warming of the land in the summer and its cooling in the winter cause sharp seasonal changes in atmospheric circulation over Asia. The winter cooling helps form a stable high-pressure area over north and central Asia, with clear, frosty, and windless weather; maps of long-term average atmospheric pressure readings show a strong winter Asian anticyclone with a center over Mongolia. The coldest temperatures are to be found in the northeast (Verkhoiansk and Oimiakon), the cold pole of the northern hemisphere, where the temperature may fall to –70°C, with a mean January temperature of below –50°C. Along the periphery of the Asian anticyclone is a predominance of steady winds which bring dry and cold air from the interior regions of the continent; these are northwesterly and northerly in the east and northeasterly in the south (the continental winter monsoon). Because of episodic incursions of sea air from the east and southeast, the winter on the eastern edge of Asia is warmer than in the central regions of the anticyclone.

The boundary between the air of the temperate latitudes (polar) and the tropical air (the polar front) moves southward during the winter. This movement is related to the southerly shift in winter of all zones of general atmospheric circulation, as well as to the additional strong influence of the cooled land. Along the southern chains of the Southwest Asian uplands, the winter rains are related to this positioning of the polar front. In the more northerly regions of Southwest and Middle Asia, the cyclonic activity on the polar front is particularly strong in springtime, causing the greatest amount of precipitation to fall in this season. During the summer the polar front moves to the north, causing cyclonic rains to fall in the mountains of South Siberia. Masses of dusty, continental tropical dry air are formed over Southwest Asia, Central Asia, and parts of Middle Asia. Atmospheric pressure drops during the summer over all warmed Asia, particularly over its southerly part. On the charts of mean atmospheric pressure readings, the center of the summer Asian depression lies over the western part of Hindustan. Along the southern periphery of the depression, the summer monsoon invades Asia, delivering abundant precipitation to Hindustan, the southern Himalayas, and Indochina. To the west, dry and hot air from North Africa moves into the depression area. The aridity of the desert-tropical climate of Arabia and Pakistan is related to this movement. East Asia is under the influence of the Pacific polar front during the summer. In the warm sectors of the cyclones which move here, warm and moist tropical sea air (the summer monsoon) moves onto land. The cooling of the sea air over the cold sea currents in the coastal regions creates fogs and drizzle. To the south of 38°N lat., where the warm Kuroshio Current approaches the shores of Japan, the summer monsoon brings incessant rains and high humidity, with high air temperatures. In the autumn, close to the East Asian shores, the frequent tropical cyclones (typhoons) are accompanied by hurricane-force winds and downpours which, at their heaviest, often exceed the normal monsoon rainfall for the summer. During the winter the Pacific polar front is forced by the strong flow of Siberian air into the tropical latitudes. On the East Asian islands the effect of the winter continental monsoon is mitigated by the bordering seas. The monsoon is warmed while passing over the sea and picks up moisture, which during the winter is returned as precipitation on the northwestern slopes of the island chains. In the subequatorial portion of Asia, continental tropical air prevails during the winter and equatorial sea air during the summer. The dry and warm winter winds of the southern Asiatic continental monsoon, which blow toward the equatorial depression, are analogous to the trade winds over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The dry spring is abruptly replaced by the rainy summer (“the monsoon outburst”). The summer monsoon provides enormous amounts of precipitation (up to 2,500 mm a month). Over the equatorial parts of Asia (the south of Ceylon and the Malacca peninsula, as well as the Greater Sunda Islands), equatorial air prevails, with an even course of high temperatures and abundant rainfall related to the intratropical convergence zone. The Lesser Sunda Islands have a monsoon subequatorial climate; wet and dry seasons are subordinate to the calendar rhythm of the southern hemisphere—a wet summer from November through February and a dry winter from May through August. (See Table 1.)

Table 1. Basic climate indicators 1
Type of climate, weather stationElevation above sea level (m)Mean monthly temperatures (°C) and mean monthly precipitation totals (mm)
1 Upper line—temperatures; lower line—precipitation
Subarctic: Dudinka .........17–30.2–25.8–23.1–16.1–6.53.912.710.32.4–9.6–22.1–26.7
Temperate, sharply continental: Verkhoiansk .............122–50.1–44.3–30.2–13.11.512.615.110.82.4–14.6–36.8–46.5
Temperate monsoon: Khabarovsk ..............61–23.1–17.4–8.82.810.916.720.219.613.64.2–8.3–19.4
Subtropical Mediterranean: Jerusalem ...............7507.08.610.814.919.421.322.923.021.319.113.39.4
Subtropical monsoon: Tokyo..
Tropical desert: Jidda.....1622.322.424.126.728.429.530.830.930.228.626.624.7
Subequatorial: Bombay .....1123.623.825.627.829.228.026.426.326.327.126.324.7
Equatorial: Singapore .....525.726.126.827.127.527.327.227.026.926.726.325.2

The mean January temperatures over a significant portion of Siberia are below –20°C, reaching –50°C in Verkhoiansk. In areas close to the northern Asiatic coasts of the Pacific, the warming effect of the sea produces rises in temperature to –15°C or even –5°C. The January isotherm of 0° runs across Samarkand to the north of Nan-ching (Nanking) and Tokyo. The isotherm of 20°C runs close to the Tropic of Cancer, and the isotherm of 25°C along the equator. In July the warmest areas (mean temperatures of 30°C and more) are found in Southwest and Middle Asia, as well as the Taklamakan and Tar deserts. The isotherm of 20°C in the interior continental regions reaches to 55°–60° N lat., shifting southward along the Pacific coasts. Along the northern coast of Asia the mean July temperatures, typical for a tundra climate, are below 10°C.

In the equatorial zone, around 2,000 mm of precipitation fall yearly, while 2,000–3,000 mm and more (in places, up to 8,000–12,000 mm) fall on the maritime windward slopes of Southern and Eastern Asia. In 1861 in Cherrapunji (the state of Assam, India), 22,900 mm fell, a record annual precipitation total for the entire world. Less than 1,000 mm fall on the leeward slopes in the subequatorial regions. In the subtropical and temperate monsoon climates even 600–1,000 mm a year creates a sufficient amount of moisture. In East Siberia there are less than 350 mm of precipitation; in the deserts of Middle, Central, and Southwest Asia only 150–200 mm fall, with less than 100 mm in certain places.

In Asia the following basic types of climate are distinguished: arctic desert; subarctic (tundra); temperate varieties, including the dry, sharply continental climate of East Siberia (with a very cold winter), the cold and moderately wet climate of West Siberia, the desert-like climate of Middle Asia, Kazakhstan, and northern Central Asia, and the temperate monsoon climate of the eastern edge of the continent; subtropical varieties, including the Mediterranean climate of the western edge of Southwest Asia, the subtropical mountain-steppe and desert climate of the larger part of Southwest Asia, the wet subtropical Kolkhida climate (with year-round precipitation), the alpine-desert climate of the Pamir, Karakorum, and Tibet, and subtropical monsoon (the eastern edge of Asia); tropical desert (southern regions of Southwest Asia and adjacent parts of Pakistan and India); subequatorial (tropical monsoon), found in Hindustan, Indochina, the eastern regions of Java, and the Lesser Sunda Islands; and equatorial (the remaining areas of the Greater Sunda Islands and the Malacca peninsula). Numerous variations of climatic types are also distinguished, and these are related to topographic features (for example, exposure of the slope, protective influence of mountains, altitude zones) and the effect of sea currents.

Inland rivers and lakes Asia is a land of great rivers. The Ob’ with the Irtysh, the Enisei with the Angara, the Lena with the Aldan and Viliui, and the Iana, Indigirka, and Kolyma rivers flow into the Arctic Ocean. The Anadyr’, Amur, and Sungari, the Ussuri, the Huang Ho (Yellow), Yangtze, Chu Chiang (Pearl), Mekong, and Mae Nam (Chao Phraya) rivers flow into the Pacific. The Salween, Irrawaddy, Brahmaputra, Ganges, and Indus rivers flow into the Indian Ocean, as well as the Shatt al Arab, which is formed by the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Only small mountain rivers empty into the Azov, Black, and Mediterranean seas from Asian territory. The Kura, Amu Darya, Syr Darya, and Ili rivers empty into the extensive inland basins of the Caspian and Aral seas and Lake Balkhash. Part of the flow of rivers in the inland drainage basins reaches lakes, and part terminates in dry deltas in the sands and salt bottoms or in oases, where all the water is consumed on field irrigation and evaporation. The largest of these rivers are the Tarim, the Chu, and the Helmand.

The Siberian rivers freeze over in the winter (some of them freeze down to the bottom) and flood widely in the spring. In the dry landlocked areas of Asia only the transit rivers, which are fed by mountain snow and glaciers, have abundant water. These rivers reach peak flow rate and highest level in spring or summer (for example, the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya). As a rule, other rivers in these regions have little water; the level changes sharply, and they dry up periodically or on occasion. The rivers in regions of the monsoon climate have their maximum water discharge in the summer. If not fed by snows in the mountains, rivers on the Mediterranean borders become shallow in the summer and sometimes dry up. In the equatorial regions the rivers have a great deal of water year-round.

Among the lakes of Asia the largest are the Caspian and the Aral seas, which are the remnants of previously existing larger seas. Lying in tectonic depressions are Baikal, Issyk-Kul’, Khubsugul, the Dead Sea, Van, Rizaiyeh (Lake Urmia), and Lake Teletskoe (the depressions of Van and Rizaiyeh are dammed by lavas). A number of lakes arose as a result of collapses (Lake Sarezskoe), karst processes (the lakes of the Western Taurus Mountains), and lava dams (Ching-po Hu in northeast China). In the landlocked basins there are numerous salt lakes (Koko Nor, Tuz, and others). Lake Balkhash has fresh water in the west and saline water in the east. The flowing lakes are good regulators of river drainage (Baikal for the Angara, Khanka for the Ussuri, Tung-t’ing Hu and P’o-yang Hu for the Yangtze, Tonle Sap for the Mekong). Hydroelectric plant construction has meant creating large reservoirs on some Asian rivers; worthy of mention are the Bratsk on the Angara, the Kras-noiarsk on the Enisei, the Novosibirsk on the Ob’, the Bukhtarma on the Irtysh (this dammed and enlarged the size of Lake Zaisan). There are also reservoirs on rivers in Middle Asia (Khobuz-khan, Kairak-kum, and others), in East and Northeast China (Sung-hua Hu [Sungari Reservoir] and others), and in North Korea (Supung and others). Underground waters are often the only source of water in the arid regions. Large accumulations of this water are known to be in artesian basins and beneath the inclined piedmont plains. The life of the oases of Middle, Central, and Southwest Asia is linked to the emergence of these underground waters and to the use of surface waters.

The rivers and lakes of Asia are important transport arteries, especially in Siberia, where they connect southern and northern regions (during the summer the rivers are navigable, and in the winter they can be used as sled routes). Many rivers contain enormous hydroelectric reserves, a power source extensively used in the USSR (the hydroelectric plants on the Enisei and Angara, on the Ob’ and Irtysh, and in the mountains of Middle Asia), Japan, North Korea, Northeast and East China, and other Asian nations to a lesser extent. Hydraulic engineering work is being carried out in the arid and monsoon regions of Asia in order to combat flooding (particularly on the rivers of the monsoon regions) and more fully utilize water resources for irrigation and water supply (in Middle Asia and in China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and other countries).

Soils In Asia the entire gamut of soil types is represented, from the waterlogged low-humus soils in the arctic wastes to the red-yellow ferroallitic soils in the humid tropical forests of the equatorial latitudes. The change in soils from north to south is caused predominantly by temperature increase as one moves south and by changes in moisture conditions.

Waterlogging caused by poor evaporation and bad drainage under permafrost conditions impedes the leaching of tundra soils and, combined with a brief, cold summer and poor aeration, leads to the incomplete disintegration of even the meager organic remains and to the development of reduction processes (gleization). The peat gley tundra soils were formed in this manner. The situation changes with an increase in temperature and precipitation to the south: intensely leached, acid soils of the podzolic series are formed under nonpermafrost conditions in the forests of the temperate latitudes; while taiga-permafrost soils are formed under permafrost conditions, including obstruction of leaching and of the interchange of matter under the effect of the freezing and unfreezing processes. Swamps and swamp-type soils are widely found in the forested zone of the temperate belt.

In the southern regions of temperate latitudes (in the central and western portions of Asia), the continuing increase of heat is combined with a diminution of moisture. For this reason, in these arid regions the leaching of the soils is weakened, and the ascending flows of the soil solution assume greater and greater significance. The soils become neutral and rich in bases, while significant quantities of humus accumulate in the surface horizons. In this regard, even on the southern edge of the forested zone (beneath the broad-leaved forests) the soils assume a darker tint (the gray forest soils), while chernozems form on the forest steppes and steppes with a rich grass stand. Further south, in the even more arid regions, the quantity of humus declines, the content of unleached mineral salts increases, and the soils become lighter. Here are the chestnut soils in the arid steppes, the light-brown soils in the semideserts, and the gray-brown desert soils in the deserts. In these regions salt bottoms and alkalis are widely found. In the humid regions of the temperate latitudes in East Asia, beneath the forest vegetation, brown forest soils are formed, while chernozem-like prairie soils, very rich in humus and often gleyed, are formed under the grassy, predominantly meadow vegetation.

The substantial increase in heat with the transition from the temperate latitudes to the subtropical ones intensifies the chemical weathering. With a well-leached water system, this leads to the decomposition and loss of a significant quantity of mineral substances from the soil and to the residual accumulation of iron and aluminum sesquioxides (the process of laterization or ferróallitization). This gives yellow and red tints to the soils of the humid regions in the tropical and even lower latitudes. In the humid subtropics red, yellow, and yellow-brown soils predominate. Brown soils associated with arid forests and brush predominate in the moderately arid regions, with gray-brown soils in the arid regions and gray desert soils in the semideserts. In the tropics the processes of laterization are intensified. Beneath the humid tropical forests there is a predominance of red-yellow ferroallitic soils. Red ferroallitic soils are formed under the savannas and dry tropical forests of the tropical and subequatorial latitudes; with an increase in aridity, these soils turn into the red-brown and desert brown soils. In the arid savannas of the Hindustan peninsula, the black soils called regurs are unique.

In the river valleys, alluvial soils have developed; usually these are heavily cultivated, particularly in the subtropical, tropical, and equatorial zones.

In the mountains the altitude-zoned series of soil types are represented; as a rule, these are skeletal and underdeveloped. Beneath the mountain forests in the north of the temperate zone, mountain podzolic soils and mountain variations of the gray-forest and taiga-permafrost soils have developed. Above the timberline these are replaced by mountain-tundra soils. In the southern temperate zone, beneath the mountain steppes, mountain chestnut and mountain chernozem soils have developed, and in the wetter (forested) regions there are brown mountain forest soils. Mountain meadow soils are found under the subalpine and alpine meadows. In the humid regions of the low latitudes the mountain red, yellow, and ferroallite soils predominate, and in the dry regions there are mountain brown, gray-brown, and brownish-gray soils. The alpine steppe and desert soils of Central Asia have a number of specific features.

Flora Asia belongs to two phytogeographic regions: the Holarctic region and the Paleotropical region. The Paleo-tropical flora developed under the conditions of a constantly warm climate and has maintained an exceptional richness of species inherited from the Paleozoic and Mesozoic flora. In this area plants exist now which were known in the Holarctica only in a fossil form (treelike ferns, cycas, ginkgoes, and others). The Holarctic flora has been repeatedly impoverished during periods of cooling and glaciation and as a result of recent uplifts and the advances of seas. These conditions have made the flora more meager and uniform than the Paleotropical flora, an effect also aided by the present-day severity of natural conditions in the higher latitudes.

With the change in the climate from north to south, the various types of vegetation also change, from the tundras to the humid equatorial forests and savannas of the southern hemisphere. The vegetation also changes as one moves away from the oceans.

The tundras are without forests. In terms of the composition of the flora and the degree of participation of various plant groups, these areas are shared between the arctic and typical groups—that is, moss, lichen, and brush tundras (dwarf arctic birch, dwarf willow, bog bilberry, cowberry, and so forth). One of the centers for the formation of tundra flora lay in the tundras of northeastern Siberia, which were not subject to continental glaciation. For this reason, the tundras adjacent to the Bering Strait are rich in species. The tundras are valuable as reindeer pastures (the lichen tundras are the winter pastures, and the grassy and brush tundras are used in the summer).

To the south of the tundras stretches a strip of forest tundra in which tundra and thin-forest areas alternate. In northeast Siberia, unique variants of forest tundra have developed, with significant areas of stunted thickets.

Taiga forests predominate in the broad forest area of the temperate zone, including the Ural-Siberian dark, coniferous forests in the west (spruce, fir, Siberian stone pine, or cedar), and the Eastern Siberian light coniferous larch and larch-pine forests (Siberian and dahurian larch) to the east of the Enisei River. To the south of the taiga stretch mixed broad-leaved coniferous aspen-birch subtaiga and broad-leaved forests. In Asia the latter have been preserved chiefly in the Far East, where the climate is less continental and the impoverishing effects of glaciation are absent. These forests have a great variety of species and an abundance of endemics and relics (the so-called Manchurian flora). The forest zone possesses colossal reserves of wood and industrial raw materials as well as food and medicinal resources. The area of agricultural, land in this zone is small. The flora of the northern subzones of the forest zone developed from the flora from the preglacial forests of the temperate zone which retreated to the south during the glaciation period. This flora has formed as a result of the advancement of the forests to the north behind the retreating glacier and the tundra displaced by the glacier. In areas where there was no continental glaciation, forests also occupied the territories which the tundra surrendered to them. In the refuges (shelters), which were protected against the influence of glaciation, the representatives of preglacial broad-leaved flora “survived” the ice ages. Some of these refuges were the Kolkhida-Lazistan area in western Transcaucasia and northeastern Anatolia, the Girkan area in the north of Iran and the Lenkoran Lowland, and the Manchurian refuge in the temperate zone of the Far East.

To the south of the forest zone extend the zones of forest steppes (meadow steppes) and typical steppes. The forest steppes are well evidenced in southwestern Siberia, partially in northern Mongolia, the Transbaikal, and northeastern China. Typical steppes (motley grass-soddy Graminales and drier varieties) are found in the adjacent, more southerly belt. Neither zone extends as far as the Pacific Ocean. In southern Siberia and in northwestern Mongolia these zones are broken by mountain uplifts. Extensive expanses of forest steppes and typical steppes have been plowed up. Across the center of Kazakhstan, Middle Asia, Dzungaria, the Taklamakan, and the Mongolian People’s Republic stretch the semideserts and deserts of the temperate zone, while subtropical deserts extend across the Levant, the Iranian uplands, and the southern edge of Middle Asia. Pon-tic-Central Asian flora (dominated by xerophilic Graminales and wormwood communities, with halophilic plants present in salt bottoms and alkalis) are characteristic of the entire complex of extratropical desert-steppe zones, where valuable pasture lands are found. Belts of oases and gallery forests (tugais) extend along the rivers here. In the littoral portions of the Asiatic Mediterranean area (Asia Minor and the Levant), xerophilic vegetation of the Mediterranean type is found— shibliak (deciduous secondary bush formation), frigana (xerophytic shrub-semishrub formation), and maquis—with a predominance of hard-leaved and small-leaved brush. On the semidesert uplands of Southwest Asia the vegetation of the mountain steppes is widely represented, as is frigana with subbrush and brush of the thorny cushion type. Typical for the monsoon subtropics are the East Asian formations of evergreen forests and brush (Japan, the south of the Korean peninsula, and southeast China). Tropical deserts (the Arabian Peninsula and the Tar desert) are found only in the western part of Asia. Predominant in the remaining regions of the tropical latitudes are savannas, dry tropical forests, thin forests, and brush; evergreen forests appear mainly on the lee slopes, and there are also variably wet evergreen deciduous and mixed forests and wet evergreen tropical forests. In the subequatorial latitudes of the southern hemisphere (the Lesser Sunda Islands), the proximity of Australia has affected the flora of the savannas and dry tropical forests, with a marked admixture of Australian species.

In the mountains, flora varies by altitude and degree of exposure of the vegetation cover. Of the mountain types the mountain-tundra and mountain-taiga vegetation are most developed, along with the mountain dark coniferous and broad-leaved forests, the mountain steppes and deserts, and the mountain subtropical and tropical forests (wet and dry). Subalpine and alpine mountain shrubs and meadows are characteristic for the subtropical and temperate zones.

Fauna The fauna of Asia is the most pronounced continental fauna in the world. Here exists a multiplicity of animal families with very broad distribution, and the diversity of their adaptation to the conditions of existence is very great. Many species have extensive ranges (nearly all of Asia for the wolf and fox). There are few endemic groups of a high taxonomic rank (flying lemurs, tree shrews, tarsiers, gibbons, and giant pandas). There are many species in common with the species in Europe, North America, and Africa. The ties with America are the consequence of the recent connecting of the continents in the zone of Cape Bering and the similarity of contemporary conditions. The result is almost complete identicalness of fauna from the American and Asiatic tundras and the significant similarity in the fauna of the forest zone. Such species as tapirs and alligators recall the more ancient ties of Asia with America. The ancient and presently existing overland ties with Africa account for significant similarity in the fauna of arid southwestern Asia and North Africa; southern Arabia is a part of the Ethiopian zoogeographic area, which is common also to Africa. Proof of the more ancient ties of southern Asia with Africa is the presence of the elephant, rhinoceros, deer, and peacock in both parts of the world. The Lesser Sunda Islands, with the extreme insular paucity of fauna, have a marked admixture of forms belonging to the Australian zoogeographic area. The fauna from other regions of southern Asia, established as a separate Indo-Malayan area, has preserved an ancient appearance inherited from the Neocene. The remaining portion of Asia is considered in the Palaearctic area, the Eurasian part of the Holarctic zoogeographic area. Its fauna has been impoverished by Quaternary glaciations and recent vertical uplifts.

Fauna varies by latitude and altitude. The most impoverished zone is that of the northern oceanic coasts and tundras. Here reptiles and amphibians are totally missing. Virtually all the birds are migratory (characteristic are the snowy owl, rock ptarmigan, willow grouse, ducks, swans, geese, several species of passerines, eiders, gulls, and black guillemots). The tundra is inhabited by the caribou, arctic fox, and common vole and by Cricedidae, while seals, walruses, and polar bears live along the coasts. The small number of different species contrasts with the abundance of specimens. This is very characteristic, for example, of the seashore colonies of birds. In the forest zone dwell the elk, deer (the caribou, and in the south the maral and the Man-churian red deer), roe deer, musk deer, brown bear, wolverine, lynx, sable, squirrel, Siberian chipmunk, blue hare, and forest bank vole, as well as moles, Pteromyidae (flying squirrels), and so forth. Many of them are hunted, mainly for fur. Characteristic among the birds are woodpeckers, jays, Siberian jays, nutcrackers, crossbills, and owls. The hazel hens, capercaillies, and black grouse are of importance for hunting. There are numerous insects which are harmful to the forests, including various carpenter moths, bark beetles, and Bombyx. The penetration of certain steppe fauna into the taiga has been related to the felling of the forests. Characteristic of the fauna of the steppes, deserts, and mountain steppes are the ungulates, including antelopes (saiga, the Persian gazelle, the goi-tered gazelle, and others), wild sheep and goats, and such carnivores as the snow leopard, cheetah, striped hyena, jackal, corsac, marbled polecat, and steppe polecat. The wild ass, Przhevalski’s horse, and wild Bactrian camel have remained in very small numbers. In the tugais along the rivers dwell deer (Cervus elaphus) and jungle cats. Rodents are very numerous, including jerboas, susliks, yellow susliks, marmots, voles, hares, pikas, and porcupines. The common birds are the larks and desert jays, and the bustard, Egyptian vulture, and lesser kestrel, with pheasants in the tugais. The reptiles are extremely numerous and include lizards (agamas, Phrynocephalus, geckoes, monitors, and so forth); snakes, including the snake Taphrometopon lineolatum, the Levantine viper, the Eryx (a family of sand boas), Ancistrodon (a genus of pit viper), and the cobra; and several species of turtles. Certain insects (the locust and others) are economically harmful. The bites of numerous arachnids are dangerous (scorpions, karakurts, tarantulas, and solpugids). The wild yak, the addax, the dongo antelope, the Siberian wild dog, the snow leopard, the longtailed marmot (Marmota caudata), and species of mountain goats and sheep have survived in the alpine highlands of Central Asia.

The broad-leaved forests of East Asia contain the so-called Himalayan-Chinese fauna, rich in relic Neocene forms. Here several genera of deer (including the Sika deer) have survived along with the goral and takin antelopes, the raccoon dog (which has been widely raised in the USSR), yellow-throated marten, black bear, lesser panda, giant panda, and tiger, as well as the moles Moger robusta, many rodents, and (in the south) several species of apes. Of the birds the endemic fowl (pheasants and others) are of interest. Among the snakes and lizards, the Indo-Malayan species are common. Leatherback turtles are found clear up to the basin of the Amur River. The tree toad and the giant salamander are interesting amphibians. The insect world is very rich, particularly in butterflies and beetles of the Lyctidae family. In the forests of the equatorial and subequatorial latitudes, the Indo-Malayan fauna predominates: the Indian elephant, rhinoceros, and wild ox (the banteng, water buffalo, and others); several species of pigs, antelopes, and deer; small deer; tapirs; various species of martens and viverrids (the mongoose and others); bears (black and the sloth bear); tigers and leopards (panthers); numerous rodents, bats (including fruit bats), tree shrews, pangolins (two species), flying lemurs, and lemurs (relics of the ancient connections with Madagascar and Africa); and various species of macaques, gibbons, and, in Indonesia, orangutans. Birds are also abundant (broadbills, pittas, weaverbirds, peacocks, pheasants, hornbills, and many others), as are reptiles (crocodiles, large-headed turtles, several species of cobras, skinks, geckoes, constrictors, and the flying dragon—an arboreal lizard), amphibians (tree frogs and others), and insects (large butterflies, numerous ants, termites, and others). A mixing of faunas occurs on the boundaries of the zones. The animal world has been altered by human activity and has been sharply impoverished over broad expanses of eastern China, India, Java, and southwestern Siberia. The enriching of the fauna which has been carried out in the USSR has made possible an increase in the number of specimens and the restoration of the ranges of certain valuable animals (the sable, saiga antelope, elk, and others).

In ancient times a number of Asiatic peoples—including the Assyrians, Babylonians, Indians, Chinese, and neighboring Egyptians—had some information on the geography of Asia. The Chinese geographical work Yü Kung (eighth to fifth century B.C.) has a description of eastern China. The accumulation of knowledge about Asia was furthered by the ancient Egyptian and Greco-Persian wars (477–449 B.C.), the campaigns of Alexander of Macedonia (fourth century B.C.), the sea trade between Egypt and India, the visit to Middle Asia by the Chinese ambassador Chang Ch’ien (second century B.C.), the transport of Chinese silk along the so-called silk route through Central and Southwest Asia, and the military campaigns of the Romans. During the Middle Ages important information about Asia was obtained by the Khwarazmites and Arabs (al-Masudi, al-Idrisi, Biruni, Ibn Batuta, and others), by the Chinese (the voyages of Hsüan Tsang and others), and by European crusaders (12th–13th centuries) and ambassadors to the Mongol Khans (the Italian Carpini and the Fleming Rubru-quis, who concluded that an enormous plateau existed in Central Asia). At the end of the 13th century the Venetian Marco Polo crossed Asia, spending 17 years in China, visiting and describing many parts of Asia, and revealing its geography to Europeans in a new way. Russians discovered the Asiatic coast of the Arctic Ocean. By the 12th century the Novgorodians had gone beyond the Urals; Pomor navigators had long since sailed into Tazovskaia Bay. The sea expeditions of Cheng Ho to South and Southwest Asia took place in the early 15th century. The Venetian N. de’ Conti traveled around South Asia for many years in the first half of the 15th century. The Russian merchant Afa-nasii Nikitin traveled through Iran to India during 1466–72, leaving a description of India. After the Turks conquered Constantinople (1453) and closed the ancient land routes from Europe to Asia, Europeans began to seek sea routes to India. In 1498 the Portuguese reached India by sea (Vasco da Gama); later they reached Malacca (1509–11) and Java (1511), and in 1520 they settled in Macao. In 1521, Magellan led a Spanish worldwide expedition which approached the Philippines from the east. At the Molucca Islands his ships met the Portuguese coming from the west. In 1542 the Portuguese reached the Japanese archipelago. Geographical study of the countries of Asia accompanied, and was a goal of, the exploitation of these countries by conquerers and colonialists. The conquest of the Philippines by the Spanish began in the 1560–70’s. Colonial conquest in Asia, initiated by Portugal and Spain, was continued in the 17th century by the Dutch and English. In 1602 the Dutch East India Company directed the exploitation and study of Southeast Asia; it established a base on Java in 1619. During the 17th–19th centuries Indonesia was conquered by the Dutch colonialists. During the 18th–19th centuries India was made into a colony of England. In the 19th century English colonialists conquered Burma, while France conquered Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, and the USA seized the Philippines. England and France established their domination of many Arab countries of Asia during the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Russians discovered northern Asia. Their campaigns to the Irtysh date to 1483. Ermak’s campaigns of 1581–82 expanded the information available about Western Siberia, which in its general features became known to Russians by the end of the 16th century; during 1618–19 the Siberian cossack I. Petlin visited Mongolia and China. The search for a northeastern sea route undertaken by the English and Dutch in the 16th century was unsuccessful. During 1618–20 a Russian trading expedition attempted to cross the northern seas to the east. Passing Cape Cheliuskin, it perished at the eastern shores of the Taimyr. During the first half of the 17th century Siberian cossack travelers in search of “unfound lands” and precious furs (“soft lumber”) overcame vast distances and a most severe climate to explore all of Siberia in less than 50 years. In the 1620’s the Russians reached the Lena, and in 1639, I. Moskvitin reached the Sea of Okhotsk. At almost the same time that de Vries’s expedition (1643) reached the islands of Hokkaido and southern Sakhalin and the southern Kuril Islands by sea, the Russian explorer V. Poiarkov in 1643–46 reached the Amur River from the north and saw southwestern Sakhalin from the sea. From 1649 to 1652 the Russian explorer E. Khabarov journeyed along the Amur and in the Amur region. In 1648 the Russian explorers F. Popov and S. Dezhnev reached the Anadyr’ River by sea from the north, opening the strait between Asia and America. In 1649, F. Popov reached Kamchatka, and in 1697 the Russian explorer V. Atlasov crossed it and saw the northern Kuril Islands. The first maps of Siberia were drawn up in the second half of the 17th century by the labors of the Tobolsk voevoda (military governor) P. I. Godunov and the Tobolsk native S. U. Remezov. In 1675 a Russian mission headed by the Moldavian scholar N. G. Spafarii was sent to China, and in 1692, Peter I sent the ambassador Isbrandt Ides to China. In 1713 the Tobolsk nobleman Trushnikov crossed Mongolia and reached Kuku Nor Lake and the upper reaches of the Huang Ho (Yellow) River. During 1720–27 the flora and fauna of Siberia were studied by the German researcher D. G. Messerschmidt, whom Peter I had invited. Much geographical information was obtained by Christian missionaries, especially by the Jesuits who studied China and Tibet. The French Jesuit Jerbillion crossed the Gobi during 1689–98. The Russian religious mission was active in China from 1707. Its leaders made great contributions to the study of China and Mongolia: N. Ia. Bichurin (the monk Iakinf) at the start of the century, P. I. Kafarov (the monk Palladii), 1840–59, and E. F. Tim-kovskii (a police officer attached to the mission), 1820–22.

In 1728 the first Russian Kamchatka expedition of V. Bering and A. I. Chirikov first entered the Bering Strait from the south. Under their leadership the second Kamchatka expedition, the Great Northern (1733–43), made a great contribution to the study of northern and eastern Asia. The expedition conducted research not only on the geography of Siberia but also on its geology, botany, and cartography. D. Ia. and Kh. P. Laptev, S. I. Cheliuskin, and other participants in the expedition placed the Asiatic shore of the Arctic Ocean on the map. During 1738–39 the Kuril Islands were placed on the map and Japan was visited; in 1741 the Komandorskie Islands were discovered. Between 1734 and 1741, I. G. Gmelin studied the natural features of southern Siberia. S. P. Krasheninnikov gave a detailed scientific description of Kamchatka from 1737 to 1741.

By 1766, Russians had discovered and described the whole Kuril ridge, of which the Dutchman de Vries saw only the three southern islands. The so-called Academy expeditions (1768–74) organized by Russia made a great contribution to the study of Northern Asia: P. S. Pallas and I. I. Georgi studied the natural features of Siberia; V. F. Zuev studied the extreme Siberian northwest; I. P. Fal’k studied the southwest; and S. G. Gmelin and I. Giul’den-shtedt studied the Caucasus. Abroad, the Danish traveler C. Niebuhr developed new conceptions of the geography of Southwest Asia during 1761–67. The English studied the Himalayas from the end of the 18th century. The Far Eastern shore was placed on the map by the French navigator J. P. La Perouse (1787), the Russian geographer G. A. Sarychev (1789), the English navigator W. Broughton (1796–97), the Russian navigator I. F. Kruzenshtern (1804–05), the Japanese topographer Mamiya Rinzo (1809), and the Russian navigator V. M. Golovnin (1811). The Novosibirsk Islands, first visited between 1759 and 1773, were described by the Russian voyagers Ia. Sannikov (1800–06) and P. F. Anzhu (1821–23). The Russian researchers F. P. Wrangel and F. F. Matiushkin studied the Siberian Arctic (1820–24), and the Russian navigator F. P. Litke described the northeastern coast of Asia in 1827–28.

Of 19th-century research on Asia, the works of the German geographer A. Humboldt are important: in his monograph on Central Asia he described his journey to Western Siberia and the Kazakh steppes (1829). In 1832 the German geographer K. Ritter published Geography of Asia. A five-part Russian translation, with significant additions by the Russian geographers P. P. Semenov and G. N. Potanin, was completed in 1879. The work conducted by the German scholar F. Siebold in Japan and the Hungarian S. Körösi in Southwest Asia, India, and the Hindu Kush dates to 1820–30. The Russian botanists K. A. Meier and A. A. Bunge, together with the German scholar K. F. Ledebur, wrote the monograph Flora of Altai between 1829 and 1833. The Russian scholars E. Eversman (1820–25) and G. S. Karelin (1832–42) studied the plain of Middle Asia. The Russian geologist G. P. Gel’mersen (1833–36) and the geographer P. A. Chikhachev (1842) studied the terrain and subterranean structure of Southern Siberia. During this same period the German naturalist F. W. Junghuhn studied Indonesia (1835–49) and the French missionary monks E. Huk and J. Gabet studied Tibet and Mongolia (1844–46). The Russian naturalist A. F. Middendorf studied northern and eastern Siberia during 1842–45 and the Fergana Valley during 1877–78. The Russian academician G. V. Abikh, a German émigré, conducted detailed research on the terrain and subterranean structure of the Caucasus from 1844 to 1865. Between 1848 and 1853 the Russian navigator G. I. Nevel’skoi and his associates studied the coasts of Sakhalin and the lower Amur region. P. A. Chikhachev conducted basic research on Asia Minor from 1846 to 1863. During 1848–63 the Russian navigator I. A. Butakov described the Aral Sea, Amu Darya, and Syr Darya. The natural features of India, the Himalayas, and Karakoram were studied during 1854–58 by the German geographers A. H. Schlagint-weit and R. Schlagintweit. The work of the German ethnographer A. Bastian (1861–63) was important for the study of Indochina. The expeditions of the American traveler R. Pampelli (1862–65) and the German geographer F. Richthofen (1868–72) collected information on central and eastern China. Indian topographers in the service of the British, including Nain Singh (1856–75), conducted important research on Tibet and southern Asia. The role of collective research by different institutes, academies, museums, meteorological services, scientific societies, and military-topographical and military-geographical services grew sharply from the middle of the 19th century. Frequently their activity was utilized for the exploitation of colonies and for new territorial conquests. The English established the Royal Bengali Asiatic Society, the French established the Asiatic Society in Paris and Hanoi, the Dutch established the Society for the Study of South Asia, and the Germans established the German Eastern Society and the Society for the Study of East Asia. At the end of the 19th century Japanese research institutions, scientific societies, and military-geographical services expanded their activity broadly. Geographical societies in China, Turkey, and Iran were founded by foreigners and worked under their guidance and on their tasks. The number of periodical publications and monographs on the various countries of Asia grew. Study of Asia intensified with the organization of the Russian Geographical Society (1845). The research conducted by the following people was connected with the activity of this society and certain other institutions: R. K. Maak (1853–59), L. I. Shrenk (1854–56), G. I. Radde (1855–59), M. I. Veniukov (1857–59), F. B. Shmidt (1859–62), P. A. Kropotkin (1863–66), N. M. Przheval’skii (1867–69), A. L. Chekanovskii (1869–75), and I. D. Cherskii (1873–76, 1891). P. P. Semenov (1856–57), M. I. Veniukov (1859–61), N. A. Severtsov (1866–78), A. P. Fedchenko (1868–71), V. F. Oshanin (1876–78), and V. A. Obruchev (1886–88) studied the plains and mountains of Middle Asia. The Caucasus was investigated by M. I. Veniukov (1861–63) and G. I. Radde (1863–93); the highlands of Iran were studied by N. V. Khanykov (1858–59) and G. I. Radde (1879–86). Russian researchers made an extremely great contribution to world science by their Central Asian studies. In 1858–59 the traveler and scholar Ch. Ch. Va-likhanov visited Kashgaria. During 1870–75 the topographer Z. L. Matusovskii studied Mongolia and China. Four remarkable journeys in Central Asia were made between 1870 and 1885 by N. M. Przheval’skii, who discovered K’un-lun, Nan Shan, the upper reaches of the Huang Ho River, and the lake Lob Nor for modern science. Przheval’skii’s research was continued and significantly expanded by M. V. Pevtsov (1876–90), G. N. Potanin (1876–99), N. M. Iadrin-tsev (1878–91), G. E. Grum-Grzhimailo (1884–1914), V. I. Roborovskii (1889–1895), P. K. Kozlov (1889–1926), D. A. Klements (1891–98), V. A. Obruchev (1892–94, 1905–06, 1909), V. V. Sapozhnikov (1895–1915), and G. Ts. Tsybikov (1899–1902).

Among the foreign research of the second half of the 19th century, the following stand out: the research on southern and eastern Asia (1878–80) by the Hungarian B. Széczényi, the crossing of Central Asia by the Briton F. Younghus-band (1886–87) and the Frenchman P. Bonvalot (1889), and the study of Iran by P. Sikes (1893–1901).

Among the Russian studies of special importance of the latter 19th and early 20th century were the work of I. V. Mushketov, conducted over many years, on Central Asia; the work of V. A. Obruchev on Siberia; the expeditions and trips of V. L. Komarov in Kamchatka, Vostochnyi Saian, and northeastern China; the work of I. N. Klingen, A. N. Krasnov, and A. I. Voeikov on eastern and southern Asia; E. E. Anert’s work on northeastern China; K. I. Bodanovich’s work on Central Asia, Kamchatka, the Caucasus, Iran, and northeastern China; N. I. Zarudnyi’s work on Iran; P. N. Krylov’s work on western Siberia; L. S. Berg’s work on the Aral Sea; and the research of V. V. Dokuchaev on the soils of the Caucasus. The study of northern Asia was stimulated by the construction of the Siberian railroad. Prerevolutionary research on Asia by Russians was summarized in a number of articles on Siberia and Middle Asia by V. I. Masal’skii, I. V. Mushketov, L. S. Berg, and others. The idea of mastering the Northeast Passage, raised by M. V. Lomonosov as early as the 18th century, was first carried out in 1878–79 by the Swedish polar researcher N. A. E. Nordenskjold, who circled northern Asia from west to east (with a wintering stopover) by sea. A Russian expedition led by B. A. Vil’kitskii traveled this route from east to west in 1913–15 and discovered Sever-naia Zemlia.

The Swede Sven Hedin (the discoverer of Gandisyshan-Trans-Himalaya) studied Central Asia from 1893 to 1908 and from 1927 to 1935. The American expedition of R. C. Andrews, which worked in Mongolia and China between 1919 and 1931, yielded valuable results in the area of paleontology and biogeography. The Russian painter N. K. Rerikh and the orientalist Iu. N. Rerikh began to study the Himalayas in 1923. Their expedition twice crossed Central Asia (Kashmir-Zaisan and Ulan Bator-Sikkim) during 1924–28; in 1926 it worked in the Altai. In 1934–35 they traveled from north to south along the entire eastern border of Central Asia. They founded the scientific Institute of Himalayan Research, which was active in India from 1928 to 1942.

A school for the study of the geology and geography of East Asia was established in Japan in the 20th century (B. Koto, N. Yamazaki, H. Yabe, T. Kobayashi, and others). Extensive topographical surveys and summaries were made in the preparation of the Pacific Ocean theater of military actions before World War II by the military-geographical services of Japan and the USA.

Outstanding among the most recent foreign summaries of the natural features and peoples of all Asia are the works of the English scholar L. D. Stamp; the Frenchmen J. Sion, R. Blanchard, and P. Gourou; the American scholar G. B. Cressey, and also J. Fairgrieve and R. Rawson. Detailed summaries of the geography of South and East Asia have been compiled by the Australian geographer O. H. K. Spate (India, Pakistan, and Ceylon) and the English scholar E. Dobby (Indochina, Indonesia, and the Philippines). Increased study of natural features and of the economy has been evident in India, Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, and Ceylon. In the period up to the second half of the 1960’s, research on nature, population, and the economy has been broad in scope in China.

Soviet researchers have achieved exceptional success in the study of Asia. The planned organization of the work guarantees its breadth and the successful solution of such problems as the mastery of the northern sea routes, the creation of new coal and metallurgical bases and hydroelectric complexes in Siberia, irrigation in Middle Asia, and the mastery of northern and Far Eastern outlying regions of the country. Far-reaching work on the increasingly large-scale cartography of Soviet and, to some extent, foreign Asia has been carried out by Soviet topographers and geodesists. The study of Asia comes within the sphere of activity of many Soviet scientific research institutes and establishments; the Institute of Geography of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, the Council for the Study of Productive Forces of Gosplan (the USSR State Planning Committee), the Siberian Division of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, the Academies of Science of the Union republics, the Geography Faculties and Institutes of many universities, and special institute complexes and branches. Many ministries and departments of the USSR are engaged in the study of Asia. Through the efforts of Soviet expeditions, a period of discovery and of filling in the “blank spots” of the Asiatic parts of the USSR and contiguous sections of foreign Asia has been concluded; a number of islands have been discovered in the Arctic, and new orographic schemes have been developed for northeastern Siberia, the Stanovoi highlands, the Pamir, and others. The results of the research of Soviet scholars have appeared in the monograph Non-Soviet Asia (Zarubezhnaia Aziia; 1956), in the Physical-Geographical Atlas of the World (1964) and Atlas of the World (1967), and in numerous monographs about the natural features, resources, and economy of the Asiatic part of the USSR and the countries of Asia. Notable among regional works are the research of V. A. Obruchev on Siberia and Central Asia; S. V. Obruchev on Siberia; A. N. Kri-shtofovich on the geology and history of the flora of East Asia; V. M. Sinitsyn on Central Asia; the summaries of L. S. Berg, S. P. Suslov, and N. I. Mikhailov on the physical geography of northern and Middle Asia; the works of V. Iu. Vize and Ia. Ia. Gakkel’ on the Siberian Arctic; A. A. Grigor’ev and B. N. Gorodkov on the subarctic; V. L. Komarov on the Far East; I. P. Gerasimov, E. P. Korovin, I. S. Shchukin, B. A. Fedorovich, and E. M. Mur-zaev on Middle Asia; P. M. Zhukovskii on Turkey; M. P. Petrov on Iran and Central Asia; N. I. Vavilov on Afghanistan; and E. M. Murzaev on Mongolia and northeast China. Soviet scholars have participated in joint expeditions with foreign scholars, aiding the research of a number of socialist and developing countries of Asia, including the People’s Republic of Mongolia, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, China, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and India.


By the middle of 1967 the population of Asia numbered about 2 billion people (58.5 percent of the global population); of this number the population of the Asiatic USSR was 58.9 million people (1969), or more than 80 million counting the Caucasus. Since the start of the 20th century the population of Asia has increased by 215 percent. The growth was especially rapid in the postwar years: from 1950 to 1967 the population increased by 620 million people (that is, 2 percent per year on the average).

Anthropological composition The main regions of Southwest, Southern, Eastern, and Southeast Asia were settled at the dawn of the history of human society, in the Lower Paleolithic Period (including the Mousterian). It is possible that modern man (Homo sapiens) was formed in Southwest Asia. In the Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods people had already settled most of Asia. They moved across Asia to America, Australia, and Oceania. Three large human races took shape in Asia: the Caucasoid (in the southwestern and western regions), the Mongoloid (in Central and Eastern Asia), and the Australoid (in the southeastern regions). Human beings spread throughout Asia in the Neolithic and Bronze ages. The largest ancient civilizations arose in the valleys of the largest rivers of Asia (the Tigris, Euphrates, Indus, Huang Ho, and Amu Darya) on the basis of intensive agriculture using artificial irrigation.

The population of Asia today belongs to a number of races. Much of it belongs to the three basic Mongoloid race groups: the northern (7 million people—the native peoples of Siberia and some of the peoples in Northeast China), the eastern (630 million people—Mongols and northern Chinese), and the southern (580 million people). The southern includes mixed and transitional Mongoloid-Australoid forms (southern Chinese, Indonesians, and Filipinos, as well as the peoples of Indochina and the Japanese, who are characterized by a slightly different combination of features). The Caucasoid race (580 million people) is represented in Asia by different types of the southern branch (Caucasians, Southwest Asians, Indo-Iranians) among the peoples of Southwest Asia, northern India, and Middle Asia (the Tadzhiks). The Australoid race includes small groups (5 million people in all) which settled various regions of Asia: the Veddoid type is observed among the Veddas of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and the Bhil, among certain groups of the Dravidian and Munda peoples, and also among certain small peoples of Southeast Asia (the Senoi, the Toala, and others); the Melanesian and Papuan types are found among the peoples of eastern Indonesia; the Negritos among the Eta of the Philippines, the Semang of Malaya, and the An-damans of India; and the Ainu type among the Ainus of Japan. Where there were ancient contacts between the southern branch of the Caucasoids and the Veddoids, the South Indian type was formed (185 million people), which includes the Dravidian peoples of southern India. Around 18 million people already belong to the mixed types of Caucasoid-Mongoloid origins (a number of peoples of the western Siberian depression, the Southern Urals, the Altai, Kazakhstan, Middle Asia, and northern India).

Ethnic composition Asia is extremely diverse in the ethnic composition of its population. It contains several hundred peoples at different levels of ethnic development and belonging to many language families and groups. The peoples speaking in languages of the Indo-European family are represented in Asia by the Indie (Indo-Aryan), Iranian, Slavic, and other groups. The peoples of the Indic groups (more than 486 million) settled the northern and central parts of Hindustan (the Hindustani, Bengalis, Marathas, Bihari, Punjabi, and others). The peoples of the Iranian group (about 50 million people) occupy mainly Iran and Afghanistan and also a number of regions in Turkey and Pakistan (the largest groups are the Persians, Afghans, and Kurds); forming the bulk of the population of the Tadzhik SSR, they include some peoples of the Caucasus (the Ossets, Tats, Talyshin, and others). More than half of the population of the Asiatic part of the USSR (about 47 million people) is composed of the Slavic groups (Russians, Ukrainians, and Byelorussians); the Indo-European family also includes Armenians (4 million, in the Armenian SSR and the countries of Southwest Asia) and Greeks (600,000, on the island of Cyprus).

Peoples of the Caucasian language group (5.6 million) live in the Georgian SSR and certain areas of the Northern Caucasus; the group includes Georgians, Abkhaz, Adygeians, Kabardins, Circassians, Chechen, Ingush, and the peoples of highland Daghestan (the Avars, Lezghians, Darghin, Lakh).

The Hamito-Semitic family (Semitic group) includes Arabs (32 million people), Jews (2.35 million, in Israel), and Assyrians (200,000, in Southwest Asia).

The peoples of the Altaic language family, consisting of three groups (the Turkic, Mongolian, and Tunguso-Manchurian), are dispersed over vast distances of Asia from Turkey to the Pacific Ocean. The peoples of the Turkic group (about 63 million—Turks, Azerbaijanis, Uighurs, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Turkomans, Yakuts, and others) occupy much of Turkey, the northern part of Iran and Afghanistan, Sinkiang, the Azerbaijan SSR, Middle Asia and Kazakhstan, Gorno-Altai, and much of the Yakut ASSR. The peoples of the Mongolian group (3.5 million) are settled mainly in Central Asia (the People’s Republic of Mongolia, northern China) and also in the Buriat ASSR. The Tunguso-Manchurian peoples (3.1 million, including 3 million who are, properly speaking, Manchurians and who today speak Chinese) are settled in northeastern China, Siberia, and the Far East (the Evenki, Evens, Nanai, and others). Some researchers put the Koreans (45 million) and the Japanese (100 million), who are usually considered to speak in isolated languages, close to the peoples of the Altaic family.

The peoples of the Uralic family (87,000) occupy enormous and thinly settled regions of the basin of the lower Ob River. They represent three groups: the Finnic (Komi), the Ugric (Khantyes and Mansi), and the Samoyedic (Nentsi, Nganasani, and Selkups). Paleo-Asiatic peoples (Chukchi, Koryak, Itelmen, Yukagir, and others—25,000 in all), Eskimos (on the Chukchi peninsula), Aleuts (on the Komandorskie Islands), and Nivkh (in the lower reaches of the Amur valley and on Sakhalin Island) live in northeastern Siberia. In the valley of the middle course of the Enisei River live the Ket, who speak one of the isolated languages.

Members of the Sino-Tibetan language group occupy much of the territory of China and the western part of Indochina. The composition of this family is extremely controversial: of the five groups earlier included in this family (Chinese, Tibeto-Burman, Thai, Miao-Yao, and Vietnamese), only the first two are now recognized by most researchers, while the others are assigned to the Mon-Khmer or Austronesian language families. The Chinese group (over 700 million people) includes the Chinese and the Hui. The Chinese inhabit the eastern half of China. According to the data of the State Statistical Administration of the People’s Republic of China, the total population of the People’s Republic of China and the island of Taiwan was 656.7 million people (94 percent of them Chinese) at the end of 1957. There are also sizable groups of Chinese (over 18 million) in various countries of Southeast Asia. The Hui, who live in the northern regions of China and whose language is not distinguished from that of the Chinese, constitute a distinct nationality because of their religion and other distinctive features of their culture and life. The peoples of the Tibeto-Burman group (40 million people) inhabit southern China; they are represented in almost all the countries of Indochina, as well as in Nepal and northern India. The most numerous of them are the Burmans, Yi, Tibetans, and Karen. The peoples of the Thai group (41.5 million people) and the Miao-Yao (5 million) live in southern China and Indochina. The Vietnamese (31.5 million) have settled in the plains of Vietnam and, to some extent, in southern Cambodia.

The Mon-Khmer languages are currently spoken by a number of peoples of Cambodia, Vietnam, and Burma (10.5 million in all). The largest group, the Khmers (6.5 million), occupy Cambodia; the others live in small groups throughout eastern Indochina. A number of scholars place the 6.7 million people of the Munda language family, who live in the mountainous areas of central India, with the Mon-Khmer group. All the peoples of southern India (131 million people) speak in Dravidian languages. The most frequently spoken are the Telugu, Tamil, Kanarese, and Malayalam. The Gonds, Kanji, and Oraon are settled on the central Indian plateau. The Brahui are located in Pakistan and southern Afghanistan; in southern Ceylon the Ceylon Moors are the Islamized native population of the island.

The peoples of the Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) family in Asia consist mainly of the Indonesian group (145 million), almost entirely inhabiting the island of Southeast Asia, the Malacca peninsula, and certain regions in southeastern Indochina. In all, this group numbers about 200 peoples, of which the Javanese, Sundanese, Bisayan, Tagalas, Malayans, and Madurese are the most numerous.

All the world religions, as they are called, arose in Asia: Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. Today, Buddhism is the dominant religion in the countries of Indochina (except Malacca) and on Ceylon. In the countries of East Asia it coexists and is interwoven with other religious beliefs: Confucianism and Taoism in China, Confucianism in Korea, Shintoism in Japan. Buddhism is practiced in the form of Lamaism by the believers of Mongolia and Tibet. The bulk of the population of the Philippines and Cyprus and more than half of the population of Lebanon adhere to Christianity. Islam is professed by the overwhelming majority of the population of Southwest Asia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia and by about half of the population of Malaysia; there are sizable groups of Muslims in Lebanon, Cyprus (Turks), India, the northwestern provinces of China, the Philippines (the Moros), and Ceylon (the Ceylon Moors). The Jews of Israel and other countries profess Judaism. In numbers of adherents Hinduism is one of the most important religions in Asia; its basic sphere is India, Nepal, Ceylon, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the island of Bali in Indonesia. Followers of tribal religions exist mainly in interior mountainous regions of India, China, and Southeast Asia. In the Asiatic part of the USSR, where the majority of the population has renounced religion, Christianity was formerly common (the Slavic peoples, the Georgians and Armenians in the Transcaucasus, and so on), as was Islam (most of the peoples of Central Asia and Kazakhstan, the Azerbaijani, and some peoples of the northern Caucasus), Lamaism (some of the Buriat), and others.

Population distribution The population of Asia is distributed extremely unevenly. The average density is 46 people per sq km. The highest density is found in Japan (273 people per sq km), Lebanon (240), Korea (185), Ceylon (172), and India (155). There are thickly settled regions of ancient intensive irrigated agriculture and rice culture (300–500, and even 1,000–1,500, people per sq km); these include shore areas and valleys of the great rivers of southern and central China, the south of Japan, the valleys of the Ganges and lower Brahmaputra rivers, the eastern coast of Hindustan, the valleys of the Mekong and Hung Ho (Red) rivers, and the island of Java. On a territory of 2.5 million sq km more than 1 billion people are concentrated. At the same time, Central Asia and most areas of North and Southwest Asia are scantily settled (the population density of the Mongolian People’s Republic is 0.7, and only 1–5 on the Arabian peninsula); vast territories of desert (Rub al Khali, Dashti-Kavir, Taklamakan, Gobi), the highest parts of Tibet, the Himalayas, and Hindu Kush in general do not have any permanent population. The nomadic population in Asia is constantly decreasing; it does not exceed 10 million (mainly nomadic cattle raisers in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and the Mongolian People’s Republic).

About 23 percent of the Asian population is urban. The bulk of it (more than 60 percent) is concentrated in large cities (100,000 people and more), among which are 40 cities with more than 1 million inhabitants each, 50 cities with between 500,000 and 1 million inhabitants, and more than 400 cities with between 100,000 and 500,000 people.

Demographic survey During 1960–65 the birthrate per 1,000 was 41, the death rate 20, and the natural increase 21 (all these indexes are approximately twice those of Europe); the Asiatic part of the USSR has a death rate less than one-half that of the rest of Asia. The high birth and death rates (especially infant mortality) and the low average life-span (40–50 years) in non-Soviet Asia account for the age structure of the population, typical of that of developing countries: an increased proportion of young people (38 percent of the total population is under 14 years old, while in Europe the figure is less than 25 percent) and a decreased proportion of older people (6 percent of the population of Asia is over 60, while in Europe the figure is 14 percent). Asia is the only part of the world where the number of men greatly exceeds the number of women (by 55 million): 46.8 percent of the population of Ceylon is composed of women,

Table 2. Political divisions of non-Soviet Asia
StateArea (sq km)Population, 1967Capitals and administrative centers
1 By Chinese estimate for 1957—656,630,000 people
2 Without Sikkim and Bhutan
3Including West Irian (area 412,800 sq km, population 800,000)
4 Within the boundaries established by the decisions of the UN of Nov. 29, 1947; Israel actually controls an area of 20,700 sq km (start of 1967)
5 Including the island of Bonin (returned to Japan by the Japanese-American agreement of 1968) and the Ryukyu Islands (area 2,200 sq km, population 952,000), occupied by the USA until 1972
6 By other data, excluding interior bodies of water, area 90,200 sq km
7 Including demilitarized zone 1,300 sq km
8 By other data, area 21,000 sq km, population 550,000
9 Since 1972 divided into the People’s Republic of Bangladesh (capital Dacca) with about 15 percent of the area and 55 percent of the population of pre-1972 Pakistan, and present-day Pakistan (capital Islamabad) with the remainder
10 By other data, area 2,500,000 sq km, population 7,500,000
11 Formerly Ceylon
12 Formerly the Trucial States of Oman
13 Formed in 1968; data on area and population estimated. In October 1972 the Yemen Arab Republic and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen agreed to unite
14 1960
Source: Demographic Yearbook 1967. New York, 1968
Bahrain .................................600195,000Manama
Bhutan ..................................47,000770,000Thimbu
Burma, Union of ..................................678,00025,811,000Rangoon
Cambodia ...............................181,0006,415,000Phnom Penh
Chinese People’s Republic ...................9,596,900733,142,0001Peking
Cyprus ..................................9,200614,000Nicosia
India2 ......................................3,268,000511,115,000Delhi
Indonesia3 ..............................1,904,300110,920,000Jakarta
Iran .......................................1,648,00026,284,000Teheran
Iraq ....................................434,9008,440,000Baghdad
Israel ...................................14,00042,669,000Tel Aviv
Japan ..................................372,0005100,872,000Tokyo
Jordan ..................................97,70062,145,000Amman
Korea ..................................220,000742,484,000 
Korean People’s Democratic Republic.....121,00012,700,000Pyongyang
South Korea...........................98,50029,784,000Seoul
Kuwait ..................................16,0008520,000Al Kuwayt
Laos....................................236,8002,770,000Vientiane (royal residence, Luang Prabang)
Lebanon ................................10,4002,520,000Beirut
Maldive Islands ..........................300103,000Male
Eastern Malaysia   
Sabah ..............................76,100588,000 
Sarawak ............................125,200903,000 
Western Malaysia   
Malaya .............................131,3008,580,000 
Mongolian People’s Republic...............1,565,0001,170,000Ulan Bator
Nepal ..................................140,80010,500,000Katmandu
Pakistan9 ................................946,700107,258,000Islamabad
Philippines ..............................300,00034,656,000Quezon City (actually Manila)
Qatar ...................................22,00075,000Doha
Saudi Arabia.............................2,149,700106,990,000Riyadh
Singapore ...............................6001,956,000Singapore
Sri Lanka11 ..............................65,60011,741,000Colombo
Syrian Arab Republic .....................185,2005,600,000Damascus
Thailand (Siam) ..........................514,00032,680,000Bangkok
Turkey (in Asia) ..........................756,90029,920,000Ankara
United Arab Emirates12...................83,600136,000Dibai
Vietnam ................................329,60037,073,000 
Democratic Republic of Vietnam.........158,70020,100,000Hanoi
South Vietnam ........................170,90016,973,000Saigon
Yemen Arab Republic....................195,0005,000,000Sana
People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen13 ...227,7001,170,000Madinat al-Shab
Ao-men (Macao) (Portuguese) .............16170,00014Ao-men
Brunei (British)..........................5,800107,000Brunei
Hsiang Kang (Hong Kong) (British) ........1,0003,834,000Hsiang Kang
Oman (Muscat and Oman) (British).........212,400565,000Mascat, Nazwa
Sikkim (Indian)..........................7,100183,000Gangtok
Timor (Portuguese) ......................14,900570,000Dili

47 percent in pre-1972 Pakistan, 48.2 percent in China, and 48.6 percent in India. This proportion between the sexes is the result of women’s lack of rights in the past.

Migration greatly influences population dynamics. Chinese migration began to increase in the second half of the 19th century. They migrated in search of work, primarily to the countries of Southeast Asia, where the colonialists had developed a plantation economy. Indians emigrated for the same reason to Ceylon, Malaya, Central and South America, and South Africa. Emigration was also considerable from Arab countries (mainly Lebanon and Syria) to the countries of the Americas. There was migration in connection with World War II and postwar events (such as the return of Japanese from China, Korea, and other countries; the repatriation of Greeks, Bulgarians, and Albanians from Turkey; and the return home of Turks from Balkan countries). Migration for national and religious motives also became widespread (the migration of Muslims to Pakistan and Bangladesh, Hindus and Sikhs to India, and so on). Migrations in the USSR have been of a planned character; in particular, they have been connected with the conquest of virgin lands in Kazakhstan and southern Siberia and the development of industry in Siberia and the Far East.


More than one-third of the territory of Asia, its northern part, is included in the Soviet Union. The states and countries of non-Soviet Asia are divided into groups according to their geographic situation. Located in Western Asia are Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Lebanon, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR), the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, and others; they form the group of countries of the Near and Middle East. South Asia includes Pakistan, India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Bangladesh, and Nepal. The Union of Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia make up Southeast Asia. East Asia is composed of Korea, Japan, and most of China. Central Asia comprises the People’s Republic of Mongolia and the remainder of China. The political map (see Table 2) took shape as a result of sociopolitical changes called forth by the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia (the formation of the USSR) and by the victories of the national liberation struggles of the peoples of colonial and independent countries, especially during and after World War II (1939–45). The people’s democratic rule has been established in Mongolia (the People’s Republic of Mongolia was formed in 1921), Vietnam (the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was proclaimed in 1945), Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was proclaimed in 1948) and China (the People’s Republic of China was formed in 1949). Former possessions of England which have declared their independence and formed a group of developing Asian countries include the sovereign states of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Jordan, Cyprus, the Maldive Islands, Malaysia, Singapore, the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (on the territory of the British colony and protectorate of Aden), Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. A former Dutch possession is now the state of Indonesia (with which West Irian later reunited); former French holdings are now the states of Syria, Lebanon, Laos, and Cambodia. The state of Israel was formed at the expense of the partition of the historic region of Palestine.

The USA occupied the island of Taiwan—the territory of the People’s Republic of China—in 1950. The Japanese Ryukyu Islands (including the island of Okinawa) were under the military administration of the USA from 1951 to 1972. In 1967, Israel occupied a portion of the territory of Jordan and the UAR, violating the sovereignty of the UAR over the zone of the Suez Canal.


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The largest continent, comprising the major portion of the broad east-west extent of the Northern Hemisphere land masses.
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despite torture, refuses to deny Moses. [Islam: Walsh Classical, 35]
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the largest of the continents, bordering on the Arctic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean and Red Seas in the west. It includes the large peninsulas of Asia Minor, India, Arabia, and Indochina and the island groups of Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Ceylon (Sri Lanka); contains the mountain ranges of the Hindu Kush, Himalayas, Pamirs, Tian Shan, Urals, and Caucasus, the great plateaus of India, Iran, and Tibet, vast plains and deserts, and the valleys of many large rivers including the Mekong, Irrawaddy, Indus, Ganges, Tigris, and Euphrates. Pop.: 3 917 508 000 (2005 est.). Area: 44 391 162 sq. km (17 139 445 sq. miles)
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