Why Study Water in Central Eurasia?

Water in Central Eurasia is an interdisciplinary cycle of undergraduate courses and linked experiential learning activities funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. We invite Pitt students from business, engineering, the social sciences and the humanities to engage with the vast and diverse aqua region of Central Eurasia. The thematic concentration on water introduces students to the contemporary significance of this topic and cultivates interdisciplinary knowledge while providing an excellent lens into a rapidly changing world region that has been a focal point of world history and is at the center of twenty-first century geopolitics and global economy. The Water in Central Eurasia courses are constructed along mutually supporting trajectories: encouraging students to think about water issues on new terrain and to explore a pivotal area of the world, while addressing an issue they know to be of global urgency—the need for clean, sustainable water sources.


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Central Eurasia—A Lifetime of Fascinating Questions

  • Colin Johnson
    UCIS Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies

    Central Eurasia contains societies with nearly universal literacy, maintains an ageing but extensive physical infrastructure, and borders some of the world’s largest and most dynamic economies . . . It is a region in flux, as the Soviet-era leaders begin to see their power wane, as NATO operations in Afghanistan shift, and as emerging global powers exert influence. This provides students the opportunity to observe these changes in real time and to gain the skills necessary to comprehend the effects of Central Eurasian states’ pursuit of their interests and the subsequent global response.

  • James Pickett
    Assistant Professor, Department of History

    My journey into Central Eurasia began with a basic question: What happens when an Islamic society is Sovietized? Almost overnight, centuries-old mosques were transformed into museums of atheism and stables for livestock . . . Ultimately, Central Eurasia lives up to its reputation as the crossroads of civilizations: untangling these threads is precisely the fun of it, and what drew me into the field.

  • Olga Kim
    PhD Candidate, Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures

    Learning about Central Eurasia not only gives us a unique access to an intricate intersection of Islamic tradition, Russo-Soviet legacy, and variety of local cultures (nomadic and settled, Persian and Turkic, European and Asian etc.) but it also gives us a valuable insight to how all of these have coexisted.

  • Jennifer Murtazashvili
    Associate Professor and Director of International Development Program, Graduate School of Public & International Affairs

    My perspective on Central Eurasia is shaped people in communities where I have lived for years. As an undergraduate I studied Russian and lived in Moscow. I served in the Peace Corps in Samarkand, Uzbekistan for two years where I learned Uzbek and Tajik. After finishing the Peace Corps, I worked in Tashkent for three years as a Democracy and Governance Officer for the United States Agency for International Development (living five years in Uzbekistan).

  • Patryk Reid
    Postdoctoral Fellow

    Studying Central Eurasia involves acquiring knowledge and skills specific to the region and to the rest of Eurasia. Its contemporary and historical societies are closely connected to those Russian and East and South Asia through economy, politics, migration, and culture.

Sean's Russia Blog: Central Eurasia

Did you know . . . ?

  • The Eurasian Steppe, which dominates much of Central Eurasia, spans approximately 5,000 miles or 8,000 kilometers from Eastern Europe to East Asia.
    (Photo: Togzhan Ibrayeva, Wikimedia Commons)

  • The Tian Shan Mountains of Central Asia are a popular tourist destination, with fantastic views and opportunities for hiking and winter sports.
    (Photo: Chen Zhao, Wikimedia Commons)

  • Kazakhstan boasts a literacy rate of 99.8%—third highest in the world.
    (Source: UNESCO)

  • Kazakhstan is the world's ninth largest country by landmass.
    (Source: Kazakhstan Embassy)