The Central Asian countries are home to a mixture of peoples, and Russians form a large minority in several countries of the region.
Kazaks, Turkmen, Uzbeks, and Kyrgyz speak related Turkic languages, while the Tajiks speak a language related to Farsi, the language of Iran.
Many people also speak Russian, once the official language.
Most people in the region are Muslims.
The connection between these people and the Arabian core of Islam has traditionally been weak, intensified when the region was incorporated into the Soviet Union.
Religious connections between Muslims in Central Asia and those in Southwest Asia are not strong, and Soviet control made this difference more pronounced.
Since independence from the Soviet Union, some national leaders have called for a more open adoption of Islamic rules as the basis for their governments, but popular support for Islamic fundamentalism remains low.