World History 1 70 - 5.2 The Steppes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Discuss the role climate played in the ancient history of the steppes
  • Describe the daily life of people who lived in the region of the steppes
  • Analyze the relationship between the people of the steppes and nearby civilizations

The Eurasian Steppe is a vast stretch of grassland running from Eastern Europe over the top of central Asia and China into Mongolia. For much of human history, the area was home to traveling bands of nomadic pastoralists who grazed herds and collided with settled agricultural societies in Persia, Russia, and China. Geographers divide the Eurasian Steppe into two zones: One is in the west near Ukraine, Russia, and Kazakhstan, and the other is in the east, close to China and Mongolia (Figure 5.9). In both areas, the vastness of the land supported large herds of goat, cattle, and sheep. The prevalence of horses enabled powerful warriors of many cultures to rule from the saddle but also gave their people the freedom to roam, migrate, and resist absorption into a large unified state. While much of their history is still debated, these various tribes of the steppes provided the origins for a great number of Turkic, Iranian, Mongolic, Uralic, Tibeto-Burman, and multiethnic peoples today.

An image of a map is shown. Dashed lines form a checkerboard pattern throughout the map starting in a circle at the top with small squares and ending with larger squares at the bottom. Water is shown in dark blue at the north, east, and south. Land fills the rest of the area. The land is shown in varying shades of dark green, green, teal, beige, and gray. A red line is drawn horizontally, dipping to the right, on the west side along an area highlighted the color teal and labelled “Western Steppe.” A red line is drawn horizontally on the east along an area highlighted the color teal and labelled “Eastern Steppe.”
Figure 5.9 The Eurasian Steppe, consisting of a western and an eastern half and shown here in light blue, reaches from the Caspian Sea in Europe to the Pacific Ocean. Its distinctive climate and vegetation are well-suited to pasturing livestock but less welcoming to settled agriculture. (credit: modification of work “Approximate extent of the Eurasian Steppe grasslands ecoregion, and Eurasia cultural region” by “Mdf”/Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)
This lesson has no exercises.

The content of this course has been taken from the free World History, Volume 1: to 1500 textbook by Openstax