Curriculum Resources on the Silk Road and Central Asia

The following materials on the Silk Road and the peoples and cultures of Central Asia are available from the Ellison Center for Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies. Educators are especially encouraged to visit the Center's office and check these materials out for use in their classrooms.

Curriculum Units and Teaching Guides

  • Along the Silk Road--A social studies curriculum unit for grades 6-10 produced by The China Project and the Stanford University Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE). Contains eight lesson plans on such topics as the history and development of the silk road, the peoples, cultures and geography of Central Asia, and expeditions undertaken by both Asian and European explorers. This unit contains many illustrations and maps and comes complete with a 37-minute video about the silk road.
  • Mapping Asia--A curriculum unit for grades 6-10 also produced by SPICE. Contains five lesson plans on the geography and climate of Asia. Also contains information on the political, religious, and ethnic features of Asia. This unit is fully illustrated and offers many maps and charts.
  • Teachers' Guide to the Soviet Successor States and Eastern Europe—Prepared by the Russian and East European Institute at Indiana University, this guide offers overviews of the histories, cultures, and current issues concerning the newly-independent nations of Central Asia. Included in the guide are nation studies of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Fully illustrated with maps and charts.
  • CIS and Eastern Europe On-File--Offers the teacher, student, and researcher a wide variety of images and data on both the physical and human geography of the nations of Central Asia. This comprehensive guide is divided into three main sections: (1) a historical overview of the major geo-political changes of the last millennium, (2) maps and graphs of Central Asia, and (3) an overview of the serious social, political, and environmental issues this region faces today.
  • Russia and Its Neighbors: Uneasy Relationships--Suitable for grades 9-12, this teacher's guide examines the major issues which have developed after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Included are discussions of ethnic and political turmoil in the nations of Central Asia. Comes complete with illustrations, charts and graphs, and a wall-size map of Russia and the former Soviet Union.

Videotapes and Electronic Media

  • The Silk Road (CD-ROM)--Offers students the chance to take a digital journey along the silk road and to learn its history. Includes lavish photography, interactive timelines, as well as a quiz to test students' knowledge of the topic. Suitable for high school and advanced middle school students. Minimum system requirements: Macintosh-68030 or higher processor and 2.5 MB of RAM, Windows-486SX 25 MHz or better processor with 4 MB of RAM.
  • The Tuvans of Mongolia: Herders of Mongun-Taiga (Videotape)--Descendants of aboriginal Siberian forest people, the Tuvans inhabit the desolate plains along the Russian-Mongolian border. They live for the most part in yurts (portable felt tents) and subsist through the nomadic herding of yaks, sheep, horses and goats. This video captures the lifestyle of these people and describes such facets of their culture as the remarkable musical phenomenon of "throat singing." Includes description of the lives of Tuvan children.
  • The Golden Road (Videotape, 50 mins.)--Brings viewers face to face with descendants of the great Mongol warriors who invaded and settled Central Asia. First aired on the Turner Broadcasting System as part of its "Portrait of the Soviet Union" series.
  • Mongols: Storm from the East (Videotape, 50 mins.)--Explores the power and influence of the Mongol Empire under the rule of Genghis Khan and his son, Ogodei. Recounts how a Mongol army overran and subdued large areas of China, Russia, Poland, and Hungary. Includes reenactments of major battles and discussions of Mongol tactics in both war and administration of conquered lands.
  • Realms of the Russian Bear (Videotape)--This highly acclaimed nature series has two episodes that deal with the ecology of Central Asia. Volume three, "The Red Deserts", looks at the surprising abundance of wildlife in the deserts of Central Asia. Volume four, "The Celestial Mountains", spotlights the ecology of Central Asia's mountain ranges. Both videos were produced by the British Broadcasting Company and aired on Public Television. Each tape is 60 minutes long.
  • The Generous Manas (Videotape 30 mins.)--A filmed version of the millennium-old Kyrgyz folk epic, "Manas", which celebrates the independence of the Kyrgyz people. Filmed in the mountainous land of Kyrgyzstan, this video follows the great warrior Manas's efforts to resist rival Arab and Chinese powers. Of special note is the fact that children participate in the retelling of the Manas legend. The REECAS Center has a document about the Kyrgyz people and the "Manas" epic on its web site.
  • Central Asian Artifacts On-Line
    The REECAS Center web-site has a page devoted to Central Asian culture, including musical instruments, costumes, and handicrafts. The page offers full-color photos as well as samples of folk music in Real-Audio format.

Stories, Books and Resource Materials

  • Then and Now Series on the Nations of the Former Soviet Union-- Designed especially for middle school students, this series provides country studies of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Lavishly illustrated, each volume comes complete with photographs, maps, and charts. Each book offers an examination of a particular nation's geographical makeup, culture and society, history, environmental problems, economic potential, and present and future challenges.
  • Folktales Along the Silk Road--A unique translation of Kazakh, Kirghiz, and Uzbek folk tales about animals. Included in this collection are stories that explain why bats fly at night and why foxes have long tails. Translated by Ilse Cirtautus, Professor-Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilization at the University of Washington.
  • A Source Book on Asian Trade in the Middle Ages--A compilation of accounts and itineraries of explorers who traveled the silk road in the middle ages. Topics discussed include: the problems and difficulties experienced while traveling the silk road, methods of trade and commerce, and the various cultures of the people who lived in the region. Prepared by Professor Daniel Waugh of the University of Washington, this compilation focuses on primary source materials written between the 13th and 15th centuries.
  • Russia and Her Neighbors--Contains data on the Muslim nations of Central Asia, including information on the physical geography, major cities, and cultures of these nations. Also includes discussions of the major political, ethnic, and environmental problems present in this region.
  • The Newly Independent States of Eurasia--A handbook which outlines the histories and current situations of the nations of the former Soviet Union. Includes detailed analysis of the Central Asian states, including discussions of political, environmental, and ethnic problems that have arisen there since independence.


For information on how to check out these materials, please contact the
Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies Center.

203B Thomson Hall, Box 353650
Jackson School of International Studies
University of Washington
Seattle WA 98195-3650
Phone: (206) 543-4852
Fax: (206) 685-0668

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The Ellison Center
REECAS Program
Box 353650
203B Thomson Hall
Seattle, WA 98195
(206) 543-4852 phone
(206) 685-0668 fax