Adam Balcer at Eurozine:
Geopolitical changes in Eurasia, aside from their political and economic context, should also be considered from a cultural and historical perspective. The issue of identity is of primary importance. The new Silk Road project is deeply rooted in the history of Central Asia and closely linked with the Great Steppe. The latter has played an important role as a highway during the great migrations from Asia to Europe, the Middle East and India. In fact, the nomads from the Great Steppe established the largest territorial powers in the history of mankind. Consider the Mongol Empire stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean, from Vietnam to Lake Baikal. Their global horizons were ahead of their time. The Great Steppe also had a large impact on different forms of culture (clothing, weapons, cuisine, games, values and vocabulary) on both sides of Eurasia, from Eastern Europe to the Far East. Without it, there would have been no Ukrainian Cossacks or sarmatism, which was a unique, deeply oriental part of Polish culture. Japanese samurai culture would also not have existed, shaped as it was by contact with Korea, which was connected with the Manchurian steppe.
It is possible to anecdotally define the borders of the Great Steppe's influence by the places where people eat pierogi, a dish which comes from Central Asia. In this space, Russia is a newcomer. Its conquests are actually something quite novel. Russia conquered Belarus and most of Ukraine by the end of the 18th century, and added Moldova to this in the early 19th century. The conquest of the Caucuses ended in 1864, and that of Central Asia in the 1880s. It was in the 1850s and 1860s when China lost large chunks of territory to Russia in Central Asia, Siberia and the Far East.