The Pontic-Caspian steppe is the vast steppeland stretching from the northern shores of the Black Sea (called Pontus Euxinus [Εὔξεινος Πόντος] in antiquity) as far east as the Caspian Sea, from western Ukraine across the Southern Federal District and the Volga Federal District of Russia to western Kazakhstan, forming part of the larger Eurasian steppe, adjacent to the Kazakh steppe to the east. It is a part of the Palearctic temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands ecoregion of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome.
The area corresponds to Cimeria, Scythia and Sarmatia of Classical antiquity. Across several millennia the steppe was used by numerous tribes of nomadic horsemen, many of which went on to conquer lands in the settled regions of Europe and in western and southern Asia. It was finally brought under the control of a sedentary people by the Russian Empire in the 16th to 18th centuries.
The term Ponto-Caspian region is used in biogeography for plants and animals of these steppes, and animals from the Black, Caspian and Azov seas. Genetic research has identified this region as the most probable place where horses were first domesticated.
According to the dominant Kurgan hypothesis in Indo-European studies, the Pontic-Caspian steppe was the homeland of the speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language, and these same speakers were the original domesticators of the horse.
Geography and ecology
The Pontic steppe covers an area of 994,000 square kilometres (384,000 sq mi), extending from eastern Romania across southern Moldova, Ukraine, Russia and northwestern Kazakhstan to the Ural Mountains. The Pontic steppe is bounded by the East European forest steppe to the north, a transitional zone of mixed grasslands and temperate broadleaf and mixed forests.
To the south, the Pontic steppe extends to the Black Sea, excepting the Crimean and western Caucasus mountains' border with the sea, where the Crimean Submediterranean forest complex defines the southern edge of the steppes. The steppe extends to the western shore of the Caspian Sea in the Dagestan region of Russia, but the drier Caspian lowland desert lies between the Pontic steppe and the northwestern and northern shores of the Caspian. The Kazakh Steppe bounds the Pontic steppe on the southeast.
The Ponto-Caspian seas are the remains of the Turgai Sea, an extension of the Paratethys which extended south and east of the Urals and covering much of today's West Siberian Plain in the Mesozoic and Cenozoic.
Historical peoples and nations
- Indo-Iranians/Aryans 27th–15th centuries BC
- Cimmerians 12th–7th centuries BC
- Scythians 8th–4th centuries BC
- Sarmatians 5th century BC – 5th century AD
- Goths 3rd–6th centuries
- Bulgars 3rd–6th centuries
- Huns 4th–8th centuries
- Alans 5th–11th centuries
- Eurasian Avars 6th–8th centuries
- Göktürks 6th–8th centuries
- Onogurs 8th century
- Sabirs 6th–8th centuries
- Khazars 6th–11th centuries
- Pechenegs 8th–11th centuries
- Kipchaks and Cumans 11th–13th centuries
- Golden Horde 13th–15th centuries
- Cossacks, Kalmyks, Crimean Khanate, Volga Tatars, Nogais and other Turkic states and tribes 15th–18th centuries
- Russian Empire 18th–20th centuries
- Soviet Union 20th century
- Moldova, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, Ukraine 20th–21st centuries
|Alai-Western Tian Shan steppe||Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan|
|Altai steppe and semi-desert||Kazakhstan|
|Central Anatolian steppe||Turkey|
|Daurian forest steppe||China, Mongolia, Russia|
|Eastern Anatolian montane steppe||Armenia, Iran, Turkey|
|Emin Valley steppe||China, Kazakhstan|
|Faroe Islands boreal grasslands||Faroe Islands, Denmark|
|Gissaro-Alai open woodlands||Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan|
|Kazakh forest steppe||Kazakhstan, Russia|
|Kazakh steppe||Kazakhstan, Russia|
|Middle East steppe||Iraq, Syria|
|Mongolian-Manchurian grassland||China, Mongolia, Russia|
|Pontic steppe||Kazakhstan, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Ukraine|
|Sayan Intermontane steppe||Russia|
|Selenge-Orkhon forest steppe||Mongolia, Russia|
|South Siberian forest steppe||Russia|
|Tian Shan foothill arid steppe||China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan|