The International Institute for Central Asian Studies (UNESCO institute category–2) was established in August 1995 in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) as a direct outcome of the UNESCO Silk Roads Expeditions. The concept of the Institute was conceived during the Steppe Route Expedition in Central Asia organized within framework of UNESCO Project "Integral Study of the Silk Roads: Roads of Dialogue", a major project of the World Decade for Cultural Development (1987-1997).
Following the official establishment of the IICAS on the 5th of July, 1995, the General Director of UNESCO Mr. Federico Mayor, during his official visit to Uzbekistan, solemnly opened the Institute on 27 August, 1995 in Samarkand.
The main objectives of IICAS are to bring to the attention of the international community historical and cultural issues on Central Asia and to strengthen collaboration between local scholars and their colleagues abroad through a multidisciplinary study of the region.
To date the following countries have accepted the Agreement of the Institute, and consequently have become the Full Members of IICAS: Azerbaijan, China, Iran, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.
Institutions and scholars are linked to IICAS through a system of Associated Members (public or private institutions and non-government organizations of a scientific or cultural nature) and Corresponding Members individuals.
IICAS is governed by a General Assembly and an Academic Council, and has its Secretariat.
The first Director IICAS was Prof. Ashraf Akhmedov (1995-2001), the representative of Uzbekistan. The second Director IICAS was Dr Kadicha Tashbaeva from Kyrgyzstan. The 6th session of the General Assembly of IICAS was held at UNESCO Tashkent Office in December 2007 where, on the proposal of the Academic Council, Mr Shahin Mustafayev from Azerbaijan was appointed Director of the Institute.