Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast


a part of the Tadzhik SSR. Founded Jan. 2, 1925. Bounded on the east by China and on the south and west by Afghanistan. Area, 63.700 sq km, or 44.5 percent of the area of the Tadzhik SSR. Population, 101.000 in 1971, or 3 percent of the republic’s population. The oblast has six raions and one city, Khorog, which is the administrative center, with a population of 13,000.

Natural features The Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast is located in the Pamir, which has the highest mountain peaks in the USSR (the Peak of Communism. 7,495 km) and strong mountain glaciation; the Fedchenko glacier, 71 km long, is the longest in the USSR. The territory of the oblast is divided into the western (smaller) and the eastern (greater) parts. The western part is on the average lower and more broken up: the deep and narrow valleys of the right tributaries of the Piandzh River dissect it from west to east, and they are divided by ranges that rise 3,000–4,000 m or more above the valley floors. The eastern part is a very high leveled plateau with flat valleys and hollows above which mountain ranges rise 1,200 to 1,800 m. The lowest points do not descend below 1,500 m in the western part and 3,600 m in the eastern part. The climate of the western part is moderately continental. The average temperature there is -7.8°C in January and 22.2°C in July, and the annual precipitation is about 240 mm in Khorog. The eastern part is much colder and drier; the average temperature is -19.6°C in January and 13°C in July (in Murgal), and the annual precipitation is 60–70 mm. The growing season (with temperatures over 5°C) lasts 223 days in Khorog and 140 days in Murgab. The main rivers of the western part, the Piandzh and its tributaries Vanch, Iazgulem, Bartang, and Gunt where it joins the Shakhdara, rise in glaciers or spring-fed lakes, are deep and fast-flowing, and abound in rapids and waterfalls. The rivers of the eastern part, however—such as the Alichur and the Murgab at the point where it joins the Oksu—are shallow, flow slowly, and meander in broad valleys. There are few lakes. The undrained lakes of the eastern part include Lake Karakul’, which is the biggest, and Lakes Shorkul’ and Rangkul’. The most remarkable of the spring-fed lakes are Sarezskoe Lake, on the border between the eastern and western parts, and Lakes Iashil’kul’ and Zorkul’. The soil and vegetation cover of the western part is strongly xerophy-tic in all the belts: the lower belts have brownish-gray soils with wormwoods, saltworts, and cousinia and ephemeral flora in spring; the upper belts have desert-steppe soils with wormwoods, feather grass, sheep fescue, and prickly grasses; the summits of the ranges have cushions (from acan-tholimon) and spots of meadows with sedge and kobresia. Small groves of willows, poplars, and Russian olives are found along the river banks and sparse growths of savin on the slopes. The leveled sections of the eastern part have high-mountain desert soils with occasional winter fat and cushion plants and swampy lowlands in some places; on the mountain slopes, which have rocky-gravelly soil, the vegetation is extremely sparse. The most widely found animals include the wolf, fox. Cape hare, snow leopard, mountain goat, long-tailed marmot, and big birds of prey. The lynx, porcupine, and boar live in the west, and the argali in the east. Trout, schizothoracic fish, and loach inhabit the rivers and lakes.

Population The western part of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast is inhabited mainly by Tadzhiks, and the eastern part by Kirghiz. Most of the communities are located in the valleys. The average population density is 1.6 per sq km (1971). More than 90 percent of the population live in the western part; 87 percent of the population is rural there. There are 484 communities (1970), of which 20 are in the east.


Historical survey The territory of the oblast has been inhabited since ancient times. From the sixth to the fourth centuries B.C. it was inhabited by Scythian or Saka tribes, who were farmers and livestock breeders, and from the second century B.C . by Tokharians and other Middle Asian peoples. At different times the oblast, or part of it, belonged to the state of the Ephthalites (fifth century A.D .) or the Turkish Khaganate (from the sixth century) or was in the sphere of influence of the Bukhara and Kokand khanates. The population engaged not only in animal husbandry and farming but also in crafts (rugs, felting, and so forth). Marco Polo, who traveled through Badakhshan in 1274, reported that silver, azur, rubies, and lapis lazuli were mined. Patriarchal-feudal relations were dominant. From the 11th century the religion was Ismailism. In 1885, Russian troops occupied Eastern Pamir and founded the Murgab post. In 1895, according to the Russo-British boundary agreement, the area was divided contrary to the interests of the native population: the territory on the left bank of the Piandzh River went to Afghanistan and right-bank Badakhshan went to Bukhara, which was a vassal of Russia.

The Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 liberated the people of Gornyi Badakhshan from social and national oppression. Soviet power was definitively established there at the end of June 1920. In July 1923, Gornyi Badakhshan was incorporated into the Turkestan ASSR with the status of a separate oblast; it remained part of the ASSR until 1924. According to a Jan. 2, 1925, decision of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR, the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast was formed as part of the Tadzhik ASSR. The first congress of soviets of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast was held in Khorog from November 12 to 16, 1925, and this congress elected the oblast executive committee. As a result of the socialist transformations, the working people of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Republic, bypassing the stage of capitalist development, went from patriarchal-feudal relations to socialism. On Aug. 4, 1967, the Order of Lenin was awarded to the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast.


Economy Agriculture is the leading branch of the economy; the western part of the oblast specializes in farming and animal husbandry, and the eastern part in animal husbandry. There is a little arable land in the west, mainly on the detrital cones of channels, and it is almost completely exploited: temperate-zone field and orchard crops grow on artificially irrigated lands, and in the northwest subtropical-zone crops grow. The only utilized lands in the east are vast unproductive year-round pastures. In 1970 the oblast had 52 kolkhozes and one yak-raising sovkhoz. The total cultivated area in 1970 was 16,000 hectares (ha), including 8,500 ha planted with grain and pulse crops, 6,600 ha with fodder crops, 600 ha with potatoes and vegetable and melon crops, and 300 ha with tobacco. The private plots have orchards where apricots, Persian walnuts, mulberry trees, and other fruit crops are grown.

The predominant type of animal husbandry is the raising of small livestock. In late 1970 there were 328,700 sheep and goats, 64,200 cattle (including 22,400 cows), and 1,100 horses. Roughly two-thirds of the livestock are in the west and one-third is in the east. The sheep are of the fat-tailed variety: small Darvaza sheep in the western part and big Kirghiz sheep in the eastern part. The only kind of cattle in the east is the yak.

Local industry is developing. The oblast has several small hydroelectric power plants—for example, the Khorog, Vanch, Shudzhand, Kalai-Khumba, and Oksu (near Murgab). The electric power output in 1970 was 13.7 million kilowatt-hours (kW-hr), as opposed to 3.6 million kW-hr in 1950. Table salt is mined in the east. Industrial deposits of gold, rock crystal, semiprecious stones, mica, asbestos, and other minerals have been discovered. There are numerous discharges of thermal waters. Khorog has a bakery, a dairy, a meat-packing plant, a plant producing reinforced-concrete structures, and machine-repair shops.

The main transportation routes are the Khorog-Osh (Eastern Pamir) and the Dushanbe-Khorog (Great Pamir) roads and the regular Dushanbe-Khorog air route. A road has been built south of Khorog to the canyons of the Piandzh and Pamir rivers, which were once impassable; farther on, the road is linked with the Great Pamir Road. Buses run between Khorog and several raion centers.


Public health As of Jan. 1, 1971, there were 20 hospitals with 800 beds (or 7.9 beds per 1,000 inhabitants) and 109 doctors (or one doctor per 1,000 inhabitants). There is a spa on the Garm-Chashma, not far from Khorog.

Education and cultural affairs In the 1970–71 academic year there were 287 general-education schools of all types, with 28,000 students enrolled in them; 287 people studied at vocational and technical schools and 68 at the medical school. In 1970 the oblast had eight preschool institutions with 612 children enrolled in them.

In 1970 there were 111 public libraries with book and magazine holdings totaling 762,000, 114 clubs, an oblast regional-studies museum, a theater of musical comedy in Khorog, and 69 motion-picture theaters. Extracurricular institutions for school students include seven headquarters for Young Pioneers, a center for young technicians, a center for young naturalists, and an excursion and tourism office.

Khorog is the site of the Pamir Biology Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Tadzhik SSR and the Institute for the Improvement of Doctor’s Skills.

Press and radio The Tadzhik-language oblast newspaper Badakhshoni soveti (Soviet Badakhshan), which has one page in Russian, has been published since 1931.

The city radio broadcasts one program in Tadzhiki and Russian and also relays programs from Moscow and Dushanbe.

Architecture and art Ruins of mighty fortresses dating back to Kushan times (first few centuries A.D .), and rock formations of various periods have been found in the territory of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast. Excavations in burial sites (Tamdy, Akbeit, and others) have uncovered pendants, iron bracelets, and bronze plates and dagger handles with representations of horses’ heads, antelopes, and mountain goats on them. The dwellings of the Tadzhiks of the Western Pamir are of stone or, more rarely, raw brick, built on a rectangular plan, without windows, and with a flat roof on wooden poles. In the central part the roof often has a steplike wooden cupola. The column supports and the doors are usually decorated with carvings; inside the house and on the porches, the walls are often painted with primitive-realist silhouetted or linear representations (for example, of animals, a shepherd with his flock, or flowers). The dwellings of the Kirghiz of the Eastern Pamir, who were nomads in the past, are round yurts covered with felt and tied with patterned cloth bands. Today, stone residential homes, usually one or two stories high, as well as public buildings, are built everywhere.

The decorative and applied art of the Pamir Tadzhiks is represented by carvings on wood (for example, architectural details, cradles, boxes, and lamps), embroidery (on the collars of traditional women’s shirts), and the manufacture of decorated feltings and woven belts. The oblast is famous for socks knitted from multicolor wool with geometrical patterns and stylized representations of real objects. These patterns are also used in modern knitted goods such as gloves. The Kirghiz of the Eastern Pamir continue on a large scale the manufacture of felt articles (such as patterned feltings and bags), woven articles (rugs, shoulder bags, and bands for fastening yurts), and multicolor embroidery of clothing and for home decoration. The prevailing motifs for decoration are ram horns, animal tracks, and flowers. Braided mats and woven art objects are designed with geometric patterns.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.