MURGHAB BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Murghab is, with approximately 38000 km² the largest of the 6 districts of Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO). It also is quite distinct from the rest of GBAO and Tajikistan in respect of its inhabitants and their culture, but also its geomorphology and climate :
lies at an altitude ranging from 3500 masl (the vast, river moulded
plains) to 7460 masl (Pik Somoni, formerly known as Pik Communism).
It contains a multitude of peaks of 6000 m and more, and the heights
are covered by glaciers, of which the Fedshenko glacier is, with some
70 km, the longest in the world. (' article glaciers and desert)
people living in the district are mainly of Kyrgyz origin (over 84%),
yet a big minority of Iranian languages speaking "Pamiris"
have settled mainly in the towns. The traditional Kyrgyz economy was
based on nomadic pastoralism with yaks, sheep and goat as main livestock.
They had trade relations with the big markets of the (larger) neighbourhood,
i.e. Kashgar (Xinjiang/China), Kabul (Afghanistan), and the valleys
of Kulyab and Ferghana. Yet, the formation of nation states, Soviet
rule and collectivisation and geopolitics from the days of the "Great
Game" (between the Russian and British empires) till today have
greatly altered the socio economic patterns. More...
the breeding of yak and small ruminants is still the most prominent
economic activity. The collective farms have been privatised, and the
herders are rediscovering semi nomadic cycles and patterns of movement.
Yet, 70 years of Soviet rule and the privileges the region benefited
of due to its geopolitical setting have left a number of unanswered
questions. Unemployment is high, highly specialised professionals have
to re-learn herding techniques, the pressure on the environment especially
around major settlements is increasing, and the local people, used to
shipments of fuel both for mobility and heating, have to seek alternatives
for a logistical setup that no longer exists. More...
culture of the Kyrgyz is greatly adapted to their former nomadic lifestyle:
architecture is represented by the yurt, the felt tent of central Asia
built on a wooden frame, handicrafts combine every day use and cosmology
and symbolism. More...
not only Kyrgyz dwell in the harsh surrounding: long term or more recent
migrants from the Western Pamirs and the Tajik plain especially to the
towns of the district have altered the picture of towns, and the languages
overheard in the streets. More...
beautiful as it is, the district has greatly suffered from the collapse
of the Soviet Union - especially bearing in mind the artificial support
it received and thus the living conditions it dwelled in. Infrastructure
is falling apart (electricity hardly works, schools are no longer heated,
hospitals hardly furnished etc). Social services no longer exist. The
links to the greater world have been severed (television is not broadcasting,
telecommunication has collapsed etc). Jobs once provided by the State
and later by the Russian army are no longer available. Humanitarian
intervention has catered to the most urgent needs of the district during
and after the Civil War, which hit Tajikistan from 95-97. And development
projects are trying to find more sustainable solutions to the multitude