Kuhistani Badakhshan (Tajik: Вилояти Мухтори Кӯҳистони Бадахшон, romanized: Viloyati Mukhtori Kŭhistoni Badakhshon; officialy known as the Republic of Kuhistani Badakhshan, also know as Gorno-badakhsan /ˈɡɔːrnoʊ bədɑːkˈʃɑːn, -dɑːx-/, after Russian: Горно-Бадахшанская автономная область, romanized: Gorno-Badakhshanskaya avtonomnaya oblast', abbrev. GBAO) is a landlocked country in Central Asia, in the Pamir Mountains.
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The name "Badakhshan" (Persian: بدخشان, Badaxân; Pashto: بدخشان; Tajik: Бадахшон, Badaxşon; Russian: Бадахшан; Chinese: 巴達赫尙; pinyin: Bādáhčshŕng, Dungan: Бадахәшон, Xiao'erjing: بَا دَا کْ شًا, Ming dynasty Chinese name:把丹沙 or 八答黑商, and 巴丹沙 in the Ch'ing) is derived from the Sasanian official title bēdax or badax, which may be from an earlier *pati-axa; the suffix -ān indicates that the country belonged, or had been assigned as a fief, to a person holding the rank of a badax. Kuhistan, also transliterated Kohistan, Kuhiston, Quhistan (Persian: کوہستان) means mountainous land.
The standard way to refer to a citizen of Kuhistani Badakhshan is as a "Badakhshani."
Prior to 1895, the area of today's Gorno-Badakhshan A.R. consisted of several semi-self governing statelets, including Darwaz, Shughnun-Rushan and Wakhan, who ruled over territories that today are part of Gorno-Badakhshan A.R. in Tajikistan and Badakhshan Province in Afghanistan. The territory was claimed by the Chinese and Russian empires and the Emirate of Afghanistan. The Qing rulers of China claimed control of the entire Pamir Mountains, but Qing military units only controlled the passes just east of Tashkurgan.
In the 1890s, the Chinese, Russian and Afghan governments signed a series of agreements that divided Badakhshan, but the Chinese continued to contest these borders, until it signed a 2002 agreement with the government of Tajikistan.
Gorno-Badakhshan was created in January 1925. It was attached to the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic, after the republic's creation in 1929, as the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (an autonomous oblast of the Soviet Union). During the 1950s, the native inhabitants of Gorno-Badakhshan, including many ethnic Pamiris, were forcibly relocated to southwestern Tajikistan. Gorno-Badakhshan absorbed some of the territory of the Gharm Oblast when that territory was dissolved in 1955.
When the civil war broke out in Tajikistan in 1992, the local government in Gorno-Badakhshan declared independence from the Republic of Tajikistan. During the civil war, many Pamiris were targeted for killing by rival groups and Gorno-Badakhshan became a bastion for the opposition. Later the Gorno-Badakhshan government backed down from its calls for independence. Gorno-Badakhshan remains an autonomous region within Tajikistan.
In 2011, Tajikistan ratified a 1999 treaty to cede 1,000 km2 (390 sq mi) of land in the Pamir Mountains to the People's Republic of China (PRC), ending a 130-year dispute and the relinquishing of China's (in PRC's view) claims to over 28,000 km2 (11,000 sq mi) of Tajikistani territory. However, this treaty is not recognized by the Republic of China (ROC) government based in Taipei, and they continue to claim the territory (among others) as reflected in official government maps.
In 2012, the region saw a series of clashes between the Tajik military and militants loyal to former warlord Tolib Ayombekov after the latter was accused of murdering a Tajik general. In 2014, 2018, 2021 and again in May 2022, Khorugh was the scene of violent clashes and demonstrations against suspected human rights violations by security forces. On May 18, security forces violently cracked down on protesters in Rushon who were blocking the road to Khorugh.
The conformation of the mountain districts, which comprise all the southern districts of Badakhshan and the northern hills and valleys of Nuristan (the former Kafiristan), is analogous to that of the rest of the Hindu Kush westwards. The Hindu Kush represents the southern edge of a great central upheaval or plateau. It breaks up into long spurs southwards, among which are hidden the valleys of Nuristan, almost isolated from each other by the rugged and snow-capped altitudes which divide them. To the north the plateau gradually slopes away towards the Oxus, falling from an average altitude of 15,000 feet to 4,000 feet about Faizabad, in the center of Badakhshan, but tailing off to ~100 feet at Kunduz, in Kataghan, where it merges into the flat plains bordering the Oxus river.
The Kokcha River traverses Badakhshan from southeast to northwest, and, with the Kunduz, drains all the northern slopes of the Hindu Kush west of the Dorah Pass. Some of its sources are near Zebak, close to the great bend of the Oxus northwards, so that it cuts off all the mountainous area included within that bend from the rest of Badakhshan. Its chief affluent is the Minjan, which Sir George Robertson found to be a considerable stream where it approaches the Hindu Kush close under the Dorab. Like the Kunduz, it probably drains the northern slopes of the Hindu Kush by deep lateral valleys, more or less parallel to the crest, reaching westwards towards the Khawak Pass. From the Oxus (1,000 feet) to Faizabad (4,000 feet) and Zebak (8,500 feet) the course of the Kokcha offers a high road across Badakhshan; between Zebak and Ishkashim, at the Oxus bend, there is but an insignificant pass of 9,500 feet; and from Ishkashim by the Panj River, through the Pamirs, is the continuation of what must once have been a much-traversed trade route connecting Afghan Turkestan with Kashgar of China. It is undoubtedly one of the great continental high-roads of Asia. North of the Kokcha, within the Oxus bend, is the mountainous district of Darwaz, of which the physiography belongs rather to the Pamir type than to that of the Hindu Kush.
A very remarkable meridional range extends for 100 miles northwards from the Hindu Kush (it is across this range that the route from Zebak to Ishkashim lies), which determines the great bend of the Oxus river northwards from Ishkashim, and narrows the valley of that river into the formation of a trough as far as the next bend westwards at Kala Wamar. The western slopes of this range drain to the Oxus either northwestwards, by the Kokcha and the Ragh, or else they twist their streams into the Shiwa, which runs due north across Darwaz. Here again we find the main routes which traverse the country following the rivers closely. The valleys are narrow, but fertile and populous. The mountains are rugged and difficult; but there is much of the world-famous beauty of scenery, and of the almost phenomenal agricultural wealth of the valleys of Bukhara and Ferghana to be found in the recesses of Badakhshan.
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