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Badakhshan

Badakhshan

[bah-dahkh-shahn]
Badakhshan, province (1979 est. pop. 497,000), 17,011 sq mi (44,059 sq km), extreme NE Afghanistan, between the Hindu Kush Mts. and the Amu Darya River. The capital is Faizabad. Renowned for its mineral wealth, it is the world's chief source of lapis lazuli, a semiprecious stone. The deposits have been worked for more than 3,000 years. Rubies, emeralds, amethysts, and gold have also been mined. Mountain goats and the famed Marco Polo wild sheep are hunted in the province. Some agriculture and sheep and goat herding are also practiced. In 1859 it became a part of Afghanistan. Badhakshan's most distinctive feature is the Vakhan (Wakhan Corridor), a long narrow panhandle that passes between Tajikistan in the north and Pakistan in the south, linking Afghanistan with the Xinjiang region in China. Badakhshan was once part of the ancient Greek kingdom of Bactria. Many of its inhabitants are Tajiks.
Badakhshan, autonomous region (1991 est. pop. 167,100), c.24,600 sq mi (63,710 sq km), E Tajikistan, in the Pamir. It is bordered by China on the east and by Afghanistan on the south and west and is separated from Pakistan and Azad Kashmir by a narrow strip of Afghan territory. The eastern section (East Pamir) is a high plateau, and the western part (West Pamir) is cut by high ranges and deep, narrow valleys. Khorugh is the capital. The population is mainly Tajik, with small Kyrgyz and Russian minorities. Gold, salt, mica, limestone, and coal are mined. In the east livestock is raised (yaks, sheep, cattle, and goats), and in the western valleys grain, vegetables, and beans are grown. Formerly under the control of the Mongols and the Arabs, the region passed to Russian control in 1895. The area became the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region in 1925. It was sometimes formerly known as Mountain-Badakhshan.
Badakhshan (Tajik: Бадахшон) is a region comprising parts of northeastern Afghanistan and southeastern Tajikistan. Badakhshan Province is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. It is in the east of Afghanistan, containing the Wakhan Corridor. Much of Badakhshan lies within Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province (Tajik: Вилояти Мухтори Кӯҳистони Бадахшон/Viloyati Mukhtori Kuhistoni Badakhshon, and official name of this province since 1994) of Tajikistan in the in south-east of the country. The music of Badakhshan is an important part of the region's cultural heritage.

People

Badakhshan constitutes a distinct ethno-linguistic and religious community. They are ethnic Tajiks who have partial descendant from the Iranians who had populated the region by 1000 B.C. In Afghanistan's Badakhshan the prevalent language is Persian. The Pamir languages spoken in Tajikistan and parts of Afghan Badakhshan belong to the Eastern Iranian branch of the Iranian language family. The lingua franca in the whole region is Persian. The main religion is Sunni Islam among the Persian-speaking inhabitants of Afghanistan Badakhshan, while the Pamiri-speakers in Tajik Badakhshan and eastern Afghanistan Badakhshan are overwhelmingly Ismaili Muslims. The people of this province have a rich cultural heritage, noted for its preservation of ancient forms of music, poetry and dance that have been lost in many other parts of Central Asia. The Badakhshanis are proud Tajiks whether natively from Afghanistan or across the Tajik border.

History

Badakhshan has a long history, which can be divided into two major time periods:

Early history

Badakhshan was an important trading center during antiquity. Lapis lazuli was traded exclusively from there as early as the second half of the 4th millennium BC.Badakhshan was an important region when the "Silk Path" passed through. Its significance is its geo-economic role in trades of Silk and ancient commodities transactions beween the East and West.

According to Marco Polo, Badashan/ Badakshan was a province where Balas rubies could be found under the mountain Syghinan.

Modern history

Its boundaries were decided by the Anglo-Russian agreement of 1873, which expressly acknowledged "Badakhshan with its dependent district Wakhan" as "fully belonging to the amir of Kabul," and limited it to the left or southern bank of the Amu Darya (also called Oxus). On the west, Badakhshan was bounded by a line which crosses the Turkestan plains southwards from the junction of the Kundus and Amu Darya rivers until it touches the eastern water-divide of the Tashkurghan River, and then runs southeast, crossing Kunduz, until it strikes the Hindu Kush. The southern boundary was carried along the crest of the Hindu Kush as far as the Khawak Pass, leading from Badakhshan into the Panjshir valley. Beyond this it was indefinite.

It was known that the Kafirs occupied the crest of the Hindu Kush eastwards of the Khawak, but how far they extended north of the main watershed was not ascertainable. The southern limits of Badakhshan became definite again at the Dorah Pass. The Dorah connects Zebak and Ishkashim (Ishkoshim in Tajik) at the elbow, or bend, of the Oxus with the Lutku valley leading to Chitral. From the Dorah eastwards the crest of the Hindu Kush again became the boundary until it effects a junction with the Muztagh and Sarikol ranges, which shut off China from Russia and India. Skirting round the head of the Tagdumbash Pamir, it finally merged into the Pamir Mountains boundary, and turned westwards, following the course of the Oxus, to the junction of that river and the Khanabad (Kunduz).

So far as the northern boundary followed the Oxus stream, under the northern slopes of the Hindu Kush, it was only separated by the length of these slopes (some 8 or 10 miles) from the southern boundary along the crest. Thus Badakhshan reached out an arm into the Pamirs eastwards - bottle-shaped - narrow at the neck (represented by the northern slopes of the Hindu Kush), and swelling out eastwards so as to include a part of the great and little Pamirs.

Before the boundary settlement of 1873 the small states of Rushan and Shugnan extended to the left bank of the Oxus, and the province of Darwaz, on the other hand, extended to the right bank. Then, however, the Darwaz extension northwards was exchanged for the Russian Pamir extension westwards, and the river throughout became the boundary between Russian and Afghan territory; the political boundaries of those provinces and those of Wakhan were no longer coincident with their geographical limits.

The following were the chief provincial subdivisions of Badakhshan, omitting Rushan and Shugnan: on the west Rustak, Kataghan, Ghori, Narin and Anderab; on the north Darwaz, Ragh and Shiwa; on the east Charan, Ishkashim, Zebak and Wakhan; and in the centre Faizabad, Farkhar, Minjan and Kishm. There were others, but nothing certain is known about these minor subdivisions.

In 1895 the Panj River was defined as part of the border between Afghanistani and Russian Badakhshan. Within the Soviet Union, the former Russian part was organized as the Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous oblast (province) within the Tajik SSR, later the Kohistan-Badakhshan Autonomous Province (the official name since 1994) within Tajikistan.

Geography

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, deep amongst 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 centre of Badakhshan, but tailing off to ~100 at Kunduz, in Kataghan, where it merges into the flat plains bordering the Oxus.

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 Panja, through the Pamirs, is the continuation of what must once have been a much-traversed trade route connecting Afghan Turkestan with Kashgar and 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.

References

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