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The Pamir Mountains (Chinese:帕米尔高原; Urdu:سلسلہ کوہ پامیر; Tajik:Кӯҳҳои Помир; Persian:پامیر کوهستان; Uyghur:پامىر ئېگىزلىكى) are a mountain range in Central Asia formed by the junction or knot of the Himalayasmarker, Tian Shanmarker, Karakorammarker, Kunlun, and Hindu Kushmarker ranges. They are among the world’s highest mountains and since Victorian times they have been known as the "Roof of the World", translated from "Pamir". They are also known by the Chinese name of Congling (cōnglǐng 葱嶺), (Wade-Giles: Ts'ung-ling) or "Onion Range" (from the wild onions growing in the region).

The precise extent of the Pamir Mountains is debatable. They lie mostly in Gorno-Badakhshanmarker province, Tajikistanmarker and Badakshan Province, Afghanistanmarker. To the north they join the Tian Shan mountains along the Alay Valley of Kyrgyzstanmarker. To the south they join the Hindu Kush mountains along the Wakhan Corridormarker in Afghanistanmarker and Pakistanmarker. To the east they may end on the Chinese border or extend to the range that includes Kongur Taghmarker which is sometimes included in the Kunlun Mountainsmarker.


Its three highest mountains are Ismoil Somoni Peakmarker (known from 1932–1962 as Stalin Peak, and from 1962–1998 as Communism Peak), ; Ibn Sina Peakmarker (still unofficially known as Lenin Peakmarker), ; and Peak Korzhenevskayamarker ( , Pik Korzhenevskoi), .

There are many glaciers in the Pamir Mountains, including the long Fedchenko Glaciermarker, the longest in the former USSRmarker and the longest glacier outside the Polar region.


Part of the Pamir Mountain range in springtime.
Covered in snow throughout the year, the Pamirs have long and bitterly cold winters, and short, cool summers. Annual precipitation is about , which supports grasslands but few trees.


Coal is mined in the west, though sheep herding in upper meadowlands are the primary source of income for the region.


This section is based on the book by R. Middleton and H. Thomas

The lapis lazuli found in Egyptian tombs is thought to come from the Pamir area. About 138 BC Zhang Qian reached the Fergana Valleymarker northwest of the Pamirs. Ptolemy vaguely describes a trade route though the area. From about 600 AD, Buddhist pilgrims travelled on both sides of the Pamirs to reach India from China. In 747 a Tang army was on the Wakhan River. There are various Arab and Chinese reports. Marco Polo may have travelled along the Panj River. In 1602 Bento de Goes travelled from Kabulmarker to Yarkandmarker and left a meager report on the Pamirs. In 1838 Lieutenant John Wood reached the headwaters of the Pamir Rivermarker. From about 1868 to 1880, a number of Indians in the British service secretly explored the Panj area. In 1873 the British and Russians agreed to an Afghan frontier along the Panj River. From 1871 to around 1893 several Russian military-scientific expeditions mapped out most of the Pamirs (Alexei Pavlovich Fedchenko, Nikolai Severtzov, Captain Putyata and others. Later came Nikolai Korzhenevskiy). Several local groups asked for Russian protection from Afghan raiders. The Russians were followed by a number of non-Russians including Ney Elias, George Littledale, the Earl of Dunmore, Wilhelm Filchner and Lord Curzon who was probably the first to reach the Wakhan source of the Oxus Rivermarker. In 1891 the Russians informed Francis Younghusband that he was on their territory and later escorted a Lieutenant Davidson out of the area ('Pamir Incident'). In 1892 a battalion of Russians under Mikhail Ionov entered the area and camped near the present Murghab. In 1893 they built a proper fort there (Pamirskiy Post). In 1895 their base was moved to Khorogmarker facing the Afghans.

In 1928 the last blank areas around the Fedchenko Glaciermarker were mapped out by a German-Soviet expedition under Willi Rickmer Rickmers.

'A pamir'

According to Middleton and Thomas, 'pamir' is also a geological term. A pamir is a flat plateau or valley surrounded by mountains. It forms when a glacier or ice field melts leaving a rocky plain. A pamir lasts until erosion forms soil and cuts down normal valleys. This type of terrain is found mostly in the east and south of Gorno-Badakhshan as opposed to the valleys and gorges of the west. Pamirs were used for summer pasture. Note that the cited sources are all from the early twentieth century, so this usage may be out of date.

The Great Pamir is around Lake Zorkulmarker. The Little Pamir is northeast of this to Aktash. The Taghdumbash Pamir is between Tashkurgan and the Wakhan Corridormarker along the Karakoram Highwaymarker. The Alichur Pamir is around Yashil Kul on the Gunt River. The Sarez Pamir is around the town of Murghabmarker. The Khargush Pamir is south of Lake Kara-Kulmarker. There are several others. The Pamir Rivermarker is in the south.


In the early 1980s, a deposit of gemstone-quality clinohumite was discovered in the Pamir Mountains. It was the only such deposit known until the discovery of gem-quality material in the Taymyrmarker region of Siberiamarker, in 2000.


The Pamir Highway, the world's second highest international road, runs from Dushanbemarker in Tajikistanmarker to Oshmarker in Kyrgyzstanmarker through the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Provincemarker, and is the isolated region's main supply route. The Great Silk Road crossed a number of Pamir Mountain ranges.

Strategic position

Ismoil Somoni Peak (then known as Peak Communism) taken in 1989
Flying over Pamir
Climbers near "Peak Communism" in 1978
Historically, the Pamir Mountains were considered a strategic trade route between Kashgarmarker and Kokandmarker on the Northern Silk Road and have been subject to numerous territorial conquests. The Northern Silk Road (about in length) connected the ancient Chinese capital of Xianmarker to the west over the Pamir Mountains to emerge in Kashgarmarker before linking to ancient Parthia. In the 20th century, they have been the setting for Tajikistan Civil War, border disputes between China and Soviet Union, establishment of US, Russian, and Indian military bases, and renewed interest in trade development and resource exploration.

See also


Further reading

  • Curzon, George Nathaniel. 1896. The Pamirs and the Source of the Oxus. Royal Geographical Society, London. Reprint: Elibron Classics Series, Adamant Media Corporation. 2005. ISBN 1-4021-5983-8 (pbk; ISBN 1-4021-3090-2 (hbk).
  • Gordon, T. E. 1876. The Roof of the World: Being the Narrative of a Journey over the high plateau of Tibet to the Russian Frontier and the Oxus sources on Pamir. Edinburgh. Edmonston and Douglas. Reprint by Ch’eng Wen Publishing Company. Taipei. 1971.
  • Toynbee, Arnold J. 1961. Between Oxus and Jumna. London. Oxford University Press.
  • Wood, John, 1872. A Journey to the Source of the River Oxus. With an essay on the Geography of the Valley of the Oxus by Colonel Henry Yule. London: John Murray.
  • Horsman, S. 2002. Peaks, Politics and Purges: the First Ascent of Pik Stalin in Douglas, E. (ed.) Alpine Journal 2002 (Volume 107), The Alpine Club & Ernest Press, London, pp 199-206.
  • Leitner, G. W. 1890. Dardistan in 1866, 1886 and 1893: Being an Account of the History, Religions, Customs, Legends, Fables and Songs of Gilgit, Chilas, Kandia (Gabrial) Yasin, Chitral, Hunza, Nagyr and other parts of the Hindukush. With a supplement to the second edition of The Hunza and Nagyr Handbook. And an Epitome of Part III of the author’s “The Languages and Races of Dardistan”. First Reprint 1978. Manjusri Publishing House, New Delhi.
  • Strong, Anna Louise. 1930. The Road to the Grey Pamir. Robert M. McBride & Co., New York.
  • Slesser, Malcolm "Red Peak: A Personal Account of the British-Soviet Expedition" Coward McCann 1964
  • Tilman, H. W. "Two Mountains and a River" part of "The Severn Mountain Travel Books". Diadem, London. 1983
  • Waugh, Daniel C. 1999. "The ‘Mysterious and Terrible Karatash Gorges’: Notes and Documents on the Explorations by Stein and Skrine." The Geographical Journal, Vol. 165, No. 3. (Nov., 1999), pp. 306-320.

External links

  • Photos of the Tajik Pamirs, with emphasis on Wakhan area
  • Information and photos
  • The Pamirs. 1:500.000 - A tourist map of Gorno-Badkshan-Tajikistan and background information on the region. Verlag „Gecko-Maps“, Switzerland 2004 (ISBN 3-906593-35-5)
  • Tourist office in Khorog (Tajikistan) Pamirs Tourism Association
  • Photos of the life of ethnic Kyrgyz in Afghan's Little Pamir
  • Photos and Online Guide to Trekking in the Wakhan and Afghan Pamir

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