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N 38° 09′ 50′′, E 74° 50′ 37′′
4,184 MASL
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The Pamir Highway pictured in the mid-20th century. Traversing the Pamir Mountains through Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, the Pamir Highway is the second-highest highway in the world, after the nearby Karakorum Highway. As one of the few viable routes through the Pamir Mountains, it has been in use for millennia and was upgraded to a strategic highway by the Soviet Union between 1934 and 1940.

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A Chinese cargo truck on the Pamir Highway. The condition of the highway has deteriorated markedly since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In response to the growing demand for land-based freight transportation between China and Tajikistan, China granted Tajikistan $204 million to rebuild the Tajikistan section of the Pamir Highway up to the Kulma Pass, the only border port between the two countries.

1759: The historic region of Badakhshan in the Pamir Mountains was an important trading center where the ancient Silk Road passed through. When Qing Qianlong Emperor conquered Xinjiang from the Dzungar Khanate (1758–1759), Badakhshan was under the control of the Khanate of Kokand, which became a vassal of Qing China in 1759.


1865: Muslim adventurer Yaqub Beg, who had fled from the Khanate of Kokand after losing Tashkent to the Russians, established the Kingdom of Kashgaria in 1865.


1868: Russia gradually took control of the entire territory of Russian Turkestan between 1864 and 1885, and the Khanate of Kokand became a Russian vassal state in 1868.


1873: Badakhshan’s boundaries were decided by the Anglo-Russian agreement of 1873, which made the Panj and Pamir Rivers the border between Afghanistan and the Russian Empire.


1877: Qing China reconquered Xinjiang after General Zuo Zongtang defeated Yakub Beg.


1884: Russia and China signed a protocol to the Treaty of St. Petersburg (Treaty of Ili), which specified that from the Uzbel Pass, the Russian boundary runs to the southwest, and the Chinese boundary runs straight south. The protocol created a wedge of no-man’s-land encompassing most of the Pamirs.


1892: Russia sent a strong force into the Pamirs to secure Russia’s control over the area south of the Uzbel Pass and claimed the Sarikol Range as the Sino-Russian boundary. Sino-Russian talks on the Pamirs began in 1892, and the issue was shelved in 1894 when China and Russia decided to cooperate on resisting Japan’s advance in northeast Asia.


1893: Pamirsky Post, one of Russia’s most advanced military outpost into Central Asia, was established at Murghab in the Russian-controlled Badakhshan. Works on extending a road connecting Osh and Sary-Tash further south toward Murghab were conducted in the late 19th century, which was later known as the Pamir Highway.


1924: During the Soviet era (1922–1991), Tajikistan was created as an autonomous Soviet socialist republic within Uzbekistan in 1924 and was made a separate constituent republic in 1929. The Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast was established in eastern Tajikistan.


1930: Most of the Pamir Highway (Route M41), which stretches more than 1,200 kilometers between the cities of Osh in Kyrgyzstan and Dushanbe in Tajikistan and connected the Pamir Mountains with the rest of the Soviet Union, was constructed in the 1930s. The Pamirsky Post developed into the modern town of Murghab.


1954: Tashkurgan Tajik Autonomous County was established. The county came under the direct control of Kashgar in 1956.


1965: The construction of the Chinese portion of the Karakoram Highway (KKH) connecting Kashgar and Khunjerab Pass through Tashkurgan started.


1973: The 35th Soviet Border Troop was stationed in Murghab.


1991: Tajikistan depended heavily on Moscow for food and fuel during the Soviet era. With the end of the Soviet Union, government subsidies for the community and the road evaporated. Without regular maintenance, the Pamir Highway faced challenge of rapid deterioration.


1992: Gorno-Badakhshan declared independence when the Tajikistani Civil War (1992–1997) broke out. Gorno-Badakhshan remains an autonomous region within Tajikistan yet experiences continuing instability.


1999: The China-Tajikistan Boundary Agreement was signed, delineating the border to the north of the Uzbel Pass. A supplementary agreement regarding border to the south of the Uzbel Pass was made in 2002.


2001: The road connecting Murghab to Kulma Pass on the China-Tajikistan border was completed, and the Pamir Highway was thus connected with China and KKH.


2004: Karasu Port, the only border port between China and Tajikistan, was established and temporarily opened to commodities.


2010: The Karasu Port started to open all year round.


2011: Tajikistan ratified the 1999 border agreement and the 2002 supplementary agreement to cede the northeastern slopes of the Sarikol Range to China, ending a 130-year dispute.


2015: China and Tajikistan signed several agreements, covering areas from technical and economic cooperation to cultural exchange.


2017: The technical studies of the Five Nations Railway Corridor Project, a railway linking China with Iran via Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan was completed.

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