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Modernity Of Ancient Nomads In Pamir Of Tajikstan

The Kyrgyz of the Pamir Mountains live divided by borders -- some in China or Afghanistan, the majority in Tajikistan. During the Soviet era their nomadic lifestyle was brought to an end, as they were forcibly settled. Now, though, many return to the yurt during the summer, which they spend on the high mountain pastures tending yaks or looking after tourists. By Janyl Jusupjan.


The Korumdu pasture, 4,250 m above sea level, in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan. An extended family, 15 people including children, spend a couple of months here catering to yaks and foreign tourists during the summer.
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The Korumdu pasture, 4,250 m above sea level, in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan. An extended family, 15 people including children, spend a couple of months here catering to yaks and foreign tourists during the summer.

A girl jumps over a creek with a yak looking on. Yaks are the main source of income and work as a monetary unit for financial transactions. A yak can buy you a yurt, which costs around $300.
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A girl jumps over a creek with a yak looking on. Yaks are the main source of income and work as a monetary unit for financial transactions. A yak can buy you a yurt, which costs around $300.

Tagaybek Turdukulov with his grandchildren. Turdukulov was a Komsomol leader in Soviet times, and in the 1990s he was responsible for privatization: distributing yaks and sheep to former workers of state farms.
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Tagaybek Turdukulov with his grandchildren. Turdukulov was a Komsomol leader in Soviet times, and in the 1990s he was responsible for privatization: distributing yaks and sheep to former workers of state farms.

A woman cooking. Women work from early morning till late at night. In addition to cooking and childcare, they milk the yaks twice a day and dig tersken, a shrub used for heating and cooking.
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A woman cooking. Women work from early morning till late at night. In addition to cooking and childcare, they milk the yaks twice a day and dig tersken, a shrub used for heating and cooking.

Dastorkhon – the table of the nomads. A traditional wish from elders to young people is “to have dastorkhon always spread and always full of food.”
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Dastorkhon – the table of the nomads. A traditional wish from elders to young people is “to have dastorkhon always spread and always full of food.”

Yurt entertainment – children watch an Uzbek soup opera. The internet connection is poor, so the children watch pre-downloaded videos.
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Yurt entertainment – children watch an Uzbek soup opera. The internet connection is poor, so the children watch pre-downloaded videos.

A house on the way to Korumdu pasture. The house stands alone in a wide valley where Zilal and Tajikbay Chonbagyshev live with their granddaughter. Most of their children have gone to Kyrgyzstan.
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A house on the way to Korumdu pasture. The house stands alone in a wide valley where Zilal and Tajikbay Chonbagyshev live with their granddaughter. Most of their children have gone to Kyrgyzstan.

Zilal collecting kurut, dried yogurt cheese made of yak milk. In winter it is dissolved in water and consumed with broth.
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Zilal collecting kurut, dried yogurt cheese made of yak milk. In winter it is dissolved in water and consumed with broth.

The kitchen... Life at the pasture is lived outside, the yurt serving mostly for eating and sleeping. At this altitude, the air pressure is lower so food takes longer to cook.
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The kitchen... Life at the pasture is lived outside, the yurt serving mostly for eating and sleeping. At this altitude, the air pressure is lower so food takes longer to cook.

Nomads prepare yaks to ride for European tourists. Tourism is important in an area with almost zero job opportunities.
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Nomads prepare yaks to ride for European tourists. Tourism is important in an area with almost zero job opportunities.

Ydyrys is a guide. He takes tourists to higher altitudes on yaks. The yaks are easier to ride than horses, and require less care as they find most of their food themselves.
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Ydyrys is a guide. He takes tourists to higher altitudes on yaks. The yaks are easier to ride than horses, and require less care as they find most of their food themselves.

A girl making dough. Flour for bread, as most other foodstuffs, is brought in from other areas. The local diet is mainly based on meat and dairy products.
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A girl making dough. Flour for bread, as most other foodstuffs, is brought in from other areas. The local diet is mainly based on meat and dairy products.

Chapaty bread. The name points to cultural connections with Pakistan and India, where chapati bread is common. In Kyrgyzstan, for example, it is called "kalama."
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Chapaty bread. The name points to cultural connections with Pakistan and India, where chapati bread is common. In Kyrgyzstan, for example, it is called "kalama."

This young man is posing as a Ninja. But joking aside, these masks are popular as protection from the sun.
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This young man is posing as a Ninja. But joking aside, these masks are popular as protection from the sun.

View of a truck bringing tersken from the pasture to a village in the valley. It takes two days to collect a truckful of tersken.
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View of a truck bringing tersken from the pasture to a village in the valley. It takes two days to collect a truckful of tersken.

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