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Bridges at the Border: Exploring Tajik-Afghan Borderland Infrastructure

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Document pages: 15 pages

Abstract: The present-day borders of Tajikistan were established in 1929 and are based on the earlier 1872-3 demarcation between the Russian Empire and the British Empire. Bridges were not an important feature of borderland infrastructure until 1979. Today, five bridges along the border serve as gateways to trade and other exchanges. The ongoing territorial dispute between Tajikistan and China concerns an area of approximately twenty thousand square kilometres of land (about the size of the state of New Jersey), situated high in the Pamirs. It is the most difficult boundary dispute remaining after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The land is also home to the Pamiri, who share their language, culture and ethnicity with people of Eastern Iran and northern Afghanistan. Far from being ‘spaces of refuge’ or ‘isolated, marginalised regions’, these are mountain communities of active, dynamic adaptation, regional nodes in a trade network that traces its heritage more than 3000 years. If resilience to external threat and local conflicts is any measure of legitimate power, the local Pamiri and their ancestors are the undisputed owners of their mountain territory. This paper considers the role of bridges as border infrastructure and as markers of competing notions of ‘ownership’ and influence within the borderland.

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