Learning English - Words in the News
15 November, 2004 - Published 13:17 GMT
Russian army leaves Pamir Valley
In an historic moment, the first Russian army officers have left their post in the Pamir Mountains, that tower above Central Asia and northern Afghanistan. After more than 100 years of rule the Russians are handing over power to the Tajik military. This report from Monica Whitlock:
The Pamir is one of the highest mountain ranges on earth -- the point where Central Asia and Afghanistan rise to meet China and Pakistan among a mass of peaks and glaciers. The Russians struggled their way up the Pamir in Czarist times, needing a watchtower above Asia, and have been there ever since. Now, the first officers have stepped down at the Tajik-Afghan border post of Ishkashim, by agreement with both governments. It's part of a staged withdrawal of all Russian border forces from Tajikistan due to be complete next year.
Some Tajiks are delighted to take charge of their own frontiers at last, but others are disconcerted -- they find it hard to image the Pamir without the Russian flag, and they worry that local bandits will flourish, especially heroin smugglers doing cross-border trade with Afghanistan. Many Russians are also unhappy -- they feel they're being pushed out of a land they see as their backyard, and losing a vantage point they've held for generations.
Monica Whitlock, BBC, Tashkent