Pōmērə (Shughni)
Flag used by the Pamiri people
A Pamiri girl photographed in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan
Total population
300–350 thousand[1] (2006)
Regions with significant populations
199,500 (2013)[2]
50,265 (2015)[3]
20,000 (2018)[4]
Secondary: Persian (Dari and Tajik), Russian, Urdu, Mandarin
Mainly Islam (predominantly Nizari Isma'ili Shia Islam, minority Sunni Islam)
Related ethnic groups
Other Iranian peoples

The Pamiris[a] are an Eastern Iranian ethnic group, native to Central Asia, living primarily in Tajikistan (Gorno-Badakhshan), Afghanistan (Badakhshan), Pakistan (Gilgit-Baltistan) and China (Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County). They speak a variety of different languages, amongst which languages of the Eastern Iranian Pamir language group stand out. The languages of the Shughni-Rushani group, alongside Wakhi, are the most widely spoken Pamiri languages.



See also: Ancient Iranian peoples and Proto-Indo-Europeans

Sculpture of a Saka warrior in Khalchayan, Northern Bactria, 1st century BC

The origin of the Pamiris is attributed to the expansion of the nomadic Sakas, which probably took place in several waves, in different ways, and different Iranian-speaking communities that emerged outside the region took part in the settlement of the Pamirs.[1][5][6] The earliest was probably the migration of the ancestors of the Wakhi people, close to the Xinjiang Sakas, who moved from the Eastern Pamirs. The Western Pamirs, which was defending itself from the invasion of eastern nomads, became the eastern outpost of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom from the middle of the 3rd century BC, and the Kushan Empire from the middle of the 1st century AD.[6][7] Nomadic cattle breeding developed in the Eastern Pamirs, while agriculture and pastoralism developed in the Western Pamirs.[6] Remains of ancient fortresses and border fortifications of the Bactrian and Kushan periods are still preserved in the Pamirs.[7]

Middle Ages

Vasily Bartold (d. 1930), in his work "Turkistan" mentions that in the 10th century these regions (Wakhan, Shikinan (Shughnan) and Kerran (probably Rushan and Darvaz) have already been settled by pagans, however in the political realm, probably, were subjugated by Muslims. Mass migration particularly strengthened after the 5th and 6th centuries because of the Turkic movement into Central Asia (and the Mongols afterwards) from whom the settled Iranian population escaped in canyons that were not attractive for cattle-breeding needed wildest.[8] In the 12th century, Badakhshan was annexed to the Ghurid state.[9] Between the 10 and 16th centuries Wakhan, Shughnan and Rushan together with Darvaz (the last two were united in the 16th century) were governed by the local feudal dynasties and actually were independent.[10][11][12]

Modern history

In 1895, Badakhshan was divided between Afghanistan, which was under British influence, and the Emirate of Bukhara, which was under the protectorate of the Tsarist Russian Empire.[6][13][11] The central lands of Badakhshan, however, remained on the Afghan side of the demarcation line.[13][14] On 2 January 1925, the Soviet government decided to create a new geographical and political entity known in modern times as the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast' (GBAO). During the Soviet period Pamiris were generally excluded from positions of power within the republic, with a few exceptions, notably Shirinshoh Shotemur, a Shughni who held the position of chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic during the 1930s; and Nazarshoh Dodkhudoev, a Rushani [ru] who served as chairman of the Presidium of the Tajik Supreme Soviet in the 1950s.[15] Literacy of the population of GBAO had grown from 2% in 1913 to almost 100% in 1984. The Pamirs were among the top of all of the Soviet Union regions in terms of the number of people with a university degree.[16]

In the 1926 census the Pamiris were labelled as "Mountain Tajiks", in the 1937 and 1939 censuses they appeared as separate ethnic groups within the Tajiks, in the 1959, 1970 and 1979 censuses they were classified as Tajiks.[6] In the late 1980s Pamiri identity was further solidified through efforts to elevate the status of Pamiri languages and to promote literature in the Pamiri languages, as well as 'claims of sovereignty and republic status for Badakhshan' made by Pamiri intellectuals.[15] In 1991, after the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), GBAO remained part of the newly independent country of Tajikistan.[13]

On 4 March 1991 the Pamiri organisation La'li Badakhshan (lit.'Ruby of Badakhshan') was formed in Dushanbe.[17][18][19] The founder of this organization was Atobek Amirbekov, a Pamiri born in Khorog who had worked at the Dushanbe Pedagogical Institute as a lecturer and deputy dean.[17][19] The backbone of the organisation were students of higher educational institutions of the capital and Pamiri youth living in the Tajik capital.[18] La'li Badakhshan's primary objective was to represent the cultural interests of the Pamiri people and to advocate for greater autonomy for the GBAO. The group also participated in and organised numerous demonstrations in Dushanbe and Khorog during the first year of independence in Tajikistan.[17]

Another Pamiri organisation Nosiri Khusrav was established in Dushanbe, which, according to its programme, dealt exclusively with religious issues.[18]


Although the Soviet ethnographers called the Pamiris as "Mountain Tajiks" the majority of the Pamiri intelligentsia see themselves as belonging to a separate and distinct ethnos.[20] In China, the same people are officially deemed to be Tajiks. Not so long ago the same was true in Afghanistan where they were identified as Tajiks, but more recently the Afghan government reclassified them as Pamiris.[21]


See also: Religion in Tajikistan, Islam in Tajikistan, and Islam in Afghanistan

Imaginary depiction of Nasir Khusraw on a postage stamp issued by Tajikistan in 2003

Zoroastrianism spread in the Pamirs from the end of the 1st millennium BC (in Shughnan and Wakhan Zoroastrian temples were active until the late Middle Ages).

The town of Sikāshim [modern Ishkashim on both the Tajik and Afghan sides] is the capital of the region of Wakhān (gaṣabi-yi nāhiyyat-i Wakhān). Its inhabitants are the fire-worshipers (gabrakān) and the Muslims, and the ruler (malik) of Wakhān lives there. Khamdud [Khandut in modern Afghan Wakhān] is where the idol temples of the Wakhis (butkhāna-yi Wakhān) are located.[22]

The spread of Isma'ilism is associated with the stay in the Pamirs of Nasir Khusraw (d. 1088), the Fatimid Ḥujjat of Khorasan, who was hiding from Sunni fanaticism in Shughnan.[6][23][24] As Lydia Monogarova asserts, one of the main reasons why Pamiris accepted Isma'ilism can be seen as their extreme tolerance to various beliefs compared to the other sects of Islam.[25] As a result, terms such as Daʿwat-i Nāṣir or Daʿwat-i Pīr Shāh Nāṣir are prevalent designations among the Isma'ilis in Tajik and Afghan Badakhshan, the northern areas of Pakistan and certain parts of Xinjiang province in China.[23][26] The Isma'ilis of Badakhshan and their offshoot communities in the Hindu Kush region, now situated in Hunza and other northern areas of Pakistan, regard Nasir as the founder of their communities.[24]

During the concealment period (dawr al-satr), which continued in Isma'ili history for several centuries (from the Alamut collapse until the Anjudan revival), several elements of the Twelver Shi'i and Sufi ideas became mixed with the Isma'ili belief of the Pamiris.[27] Recognizing as their chiefs Muhammad, his daughter Fatima, son-in-law Ali and grandsons Hasan and Husayn, the Pamiris call their religion "Dīn-i Panjtanī" (lit.'the religion of five personage') and perceive themselves as the followers of this religion, which they name as "Panjtani".[28][29][30]. The label Choryori (literally, from Tajiki for 'four friends') is used by the Pamiri Isma'ilis to refer to the Sunni Muslims who acknowledge the first four caliphs (Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali).[31] The use of the term Dīn-i Panjtanī, a local equivalent of the term Shi'a in the context of Badakhshan, expresses an allegiance to the Shi'a, in general, and to Isma'ilism, in particular.[32]


Main article: Pamir languages

Among modern Iranian languages those spoken in the Pamirs belong to the same group as the ancient languages of the Saka, and some are perhaps directly descended from the dialects of antiquity.[33] The Pamiris linguistically vary into the Shughni-Rushani, Wakhi, Sarikoli and Ishkashimi groups.[11] Native languages of Pamiri nationalities belong to the southeastern branch of Iranian languages.[34][33] However, according to Encyclopedia Iranica, the Pamiri languages and Pashto belong to the North-Eastern Iranian branch.[35]

Although Pamiri languages belong to the same group of eastern-Iranian languages they exclude common understanding among themselves.[34] Tajik language, called as forsi (Persian) by Pamiris, was used for communication as between them and with neighboring peoples as well.[34][36][37]


  1. ^


  1. ^ a b Лашкарбеков 2006, pp. 111–30.
  2. ^ Hays, Jeffrey. "Pamiri Tajiks and Yaghnobis | Facts and Details". Retrieved 29 December 2023.
  3. ^ "新疆维吾尔自治区统计局". 11 October 2017. Archived from the original on 11 October 2017. Retrieved 29 December 2023.
  4. ^ Додыхудоева 2018, p. 108.
  5. ^ Davlatshoev 2006, p. 36.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Каландаров 2014.
  7. ^ a b Nazarkhudoeva 2015, p. 102.
  8. ^ Davlatshoev 2006, pp. 37–8.
  9. ^ Nourmamadchoev 2014, p. 40.
  10. ^ Davlatshoev 2006, p. 38.
  11. ^ a b c Iloliev 2022, p. 47.
  12. ^ Straub 2014, p. 175.
  13. ^ a b c Nourmamadchoev 2014, p. 36.
  14. ^ Daudov, Shorokhov & Andreev 2018, p. 804.
  15. ^ a b Straub 2014, p. 177.
  16. ^ Daudov, Shorokhov & Andreev 2018, p. 805.
  17. ^ a b c Straub 2014, p. 179.
  18. ^ a b c Худоёров 2011, p. 79.
  19. ^ a b Kılavuz 2014, p. 88.
  20. ^ Davlatshoev 2006, p. 102.
  21. ^ Dagiev 2018, p. 23.
  22. ^ Iloliev 2008, p. 29.
  23. ^ a b Nourmamadchoev 2014, p. 147.
  24. ^ a b Daftary 2007, p. 207.
  25. ^ Davlatshoev 2006, p. 50.
  26. ^ Davlatshoev 2006, pp. 44, 48.
  27. ^ Iloliev 2008, p. 41.
  28. ^ Davlatshoev 2006, p. 47.
  29. ^ Nourmamadchoev 2014, p. 124.
  30. ^ Iloliev 2008, pp. 36, 41–42.
  31. ^ Daftary 2011, p. 66.
  32. ^ Nourmamadchoev 2014, pp. 24, 124.
  33. ^ a b Steblin-Kamenski 1990.
  34. ^ a b c Davlatshoev 2006, p. 51.
  35. ^ Sims-Williams 1996.
  36. ^ Моногарова 1965, p. 27.
  37. ^ Nourmamadchoev 2014, p. 37, 38.