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Tajikistan's Dwindling 'Town Of Giants'

Depshaar, which translates as "Town of Giants," is a tiny Kyrgyz village in the Jerge-Tal district of Tajikistan. The place has never really enjoyed the potential benefits from its proximity to Ismoil Somoni, the summit of the Pamir Mountains, which was known during the Soviet era as "The Peak of Communism." The village was depopulated by Stalinist deportations, and it now faces an exodus of residents to neighboring Kyrgyzstan. (Photos by Janyl Jusupjan)
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Depshaar is a village of postcard beauty at an altitude of 2,300 meters in the western Pamir Mountains. It is one of the last villages on the route to the "Peak of Communism," now renamed Ismoil Samani -- after a medieval Persian king. The houses and walls are built using the local paksa technique -- a mixture of mud with dry grass. People keep goats and grow potatoes, apples, and wheat.
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Depshaar is a village of postcard beauty at an altitude of 2,300 meters in the western Pamir Mountains. It is one of the last villages on the route to the "Peak of Communism," now renamed Ismoil Samani -- after a medieval Persian king. The houses and walls are built using the local paksa technique -- a mixture of mud with dry grass. People keep goats and grow potatoes, apples, and wheat.

A lonely woman sits next to her house. In the 1940s, roads were built, and a new secondary school was filled with teachers from Kyrgyzstan. But in the summer of 1952, the entire population was deported to the Shaar-Tuz district in southern Tajikstan to work on cotton plantations. Many children and old people died when exposed to unbearable heat and a lack of clean water. 
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A lonely woman sits next to her house.

In the 1940s, roads were built, and a new secondary school was filled with teachers from Kyrgyzstan. But in the summer of 1952, the entire population was deported to the Shaar-Tuz district in southern Tajikstan to work on cotton plantations. Many children and old people died when exposed to unbearable heat and a lack of clean water. 

A woman poses with her bread in front of ruins. Not long after the deportations, a landslide destroyed the school, homes, and most of the agricultural land. Some of the houses still stand in ruins -- a daily reminder of those tragic events. Some of the deported villagers returned to Depshaar after about 15 years and started a new life here.
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A woman poses with her bread in front of ruins.

Not long after the deportations, a landslide destroyed the school, homes, and most of the agricultural land. Some of the houses still stand in ruins -- a daily reminder of those tragic events. Some of the deported villagers returned to Depshaar after about 15 years and started a new life here.

Children, like most of the grown-ups, speak only Kyrgyz. They attend an elementary school built recently. From the age of 10, they go to a secondary school in a village called Mök, 5 kilometers down the road. Some ride donkeys to get there.
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Children, like most of the grown-ups, speak only Kyrgyz. They attend an elementary school built recently. From the age of 10, they go to a secondary school in a village called Mök, 5 kilometers down the road. Some ride donkeys to get there.

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