A Return to Yaghnob Valley

On March 10, 1970, when Kurboon Idliev was 23 years old, Soviet helicopters landed in the remote Yaghnob Valley in northwest Tajikistan and forcibly removed every person from their house. “They transferred us to the lower flatlands to work on cotton plantations. Those who resisted were killed,” he recalls now. It would be 47 years before he returned to the valley again.

Officially, the Soviet government claimed that the Yaghnobi kishlaks—the local term for rural hamlets typically...

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