The town of Khorugh – the capital of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, with a population of about 30,000 – is situated on high narrow terraces 2,060m above sea level near the confluence of the Ghunt and Shohdara rivers on the border with Afghanistan. The river valley here is narrow, so the town is actually two large streets lined with poplars.
In 1895, when the state border between the Russian Empire and Afghanistan was finally decided, a Russian boundary fortification of three houses and a barrack emerged in the small mountain village of Khorugh.
A road from Osh to Khorugh was built, but it was only possible to go on horseback to deliver goods from camel caravans. There were no more than 90 households here in the early 20th century. The Russian authorities opened a school and a clinic for the local population. These features made Khorugh stand out from the other villages of Shughnon (the name of the Ghunt and Shohdara river basin area).
From the mid-1920s, when Khorugh was made the administrative centre of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, it began to grow and develop. The first apartment buildings were built in 1926. In 1929, the first plane arrived in Khorugh. The first car arrived two years later. The construction of the Khorugh hydropower station, the first in the Pamirs, began in 1934.
Nowadays Khorugh is the scientific, cultural, educational and economic centre of the oblast. The city hosts the Humanities Institute, the Pamiri Biological Institute of the Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan, Khorugh State University, a vocational school, a medical college, and a Music & Drama Theatre, as well as a hospital with modern medical equipment.
Khorugh is approximately halfway between Dushanbe and Osh, Kyrgyzstan or Kashgar, China along the Pamir Highway (М-41). Khorugh is 525km from the capital of Tajikistan, 825km from Osh, and 615km from Kashgar. In May 2004, the Khorugh-Murghob-Kulma Pass highway (the border of Tajikistan and China) was opened, extending the Karakoram Highway.
Driving south from here, you can reach the nearest Chinese town of Tashqurgan, populated mainly by Tajiks. Kashgar is on the northern route. Recently, a new bridge over the Panj River was opened in Khorugh, connecting Tajikistan with Afghanistan (Badakhshan Province)..