Tajikistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia that borders Afghanistan to the south, China to the east, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and Uzbekistan to the west and northwest. The ancient Silk Road passed through it. The nation is unique in that the majority culture is non-Turkic, unlike its neighbors to the north, west and east. The culture of Tajikistan has developed over several thousand years. Tajik culture can be divided into two areas, Metropolitan and Kuhiston (Highland). Ancient towns such as Bukhara, Samarkand, Herat, Balkh, and Nishopur Khiva are no longer part of the country. The Tajik people are of ethnic Persian descent and constitute the largest indigenous group in the country (about 65 percent of the population). Within this group are the Pamiris, who live in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province and number nearly forty thousand. The Pamiris speak a different language and belong to the Ismaili Shiite sect of Islam, while Tajiks are Sunni. Gorno-Badakhshon is surrounded by mountains, and is isolated for most of the year. Other ethnic groups that were caught within the country as the borders in Central Asia were redrawn during the Soviet era include Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, Kazakhs, Uyghur, and Bukharan and European Jews. Beginning in the eighteenth century, many Russians migrated to the area as soldiers and laborers. Other nonindigenous ethnic groups include Crimean Tartars, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Georgians, Osetians, Koreans, and Armenians. When Tajikistan won independence in 1991, a struggle for power between the clans developed into a civil war. At that time, Islamic fundamentalists wanted to create an Islamic state. Political instability led to a collapsing infrastructure, corruption, and extreme poverty.