Small Group Tour in Central Asia 2024-2025

Decline of the Silk Road

Why the Great Silk Road became unpopular

After the great geographical discoveries in the late 15th – early 16th centuries the intercontinental overland trade routes fell into decay. The speed of the sea transportation, the possibility to carry more goods, relative cheapness of transportation resulted in the decline of the Silk Road in the end of the 15th century. Although some of its routes, especially those in the high-mountainous areas, connecting Tajikistan, Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and India, existed until the beginning of the 20th century. 

During the civil war in China the destroyed Silk Road once again played its big role in the history of China. In 1939 when Japanese captured all seaports in China, the government of Kuomintang asked the USSR to build an automobile road which partially coincided with the northern route of the Silk Road. The road ran from Sary-Ozek railway station on Turkestan-Siberian Railway (Turk-Sib) via Khorgos, Kuldzha, and Khami to Lanchow for about 3 thousand km.

In 1940 Great Britain by request of Japan closed Burmese road, and the Silk Road of the Soviet version became the only road by means of which China could receive aid from outside world. In 1937-1941 this road was used for military deliveries, including the newest arms and military machines. Those deliveries allowed the government of Kuomintang to survive in its struggle against Japanese.