For many centuries, (semi-)nomadic pastoralists used pasture areas in the Tien Shan and Pamir mountains. Under Soviet rule, sedentarization began in the 1930s and collective farms replaced socioeconomic units based on kinship. Soviet land use was monofunctional and dependent on high levels of inputs such as chemical fertilisers, machinery, concentrated feed, and subsidies and was neither ecologically sustainable nor economically viable. In the process of political and economic transformation after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, state farms have been dismantled, land and livestock privatised and specialised employees such as technicians have suddenly become independent farmers. Today, large farms and herds no longer exist, having been replaced by a multitude of small household enterprises. Each household’s socioeconomic situation is unique, and so are household livelihood strategies. Activities focusing on sustainable development and sustainable pasture management must therefore take account of this new socioeconomic situation.