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The paper presents a geodynamic interpretation of the deep structure and active tectonics of the northern Tien Shan, with particular emphasis on strike-slip motions, which produced a pull-apart in the centre of the Issyk-Kul basin. The study is based on a detailed interpretation of satellite imagery, fault plane solutions of earthquakes, seismic, and geodetic data.

Seismic and magnetotelluric studies show tectonic layering of the Tien Shan lithosphere, with several nearly horizontal viscoelastic layers and the lower layer underthrust northward in the northern Tien Shan. This active process may be responsible for the intricate present-day tectonic framework of the northern Tien Shan.

The recent tectonics of the northern Tien Shan inherits the earlier structure: The lens-shaped Issyk-Kul microcontinent comprising Precambrian-Palaeozoic metamorphic and magmatic rocks is surrounded by thick shear zones which have been involved in the activity over most of the Cenozoic. In the Quaternary the strain propagated as far as the central part of the Issyk-Kul basin.

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