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Tajikistan ( or ; ), officially the Republic of Tajikistan ( , Jumhurii Tojikiston), is a mountainous landlocked country in Central Asia. Afghanistanmarker borders it to the south, Uzbekistanmarker to the west, Kyrgyzstanmarker to the north, and People's Republic of Chinamarker to the east. Tajikistan also lies adjacent to Pakistanmarker but is separated by the narrow Wakhan Corridormarker.

Most of Tajikistan's population belongs to the Tajik ethnic group, who share culture and history with Afghanistanmarker and speak the Persian language (officially referred to as Tajiki in Tajikistan). Once part of the Samanid Empire, Tajikistan became a constituent republic of the Soviet Unionmarker in the 20th century, known as the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republicmarker (Tajik SSR). Mountains cover over 90% of this Central Asian republic.

After independence, Tajikistan suffered from a devastating civil war which lasted from 1992 to 1997. Since the end of the war, newly established political stability and foreign aid have allowed the country's economy to grow. Trade in commodities such as cotton and aluminium wire has contributed greatly to this steady improvement. In Tajikistan about 20% of the population lives on less than US$1.25 per day.


Tajikistan means the "Land of the Tajiks". Some believe the name Tajik is a geographic reference to the crown (Taj) of the Pamir Knotmarker, but this is a folk etymology. The word Tajik was used to differentiate Tajiks from Turks in Central Asia, starting as early as the 10th century. The addition of 'k' might have been for the purpose of euphony in the set phrase Turk-o Tajik ("Turks and Tajiks") which in Persian-language histories is found as an idiomatic expression meaning "everyone."

Tajikistan frequently appeared as Tadjikistan or Tadzhikistan in English, transliterated from the Russian Таджикистан (in Russian the phoneme /d​͡ʒ/ is represented as дж, i.e., dzh or dj.) Tadzhikistan is the most common alternate spelling and is widely used in English literature derived from Russian sources. Tadjikistan is the spelling in French and can occasionally be found in English language texts.

Controversy surrounds the correct term used to identify people from Tajikistan. The word Tajik has been the traditional term used to describe people from Tajikistan and appears widely in literature. But the ethnic politics of Central Asia have made the word Tajik a controversial word, as it implies that Tajikistan is only a nation for ethnic Tajiks and not ethnic Uzbeks, Russians, etc.

Likewise, ethnic Tajiks live in other countries, such as Chinamarker, Uzbekistanmarker and Afghanistanmarker, making the term ambiguous.


Early history

The territory of what is now Tajikistan has been inhabited continuously since 4000 BCE. It has been under the rule of various empires throughout history, for the longest period being part of the Persian Empire.

Most of modern Tajikistan had formed parts of ancient Kamboja and Parama Kamboja kingdoms, which find references in the ancient Indian epics like the Mahabharata. Linguistic evidence, combined with ancient literary and inscriptional evidence has led many eminent Indologists to conclude that ancient Kambojas originally belonged to the Ghalcha-speaking area of Central Asia.

Acharya Yasaka's Nirukta (7th century BCE) attests that verb Śavati in the sense "to go" was used by only the Kambojas. It has been shown that the modern Ghalcha dialects, Valkhi, Shigali, Sriqoli, Jebaka (also called Sanglichi or Ishkashim), Munjani, Yidga and Yaghnobi, mainly spoken in Pamir and countries on the headwaters of the Oxusmarker, still use terms derived from ancient Kamboja Śavati in the sense "to go". The Yaghnobi language, spoken by the Yaghnobis in the Sughd Provincemarker around the headwaters of Zeravshanmarker valley, also still contains a relic "Śu" from ancient Kamboja Śavati in the sense "to go".

Further, Sir G Grierson says that the speech of Badakshan was a Ghalcha until about three centuries ago when it was supplanted by a form of Persian. Thus, the ancient Kamboja, probably included the Badakshan, Pamirsmarker and northern territories including the Yaghnobi region in the doab of the Oxusmarker and Jaxartesmarker. On the east it was bounded roughly by Yarkandmarker and/or Kashgarmarker, on the west by Bahlika (Uttaramadra), on the northwest by Sogdiana, on the north by Uttarakuru, on the southeast by Darada, and on the south by Gandhara.

Numerous Indologists locate original Kamboja in Pamirsmarker and Badakshan and the Parama Kamboja further north, in the Trans-Pamirian territories comprising Zeravshanmarker valley, north up parts of Sogdhiana/Fargana — in the Sakadvipa or Scythia of the classical writers.

Thus, in the pre-Buddhist times (7th–6th century BCE), the parts of modern Tajikistan including territories as far as Zeravshan valley in Sogdiana formed parts of ancient Kamboja and the Parama Kamboja kingdoms when it was ruled by the Indian Kambojas till it became part of Persian Achaemenid Empire. After the Persian Empire was defeated by Alexander the Great, the region became the northern part of Hellenistic Greco-Bactrian Kingdom.
From the last quarter of fourth century BCE until the first quarter of the second century BCE, it was part of the Bactrian Empire, from whom it was passed on to Scythian Tukharas and hence became part of Tukharistan. Contact with the Chinese Han Dynasty was made in the second century BCE, when envoys were sent to the area of Bactria to explore regions west of China.

Arabs brought Islam in the 7th century CE . The Samanid Empire supplanted the Arabs and enlarged the cities of Samarkandmarker and Bukharamarker, which became the cultural centers of Tajiks (both of which are now in Uzbekistanmarker). The Mongols would later take partial control of Central Asia, and later the land that today comprises Tajikistan became a part of the Emirate of Bukharamarker. A small community of Jews, displaced from the Middle East after the Babylonian captivity, migrated to the region and settled there after 600 BCE, though the majority of the recent Jewish population did not migrate to Tajikistan until the 20th century.

Russian presence

In the 19th century, the Russian Empiremarker began to spread into Central Asia during the Great Game. Between 1864 and 1885 it gradually took control of the entire territory of Russian Turkestan from today's border with Kazakhstanmarker in the north to the Caspian Seamarker in the west and the border with Afghanistanmarker in the south. Tajikistan was eventually carved out of this territory, which historically had a large Tajik population.

After the overthrow of Imperial Russia in 1917, guerrillas throughout Central Asia, known as basmachi waged a war against Bolshevik armies in a futile attempt to maintain independence. The Bolsheviks prevailed after a four-year war, in which mosques and villages were burned down and the population heavily suppressed. Soviet authorities started a campaign of secularization, practicing Muslims, Jews, and Christians were persecuted, and mosques, churches, and synagogues were closed.

Soviet Tajikistan

In 1924, the Tajik Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was created as a part of Uzbekistanmarker, but in 1929 the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republicmarker (Tajik SSRmarker) was made a separate constituent republic. The predominantly ethnic Tajik cities of Samarkandmarker and Bukharamarker remained in the Uzbek SSR. Between 1926 and 1959 the proportion of Russians among Tajikistan's population grew from less than 1% to 13%.

In terms of living conditions, education and industry Tajikistan was behind the other Soviet Republics. In the 1980s, it had the lowest household saving rate in the USSR, the lowest percentage of households in the two top per capita income groups, and the lowest rate of university graduates per 1000 people.

By the late 1980s Tajik nationalists were calling for increased rights. Real disturbances did not occur within the republic until 1990. The following year, the Soviet Union collapsed, and Tajikistan declared its independence.


The nation almost immediately fell into a civil war that involved various factions fighting one another; these factions were often distinguished by clan loyalties. The non-Muslim population, particularly Russians and Jews, fled the country during this time because of persecution, increased poverty and better economic opportunities in the West or in other former Soviet republics.

Emomalii Rahmon came to power in 1992, and continues to rule to this day. Ethnic cleansing was controversial during the civil war in Tajikistan. By the end of the war Tajikistan was in a state of complete devastation. The estimated dead numbered over 50,000. Around 1.2 million people were refugees inside and outside of the country. In 1997, a ceasefire was reached between Rahmon and opposition parties (United Tajik Opposition).

Peaceful elections were held in 1999, but they were reported by the opposition as unfair, and Rahmon was re-elected by almost unanimous vote. Russianmarker troops were stationed in southern Tajikistan, in order to guard the border with Afghanistanmarker, until summer 2005. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, Americanmarker, Indianmarker and Frenchmarker troops have also been stationed in the country.

In 2008, the harshest winter in a quarter century caused financial losses of $850 million. Russiamarker pledged $1 billion in aid. Saudi Arabiamarker sent about 10 planes carrying 80 tons of relief and emergency supplies in February and another 11 tons in March.


Almost immediately after independence, Tajikistan was plunged into a civil war that saw various factions, allegedly backed by Russia and Iranmarker , fighting one another. All but 25,000 of the more than 400,000 ethnic Russians, who were mostly employed in industry, fled to Russia. By 1997, the war had cooled down, and a central government began to take form, with peaceful elections in 1999.

"Longtime observers of Tajikistan often characterize the country as profoundly averse to risk and skeptical of promises of reform, a political passivity they trace to the country’s ruinous civil war," Ilan Greenberg wrote in a news article in The New York Times just before the country's November 2006 presidential election.

Tajikistan is officially a republic, and holds elections for the President and Parliament. The latest parliamentary elections occurred in 2005 (two rounds in February and March), and international observers believe that the elections have been corrupt for some time, arousing many accusations from opposition parties that President Emomali Rahmon manipulates the election process.

The latest presidential election held on November 6, 2006 was boycotted by "mainline" opposition parties, including the 23,000-member Islamist Islamic Renaissance Party. Four remaining opponents "all but endorsed the incumbent", Rahmon. After November 2006 presidential elections, it is widely speculated that Rahmon has secured his seat for at least another two terms, which will allow him rule until 2020.

Tajikistan to this date is one of the few countries in Central Asia to have included an active opposition in its government. In the Parliament, opposition groups have often clashed with the ruling party but this has not led to great instability.

Tajikistan has given Iranmarker its support in Iran's membership bid to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, after a meeting between the Tajik President and the Iranian foreign minister.

Administrative divisions

Tajikistan consists of 4 administrative divisions. These are the provinces (viloyat) of Sughdmarker and Khatlonmarker, the autonomous province of Gorno-Badakhshanmarker (abbreviated as GBAO), and the Region of Republican Subordinationmarker (RRP – Raiony Respublikanskogo Podchineniya in transliteration from Russian or NTJ – Ноҳияҳои тобеи ҷумҳурӣ in Tajik; formerly known as Karotegin Provincemarker). Each region is divided into several districts ( , nohiya or raion), which in turn are subdivided into jamoats (village-level self-governing units) and then villages (qyshloqs). As of 2006, there were 58 districts and 367 jamoats in Tajikistan.

Division ISO 3166-2 Capital Area (km²) Pop (2008)
Sughdmarker TJ-SU Khujandmarker 25,400 2,132,100
Region of Republican Subordinationmarker TJ-RR Dushanbemarker 28,600 1,606,900
Khatlonmarker TJ-KT Qurghonteppamarker  24,800 2,579,300
Gorno-Badakhshanmarker TJ-BG Khorughmarker 64,200 218,000
Source: Population and area from State Statistical Committee of Tajikistan.


Satellite photograph of Tajikistan
Overview Map of Tajikistan
Mountains of Tajikistan
Tajikistan is landlocked, and is the smallest nation in Central Asia by area. It is covered by mountains of the Pamirmarker range, and more than fifty percent of the country is over 3,000 meters (approx. 10,000 ft) above sea level. The only major areas of lower land are in the north (part of the Fergana Valleymarker), and in the southern Kofarnihon and Vakhshmarker river valleys, which form the Amu Darya. Dushanbemarker is located on the southern slopes above the Kofarnihon valley.

Mountain Height Location
Ismoil Somoni Peakmarker (highest) 7,495 m 24,590 ft North-western edge of Gorno-Badakhshanmarker (GBAOmarker), south of the Kyrgyzmarker border
Ibn Sina Peakmarker (Lenin Peakmarker) 7,174 m 23,537 ft Northern border in the Trans-Alay Range, north-east of Ismoil Somoni Peakmarker
Peak Korzhenevskayamarker 7,105 m 23,310 ft North of Ismoil Somoni Peakmarker, on the south bank of Muksu River
Independence Peakmarker (Revolution Peakmarker) 6,974 m 22,881 ft Central Gorno-Badakhshanmarker, south-east of Ismoil Somoni Peakmarker
Akademiya Nauk Range 6,785 m 22,260 ft North-western Gorno-Badakhshanmarker, stretches in the north-south direction
Karl Marx Peakmarker 6,726 m 22,067 ft GBAOmarker, near the border to Afghanistanmarker in the northern ridge of the Karakoram Rangemarker
Mayakovskiy Peakmarker 6,096 m 20,000 ft Extreme south-west of GBAOmarker, near the border to Afghanistan.
Concord Peakmarker 5,469 m 17,943 ft Southern border in the northern ridge of the Karakoram Rangemarker
Kyzylart Pass 4,280 m 14,042 ft Northern border in the Trans-Alay Range

The Amu Daryamarker and Panj rivers mark the border with Afghanistan, and the glaciers in Tajikistan's mountains are the major source of runoff for the Aral Seamarker. There are over 900 rivers in Tajikistan longer than 10 kilometers.

About 2% of the country's area is covered by lakes, the best known of which are the following:

Lesser known lakes (all in the Pamir regionmarker) include
  • Bulunkul
  • Drumkul
  • Rangkul
  • Sasykkul
  • Shorkul
  • Turumtaikul
  • Tuzkul
  • Yashilkul


Following the Civil War of 1992 - 1997, Tajikistan was the poorest country in Central Asia as well in the former Soviet Union. With foreign revenue precariously dependent upon exports of cotton and aluminum, the economy is highly vulnerable to external shocks. In FY 2000, international assistance remained an essential source of support for rehabilitation programs that reintegrated former civil war combatants into the civilian economy, thus helping keep the peace. International assistance also was necessary to address the second year of severe drought that resulted in a continued shortfall of food production.

On August 21, 2001, the Red Crossmarker announced that a famine was striking Tajikistan, and called for international aid for Tajikistan and Uzbekistanmarker. Tajikistan's economy grew substantially after the war. The GDP of Tajikistan expanded at an average rate of 9.6 % over the period of 2000–2004 according to the World Bank data. This improved Tajikistan's position among other Central Asian countries (namely Turkmenistanmarker and Uzbekistan), which seem to have degraded economically ever since.Tajikistan is an active member of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO).

The recently completed Anzab tunnel which connects the previously hard to access Northern part of the country to the capital Dushanbemarker has been labeled as part of the new Silk Road. It is part of a road under construction that will connect Tajikistan to Iranmarker and the Persian Gulfmarker through Afghanistanmarker.

A new bridge between Afghanistan and Tajikistan has been built which will help the country have access to trade lines with South Asia. The bridge was built by the United Statesmarker.

The primary sources of income in Tajikistan are aluminium production, cotton growing and remittances from migrant workers.

Aluminium industry is represented by the state-owned Talco - the biggest aluminium plant in Central Asia and one of the biggest in the world.
Tajikistan has great hydropower potential, and has focused on attracting investment for projects for internal use and electricity exports. Tajikistan is home to the hydroelectric power station Nurekmarker with the highest dam in the world. The latest development is the Russia's RAO UES energy giant working on Sangtuda-1 hydroelectric power station (670 MW capacity) commenced operations on 18 January 2008.

Other projects at the development stage include Sangduta-2 by Iran, Zerafshan by Chinese SinoHydro and Rogun power plantmarker with a projected dam height of to be built by Russia's UES. Other energy resources include sizable coal deposits and smaller reserves of natural gas and petroleum.

Foreign remittance flows from Tajik migrant workers abroad, mainly in Russia, has become by far the main source of income for millions of Tajikistan's people and represents additional 36.2 % of country's GDP directly reaching the poverty-stricken population. Migration from Tajikistan and the consequent remittances have been unprecedented in their magnitude and economic impact. Tajikistan has achieved transition from a planned to a market economy without substantial and protracted recourse to aid (of which it by now receives only negligible amounts), and by purely market-based means, simply by exporting its main commodity of comparative advantage — cheap labor. The World Bank Tajikistan Policy Note 2006 concludes that remittances have played an important role as one of the drivers of Tajikistan's robust economic growth during the past several years, have increased incomes, and as a result helped significantly reduce poverty.

Drug trafficking is the major illegal source of income in Tajikistan as it is an important transit country for Afghanmarker narcotics bound for Russian and, to a lesser extent, Western European markets; some opium poppy is also raised locally for the domestic market. However with the increasing assistance from international organizations, such as UNODC, and cooperation with the US, Russian, EU and Afghan authorities a level of progress on fight against illegal drug-trafficking is being achieved.

Tajikistan holds the third place in the world for heroin and raw opium confiscations (1216.3 kg of heroin and 267.8 kg of raw opium in the first half of 2006). Drug money corrupts the country's government; according to some experts the well-known personalities that fought on both sides of the civil war and have held the positions in the government after the armistice was signed are now involved in the drug trade. UNODCmarker is working with Tajikistan to strengthen border crossings, provide training, and set up joint interdiction teams. It also helped to establish Tajikistani Drug Control Agency.


Elderly man from Tajikistan
Tajikistan has a population of 7,349,145 (July 2009 est.). Tajiks who speak the Tajik language (a variety of Persian) are the main ethnic group, although there is a sizable minority of Uzbeks and a small population of Russians, whose numbers are declining due to emigration. In 1989, ethnic Russians made up 7.6% of the population. The Pamiris of Badakhshan are considered to belong to the larger group of Tajiks. All citizens of Tajikistan are called Tajikistanis

The official and vernacular language of Tajikistan is Tajik. The constitution mentions Russian as the "language for interethnic communication" even if its use is banned in government documents. Nevertheless it is widely used in business and other fields. Despite its poverty, Tajikistan has a high rate of literacy with an estimated 99.5% of the population having the ability to read and write. Most of the population follows Sunni Islam, although a sizable number of Ismailis are present also.

Bukharian Jews had lived in Tajikistan since the 2nd century BC, but today almost none are left. There is also a small population of Yaghnobi people who have lived in the mountainous district of Sughdmarker Viloyat for many centuries. The German population in Tajikistan was 38,853 in 1979. Nearly one million Tajik men worked abroad in 2009.


The state's Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare reported that 104,272 disabled people are registered in Tajikistan (2000). This group of people suffers most from poverty in Tajikistan. The government of Tajikistan and the World Bank considered activities to support this part of the population described in the World Bank's Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper.Public expenditure on health was at 1 % of the GDP in 2004.In the early 2000s, there were 203 physicians per 100,000 people. Infant mortality was 59 for 1,000 live births in 2005.


Historically, Tajiks and Persians come from very similar stock, speaking variants of the same language and are related as part of the larger group of Iranian peoples. The Tajik language is the mother tongue of around 80% of the citizens of Tajikistan. The main urban centers in today's Tajikistan include Dushanbemarker (the capital), Khujandmarker, Kulobmarker, Panjakentmarker and Istaravshanmarker.

The Pamiri people of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Provincemarker in the southeast, bordering Afghanistanmarker and Chinamarker, though considered part of the Tajik ethnicity, nevertheless are distinct linguistically and culturally from most Tajiks. In contrast to the mostly Sunni Muslim residents of the rest of Tajikistan, the Pamiris overwhelmingly follow the Ismaili sect of Islam, and speak a number of Eastern Iranian languages, including Shughni, Rushani, Khufi and Wakhi. Isolated in the highest parts of the Pamir Mountains, they have preserved many ancient cultural traditions and folk arts that have been largely lost elsewhere in the country.

The Yaghnobi people live in mountainous areas of northern Tajikistan. The estimated number of Yaghnobis is now about 25,000. Forced migrations in the 20th century decimated their numbers. They speak the Yaghnobi language, which is the only direct modern descendant of the ancient Sogdian language.

Tajikstan artisans created the Dushanbe Tea House, which was presented in 1988 as a gift to the sister city of Boulder, Coloradomarker.


2002-2005 public spending on education was 3.5 % of the GDP. According to a UNICEF-supported survey indicates that about 25 per cent of girls in Tajikistan fail to complete compulsory primary education because of poverty and gender bias. Literacy is general in Tajikistan.Tajikistan has universities.


Tajikistan claims to be a secular state with a Constitution providing for freedom of religion. The Government has declared two Islamic holidays, Id Al‑Fitr and Idi Qurbon, as state holidays. According to a 2009 U.S.marker State Departmentmarker release, the population of Tajikistan is 98% Muslim, (approximately 95% Sunni and 3% Shia). The remaining 2% of population are Jews and ethnic Russian followers of Russian Orthodoxy. The great majority of Muslims fast during Ramadan, although only about one third in the countryside and 10% in the cities observe daily prayer and dietary restrictions.

Relationships between religious groups are generally amicable, although there is some concern among mainstream Muslim leaders that minority religious groups undermine national unity. There is a concern for religious institutions becoming active in the political sphere. The Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP), a major combatant in the 1992–1997 Civil War and then-proponent of the creation of an Islamic state in Tajikistan, constitutes no more than 30% of the government by statute. Membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Emancipation), a party which today aims for a nonviolent overthrow of secular governments and the unification of Tajiks under one Islamic state, is illegal and members are subject to arrest and imprisonment. Numbers of large mosques appropriate for Friday prayers are limited and some feel this is discriminatory.

By law, religious communities must register by the State Committee on Religious Affairs (SCRA) and with local authorities. Registration with the SCRA requires a charter, a list 10 or more members, and evidence of local government approval prayer site location. As noted above, religious groups who do not have a physical structure are not allowed to gather publicly for prayer. Failure to register can result in large fines and closure of place of worship. There are reports that registration on the local level is sometimes difficult to obtain.


Tajikistan's mountains provide many opportunities for outdoor sports, such as hill walking, mountain biking, and more challenging mountain climbing. Facilities are limited so tourists need to be largely self sufficient and plan carefully. Mountain climbing tours to the Fann Mountains and the Pamirsmarker, including the 7,000 m peaks in the region, are seasonally organized by local and international alpine agencies.

Football is a popular sport. The Tajikistan national football team competes in the FIFAmarker and AFC leagues. It also hosts many football clubs.


See also

References and footnotes

Further reading

  • Historical Dictionary of Tajikistan by Kamoludin Abdullaev and Shahram Akbarzadeh
  • Land Beyond the River: The Untold Story of Central Asia by Monica Whitlock
  • Tajikistan: Disintegration or Reconciliation by Shirin Akiner
  • Tajikistan: The Trials of Independence by Shirin Akiner, Mohammad-Reza Djalili and Frederic Grare
  • Tajikistan and the High Pamirs by Robert Middleton, Huw Thomas and Markus Hauser, Odyssey Books, Hongkong 2008 (ISBN 978-9-622177-73-4)

External links

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