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Republic of Tajikistan

Jumhurii Tojikistan

CAPITAL: Dushanbe

FLAG: The flag consists of a broad white horizontal stripe in the center, with a red stripe at the top and a green stripe at the bottom. The national emblem is centered in the white stripe.

ANTHEM: The flag consists of a broad white horizontal stripe in the center, with a red stripe at the top and a green stripe at the bottom. The national emblem is centered in the white stripe.

MONETARY UNIT: The Tajik ruble (tr) was replaced by the somoni in October 2000. s1 = $0.32051 (or $1 = s3.12) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is used.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Navruz ("New Day"), 21 March; Independence Day, 9 September.

TIME: 6 pm = noon GMT.


Tajikistan is located in central Asia, between Uzbekistan and China. Comparatively, it is slightly smaller than the state of Wisconsin with a total area of 143,100 sq km (55,251 sq mi). Tajikistan's boundary length totals 3,651 km (2,269 mi).

Its capital city, Dushanbe, is located in the western part of the country.


The topography of Tajikistan features the Pamir and Alai mountains which dominate the landscape. The western Fergana Valley lies in the north with the Kafirnigan and Vakhsh valleys in the southwest. The major geographic feature in the south is the Panj River, which separates southern Tajikistan from northern Afghanistan. The country is located in a seismically active area near the borders of the Eurasian and Indian Tectonic Plates. Earthquakes are common in this region.


The climate ranges from semiarid to polar. In the semiarid regions, extreme temperatures have reached 48°c (118°f) in the summer. In the eastern Pamirs, winter temperatures have dropped as low as -60°c (-76°f). The national mean temperature in July is 30°c (86°f). The mean temperature in January is 0°c (32°f). Rainfall in most of the country averages 70 to 160 cm (28 to 63 in).


Most of the forested areas are coniferous, with some walnut trees found in stands at lower mountain slopes. The western steppes contain low shrubs and drought-resistant grasses and serve as habitats for such animals as deer, wolves, foxes, and badgers. Wildflowers, such as poppies and even tulips, can be found in the valleys. Marco Polo sheep, yak, snow leopards, Siberian horned goats, and a rare markhor can be found in mountains. Bears, wild boar, and lynx are also common in the lower mountain regions. As of 2002, there were at least 84 species of mammals, 210 species of birds, and over 5,000 species of plants throughout the country.


Industrial emissions and excessive use of pesticides are leading causes of environmental damage in Tajikistan. Over the last 30 years, increased irrigation to support agricultural activity has resulted in harmful levels of soil salinity, which damage the soil and threaten its productivity. The nation's water supply is threatened by pollution and inadequate sanitation facilities. Overutilization of the shrinking Aral Sea for irrigation purposes has caused it to become polluted.

As of 2003, 4.2% of the country's total land area was protected, including five Ramsar wetland sites. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included seven types of mammals, nine species of birds, one type of reptile, three species of fish, two species of invertebrates, and two species of plants. Threatened species include the argali, Aral salmon, Tadjik markhor, tiger, and snow leopard.


The population of Tajikistan in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 6,813,000, which placed it at number 99 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 4% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 40% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 99 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 2.3%. Despite the fact that population growth has slowed significantly since the mid-1990s, the government viewed the current rate as too high, specifically in the area of fertility, which stood at 4.25 births per woman. The projected population for the year 2025 was 9,181,000. The overall population density was 47 per sq km (123 per sq mi), with the northern and western lowlands having the greatest population density.

The UN estimated that 27% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 0.82%. The capital city, Dushanbe, had a population of 554,000 in that year. Khudzhand (formerly Leninabad) had a population of about 175,000.


As a result of the civil war that began in 1991, more than 600,000 people were internally displaced, and 60,000 were forced into Northern Afghanistan by January 1993. Also between 199195, 300,000 Russians, 30,000 Ukrainians, and 10,000 Belarussians all left Tajikistan. By April 1997, virtually all of the internally displaced people had returned to their homes. When the peace agreement was reached in June 1997, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) completed the repatriation of Tajik refugees from northern Afghanistan to Tajikistan. In 1998 the UNHCR started the voluntary repatriation of Tajik refugees from other countries. By 1999, some 20,000 refugees had returned to their places of origin. The total number of migrants in 2000 was 330,000 including refugees. In 2004, there were 3,306 refugees, 785 asylum seekers, and 80 returned refugees. The net migration rate in 2000 was -10.3 migrants per 1,000 population, in 2005 it was estimated as -2.67. Worker remittances in 2003 were $187 million.


According to a 2000 census, Tajiks account for about 79.9% of the population and Uzbeks (who live in the northwest) for about 15.3%. The Russian population, declining because of emigration, comprises only about 1.1%; the Kyrgyz also accounted for 1.1% of the population. Other varied ethnic groups made up the remaining 2.6%.


Tajiki, the official language is an Indo-European language, related to Farsi and Pashto. Russian is widely used as the language of international communication in government and business. Uzbeki is spoken in regions predominantly inhabited by Uzbeks.

The Tajiki language has no genders or cases, and its vocabulary is borrowed from Arabic, Uzbeki, and Russian. Since the 1940s, the Tajik alphabet has been a modified version of the Russian Cyrillic alphabet. Since the adoption of Tajiki as the national language, instruction of the Arabic-based Persian alphabet in schools has been encouraged, with teaching materials provided by Iran.


An estimated 95% of citizens are nominally Muslims. About 90% of the Muslim population is Sunni and about 7% are Shia. There are approximately 230,000 Christians, mostly ethnic Russians. The largest Christian group is the Russian Orthodox Church; however, there are also Baptists, Roman Catholics, Seventh-Day Adventists, Korean Protestants, Lutherans, and Jehovah's Witnesses. Other religious minorities include Baha'is, Zoroastrians, Hare Krishnas, and Jews, each totaling less than 1% of the population.

The constitution provides for religious freedom, but there have been some restrictions on this right in practice. All religious groups must register with the State Committee on Religious Affairs (SCRA). The SCRA monitors the activities of all religious groups in order to insure that they are not becoming overtly political.


As of 2004, there were some 482 km (298 mi) of railroads in common carrier service (not including industrial lines) in Tajikistan, all of it broad gauge. A 258-km (160-mi) line connects Dushanbe with Termez, Uzbekistan, and ultimately with the other rail systems of the former Soviet Union.

In 2002, there were some 29,900 km (18,580 mi) of roadways, of which 21,400 km (13,298 mi) were hard-surfaced. The major roads connect Khudzhand in the north to Kulyab in the south via Dushanbe. Only one main road services the eastern Gorno-Badakhshanskaya region, meandering from Khrough to Kyrgyzstan. Transportation in urban areas has suffered in recent years, primarily because supplies of gasoline from Russia have become unreliable. Roads connecting residential suburban areas with cities are not designed to handle large volumes of commuter traffic. Dushanbe has a system of electric trolleys and gas powered buses, but operation has been erratic due to a lack of spare parts and fuel. As of 2003, Tajikistan had 200 km (124 mi) of navigable inland waterways along the Vakhsh River.

Tajikistan had an estimated 55 airports as of 2004, of which 17 had paved runways as of 2005. In 2003, the country's airlines carried about 413,000 passengers on scheduled domestic and international flights.


The territory of Tajikistan has been continuously inhabited since the early Stone Age. The first Central Asian states of Sogdia and Bactria in the first millennium bc, included portions of Tajikistan. The territory was Persian-controlled from the 6th century bc, until conquered by Alexander the Great in 329 bc. Much of Tajikistan was included in the Greco-Bactrian kingdom in 3rd century bc, and after displaced by the Tochari tribes who invaded Sogdia a century later. The Kushana kingdom was established in the first centuries of the Christian era, when a number of cities were established, and agriculture and commerce grew. In the 5th and 6th centuries, parts of Tajikistan were conquered by nomadic tribes, the Chionites and, later, the Ephthalites.

At the end of the 6th century the large Ephthalite empire was displaced by the Eastern Turkic Kaganate. Arabs conquered the area in the 8th century, introducing Islam. Later in the 9th century they were displaced by the Samanides, who encouraged the development of trade and of material culture. From the 10th to the 13th centuries a number of kingdoms succeeded one another in Central Asia; among the ones which included parts of Tajikistan were the Ghaznavids, the Karakhanids, the Ghorids, the Karakitai, and the Khwarazmites.

In 121921 Genghiz Khan's troops conquered the entire area, destroying many cities. Tajikistan became part of the lands given to Genghiz Khan's son, Chagatai. In the 14th century Timur (Tamerlane) created a large empire, with its capital in Samarqand (Samarkand). In the 16th century Tajikistan was conquered by the Sheibanids, who had their capital in Bukhoro (Bukhara). Portions of territory were included later in the Ashtarkhanid state and then in the Kokand Khanate, which emerged in the Fergana Valley in the mid-18th century. Present-day Tajikistan was split between the Khanates of Bukhoro (Bukhara) and Kokand in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In 1863, Russia asserted a right to exercise dominance in Central Asia, and began the military conquest of the khanates. Bukhoro (Bukhara) and Samarqand (Samarkand) were incorporated into Russia in 1868. Kokand was eliminated in 1876, and the border with Afghanistan was set by accord with England in 1895. At that point, part of Tajikistan was in the Emirate of Bukhara, part was in Turkestan. When the Tsar's draft call-up of 1916 was announced, rebellions broke out all over Central Asia, including in Tajikistan. These were suppressed, at great loss of life.

Northern Tajikistan was conquered by the Bolsheviks in 1918, who extended control to the rest of the country when Bukhara was captured, in 1920. Muslim guerrilla warfare termed the Basmachi Rebellion was finally suppressed in 1924. Tajikistan was established as an autonomous republic within the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic in 1924. The republic became a full Soviet Socialist Republic in 1929.

Border delineations in Central Asia were very arbitrary. For several hundred years educated Central Asians had used Persian and Turkic languages essentially equally, so that separation into Turkic-speaking Uzbeks and Persian-speaking Tajiks, as if to create separate nationalities, was primarily administrative. Bukhoro (Bukhara) and Samarqand (Samarkand), the major Tajik cities, were included in Uzbekistan, while Tajikistan was left only with smaller cities, and little arable land. People were forced to assume one nationality or another.

In the late Soviet period Tajikistan was the poorest and least developed of the republics. It comprised four separate areas, the elites of which competed for power. Traditionally power was held by people from Khojent, which is geographically and culturally closest to Uzbekistan's Fergana valley. They were contested by families and clans from Kulyab, south of Dushanbe. Poorest were people from the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Province, most of which is in the Pamir Mountains. The final area was Kurgan-Tyube, in the extreme south, where the influence of Islam was strong; public calls for establishing an Islamic state were heard there as early as 1976.

In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev replaced longtime republic leader Rakhmon Nabiyev with Kakhar Makhkamov, whose control never penetrated to the most local levels. Riots in February 1990 exposed his weaknesses, and encouraged a proliferation of political parties and groups. When the August 1991 Soviet coup attempt came, Makhkamov was the only republic leader to welcome it. When the coup failed, Makhkamov was forced to resign, and Nabiyev returned to power.

The republic declared independence on 9 September 1991, and presidential elections were hotly contested 27 October 1991. Nabiyev used communist control of the media and cells in the workplace to influence the election. Despite this influence, his opponent Davlat Khudonazarov, a popular filmmaker, received more than 30% of the vote. Opposition to Nabiyev continued, however, resulting in massive demonstrations and the formation of a national guard by Nabiyev and militias by the oppositionists. In April 1992, demonstrators for and against Nabiyev took over two public squares in Dushanbe, about a mile apart. Clashes between the two caused several deaths, and tensions mounted. In May, the Russian garrison in Dushanbe stepped in to mediate tensions, brokering a compromise that called for Nabiyev to form a coalition government in which one-third of the ministerial posts would go to oppositionists. Nabiyev named his supporter, Akbarsho Iskandarov, the new legislative speaker to help form a coalition government, and brought token democrats and Islamists into the government, including Kazi-kolon Khojiakbar Turajonzoda, the senior Muslim cleric in the republic.

Civil disorder grew throughout summer 1992. In August 1992, Nabiyev was seized at gunpoint and forced to resign, and Iskandarov assumed control of the government. By this time full civil war had erupted, with thousands of casualties. In November, Iskandarov gave up his efforts to govern, and Uzbekistan and Russia joined in the efforts by hard-liners to drive the Iskandarov government and its supporters out of the country, mostly into neighboring Afghanistan. The rump Supreme Soviet, dominated by hardliners, met in Khudzhand, and Imomali Rakhmonov became the leader. Rakhmonov, a Kulyabi, was a former collective farm chairman linked to a major hard-line warlord. Kulyabi and Khojenti hard-liners, assisted by Uzbekistan and Russia, launched a successful counteroffensive that by the end of 1992 had resulted in 20,00040,000 casualties and up to 350,000 refugees or displaced persons, about 80,000 of whom fled to Afghanistan.

In 1993, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) authorized "peacekeeping" in Tajikistan under the auspices of its Collective Peacekeeping Forces (CPF) treaty to protect what Russia terms "CIS borders." CPF consisted of Russia's 201st Rifle Division, based in Tajikistan, and token Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Uzbek troops (the Kyrgyz and Uzbek troops pulled out in 199899). Russian media reported in late 1999 that there were about 20,000 CPF, border, and other Russian troops in Tajikistan. The commander of the CPF troops in August 1999 stated that the role of his forces had largely shifted to the delivery of humanitarian cargos, clearing mines, and giving medical assistance. Nonetheless, plans to withdraw the CPF have not been announced, perhaps because in April 1999, Russia and Tajikistan signed a basing agreement for the 25-year presence of Russian troops.

After Tajik government and opposition emissaries agreed to a cease-fire in September 1994, the UNSC formally established a UN Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT) in December 1994 with a mandate to monitor the cease-fire, later expanded to investigate cease-fire violations, monitor the demobilization of opposition fighters, assist ex-combatants to integrate into society, and offer advice for holding elections. The UN reported in late 1999 that UNMOT comprised 167 civilian staff and 37 military observers. The mission successfully accomplished its assigned tasks and on 15 May 2000 its mandate was terminated.

In November 1994, Rakhmanov held presidential elections in an attempt to legitimize his government. The main Tajik opposition groups boycotted this election and a constitutional referendum because they had no say in drawing up the draft constitution and would not be allowed to field their own candidates. Only one candidate besides Rakhmanov was permitted to run, Abdumalik Abdullojanov, a prominent politician in the northern Leninabad region and a former Tajik prime minister. Rakhmanov was elected president by a wide margin and his constitution was overwhelmingly approved. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) declined to send monitors because it viewed the electoral process as not meeting its standards. Elections to a new 181-member legislature took place in February 1995. Four parties were allowed to compete, but restrictive nomination procedures ensured that about 40% of candidates ran unopposed. The election excluded virtually all opposition parties, and Western groups refused to monitor the "seriously flawed" vote.

In December 1996, the two sides agreed to set up a National Reconciliation Commission (NRC), an executive body composed equally of government and opposition emissaries. On June 27, 1997, Rakhmanov and United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leader Seyed Abdullo Nuri signed the comprehensive peace agreement, under which Rakhmanov remained president but 30% of ministerial posts were allocated to the opposition and Nuri headed the NRC.

As part of the peace process, in early September 1999, the Tajik legislature set presidential elections for 6 November 1999. Only after a popular referendum approved constitutional changes in late September, however, were the opposition Islamic Renaissance and Democratic parties legalized and allowed to gather 100,000 signatures to register nominees. Nominees complained that they did not have enough time to gather signatures and that Rakhmanov's appointees at the local level blocked signature-gathering. The Central Electoral Commission (CEC), controlled by Rakhmanov, then pronounced him the only candidate. This prompted the resignation of opposition members of the NRC and calls for an electoral boycott. To provide the gloss of a multi-candidate race, the CEC "registered" IRP nominee Davlat Usmon, though he refused to run. The CEC announced that 98% of 2.85 million Tajiks had turned out and 96.9% had voted for Rakhmanov, and only 2% for Usmon. Seeking to avert renewed civil war, Nuri agreed on 5 November to respect the outcome of the election and rejoin the NRC in return for pledges by Rakhmanov to allow fair legislative elections that were held in March 2000.

On 26 March 2000, Tajikistan disbanded its National Reconciliation Commission (NRC), created to implement 1997 peace accords ending the civil war. The accords set legislative elections held in March as the culmination of the peace process. Former rebel Seyed Abdullo Nuri, chairman of the NRC, called for quick settlement of remaining peace issues. The UN Security Council on 21 March praised the legislative elections and work of the NRC, and withdrew UN observers in May 2000. Although benchmarks of the peace process were largely met, including the return of refugees, demilitarization of rebel forces, legalization of rebel parties, and the holding of presidential and legislative elections, stability in Tajikistan remained fragile.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a radical Islamic organization seeking to establish an Islamic state in Central Asia, carried out operations in Tajikistan in the summer of 2000. Tajik authorities increased the number of customs checkpoints and deployed additional military troops to prevent the infiltration of Islamic militants. In addition to the IMU, the Hizb-ut-Tahrir ("Freedom Party"), another radical Islamic organization, operates in the country, although unlike the IMU, it is nonviolent. Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, and its subsequent military campaign in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime and al-Qaeda forces, all radical Islamic groups in the Central Asian nations were linked to terrorism. Tajikistan became a strategic partner in the US-led antiterrorism campaign when it offered the use of its airports. Leaders of Tajikistan's opposition Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) have vigorously denied Rakhmanov's claim that it promotes extremism, and accuse him of using the US-led campaign against terrorism to neutralize his mainstream Islamic political opponents.

In April 2001, Rakhmanov and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on the establishment of a 3,000-man tactical air base in Tajikistan. Russia announced it would increase its border troops along the Tajik-Afghan border. It is Russia's goal to establish a rapid reaction military presence in Central Asia. As of 2005 there were also American and French troops stationed in Tajikistan.

In June 2003 a constitutional referendum was approved by a reported 93 % of voters. The referendum consisted of 56 constitutional amendments, the most controversial of which permits the president to serve two additional seven-year terms beyond the presidential election in 2006. Rakhmonov, therefore, could theoretically remain in office until 2020.

Tajikistan is the poorest country of the ex-USSR and one of the poorest countries in the world. Its economy is heavily dependent upon cotton exports and international assistance remained an essential source of support. With 2001 came the second year of severe drought which resulted in a severe shortfall of food, although the situation marginally improved since then. The use of childlabor for cotton harvesting is also common. Narcotic trafficking across the border from Afghanistan has risen dramatically since the collapse of the Taliban. Groups involved in narcotics trafficking allegedly have connections with members of the country's security and police forces. The unemployment rate for 2004 was estimated to be at least 40%.


The Tajik government has been in a state of flux as it has implemented the comprehensive peace settlement. President Rakhmanov retains extensive power and his supporters from the Kulyab region remain dominant in the government, though some high-level posts have been given to the opposition.

According to a Rakhmanov-designed constitution approved by referendum in November 1994, the Oliy Majlis (legislature) enacts laws, interprets the constitution, determines basic directions of domestic and foreign policy, sets dates for referenda and elections, and approves key ministerial and other appointments. The legislature also approves the state budget, determines tax policy, ratifies treaties, and approves a state of war or emergency as decreed by the president. The constitution also calls for creation of a presidium to "organize work," to be elected by the legislators and to be headed by the speaker. Laws are required to be passed by a two-thirds majority of the total number of deputies, and a presidential veto may be overridden by the same margin. The prime minister is appointed by the president. The Tajik legislature in June 1999 rubber-stamped constitutional changes proposed by Rakhmanov calling for a seven year presidential term, a two-house Supreme Assembly (legislature), and the legalization of religious parties. A popular referendum approved the changes on 26 September 1999.

An electoral law was approved with input from the opposition on 10 December 1999. The law calls for the upper legislative chamber, the National Assembly (representing regional interests), to consist of 33 members, and the lower chamber, the Assembly of Representatives, 63 members.

Elections to the lower legislative chamber were set for 27 February 2000 (and a runoff on 12 March). In all, 191 candidates contested 41 single mandate seats and 107 candidates on six party lists competed for 22 seats. Turnout was reported by the CEC at 93.23% of 2.87 million voters. In the party list voting, Rakhmanov's People's Democratic Party (PDP) won 15 seats, the Communist Party won five seats, and the Islamic Renaissance Party won two seats. Twenty-seven single mandate seats were filled in the first round, and 12 in the second. Most winners of these seats are PDP members. Over 107 UN and OSCE observers monitored the race. They praised the "political pluralism" of the vote, since voters "were presented with a genuine and broad range of alternatives," but concluded that the electoral process must be improved "to meet the minimum democratic standards for equal, fair, free, secret, transparent, and accountable elections." They raised questions about freedom of the media, the independence of electoral commissions, the questionable de-registration of some candidates, apparently inflated turnout figures, and the transparency of vote tabulation. Thirty-three upper legislative chamber seats were filled on 23 March by indirect voting by local assemblies and the appointment of eight members by Rakhmanov. The UN Security Council on 21 March praised the legislative elections and work of the NRC, and withdrew UN observers in May 2000.

According to the US State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2001, Tajikistan is an authoritarian regime that has established some nominally democratic institutions. Although the 2000 parliamentary elections improved citizens' right to change their government, this right remained restricted. Tajik government security forces in 2001 were responsible for some killings and beatings of detainees, and also engaged in threats, extortion, looting, and other abuse of civilians. Opposition forces were responsible for serious abuses of civilians, including killing, kidnaping, threats, and extortion. The November 1999 presidential election was not viewed by the OSCE as "free and fair."

Although three opposition parties, the Socialist Party, Social Democratic Party, and the Islamic Renaissance Party, formed a coalition in April 2004, the opposition had few chances of gaining seats in the upcoming elections. While the goal of the coalition was to ensure the electoral fairness, the three parties announced that they would field separate candidates, weakening their chances of capturing enough votes to enter parliament.

The final results for the 2005 elections showed that the party of President Rakhmanov was the clear winner, winning 52 of 63 seats. The remaining seats were divided between the Communist Party (4 seats), the Islamic Revival Party (2 seats) and independents (5 seats), considered by most observers to be supporters of the incumbent president. Turnout was reported by the CEC at 92.6% of voters. UN and OSCE observers praised some developments in electoral education and the general peacefulness of the elections, but still announced that the elections failed to meet many OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections. The next presidential election was scheduled for November 2006 and the next legislative election was scheduled for 2010.


As part of the ongoing peace process, all parties had to undergo re-registration by March 1999. The parties registered at that time were the People's Democratic Party (PDP), Communist Party (TCP), the Party of Justice and Progress, Socialist Party, the Democratic Party ("Tehrān platform"), Agrarian Party, and the Party of Justice and Accord. The main opposition parties were registered later. In late 1994, Rakhmanov orchestrated the creation of the PDP, and in April 1998 became its head. The TCP is headed by former Rakhmanov client Shodi Shabdolov. The TCP has fallen into Rakhmanov's disfavor, and some of its assets were nationalized in May 1998. A social democratic Party of Justice and Progress was formed by intellectuals and others in April 1998. The Democratic Party, founded in 1990, was banned in 1993. It split in 1994, with one new group forming the "Tehrān platform." The remaining wing ("Almaty platform") was reregistered in December 1999. The main parties of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) are the Democratic Party (Almaty platform) and the Islamic Rebirth Movement (primarily the Islamic Renaissance Party, IRP). The Society of Lali Badakhshan split from the UTO in 1999. The IRP was registered in September 1999. The IRP has traditionally drawn its strength from many unofficial (as opposed to state-sponsored) Islamic clerics. Emboldened by international support for Tajikistan's role in aiding the US-led coalition in its war against terrorism beginning in 2001, Rakhmanov has implied that connections exist between the IRP and the radical Islamic organizations Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). The IRP has vigorously denied any connections to these groups.


In the late Soviet era the republic was divided into three oblasts or regions and the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region. The region surrounding the capital, Dushanbe, also was separately administered by the central government. A new region, Khatlon, was formed by Rakhmanov, comprising the former Qurghonteppa and Kulyab regions. There are two provinces (viloyat ), Khatlon and Sughd, and one autonomous province, Gorno Badakhshan. Uzbekistan has some influence in the northern Leninabad (Khojenti) region, while Russian troops patrol the borders with Afghanistan and China. Regions, districts (nohiya, of which there are 52), and cities (shahr, of which there are 17), are governed by elected assemblies of people's deputies headed by a chairman. The chairman is appointed by the president, and the national legislature can dissolve local assemblies if it decides they are breaking the law. The self-governing authority of settlements (shahrak, of which there are 46) and villages (deha, of which there are 358) is the jamoat (local organization).


The judicial system from the Soviet period remains largely in place. There are courts at the city, district, regional, and national levels with a separate but parallel system of military courts. National level courts include a Supreme Court, a Constitutional Court, a Supreme Economic Court, and a Military Court. Regional and national level courts function in an appellate capacity to the lower courts. The establishment of extraordinary courts is forbidden.

The president appoints judges and the procurator general to five-year terms with confirmation by the legislature, and the president has the power to dismiss them. The court system suffers from a lack of trained judges and lawyers and from pressures applied by local political factions and the central government.

The law requires public trials except in cases involving national security or protection of minors. There is a right to appointed counsel in criminal cases. As in the Soviet period, the procurators are responsible for arrests, investigations, and prosecutions of defendants.

Prison conditions were life threatening, and the judicial system was subject to political and paramilitary pressure.

In December 1999, Rakhmanov issued a decree pledging to "contribute in every way possible to the exercise of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right of access to the news media" as part of the comprehensive peace settlement. However, the penal code criminalizes publicly defaming or insulting a person's honor or reputation, and so many journalists self-censor their reports so as to avoid prosecution. Some opposition newspapers, like Charogi Ruz, are banned in Tajikistan for its antigovernment stance.

The constitution allows the freedom of collective bargaining and does not restrict the right to strike. It is necessary, however, to apply to local authorities for permission to organize strikes. In 2004, Rakhmanov signed a moratorium on the death penalty, replacing capital punishment with a 25-year prison term.

Violence against women is common, but rarely are cases reported to the authorities and even rarer are they investigated. Tajikistan is a source and transit country for women and children trafficked for prostitution. In 2004, Rakhmonov signed a new law against human trafficking and in November 2004 a Tajik court applied the law for the first time in a trafficking case.

Tajikistan is a member of many international organizations and is a member of the Untied Nations and an observer at the World Trade Organization.


In 2005, Tajikistan's Army had 7,600 active personnel. Equipment used by the service included 44 main battle tanks, 34 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 29 armored personnel carriers and 31 artillery pieces. The Air Force had over 800 personnel, operating four attack and 12 support helicopters, and a single transport aircraft. In addition, the country's paramilitary force totaled an estimated 5,300 personnel, all of whom acted as border guards under the Ministry of Interior. The defense budget for 2005 was $50.3 million. The French and Indian air forces, and the Russian Army each have forces stationed in Tajikistan. An opposition Islamic movement of 5,000 signed a peace agreement with the government in 1997 and was in the process of being integrated into the government forces.


Tajikistan became a member of the United Nations on 2 March 1992; it is part of ESCAP, and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, ILO, UNESCO, UNIDO, the IAEA, the World Bank, and the WHO. Tajikistan is also a member of the Asian Development Bank, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, OSCE, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). It has observer status at the WTO.

In June 2001, leaders of Tajikistan, China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan met in China to launch the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and sign an agreement to fight terrorism and ethnic and religious militancy while promoting trade. Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan established the Eurasian Economic Community in 2000. Tajikistan is part of the NATO Partnership for Peace.

In environmental cooperation, Tajikistan is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on Climate Change and Desertification.


Tajikistan is the poorest of the post-Soviet republics with a per capita income in 2005 of $1,200 in purchasing power parity terms (PPP) and an estimated 80% of the population below the poverty line. Two thirds of the labor force is still in agriculture, which is dominated by cotton production and accounts for 24% of GDP. Industry is poorly developed, providing 28.4% of GDP and only 7.5% of total employment, and consists of one large aluminum smelter operating at a fraction of its capacity, electric power facilities producing only a fraction of the country's potential hydroelectric power, and small plants engaged in food processing and light industry, virtually all in need of upgrading and modernization. Imports provide the large majority of manufactured consumer goods. Deposits of nonferrous metals are significant but undeveloped.

Tajikistan's economy was among the worst affected by the problems of transition from a command economy, with hyperinflation and the collapse of industrial production aggravated by a five-year, three-way civil war (199297) that claimed 150,000 lives, produced thousands of refugees, and delayed the reforms needed to make the adjustment. Already beginning to falter in the late 1980s, GDP declined 0.6% and 8.7% in 1990 and 1991. Legislation in 1992 aimed at laying the groundwork for the transition to a market economy and creating conditions hospitable to foreign investment was overtaken by spiraling inflation and the outbreak of civil war that summer. The economy emerged dependenton volatile world prices for cotton and aluminum, on neighbors Russia and Uzbekistan, on imports of capital goods, and on international humanitarian assistance for much of its basic subsistence needs. Inflation spiraled to 1500% in before being brought down to single digits5% in 1996 and 2.7% in 1997by a tight monetary policy, but GDP continued to shrink, by 12.4% in 1995 and by almost 17% in 1996. In all, GDP fell 32.6% 1991 to 1996. The financial crisis in Russia, source of 16% of Tajikistan's imports and market for 30% of its exports, was transmitted to the economy, throwing it back into double digit inflation. End of period inflation as measured by the consumer price index (CPI) reached 30.1% in 1999 and 60.6% in 2000 before being brought down by corrective actions to 12.5% in 2001. Nevertheless, after the ceasefire in 1997 Tajikistan has had five years of real GDP growth, 5% in 1998 and 3.7% in 1999, accelerating to 8.3% in 2000, 10.1% in 2001 and 9% in 2002.

Despite accumulated growth of more than 32% from 1997 to 2001 output had still only reached 43% of the 1991 level. Besides the damage done to the infrastructure during the civil war, the economy became saddled with a large external debt, estimated at 113% of GDP in 2000. By early 2003, progress had been made in reducing the relative size of the foreign debt to 88% of GDP ($985 million), down from 98% the year before. Despite the concessional nature of most of its external finance, the grace periods expired and substantial repayments are due. The increased cotton and aluminum production that is the basis of recent growth, moreover, has contributed little to solving the country's unemployment and underemployment problems. The official unemployment rate for 2003 was 50% but observers estimate that the true figure is higher. Many Tajiks are forced to go abroad for work; an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 live and work abroad, permanently or seasonally. With the formal economy failing to lift most of the population out of poverty, it in not surprising that added to the country's problems are reports of increased drug smuggling from neighboring Afghanistan. Tajikistan has rich mineral resources, including silver and tungsten and huge hydroelectric potential, but foreign investment in this politically and economically unstable region has been small to date, amounting to less than $30 million in 2002.

Although not without risks, Tajikistan's economy offers opportunities to exporters and investors. By 2006, the steady growth of the late 1990s and early 2000s had continued: average GDP growth was about 8% in 2005, and the inflation rate stood at 7.1%, up from 6.8% in 2004, but was expected to decline to 5% in 2006. Opportunities existed in the following sectors of the economy: construction and engineering services, equipment, and materials; fruit and vegetable processing management, equipment, and technology; and telecommunications equipment and services.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Tajikistan's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $8.8 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $1,200. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 8%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 8%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 24% of GDP, industry 28.4%, and services 47.7%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $146 million or about $23 per capita and accounted for approximately 9.4% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $144 million or about $23 per capita and accounted for approximately 9.9% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Tajikistan totaled $1.36 billion or about $213 per capita based on a GDP of $1.6 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of -1.4%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 48% of household consumption was spent on food, 10% on fuel, and 14% on education. It was estimated that in 2004 about 60% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


Tajikistan's labor force in 2003 numbered 3.7 million. In 2000 (the latest year for which data was available), it was estimated that agriculture accounted for 67.2% of the workforce, with services at 25.3%, and industry at 7.5%. Unemployment in 2003 was estimated at 50%.

With the demise of the Soviet Union, there is no longer the mandate for a single labor union structure. As of 2002, the Federation of Trade Unions remained the dominant labor organization even though it no longer is subordinate to the Communist Party. Approximately 90% of workers were unionized in 2002. Strikes are permitted after mandatory arbitration. Collective bargaining is permitted and practiced, although it is becoming less prevalent in the economic decline.

Employment in Tajikistan may legally begin at age 16, or at age 15 with local trade union permission. Children from the age of seven often help with harvests, but their work is considered "family assistance." The 40-hour workweek is standard. The minimum monthly wage was $1.60, which does not provide a decent standard of living for the worker and family. An estimated 20% of industrial laborers worked in unhealthy or otherwise hazardous conditions, although it is believed that the number of persons working in substandard conditions is vastly underreported.


Tajik agriculture relies extensively on irrigation. About 7.6% of the total area is cropland, although 23% is used for permanent pastures. A network of canals expands agriculture into semidesert areas. Agriculture accounted for 23% of GDP in 2003. During 19902000, agricultural output shrank by an annual average of 5.8%. However, crop production during 200204 was 28.7% higher than during 19992001.

Cotton is the major commercial crop; three irrigated valleys (Vakhsh, Kofarnihon, and Zeravshan) are the sites of most production. As a result of chronic problems with machinery and the lack of spare parts, machine harvesting is declining. The 2004 cotton harvest was 174,000 tons; seed cotton production that year was 557,000 tons.

Wheat is the staple grain and is grown mainly in the northern and southern plains. About one-third of the wheat crop is irrigated. In 2004, wheat production was 672,000 tons. Production has been declining in recent years because of lack of machinery and civil war. During the 1996/97 growing season, the government eliminated most of the state order for wheat, legalized contract farming, freed wheat prices, established commodity markets, and privatized 50,000 hectares (124,000 acres) of land in order to encourage wheat production. Barley, potatoes, vegetables, and various fruits and melons are widely grown for domestic consumption.

Horticulture has been important since antiquity. Most orchards and vineyards are located in the northern valleys, where apricots, pears, plums, apples, cherries, pomegranates, figs, and nuts are grown.


Livestock herding is a major part of Tajikistan's economy. As of 2005, the livestock included 2,296,000 chickens, 1,782,000 sheep, 1,303,000 cattle, 975,000 goats, and 74,600 horses. Meat production in 2005 included 24,000 tons of beef, 18,700 tons of mutton, and 2,600 tons of poultry. Livestock products in 2005 included cow's milk, 460,000 tons; goat's milk, 40,800 tons; cheese, 11,435 tons; wool (greasy), 2,900 tons; and silk, 300 tons.


Some fishing occurs in the upper Amu Darya River; the Kayrakkum Reservoir, and the Syrdar'ya River. The total catch was 325 tons in 2003, primarily carp.


Tajikistan's forests and woodlands occupied about 2.8% of the total land area in 2000. Forestry is of little commercial importance. Forestry imports totaled $30 million in 2004.


Although Tajikistan is an important gold producer, the possessor of the largest deposits of antimony in the former Soviet Union, and had more than 400 explored mineral deposits, containing 70 types of minerals, it is primary aluminum that is the country's most important mineral-based product. In 2002, exports of aluminum, by value, totaled more than $397 million (total exports for 2002: $737 million by value), or more than 50% of all exports. By volume, Tajikistan exported 304,191 metric tons of aluminum in 2002, nearly the entire output for that year, which was estimated at 308,000 metric tons.

In 2002, gold production was estimated at 5,000 kg, unchanged from 2001. Silver production in 2002 totaled 50,000 kg, up from an estimated 5,000 kg in 2001. In 2002, Tajikistan also produced antimony, lead, and mercury. Gypsum production in 2002 totaled 35,000 metric tons, unchanged from 2001. Tajikistan also produced cement, and fluorspar. No copper, molybdenum, tungsten, or zinc has been produced in recent years. The Darvaz joint venture did not mine for gold in 199799, because its equipment was severely damaged by hostilities in the region. Gold was mined southeast of Gharm, in the Pamir Mountains, in the Yakhsu Valley, in Chkalovsk, and in the Jilau, Taror, and Aprelevka deposits; mercury was mined at the Dzhizhikrutskoye deposit, north of Dushanbe; antimony, at Isfara and Dzhizhikrutskoye; arsenic, cadmium, tungsten, and lead-zinc, in the Yuzhno-Yangikanskiy deposit, north of the Zeravshan River; and uranium and graphite, northeast of Khudzhand. Uranium mining ceased in the mid-1980s.

Other metal and industrial resources included alunite, bauxite, iron, manganese, nepheline syenite, nickel, rare metals, selenium, strontium, tin, barite, boron, construction materials, dolomite, phosphates, precious and semiprecious stones, and salt.


Tajikistan has only modest reserves of oil, natural gas and coal, thus the country is heavily dependent upon imports to meet its hydrocarbon needs.

As of 2002, hydroelectric power accounts for 97.7% of Tajikistan's electricity production, of which seven large hydroelectric facilities produced most of the country's power. In 2002, Tajikistan's electric power generating capacity totaled 4.443 million kW, of which hydropower accounted for 4.054 million kW, with the remainder dedicated to conventional thermal fuel sources. Production of electricity in 2002 amounted to 15.071 billion kWh. Consumption of electricity in 2002 was 15.197 billion kWh. Electric power imports and exports i9n that year totaled 5.200 billion kWh and 4.019 billion kWh, respectively.

Coal production totaled 32,000 short tons in 2002, with imports accounting for 113,000 short tons. Demand for coal totaled 146,000 short tons, that same year.

Tajikistan's output of natural gas in 2002 totaled 0.71 billion cu ft. However, demand that year came to 42.020 billion cu ft, necessitating the import of 41.32 billion cu ft of natural gas. Imports and demand for refined petroleum products in 2002, each averaged 25,450 barrels per day. Tajikistan opened its first oil refinery, with a capacity of 400 barrels per day, in 2001.


A small number of state-owned enterprises dominate Tajikistan's industrial sector. The government's postindependence plans to extensively privatize industry have been hampered, first, by the five-year civil war 199297, and then by the effects of the Russian financial crisis in mid-1998 that put concerns about financial stability ahead of privatization. By early 1992, the state accounted for about 84% of asset ownership in the industrial sector, as compared to a high of 98% in the late 1980s. The civil war damaged an already weakly developed industrial sector, and basic security remains a concern. Industry in Tajikistan consists in sum of one large aluminum smelter, hydroelectric power installations and a number of small plants engaged in light industry and food processing. Virtually all are in need of upgrading and modernization.

Tajikistan's aluminum plant, the Tursunzade Aluminum Smelter (TADAZ), built in 1975 and located in Tajikistan because of access to cheap electric power, is one of the largest in the world, with a capacity of over 520,000 tons a year. However, it operates at a fraction of that capacity. Almost all of its output is exported, though there are small downstream cable and foil operations. The plant directly employs 12,000 to 14,000, and indirectly supports a community of 100,000. The government announced its intention to sell shares in TADAZ, retaining a majority control. However, the plant has accumulated a large external debt, probably over $100 million, lessening its attractiveness to outside investors. As of 2005, the SUAL Group, Russia's second-largest aluminum company, had made a bid for TADAZ, but Tajik authorities had not yet formulated conditions for the privatization tender for the smelter.

Tajikistan is the world's third-largest producer of hydroelectric power, behind the United States and Russia. However, TADAZ uses about 40% of the country's electricity production, and Tajikistan has the lowest electricity usage rates among the former Soviet countries, enough for only a few hours a day of electricity in the winter. Furthermore, only about 5.5% of its hydroelectric power production potential has been developed. About 12 power projects are at some stage of construction but most are stalled for lack of financing. The energy shortage in turn has shut down much of the country's industry. About 85% of Tajikistan's current hydroelectric power is produced by stations along the Vakhsh River. The largest of these is at Nurik (11 billion kWh/y capacity. A larger facility (13.3 billion kWh/y) at Rogun on the Vakhsh is unfinished because of lack of financing related to concerns about both security and vulnerability to earthquake. If completed, the Rogun Dam would be the tallest in world at 335 m (1,105 ft). Even larger, although only in the planning stage, is a 14.8 billion kWh/y facility for Dashtijum on the Panj River along the Afghan border.

The production, transportation and distribution of electricity is under the state-owned joint-stock company Barki Tojik. In 1999, Glavkhlopkoprom, the state organization that controlled the ginning and partly the selling of cotton fiber, was liquidated and bought by a number of private investors. The food industry is the second-largest contributor to gross industrial output, processing domestically harvested fruit, wheat, tobacco, and other agricultural products. Aside from aluminum and other processed metals, the country's small intermediate and heavy industry subsectors produce engineering goods, hydroelectricity, power transformers, cables, and agricultural equipment.


The Tajik Academy of Sciences, founded in 1951 at Dushanbe, has departments of physical-mathematical, chemical, and technical sciences; earth sciences; biological and medical sciences; and 10 associated research institutes. Tajik State University has faculties of mechanics and mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology, and biology. Tajik Abu-Ali Ibn-Cina (Avicenna) State Medical Institute was founded in 1939. Tajik Agricultural Institute was founded in 1951. Tajik Technical University was founded in 1956. All four educational institutions are in Dushanbe. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 17% of college and university enrollments. For the period 19902001, Tajikistan had 660 scientists engaged in research and development per million people. High technology exports in 2002 were valued at $37 million, or 42% of the country's manufactured exports.


Although trade is still dominated by the state sector, the government has been working on programs to transfer of much of the retail and wholesale trade sector into private ownership. Most small enterprises are in private hands. Privatization of medium and large-sized businesses, land reform, and banking reforms are still in the works. Price liberalization lifted controls on most consumer and wholesale trade, although subsidies and lowered ceilings have been applied to staple goods like flour, sugar, oil, bread, meat, and children's footwear. Most large towns have large marketplaces, or bazaars, where individual merchants sell a variety of consumer goods, many of which are imported. Trade on the black market has expanded significantly in the growing economic disarray since independence.


Aluminum, raw cotton, and textile products account for about 70% of Tajikistan's exports. Other exports include fruits and vegetable oils. Fuel, chemicals, intermediate industrial goods and equipment, manufactured consumer goods, textiles, and food are its principal import items.

In 2004, Tajikistan's primary export partners were: the Netherlands (41.4%); Turkey (15.3%); Uzbekistan (7.2%); Latvia (7.1%); Switzerland (6.9%); and Russia (6.6%). The major import partners were: Russia (20.2%); Uzbekistan (14.2%); Kazakhstan (12.8%); Azerbaijan (7.2%); the United States (6.7%); China (4.8%); and Ukraine (4.5%).


Foreign income earnings depend highly upon cotton exports; since independence, the centrally planned economy has suffered from the effects of civil war, the severing of trade relations with other former Soviet republics, and a series of natural disasters. Short term, high interest debt accumulated in 199394 resulted in a national debt exceeding $780 million with debt service totaling $12 million in 1995. About $440 million of the total was owed to Russia, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. Other major creditors include the United States, Turkey, China, and India. External debt totaled $1.23 billion in 2000 and $888 million in 2004. In 2001, Tajikistan received $60.7 million from the United States in economic aid.

In 2005, exports were valued at an estimated $950 million, and imports at $1.25 billion. The current-account balance was estimated at -$92 million in 2005. Reserves of foreign exchange and gold totaled $195 million.


The National Bank of Tajikistan (NBT) is the country's bank charged with implementing a monetary policy and issuing currency. It was formally established as the central bank in 1991. Commercial and state banks include the Bank for Foreign Investment, three large banks formed from the former Soviet state bank, and three branches from the Russian Commercial Bank. The Law on Banks and Banking Activities, adopted in February 1991, allows banks to compete for resources freely (including the setting of deposit rates) and lifts specialization boundaries. However, competition is very limited. Under IMF pressure, the Tajik government is now seeking to introduce tighter regulation over the banking sector.

There is no securities exchange.


Originally, the insurance sector in Tajikistan consisted of the state insurance company Gosstrakh only. The market was opened up in 1992. Gosstrakh remains the dominant provider of insurance,

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 692.3 644.0 48.3
Russia 258.8 104.1 154.7
Netherlands 178.2 0.5 177.7
Uzbekistan 97.8 185.2 -87.4
Switzerland-Liechtenstein 72.2 0.6 71.6
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 19.5 17.3 2.2
Latvia 14.3 14.3
Slovakia 9.9 9.9
United Kingdom 6.0 2.6 3.4
Greece 5.9 5.9
Kazakhstan 5.7 82.4 -76.7
() data not available or not significant.
Current Account -4.8
     Balance on goods -119.5
         Imports -1,025.7
         Exports 906.2
     Balance on services -33.0
     Balance on income -70.3
     Current transfers 218.1
Capital Account
Financial Account 62.7
     Direct investment abroad
     Direct investment in Tajikistan 31.6
     Portfolio investment assets
     Portfolio investment liabilities 0.3
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets -15.6
     Other investment liabilities 46.3
Net Errors and Omissions -29.9
Reserves and Related Items -27.9
() data not available or not significant.

however. It provides compulsory insurance of agricultural production, insurance of passengers, insurance for accidents, property, cargo, and residential homes. In addition, it offers insurance on life, livestock, state enterprises, collateral, marriage, and children.


Revenues from domestic taxes and resources are limited. Expenditures are largely for grain, the supply of fuel and raw materials for industry, and to maintain the military. Despite proposals to liberalize the economy, the government continued to subsidize inefficient state enterprises. Only 11% of medium and large enterprises were privatized as of 1997. In December 1999, the government announced that all small enterprises had been privatized; privatization of medium and large enterprises continued to be a priority as of 2005.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Tajikistan's central government took in revenues of approximately $442.3 million and had expenditures of $542.6 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$100.3 million. Total external debt was $888 million.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were s288.66 million and expenditures were s292.54 million. The value of revenues was us$122 million and expenditures us$123 million, based on a official exchange rate for 2001 of us$1 = s2.372 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 37.6%; defense, 9.4%; public order and safety, 8.8%; economic affairs, 14.4%; housing and community amenities, 0.8%; health, 1.6%; recreation, culture, and religion, 3.6%; education, 3.7%; and social protection, 20.3%.


Tajikistan's maximum personal income tax rate is 40%. Corporate taxes range from 2560% with a standard rate of 30%. Also levied are a 20% value-added tax (VAT), a 1090% excise tax, and a social security combination of 37% by employers and 1% by employees.


The government maintains a list of commodities and services subject to import licensing and quotas. Generally, imports are free of restrictions, including tariffs and quotas, with the exception of narcotics and firearms, which are forbidden. Goods traded within the former Soviet Union are mostly free from import duties. There is a 28% VAT and excise taxes are levied on some products.


After independence, Tajikistan's government emphasized the promotion of foreign investment particularly to develop labor-intensive manufacturing industries. With civil unrest, however, few investments flowed into the country and most foreign aid had been stalled. Difficulties also exist with currency convertibility, a prohibition on land ownership, and repatriation of profits and capital. In 1996 the government amended the foreign investments law to offer a two year exemption from taxes on profits to enterprises with investments of $100,000$500,000, and a four year exemption to enterprises with investments totaling $2$5 million. The peace agreement of 1997 did not bring in an immediate rush of

Revenue and Grants 288.66 100.0%
     Tax revenue 210.28 72.8%
     Social contributions 53.11 18.4%
     Other revenue 25.28 8.8%
Expenditures 292.54 100.0%
     General public services 109.9 37.6%
     Defense 27.46 9.4%
     Public order and safety 25.72 8.8%
     Economic affairs 42.09 14.4%
     Environmental protection
     Housing and community amenities 2.33 0.8%
     Health 4.55 1.6%
     Recreational, culture, and religion 10.44 3.6%
     Education 10.75 3.7%
     Social protection 59.3 20.3%
() data not available or not significant.

foreign investment capital. Only $20 million was invested in that year.

Through 2004, Tajikistan was only able to attract on average $27 million in foreign direct investments (FDI) per year. From 19972004 Tajikistan attracted $224 million in FDI. The largest direct investors (by country of origin) in 2003 were: Russia ($10.9 million); Cyprus ($10.1 million); Italy ($3 million); US ($2.5 million); and Canada ($1.2 million). The top three investors by country of origin from 19972004 were: the United Kingdom ($105.1 million); South Korea ($53.4 million); and Italy ($50 million). The top three destination sectors for FDI in 2003 were the chemical industry, agribusiness, and textiles. President Rakhmanov made numerous statements calling for increased foreign investment in the early- and mid-2000s, particularly in the hydropower sector, but his administration as of 2006 had yet to fully implement key reforms and regulations to create an attractive business climate.


Soviet development policy in Tajikistan prioritized the development of the country's agricultural and other primary resources, while capital goods and manufactured consumer goods were imported from elsewhere within the former USSR. Since the late 1970s, greater development of small food processing and consumer plants had been urged by local government officials in order to absorb more of the republic's rural labor force; however, these proposals found little favor with Soviet central planners. After independence, the government targeted the development of hydroelectric power production and a number of other industries (silk, fertilizer, fruit and vegetables, coal, nonferrous metals, and marble production), seen as particularly important for improving the country's export base.

In 1991, a "Program of Economic Stabilization and Transition to a Market Economy" was adopted by the newly independent government. In accordance with the program's principles, price liberalization, privatization measures, and fiscal reform were initiated in 1991 and 1992. The government's overthrow in the course of civil war in 1992, however, brought economic development to a virtual standstill and slowed the pace of economic reform. Renewed efforts during 199697, as the civil war was brought to a formal end, to move from a state-directed economy to a market-oriented one resulted in proposals to convert medium and large state enterprises to joint-stock companies and to create a securities market. Other proposals were aimed at turning land over to private farmers and at privatizing the cotton industry, which continues to dominate agricultural production. In 1997, the private sector accounted for less than 30% of GDP. That percent had risen to about 40% in 2001, about half in the formal economy and half in the informal, family-run economy. In 2000 18 cotton ginneries were auctioned off, bringing about $9 million dollars. Local silk operations have also been privatized. The majority of enterprises have been bought by insiders rather than outside investors. Despite the return of real growth in 1997, the Russian financial crisis brought financial problemsinflation and external debtto the top of the agenda ahead of market-oriented restructuring. As of early 2003, in fact, the IMF was advising against privatizing either the TADAZ aluminum plant or the country's hydroelectric facilities; however, as of 2005, the SUAL Group, Russia's second-largest aluminum company, had made a bid for TADAZ, but Tajik authorities had not yet formulated conditions for the privatization tender for the smelter. In agriculture, the government has remained undecided between allowing privatization and maintaining the large-scale, industrialized cotton operations. Private farmers, however, show promise of leading the way to greater diversification in agriculture, expanding into higher value-added fruits and vegetables. However, a lack of credit facilities and distrust of the privatization process hampers movements towards diversification.

In pursuit of financial stability, on 24 June 1998 the government entered into a three-year arrangement under the IMF's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) to run from 1998 to 2001. However, the IMF staff was unable to complete the third and fourth reviews of the third year of the program because of slow progress in improving the operations of the treasury and tax administrations, problems with the lack of transparency, and problems with the lack of independence of the Tajik Central Bank. However, in January 2002, a more successful structural reform program was implemented, including the creation of a new Ministry of State Revenues and Duties that improved tax and customs collections. As the IMF program concluded in June 2002, the Tajikistan parliament adopted a three-year National Poverty Reduction Strategy (NPRS). The objectives of NPRS are to increase real income, achieve a fair distribution of growth benefits, and ensure a rise in living standards among the poorest groups. On 11 December 2002, the IMF Executive Board approved a second three-year program under the PRGF that ran in tandem with the Tajikistan's NPRS.

The government's Economic Development Strategy for 200515 emphasizes economic and industrial growth. The continued privatization of medium and large state-owned enterprises would further increase productivity. However, weak government, widespread poverty and unemployment, and the huge debt burden make for a fragile economic situation.


The government's social security systems have been threatened by war and economic turmoil. Refugees returning from Afghanistan after the war suffered from malnutrition and had high mortality rates in resettlement camps. Resettlement payments to refugee families had been promised by the government, but were not implemented in practice. Financial constraints have also led the government to fall behind in the payment of pensions. More than 80% of the population fall below the poverty line, while the monetary crisis devalues benefits.

Women are employed in business in government, and in institutes of higher learning. Although under law women are supposed to receive the same pay for equal work as men, in practice this does not always occur. Women in rural areas are less likely to receive a higher education or work outside the home, and were likely to marry early. Violence against women, including spousal abuse, is a serious social problem and appears to be particularly prevalent in rural areas. Islamic law is increasingly prevalent which negatively impacts gender equality. Although the government is committed to children's rights, the government inadequately funds programs. In 2004 it was estimated that one third of the nation's children were malnourished.

Serious human rights abuses continue to be committed by the government and security forces. Ethnic tensions persist and prison conditions remain life-threatening.


As of 2000, Tajikistan retained the centralized health care system instituted during the Soviet era, with the state funding and providing for most health care services through the Ministry of Health. Although most hospitals have remained open, the number of beds decreased by about one-third during the 1990s. Training of medical personnel is a priority, as the country lost many skilled workers during its civil war. The shortage of skilled nurses is especially pressing. As of 2004, there were an estimated 218 physicians and 438 nurses per 100,000 people. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 6.1% of GDP.

In 2005, there was an infant mortality of 110.76 per 1,000 live births. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 33 and 8.5 per 1,000 people. The total fertility rate of 5.7 in 1980 had decreased to 3.1 in 2000. The maternal mortality rate was 65 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Life expectancy was 64.56 years in 2005. The immunization rates for a child under one were as follows: tuberculosis, 69%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 82%; polio, 74%; and measles, 97%.

Diphtheria has spread widely throughout the former Soviet Union. Most cases were reported from the southern region of Kurgan Tyube, which borders Afghanistan. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 200 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 100 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


The government's 1994 Conceptual Plan for the Provision of Housing called for the construction of 1,390,000 square meters of housing per year until the year 2000. Unfortunately, by 1995, only about 10% of the goal had been reached. Part of the housing shortage was brought on by the civil war, which accounted for the destruction of over 35,000 homes. The government was able to rebuild about 21,000 homes by the end of 1995 through international assistance. In 1993, the government also initiated a fund for no-interest credit to help war victims in the reconstruction and repair of their own homes. However, as of 2004, a poor economy has basically brought new housing construction to a halt and the existing stock continues to deteriorate.

The most common building materials for new homes are prefabricated ferro-cement slabs. In rural areas, traditional materials of paksha, brick, mortar, and stone are used.


Before the country came under Soviet control in 1920, there were no state-supported schools, only Islamic ones. Since then, many schools have been built. Education is free and compulsory between the ages of 7 and 17. Primary school covers four years of study, followed by eight years of secondary school. Vocational and technical programs are offered at the secondary level. Since 1989, there has been an increased emphasize on Tajik language, literature, and culture.

In 2001, about 9% of children between the ages of three and six were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2001 was estimated at about 97.5% of age-eligible students. In 2003, secondary school enrollment was about 83% of age-eligible students; 90% for boys and 76% for girls. It is estimated that nearly all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 22:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 17:1.

There are 10 schools of higher education including the Universities of Dushanbe and Khudzhand. In 2003, it was estimated that about 16% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in tertiary education programs; 24% for men and 8% for women. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 99.5%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 2.8% of GDP, or 17.8% of total government expenditures.


The Fardousi Tajik National Library in Dushanbe holds nearly three million volumes. The Republican Scientific and Technical Library of Tajikistan has holdings that include two million volumes and 11 million patent records, and the Tajik State University holds 1.03 million volumes. The Behzed Museum of History, Regional Studies, and Arts is in Dushanbe, as is the Ethnographic Museum of the Academy of Sciences, both in Dushanbe. There are regional museums in Chodsent, Sorog, Isfara, Kulyab, Nurek, Pendzikent, and Ura Tyube.


Telephone links to other former Soviet republics is by land line or microwave and to other countries through Moscow. Service is considered to be poorly developed and is not adequately maintained. Several towns are not within reach of the national network. In 2003, there were an estimated 37 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 5,900 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately seven mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Tajik Radio broadcasts in Russian, Tajik, Persian, and Uzbek; Tajik Television, with four channels, broadcasts in Tajik, Russian, and Uzbek. Repeater television stations relay programs from Russia, Iran, and Turkey. Satellite earth stations receive Orbita and INTELSAT broadcasts. There are only a few private radio stations and no private television stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 141 radios and 357 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, only one of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet.

In 2005, there were over 200 registered newspaper, but none of them were dailies. Though there are several privately owned papers, government control of most of the nation's printing presses certainly ahs an added influence on the press. The government owns three major papers: Jumhuriyat, published in Tajik; Khalq Ovozi, published in Uzbek; and Narodnaya Gazeta, published in Russian; all three papers are published three times a week. Minbar-i Khalq is published by the People's Democratic Party, Golos Tajikistana is a Russian language paper published by the Communist Party, and Najot is published by the Islamic Rebirth Party.

Despite a 1991 law protecting already constitutionally provided free speech and press, the government is presently said to restrict these freedoms severely. Editors and journalists practice careful self-censorship, and supplies of newsprint, broadcasting facilities, and operating monies are controlled by the authorities.


The Tajikistan Chamber of Commerce and the Tajikistan Industrial Association are important economic organizations. The most important mass movement in the country is the People's Front. The members of the Writers Union and intellectuals in the country formed the "Rascokbez" (Rebirth) Popular Front, an opposition movement opposed to the government of Tajikistan.

Tajikistan's Academy of Science coordinates and finances the scientific research of 19 affiliated natural sciences, social sciences, and humanity research institutions The Ali Somon Foundation, established in 1994, works to promote economic development and modernization while preserving national culture.

Youth organizations include the Scout Association of Tajikistan; the Aurora Children and Teenagers' Club, focusing on social and educational development programs; and the Tajikistan Youth Center, focusing on vocational training programs. There are several sports associations promoting amateur competition for athletes of all ages in a variety of pastimes.

The Women for Progress Association and the Association for Women and Society promote health, education, and equality for women. There are national chapters of the Red Crescent Society, UNICEF, and Habitat for Humanity.


Civil strife has dampened Tajikistan's potential as a tourist site, which was already limited by the destruction of most ancient monuments and buildings by numerous earthquakes. Visas are required for entry into Tajikistan and are obtainable upon arrival or through the embassies of Russia, Germany, the United States, Turkey, Austria, Iran, and China. There are weekly flights from Germany and Turkey to the capital city of Dushanbe.

According to 2004 US Department of State estimates, the cost of staying in Dushanbe was $119 per day.


Outstanding representatives of culture and literature in Tajikistan are the Tadzhik poet Rudaki (d. 941) and the scientist and poet Avicenna (Hussayn ibn 'Abd' Addallah ibn Sine, 980?1037), born near Bukhoro (Bukhara). Avicenna wrote an encyclopedia of science. Pre-Soviet Tajik cultural figures include the author Abdalrauf Fitrat, who wrote Last Judgement, and Sadridalin Aymi, author of the novels Slaves and Dokhunala.


Tajikistan has no territories or colonies.


Dannreuther, Roland. European Union Foreign and Security Policy: Towards a Neighbourhood Strategy. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Kort, Michael. Central Asian Republics. New York: Facts On File, 2004.

Rakowska-Harmstone, Teresa. Russia and Nationalism in Central Asia: The Case of Tadzhikstan. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1970.

Roi, Yaacov. Democracy and Pluralism in Muslim Eurasia. New York: Frank Cass, 2004.

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Tajikistan
Region (Map name): East & South Asia
Population: 6,578,681
Language(s): Tajik (official), Russian
Literacy rate: 98.0%
Area: 143,100 sq km
GDP: 991 (US$ millions)
Number of Television Sets: 860,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 130.7
Number of Radio Stations: 20
Number of Radio Receivers: 1,291,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 196.2
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 3,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 0.5

Background & General Characteristics

Tajikistan borders China to the east, Kyrgyzstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west and Afghanistan on its southern frontier. With a 2001 estimated population of 6,579,000 growing at a 2.1 percent annual rate, 65 percent of its people are ethnic Tajik, about 25 percent are Uzbek, 3.5 percent are Russian, and other groups make up the rest. Russians, who numbered roughly half a million a decade ago, fled the country en masse during the recent civil war. 80 percent of the population is Sunni Muslim, while 5 percent are Shi'a Muslim. Tajik is the official language but Russian is widely used in government and business circles. The long local form of Tajikistan is Jumhurii Tojikiston.

Tajikistan, literally the "land of the Tajiks," has ancient cultural roots. The people now known as the Tajiks are the Persian speakers of Central Asia, some of whose ancestors inhabited Central Asia at the dawn of history. Despite the long heritage of its indigenous peoples, Tajikistan has existed as a state only since the Soviet Union decreed its existence in 1924.

The origin of the name Tajik has been embroiled in twentieth-century political disputes about whether Turkic or Iranian people were the original inhabitants of Central Asia. Until the twentieth century, people in the region used two types of distinction to identify themselves: way of lifeeither nomadic or sedentaryand place of residence. Most, if not all, of what is today Tajikistan was part of ancient Persia's Achaemenid Empire which was subdued by Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C. and then became part of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom. The northern part of what is now Tajikistan was part of Soghdiana. As intermediaries on the Silk Route between China and markets to the west and south, the Soghdians imparted religions such as Buddhism, Netorian Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism, as well as their own alphabet and other knowledge, to peoples along the trade routes. Islamic Arabs began the conquest of the region in earnest in the early eighth century. In the development of a modern Tajik national identity, the most important state in Central Asia after the Islamic conquest was the Persian-speaking Samanid principality (875-999). During their reign, the Samanids supported the revival of the written Persian language. Samanid literary patronage played an important role in preserving the culture of pre-Islamic Iran.

During the first centuries A.D., Chinese involvement in this region waxed and waned, decreasing sharply after the Islamic conquest but not disappearing completely. As late as the nineteenth century, China attempted to press its claim to the Pamir region of what is now southeastern Tajikistan. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, China occasionally has revived its claim to part of this region. Beginning in the ninth century, Turkish penetration of the Persian cultural sphere increased in Central Asia. The in-flux of even greater numbers of Turkic peoples began in the eleventh century. The Turkic peoples who moved into southern Central Asia, including what later became Tajikistan, were influenced to varying degrees by Persian culture. Over the generations, some converted Turks changed from pastoral nomadism to a sedentary way of life, which brought them into closer contact with the sedentary Persian speakers.

Until 1991, Tajikistan was part of the former USSR. In Soviet times, the investment in social structures allowed Tajikistan to reach a high level of development within the education system. Up until the beginning of the 1990s, literacy among the adult population (99 percent according to the 1989 Soviet census) and well-educated labor force was maintained while 77 percent had a secondary education and above. The educational institutions at all levels were accessible to the majority of the population. Despite being one of the poorest of the former Soviet block nations, it still maintains a high literacy rate of 98 percent. Immediately after the war, the government approved a law that made education a right for all. However, this right is yet to be implemented. Prior to independence, the universal language of instruction was Russian, and literacy almost exclusively meant literacy in Russian. Today, education is at least nominally available in five languages throughout the country: Tajik, Russian, Uzbek, Kyrghyz, and Turkmen. In practice, however, the location of schools offering instruction in a family's preferred language (other than Tajik) may prohibit their children's attendance.

Of the five Central Asian states that declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Tajikistan is the smallest in area and the third largest in population. Land-locked and mountainous, the republic has some valuable natural resources, such as waterpower and minerals, but arable land is scarce, the industrial base is narrow, and the communications and transportation infrastructures are poorly developed. Following independence in 1991, Tajikistan faced a series of crises. Separation from the Soviet Union caused an immediate economic collapse. Non-inclusion in the ruble zone caused a cash crisis that was exacerbated when Russia delayed payments on shipments of cotton because of Tajik debts to Russia. A civil war in 1991-93 resulted in significant loss of life and property and left close to 500,000 people homeless and set back children's education. General damage is estimated at US$7 billion. As of 2000, Tajikistan ranked among the 20 poorest nations of the world. With an average per capita annual income of some US$130, about 85 percent of Tajiks live below the poverty line.

Tajikistan has featured prominently in the recent drive to root out Al Qaeda terrorists and depose the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Despite risks from its own Islamists, the Tajikistan government quickly gave the international forces necessary access for the intervention and its role in the conflict and the supply of humanitarian relief has been essential. Notwithstanding its disadvantages, Tajikistan is successfully, if haltingly, making a transition to normalcy, civil order and democracy. Despite several potentially destabilizing events during 2001, such as the assassination of cabinet officials by unknown assailants, the various parties remain committed to peace even as they struggle for influence within the political landscape. The government continues to work to maintain a balance between various factions, including those from the president's party and former opposition members integrated into the government following the 1997 Peace Accord. The peace process resulted in a unique coalition government (of Islamists and former Communists), and the Islamists are a vocal opposition.

There are no daily newspapers in Tajikistan, although 203 newspapers and 56 magazines are officially registered. Two opposition newspapers started publication again in 1999 following the lifting of a six-year ban on the activities of their parties and movements. With the economy in ruins and much of the population living in poverty, Tajikistan still does not have a viable daily press. The authorities control the presses and publishing, and obtaining a license can take several years. Today, the country relies on small-volume weekly papers, most of them filling news holes with horoscopes and anecdotes from the Russian yellow press. Examples of Tajik newspapers are the following: the Jumhuriyat government-owned and published in Tajik three times a week; Khalq Ovozi government-owned and published in Uzbek three times a week; Narodnaya Gazeta government-owned and published in Russian three times a week; Nido-i Ranjbar Tajik-language weekly and published by the Communist Party; Golos Tajikistana Russian-language weekly and published by the Communist Party; Tojikiston government-owned Tajik-language weekly; and the Najot weekly and published by the former opposition Islamic Rebirth Party.

The information vacuum in the country can bring about the most undesirable consequences, exerting negative influence on further social and political developments in the region. Ten years after a strong Soviet ideology dissolved, other forces are snatching opportunities to define a new ideology at a crossroad of the European and Asian civilizations. In areas in which the free media cannot operate, and where there is a lack of education, that ideology can grow from fear and violence.

The absence of analytical journalism accounts for the fact that motives for frequent reshuffles in power structures and changes in home and foreign political priorities proclaimed by the country's leadership remain unclear to the broad range of readers, viewers and listeners.

Economic Framework

The economy is a state-controlled system making a difficult transition to a market-based one. Most of the work force (50 percent) is engaged in agriculture (20 percent GDP), part of which remains collectivized. Government revenue depends highly on state-controlled cotton production. The small industrial sector (18 percent GDP) is dominated by aluminum production, another critical source of government revenue, although most Soviet-era factories operate at a minimal level, if at all. Small-scale privatization is over 80 percent complete, but the level of medium to large-scale privatization is much lower (approximately 16 percent) with the heavy industry, wholesale trade, and transport sectors remaining largely under state control. Many, but not all, wages and pensions are paid. The country is poor, with a per capita gross national product of approximately $290, according to World Bank data. While the current growth rate runs at 5.1 percent, inflation is running at 33 percent. Only 28 percent of the population is urban. Tajikistan depends on aid from Russia and Uzbekistan and on international humanitarian assistance for much of its basic subsistence needs. The failure of the Soviet economic system has been accompanied by a rise in narcotics trafficking and other forms of corruption. This development has led to clear disparities of income between the vast majority of the population and a small number of former pro-government and opposition warlords, who control many of the legal and most of the criminal sectors of the economy. World Bank development efforts are focusing on transnational projects for oil and hydroelectric exploitation. With their large reserves of oil and gas, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are eager to build pipelines and capitalize on potential regional and global markets. The Turkmenistan government broached the possibility of a natural gas pipeline to flow to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Water-rich Tajikistan has big hydro potential and could be a source of water for the entire region, yet downstream sharing will be difficult to achieve because of political exigencies and nationalistic tendencies.

Tajikistan is ruled by an authoritarian regime that has established some nominally democratic institutions. President Emomali Rahmonov and an inner circle of fellow natives of the Kulyab region continued to dominate the government; however, Rahmonov's narrow base of support limited his control of the entire territory of the country. Rahmonov won reelection in a November 1999 election that was flawed seriously and was neither free nor fair according to outside observers. As a result of 1997 peace accords that ended the civil war, some former opposition figures continue to hold seats in the government. Rahmonov's supporters overwhelmingly won. Although February parliamentary elections that were neither free nor fair, they were notable for the fact that several opposition parties were allowed to participate, and that one opposition party won two seats in Parliament. Although the Constitution was adopted in 1994 and amended in September 1999, political decision-making normally takes the form of power plays among the various factions, formerly aligned with the other side during the civil war, that now make up the government.

The legacy of civil war continued to affect the government, which still faced the problems of demobilizing and reintegrating former opposition troops and maintaining law and order while rival armed factions competed for power. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, it is not independent in practice. The Ministries of Interior, Security, and Defense share responsibility for internal security, although the government actually relies on a handful of commanders who use their forces almost as private armies. Some regions of the country remained effectively outside the government's control, and government control in other areas existed only by day, or at the sufferance of local former opposition commanders. The soldiers of some of these commanders are involved in crime and corruption. The Russian Army's 201st Motorized Rifle Division, part of a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping force established in 1993, remained in the country and continued to have a major influence on political developments; however, the division began to transition into a new status on a permanent military base after the peacekeeping mandate ended in September.

The number of independent and local newspapers is increasing, but only a handful of them attempt to cover serious news. Several are organs of political parties or blocs. The government exerted pressure on newspapers critical of it. Najot, the new official paper of the Islamic Renaissance Party, which began weekly publication in October 1999, continued to publish during the year. It experienced indirect government censorship in the early summer, apparently in retaliation for publishing a serialized translation of a foreign human rights report critical of the government. It temporarily lost its access to state-run printing presses and has been forced to rely on a small, privately owned printing press to publish its editions.

Civil war along with regional clan lines, political violence and state repression has made Tajikistan one of the most dangerous places for journalists. Peace accord between government and United Tajik Opposition (UTO) has never worked out. Absolute anarchy is prevailing in the ranks of both UTO and government troops. Civilian deaths, hostage taking, looting and torching of houses, rape and summary executions have occurredthe country has seen the worse human rights abuses since the height of the 1992-97 war. Human Rights Watch documented numerous cases of extortion, kidnapping, and beating of ordinary civilians by Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Defense, and Ministry of Emergency situations personnel. Issues high on the agenda in Tajikistan included how to advance progress in the social sectors and the need to push ahead in tackling corruption and governance issues.

The most recent Country Assistance Strategy (CAS)the central vehicle for Board of Directors' review of the World Bank Group's assistance strategy for Tajikistanfocuses on four main areas: privatization (the first Structural Adjustment Credit); farm restructuring and improved agricultural support services (the Farm Privatization Project, the Rural Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project); social services (the Education Learning and Innovation Loan, the Primary Health Care Reform Project); and strengthened institutional capacity for reform implementation at the sector level (the Second Institution Building Technical Assistance Project). USAID's program to strengthen democratic culture among citizens and targeted institutions seeks to create stronger and more sustainable civic and advocacy organizations; increase the availability of information on civic rights and domestic public issues; and increase opportunities for citizen participation in governance. Despite the difficult travel situation to and within Tajikistan (and the security situation which demands restricted travel), support to Tajikistan's NGOs led to a marked improvement in NGO advocacy, service provision, and organizational capacity.

At the time of independence, Tajikistan had several long-established official newspapers that had been supported by the communist regime. These included newspapers circulated throughout the republic in Tajik, Russian, and Uzbek, as well as papers on the provincial, district, and city levels. Beginning in 1991, changes in newspapers' names reflected political changes in the republic. For example, the Tajik republican newspaper, long known as Tojikistoni Soveti (Soviet Tajikistan), became first Tojikistoni Shuravi (using the Persian word for "council" or "soviet") and then Jumhuriyat (Republic). The equivalent Russian-language newspaper went from Kommunist Tadzhikistana (Tajikistan Communist) to Narodnaya Gazeta (People's Newspaper). Under the changing political conditions of the late-Soviet and early independence periods, new newspapers appeared, representing such groups as the journalists' union, the Persian-Tajik Language Foundation, cultural and religious groups, and opposition political parties. After antireformists returned to power at the end of 1992, however, the victors cracked down on the press.

In the Soviet era, Tajikistan's magazines included publications specializing in health, educational, rural, and women's issues, as well as communist party affairs. Several were intended especially for children. Literary magazines were published in both Russian and Tajik. The Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan published five scholarly journals. In the post-independence years, however, Tajikistan's poverty forced discontinuation of such items. In the early 1990s, Tajikistan had three main publishing houses. After the civil war, the combination of political repression and acute economic problems disrupted many publication activities. In this period, all of the country's major newspapers were funded fully or in part by the government, and their news coverage followed only the government's line. The only news agency, Khovar, was a government bureau. Tajikistan drew international criticism for the reported killing and jailing of journalists. Government officials often make it clear to journalists what news should not be covered, and reporters practice consideration self-censorship.

There are about 200 periodicals published in Tajikistan. Fifty of them are either independent or partly affiliated. Two new private newspapers began publishing in 1998. One is affiliated with the UTO's fighters; the other with UTO members of the National Reconciliation Commission. Like most newspapers, both have small circulations. Most private media, however, are not financially viable. Because of low advertising revenues and circulation bases, few papers publish daily. Biznis i Politica, a paper subsidized by a private commodities exchange firm, is one of a few successful papers.

State TV and radio are financed from the national budget; revenues from advertising do not allow for financial independence. Politically, the government channels are biased and scrutiny of the authorities is entirely absent. According to sources, there are no independent broadcasters in Tajikistan. However, Internews (the only foreign media assistance organization with an office in Tajikistan) reports that two private TV channels are currently operative.

Foreign radio stations broadcasting in Russian and Tajik are the BBC, Voice of America, Radio Liberty and Voice of Free Tajikistan. The latter is in fact the United Tajik Opposition radio station (funded by Iran), broadcasting from Kunduz Province in northern Afghanistan. Combined with the opposition papers smuggled into the republic, such as Charoghi Rooz (Moscow) and Paiki Piruzi (Iran), they provide information to a selected part of the information-hungry population.

Salaries for journalists are poor and do normally not exceed the national average. In some cases (independent outlets), earnings may be higher, yet not above $20 per month. Due to the economic chaos, payment is occasionally delayed for months. Combined with the dangers and lack of freedom, few young people are motivated to enter the profession.

There are no professional organizations defending the rights of journalists, monitoring violations or trying to improve working conditions. The Journalists' Union, headed by Mirzokhaet Davlatov, formally represents the interests of journalists, yet in practice is not able to provide substantive support or assistance.

In 1995, 24 new publications were registered and in 1996 the total number of registered newspapers amounted to 213. Of these, 24 newspapers are supposedly distributed throughout the republic. However, most of these outlets either appear irregularly or folded. The bulk of the newspapers (over 70 percent) are either official central, regional, city or district papers, or owned by various ministries and state committees.

The total circulation of newspapers plummeted eight-fold after January 1991 (when the combined print-run stood at two million). In 2002, the circulation of newspapers rarely exceeded 5,000 copies.

Although the state-controlled press is due to receive subsidies, some papers (such as the Russian-language Narodnaya Gazeta or the Tajik-language Dzhumhurriyat (Republic) and Paemi Dushanbe (Evening Dushanbe)) appear irregularly since financial assistance was lowered or virtually ceased. Consequently, several of these papers will most likely fold in the foreseeable future. Other 'official' papers (such as Sadoi Mardum (People's Voice)) continue to receive support from the government. The most important governmental state-supported papers are:

  • Sadoi Mardum, started in 1991, is printed in the Tajik language, and has a circulation of 5,000. It is published by the Tajik parliament and appears twice a week. Sadoi Mardum publishes predominantly parliamentary documents and pro-governmental articles on political issues. It is distributed nationwide, printed by the Sharqi Ozod publishing house, has a staff of 40 journalists and cooperates with the agency Khovar.
  • Dzhumhurriyat, established in 1925, is a Tajik-language paper with a circulation around 10,000. It is published by the government and appears twice a week. Dzhumhurriyat prints official documents and information from various Ministries, as well as pro-governmental articles. It is printed by the Sharqi Ozod publishing house, has a staff of 35 journalists and cooperates with the agency Khovar.
  • Narodnaya Gazeta, established in 1925, is Russian-language and published as a joint edition of the parliament and the government. The circulation totals 2,500 and the paper is supposed to appear twice a week, yet is published with long intervals (in 1996, six issues were published). Besides official documents, Narodnaya Gazeta reprints articles from Russian pro-communist newspapers, and is distributed in Dushanbe, the Leninski district, and partially in the Leninabad region.
  • Khalk Ovozi has existed since 1929, is Uzbek-language, is printed by the parliament, and has a print-run of around 7,000 copies. It appears weekly, has a staff of 56, is printed at Sharqi Ozod (four pages) and also cooperates with Khovar.

Nominally independent newspapers are financed by sponsors, political associations or commercial groups. Generally, these backers determine the editorial policy and content of the publication. However, newspapers do not disclose information regarding their financial sources.

The most independent newspaper (as far as possible under the current circumstances) is Vecherniye Novosti (Evening News). It was essentially established in 1968 under the name Vecherni Dushanbe, yet was renamed in 1996. The paper is owned by the editorial staff, and prints articles on city life and political issues, aimed at the intelligentsia. Vecherniye Novosti battles for survival by selling issues on the street and trying to find sponsors without strings attached. The weekly is said to be distributed nation-wide, with a total print-run of 10,000. The paper has a staff of 15 journalists.

Biznes i politika (Business and Politics) started in 1992 and is a Russian-language weekly with a circulation of 15,000, distributed nation-wide. It is also formally independent and financed by commercial groups. The newspaper contains a variety of information on political and economic issues, reprints material from Russian editions, has columns on sports, culture, etc. It has a staff of 40 journalists.

Both Biznes i politika and Vecherniye Novosti sup-port the government. They are issued weekly, whilst both were daily papers up to 1999. The reasons illustrate the structural difficulties for print media. There is a shortage of printing material (films, ink) and paper. High costs, combined with the extremely low purchasing power of the population ensured insignificant print-runs. Moreover, the "national" editions do not reach the rural areas, which further limits their circulation.

The newspaper Charkhi Gardun was established in 1996. It is a private information-cultural newspaper in Tajik with a circulation of around 6,000, distributed in the south of the country. Chas Iks has existed since May 1995 and highlights the activity of the Socio-Ecological Union of Tajikistan. It has a circulation of 2,000 and is privately-owned.

The lack of private local broadcasters, combined with the disrupted distribution of "national" newspapers in the regions, makes the state TV and radio the most important source of news outside Dushanbe. Generally, the regions can receive the national TV channel, a local state-owned broadcaster and Russian ORT and RTR. Russian channels are transmitted by satellite.

One TV channel, Timur Malik, operates in the region of Leninabad. Prior to 1992, cable TV stations existed, yet they were banned. The official explanation concerned alleged "pornographic movies and other inadmissible programmes." It is, however, generally accepted that the political advertising carried by the cable TV station prior to the elections caused their prohibition. Although data are not available, it appears that governmental papers are in low demand, if available. Advertising issues appear more popular.

Press Laws

Both the 1991 Law on Press Freedom and the 1994 constitution guarantee freedom of the press. Under the constitution of the Republic of Tajikistan all forms of censorship are outlawed. It also guaranteed citizens access to the media, but practice is far from the words on the text of these documents. Government and armed groups routinely ignore these rights. Instead they use the same bill to limit the freedom of the press in the Republic. For example the provision on libel of the 1991 Law on Press Freedom enables government officials to punish critical viewpoints for "irresponsible journalism" which includes jail terms and fines.

Legal rights for both broadcasters and individual journalists in Tajikistan remain tenuous. Journalists, broadcasters, and individual citizens who disagree with government policies are discouraged from speaking freely or critically. The government exercises control over the media both overtly through legislation and indirectly through such mechanisms as "friendly advice" to reporters on what news should not be covered. The government also controls the printing presses and the supply of news-print and broadcasting facilities and subsidizes virtually all publications and productions. Editors and journalists fearful of reprisals carefully exercise self-censorship.

Internews Tajikistan maintains a staff lawyer who tracks changes in legislation and practice in all aspects of media law. Internet advocacy issues currently rank high on their agenda and their lawyer also provides consultation to stations on registration, licensing, libel, freedom of information, and other issues related to the media's ability to function freely. Tajikistan ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1998. Article 19 of the Covenant states: "Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference; Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice." The Constitution of Tajikistan upholds freedom of expression and bans censorship: "Every person is guaranteed freedom of speech, publishing, and the right to use means of mass information. State censorship and prosecution for criticism is prohibited. The list of information constituting a state secret is specified by law."

State censorship is forbidden by Tajikistan's obligations under international and domestic law, covenants it has ratified and the nation's Constitution. Although censorship is not a systematic practice, in reality pre-publication censorship occurs. Generally, journalists choose not to use the courts to defend themselves and stay away from issues sensitive to the authorities. Self-censorship prevents large-scale pre-publication censorship from occurring, while those incidents that do occur most often go unreported. The government of Tajikistan maintains that certain restrictions on freedom of expression are necessary to protect development, security, and other interests. Many state officials, and even Tajik journalists, hold the view that unrestricted freedom of expression in part spurred the civil war in 1992. They agree that coverage of sensitive topics, such as the negative consequences of the war, must necessarily be limited to preserve national security interests and stability. Although this view is not strictly state policy, little serious discussion of the negative impacts of the civil war appears in the press, because of curbs on the media, censorship and an uncontrolled culture of violence and impunity.

The Committee to Protect Journalism (CPJ) also raised concerns about the Tajikistan Penal Code, which makes it a crime to publicly defame or insult a person's honor or reputation. In addition, Article 137 stipulates that publicly insulting Tajik President Rakhmonov is punishable by up to five years in jail.


Journalists working in Tajikistan, one of five Central Asian republics that gained independence when the Soviet Union collapsed, enjoy a very limited version of press freedom. Certain topics are taboo, particularly criticism of President Imomali Rakhmonov and the ruling party. As a result, journalists censor themselves to avoid confrontations with authorities. Indeed, many restrictive measures remain in place since the 1998 decision by the government to extend its power over the media by amending the media law. The amendments gave the official broadcasting committee the right to control the content of any program or material either before or after its production.

The government severely restricts freedom of expression. The sole publishing house for publishing newspapers is owned by the state and denies access to government critics. The government monitors and "counsels" all news media, enforces pre-publication censorship, and imposes burdensome licensing procedures. Electronic media is either state-owned or is dominated by the state.

Direct censorship, such as the systematic vetting by a censorship office of all articles prior to publication, is not standard practice in Tajikistan. Nonetheless, authorities do on occasion prevent certain material or publications from being printed. More often than not, journalists receive a warning in the form of a telephone call from a governmental ministry, offering "guidance"; or printers receive instructions from authorities not to print the publication or article in question.

Journalists frequently are subject to harassment, intimidation, and violence. Sometimes the perpetrators are government authorities, as in the case of a reporter for the state-owned newspaper Jumhuriyat, who was beaten severely by militiamen in August, according to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations. In other cases, the perpetrators are criminal or terrorist elements who are believed to have narcotics trafficking connections, as in the cases of Ministry of Interior press center chief Jumankhon Hotami, who was shot and killed near Dushanbe in 1999, and Sergei Sitkovskii, a Russian national working for the newspaper Tojikiston, who was killed in a hit-and-run car accident in 1999. Both were investigating narcotics trafficking at the time of their deaths. There were no developments in their cases by year's end.

State-Press Relations

The authorities threaten or harass journalists and editors who publish views directly critical of President Rakhmonov or of certain government policies. A dramatic example was the July 2001 arrest in Moscow of Dodojon Atovullo, exiled editor-in-chief of the independent opposition newspaper, Charogi Ruz (Light of Day). Atovullo has in recent years published articles accusing Tajik authorities of corruption and involvement in narcotics trafficking activities. Threatened with extradition to Tajikistan to face charges of sedition and publicly slandering the president, he was released in six days after pressure from other governments and international organizations. CPJ also cited the case of reporter Khrushed Atovulloev, from the newspaper Dzhavononi Tojikiston, who was questioned and threatened in June 2001 by officials from the State Security Ministry. CPJ said the heavy-handed treatment was in retaliation for an article describing abysmal living conditions endured by university students and bribe-taking by teaching staff. CPJ said these incidents are all in violation of Article 162 of the Tajikistan Penal Code, which makes it illegal to obstruct a journalist's professional activities.

The government's human rights record remains poor and the government continues to commit serious abuses. The February parliamentary elections represented an improvement in the citizens' right to change their government; however, this right remains restricted. Some members of the security forces committed extrajudicial killings. There were a number of disappearances. Security forces frequently tortured, beat, and abused detainees. These forces also were responsible for threats, extortion, looting, and abuse of civilians. Certain battalions of nominally government forces operated quasi-independently under their leaders. Impunity remains a problem, and the government prosecuted few of the persons who committed these abuses. Prison conditions remained harsh and life threatening. The government continued to use arbitrary arrest and detention and also arrested persons for political reasons. Lengthy pretrial detention remains a problem. Basic problems of rule of law persist. There are often long delays before trials, and the judiciary is subject to political and paramilitary pressure.

The government has continued to severely restrict freedom of speech and the press. The government severely limited opposition access to state-run radio and television; however, an opposition newspaper begun in 1998 continued to publish, and a number of small television stations were operated by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Journalists practice self-censorship. The government restricts freedom of assembly and association by exercising strict control over political organizations; it banned three opposition parties and prevented another from being registered. A number of parliamentary candidates were prevented from registering for the elections. There are some restrictions on freedom of religion and on freedom of movement. The government still has not established a human rights ombudsman position, despite a 1996 pledge to do so.

Some members of the government security forces and government-aligned militias committed serious human rights abuses. Journalists regularly risked beatings at the hand of law enforcement authorities (or at least armed individuals dressed as and claiming to be law enforcement authorities). For example, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported that militiamen seized a reporter for the state-owned newspaper Jumhuriyat in Dushanbe in August, forced him into a car, beat him en route to a militia station, where they beat him so badly that he suffered a concussion and hearing loss in one ear.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

The current Tajikistan government does not welcome the presence of foreign journalists or the information incoming from foreign sources. Official investigations into the murders of journalists have given almost no results. Human Rights Watch report how Khorog-based state radio employee Umed Mamadponoev was detained by police in May and "disappeared" after producing a locally aired program on the army mistreatment of soldiers from Gorno-Badakhshan.

Some papers are supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran (e.g. Somon, the newspaper of the Tajik Language Foundation, and the magazine Dare). These publications do, however, focus exclusively on scientific or cultural issues and are not involved in politics.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) sent a letter on May 14, 2002, to the Tajikistan government outlining its concerns about the lack of press freedom in the country. The press watchdog said that government harassment, intimidation, and censorship regularly stifle press freedoms in Tajikistan. CPJ's program coordinator for Europe and Central Asia, Alex Lupis, said that one of the most important points CPJ wants the Tajik authorities to address is the ongoing intimidation and attack of journalists by government officials. The CPJ has documented eight such cases since 1992. In 1998 and 1999, journalists continued to receive death threats, and the UTO and other armed groups took journalists hostage on several occasions. The government continued to arrest journalists based in the Leninabad region, deny Leninabadi newspapers permission to use government run printing houses and otherwise restrict the coverage of the Leninabadi-based National Revival Movement and sensitive events in the region.

News Agencies

News agencies that currently exist in Tajikistan are the government-run Khovar news agency and two private agencies, Asia-Plus, which maintains an extensive presence in the Internet, and the Mizon news agency.

Broadcast Media

Television broadcasts first reached Tajikistan in 1959 from Uzbekistan. Subsequently, Tajikistan established its own broadcasting facilities in Dushanbe, under the direction of the government's Tajikistan Television Administration. Color broadcasts use the European SECAM system. Television programming is relayed from stations in Iran, Russia, and Turkey. In mountainous villages, television viewing is restricted by limited electrical supply and retransmission facilities. In February 1994, President Imomali Rakhmonov took direct control of broadcasting services under the guise of ensuring objectivity. Throughout the years, government dominance has not diminished. The state run Tajik Radio is the major radio service, while the only national television service is the state run Tajik Television. The UTO also operates a radio station. In 1992, 854,000 radios and 860,000 televisions were in use. There are two independent radio stations, one in the north and the other in the south. Eighteen non-governmental television stations have opened in Tajikistan since the USAID-backed Internews started there in 1995.

Laws governing the media in Tajikistan protect media freedoms. These include the Law on the Press and Other Mass Media, adopted by the Supreme Soviet of the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic on December 14, 1990, and the Law on Television and Radio Broadcasting, adopted on December 14, 1996. Under the terms of the 1997 General Agreement, amendments are to be made to current media legislation to bring it into greater conformity with international protections, although after five years there were no signs that such steps had been initiated.

Television and radio broadcasting is the monopoly of the State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company of Tajikistan, which is controlled by the Ministry of Communications. In 1995 the radio broadcasting system included thirteen AM stations and three FM stations. Several frequencies offer relayed programming from Iran, Russia, and Turkey. Although radio broadcasting is primarily in Tajik, Russian and Uzbek programming also is offered. In 1988 broadcasting began in German, Kyrgyz, and Crimean Tatar as well. In February 1994, the state broadcasting company came under the direct control of head of state Imomali Rahmonov.

There is one government-run television network; its several local stations cover regional and local issues from an official point of view. There are 11 independent television stations, although two have suspended operations due to financial problems. Some of these stations have independent broadcast facilities, but most have to rely on the state studios. According to the U.S. Department of State, the process of obtaining a license for an independent television station is time consuming and requires the payment of high fees and costly bribes. However, authorities have not prevented any station from getting a license. Radio liberty and two other Russian television channels are also available in Tajikistan. There are 36 nongovernmental television stations, not all of which are operating at any one time and only a handful of which can be considered genuinely independent. The Islamic Renaissance Party was able to begin broadcasting a weekly television program on one such station. Some have independent studio facilities. These stations continued to experience administrative and legal harassment. To obtain licenses, independent television stations must work through two government agencies, the Ministry of Communications, and the State Committee on Radio and Television. At every stage of the bureaucratic process, there are high official and unofficial fees.

The government continued to prevent independent radio stations from operating by interminably delaying applications for broadcasting licenses. At least two independent radio stations in Dushanbe have had their license applications pending without explanation since the summer of 1998.

Electronic News Media

In 1994 Tajikistan's telephone system remained quite limited. It included 259,600 main lines, an average of one line per twenty-two peoplethe lowest ratio among former Soviet republics. U.S. based Central Asian Development Agency first introduced the Internet in Tajikistan in 1995. Internet is available mainly in public communication places. While the number of people who use the Internet is questionable, as of 1998 only about 1,500 people in Tajikistan had an e-mail address.

An on-line service, Internews Tajikistan produces a weekly news magazine, Nabzeh Zendaghi (The Pulse of Life), which features news stories from fifteen independent stations broadcasting in ten cities, as well as free-lance corespondents in other cities without nongovernmental TV. The program brings news from around the country, including regions isolated, by geography and social barriers, to upwards to one million viewers.

Access to the Internet is limited partly by state control. The government allowed a handful of Internet provider companies to begin operating during the year, but high fees and limited capacity put access to information over the Internet out of reach for most citizens and essentially controls the electronic media.

Education & Training

Academic expression is limited principally by the complete reliance of scientific institutes upon government funding, and in practical terms by the need to find supplementary employment to generate sufficient income, leaving little time for academic writing.

The need for more professional journalism has been highlighted by the recent events in Afghanistan and the lack of Tajikistan presence in international news releases. "I see two reasons for this," states the prominent Armenian journalist Mark Grigoryan, who is familiar with the Tajikistan press. "The first one is of purely professional nature. I am afraid that many of my colleagues are not sufficiently professional to be able to analyze the situation. For analyzing a situation implies a hunt for hard-toget evidence, including finding and assessing facts, and having the ability to get outside of realities and facts. Certainly, it is easier to wait for the Russian newspapers to publish material and then copy it. Certainly too, it is much easier to collect material that is just at hand."

Last May, theAsia-Plus News Agency launched an UNICEF project to train would-be journalists. School-children from the Tajik capital passed a thorough screening to receive basic training in journalism. Theory was followed by practical assignments: to write a news item or article, or to conduct an interview. Ms. Natalya Bruker, an assistant professor from the Russo-Tajik Slavonic University, guided the trainees. The curriculum featured particular aspects of the trade such as the basics of how to use the Internet, newspaper management and advertising business, to name but a few. A visit to the editorial office of Asia-Plus gave an insight into the hardships and delights of journalistic work. However, one month is not enough to teach even the news-making fundamentals.


Tajikistan remains the least stable country in Central Asia as the post-war period has been marred by frequent outbreaks of violence. Recently, Tajikistan has been accused by its neighbors of tolerating the presence of training camps for Islamic rebels on its territory, an accusation that it has strongly denied. Owing to the continuing security problems and dire economic situation, Tajikistan relies heavily on Russian assistance. It is the only country in the region that allows a Russian military presence, charged in particular with guarding its border with Afghanistan. Skirmishes between the Russian military and drug smugglers crossing illegally from Afghanistan occur regularly, as Tajikistan is the first stop on the drug route to Russia and the West. As a result, the exercise of investigative reporting in Tajikistan remains extremely hazardous, making it one of the most dangerous areas in the world to report on and carry out normal press and media activities.


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Virginia Davis Nordin

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Tajikistan
Region: East & South Asia
Population: 6,440,732
Language(s): Tajik, Russian
Literacy Rate: 98%
Number of Primary Schools: 3,423
Compulsory Schooling: 9 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 2.2%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 6,726
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 638,674
  Secondary: 724,056
  Higher: 108,203
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 95%
  Secondary: 78%
  Higher: 21%
Teachers: Primary: 27,172
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 24:1
  Secondary: 16:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 94%
  Secondary: 74%
  Higher: 13%

History & Background

Tajikistan, literally the "land of the Tajiks," has ancient cultural roots. The people now known as the Tajiks are the Persian speakers of Central Asia, some of whose ancestors inhabited Central Asia at the dawn of history. Despite the long heritage of its indigenous peoples, Tajikistan has existed as a state only since the Soviet Union decreed its existence in 1924.

Tajikistan borders China to the east, Kyrgyzstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the West and Afghanistan on its southern frontier. The 1999 population was estimated at six million. Two-thirds of its people are ethnic Tajik, about a quarter are Uzbek and other groups make up the rest. Russians, who numbered roughly half a million a decade ago, fled the country en masse during the recent civil war.

Of the five Central Asian states that declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Tajikistan is the smallest in area and the third largest in population. Landlocked and mountainous, the republic has some valuable natural resources, such as waterpower and minerals, but arable land is scarce, the industrial base is narrow, and the communications and transportation infrastructures are poorly developed.

The origin of the name Tajik has been embroiled in twentieth century political disputes about whether Turkic or Iranian people were the original inhabitants of Central Asia. Until the twentieth century, people in the region used two types of distinction to identify themselves: way of lifeeither nomadic or sedentaryand place of residence.

Most if not all, of what is today Tajikistan was part of ancient Persia's Achaemenid Empire which was subdued by Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C. and then became part of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom. The northern part of what is now Tajikistan was part of Soghdiana.

As intermediaries on the Silk Route between China and markets to the west and south, the Soghdians imparted religions such as Buddhism, Netorian Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Manichaeism, as well as their own alphabet and other knowledge, to peoples along the trade routes. Islamic Arabs began the conquest of the region in earnest in the early eighth century. In the development of a modern Tajik national identity, the most important state in Central Asia after the Islamic conquest was the Persian-speaking Samanid principality (875-999). During their reign, the Samanids supported the revival of the written Persian language. Samanid literary patronage played an important role in preserving the culture of pre-Islamic Iran.

During the first centuries A.D., Chinese involvement in this region waxed and waned, decreasing sharply after the Islamic conquest but not disappearing completely. As late as the nineteenth century, China attempted to press its claim to the Pamir region of what is now southeastern Tajikistan. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, China occasionally has revived its claim to part of this region.

Beginning in the ninth century, Turkish penetration of the Persian cultural sphere increased in Central Asia. The influx of even greater numbers of Turkic peoples began in the eleventh century. The Turkic peoples who moved into southern Central Asia, including what later became Tajikistan, were influenced to varying degrees by Persian culture. Over the generations, some converted Turks changed from pastoral nomadism to a sedentary way of life, which brought them into closer contact with the sedentary Persian speakers.

Until 1991, Tajikistan was part of the former USSR. In Soviet times, the investment in social structures allowed Tajikistan to reach a high level of development within the education system. Up until the beginning of the 1990s, literacy among the adult population (99 percent according to the 1989 census) and well-educated labor force were maintained: 77 percent had a secondary education and above. The educational institutions at all levels were accessible to the majority of the population.

Following independence in 1991, Tajikistan faced a series of crises. Separation from the Soviet Union caused an immediate economic collapse. Noninclusion in the ruble zone caused a cash crisis which was exacerbated when Russia delayed payments on shipments of cotton because of Tajik debts to Russia. A civil war in 1991-1993 resulted in significant loss of life and property and left close to 500,000 people homeless and set back children's education. General damage is estimated at US$7 billion.

As of 2000, Tajikistan ranked among the 20 poorest nations of the world. With an average per capita annual income of some US$130, about 85 percent of Tajiks live below the poverty line.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Immediately after the war, the government approved a law that made education a right for all. However, this right is yet to be implemented.

According to the Constitution (Article 41) and the law "About Education" (Article 12) all children must complete nine years of classes of basic education. The state also guarantees free entry into state educational institutions, general secondary education (11 classes), secondary professional and vocational education (according to abilities and on a competitive basis), secondary special, and higher education. The former uniform education system was replaced by multiprofiled, multialternative, and other ways of education as well as the concept of the "national school" approved by the government on 13 June 1994 (basic education).

According to the law of the Republic of Tajikistan, "About Education" (27 December 1993), the purpose of education is to satisfy the requirements of the person in all-around development for realization of all abilities, survival, existence, and improved quality of life and work, thereby improving the economic, cultural, and spiritual legacy for maintaining the social and economic development of Republic of Tajikistan. In June 1994 the concept of the "national school" (basic access) was ratified.

Ratification by the government of Tajikistan in 1993 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child imposes obligations, as stipulated in Article 4 of this document, about realization of children's rights recognized by this convention. A number of programs were developed: "The Program of Development of the Population of the Republic of Tajikistan Until 2005," "The Program on Improvement of the Role of Women and Family, Both Care of Motherhood and Childhood Until 2005," and others.

The Republic Tajikistan on 29 June 1993 ratified the Convention on Liquidation of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The equal rights of the women with men are reflected also in the Labor Code (since 11 June 1997), Criminal Code (since 1 September 1998), and the Codes about Family and Marriage. Following the instructions of an international conference on population and development, the government of the country set up a commission, one task of which was elimination of gender imbalance in the country. On 10 September 1998 the resolution of the government "About the Statement of the National Plan of Actions of the Republic of Tajikistan on Increasing the Status and Role of Women from 1998-2005" was passed.

On 4 June 1997, the government accepted the Resolution No. 266 "About the Statement of State Standards of General Secondary Education of the Republic of Tajikistan," in which, under the law of the Republic of Tajikistan "About Education," state standards of general secondary education are established.

The Constitution and laws of the Republic of Tajikistan also grant religious bodies the right to establish independent educational facilities so long as the education offered by them conforms to accepted standards, and some Islamic madrassahs have been reestablished in recent years.

Educational SystemOverview

Tajik education has been multicultural, the languages of education being Tajik in most schools, followed by Uzbek, Russian, Kyrgyz, and Turkmen. The younger population (those below 17 years of age) makes up more than 40 percent of the Tajik population.

The Tajik educational system consists of four levels: preschool, secondary (which also includes primary grades one through nine), specialized secondary and vocational, and university/higher education. Preschool education, which can begin as early as three years, is only partially intended to prepare children for entry into the more formal education system and actually encompasses most of the elements of day care.

Prior to independence, the universal language of instruction was Russian, and literacy almost exclusively meant literacy in Russian. In the early 2000s, education is at least nominally available in five languages throughout the country: Tajik, Russian, Uzbek, Kyrghyz, and Turkmen. In practice, however, the location of schools offering instruction in a family's preferred language (other than Tajik) may prohibit their children's attendance.

Nobody knows exactly how many children were and are out of school in Tajikistan, which was devastated by brutal civil strife that orphaned some 55,000 children. At least 126 schools were totally destroyed during the war, while another 130 school buildings need repair.

In recent years, gender disparities in education have also widened. The EFA assessment report says the boys to girls ratio has dropped from 52:48 in the first grade to 62:38 in the eleventh grade. Girls usually drop out in the eighth to ninth grades. The boys to girls ratio in colleges is 74:26.

In order to implement the resolution of the Board of Ministry of Education, "On Girls from Remote Villages," a plan has been devised for receiving graduates of remote schools into institutions of higher education in pedagogical specialties. Also a plan was prepared for receiving the quota of youth, including girls, from remote mountain regions, in full-time and correspondence branches of institutions of higher education without entrance examinations, at the expense of the state budget for 1997, particularly in pedagogical, technical, agricultural, medical, economic, and legal specialties as well as journalism. A total of 491 places were allocated, including 269 places for girls.

In recent years new government and nongovernment types of educational institutions have appeared. There are also combined educational complexes: kindergarten-school, school-university, technical universities, and others.

During the transition period, the prestige of education started to decline, being replaced by an income-generating imperative that does not require education. Young people, when faced with continuing to study or working, are choosing the latter. This has implications both for the young people in terms of their future ability to participate, and also for society in lower overall human capital.

With transition the meaning of "free" education has also changed. High inflation and reduced real government expenditure has given rise to an increasing number of self-financed educational establishments. Access to good education is becoming determined by money rather than by ability. This may result in social stratification with the exclusion of children from poor families.

Although enrollment remains high, it is only part of the story since some children who are enrolled cannot attend schools and do regulated household work or trade in the streets. According to World Bank data one child in every eight is not actually receiving any formal education. Dropouts from primary and secondary schools in 1997 were estimated as high as 37,900. As the costs associated with education increase, this number is expected to rise. Many poor families are unable to purchase textbooks, uniforms, or books, or to cover transportation. Conversely children need to supplement the family income by working in the home or in informal industry.

Guaranteeing continued access to primary and secondary education for all remains a priority of the government of Tajikistan. To overcome social disparities, the Ministry of Education is taking measures to find new ways of financing, training, and retaining staff; improving the quality of teaching; and attracting children to schools, to increase education enrollment and attendance. The Academy of Education was set up in 1996 to reduce inequities.

The creativity of Tajik scientists, artists, and teachers is recognized internationally. In 1998, Buri Karimov, expert UN ESCAP, was awarded "Man of the Year" for 1997 to 1998 and "Honorable Medal" by the Biographic Centre in Cambridge, England. The rector of Tajik State Medical University, Mirzohamdam Rafiev, was awarded the Gold Medal of Albert Sweitzer for his contribution to health careers in Tajikistan. Among 200 laureates, the Tajik medical professor was the only representative of the Central Asia region. The people's artist Subrob Kurbanov was awarded the title of Kyrgzyzstan Academy of Arts.

The Ministry of Education places great weight on the reduction of illiteracy among the adult population and in particular inequalities between the literacy levels of women and men. Despite the destruction wrought by war and the limited funds available for all purposes, the numbers of schools has steadily, if modestly, increased since 1990, from 3,112 schools in 1990 to 3,400 in 1994. The number of students actually enrolled, however, has shown a fluctuation that appears to be a direct reflection of the disruptions occasioned by the civil war.

By the beginning of the 1995 school year, total enrollment had nearly returned to pre-war levels but still comprised only 81.7 percent of the eligible age group.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Over the period 1994-1998 the number of kindergartens shrank by 200, to 562. During the same period the number of children enrolled more than halved, from 109,000 to 53,000.

The percentage of children aged between ages three and six enrolled in kindergarten has fallen steadily since 1989. In 1996 only 7.7 percent were enrolled. Increasingly, it appears that Tajik families prefer to take care of their children's education in their home, due to lack of heating and personnel, and concerns over rising food costs in the public schools.

Likewise, primary enrollment dropped from 164,000 in 1990 to 130,000 in 1993, but grew to 177,000 in 1998. School dropouts are estimated at some 25 percent of children aged between ages 7 and 17.

There is some international support for primary education in Tajikistan. In Dushanbe city and its environs, CARE supports 60,000 schoolchildren in grades one through four. The economic crisis has severely affected Tajikistan's school system, and the support to the Education Project provides a daily meal to primary school students; helps revitalize parent-teacher associations; supplements teachers' salaries which had fallen to approximately US$8 per month; physically rehabilitates 40 schools in conjunction with local communities; provides coal to schools in winter and purchases, with UNICEF assistance, 60,000 sets of basic textbooks. The project is funded through the monetization of 25,000 tons of U.S. government wheat.

Special emphasis is placed by the state on preschool education, since the development of this branch of education systematically lags behind the requirements of the population. In 1994, some 141,400 children were in preschool institutions, while, in 1998, only 44,200 were enrolled (only 4.3 percent of children of preschool age). The "Concept of Preschool Education" was developed and adopted by the Ministry of Education. A rule about preschool education was then adopted by the resolution of the government of on 12 October 1995.

Secondary Education

In 1998, some 1,556 young people out of 2,294 aged between 7 and 23 (78.8 percent) were enrolled in some kind of education. The enrollment rate for primary and secondary schools remains at 94 percent of all those aged between 7 and 16.

The inherited Soviet structure of the curriculum is very strong in traditional schools, especially in language and numeracy. However, it is being modified to account for the new needs of the market economy and sustainable development. The secondary and tertiary education system in the past produced narrowly trained specialists, whose number was determined by predilection and inertia, rather than demand.

Specialized Secondary & Vocational Education: Both specialized secondary and vocational education are designed primarily to train students to fill specific needs of the various economic sectors. The specialized secondary schools tend to have a slightly more "professional" and academic focus in their training while the vocational schools tend to be training students to fill a specific job in a specific enterprise.

In 1994 specialized secondary education was provided at 50 institutions with 34,900 students, while an additional 75 vocational schools catered to 32,500 students. Unlike the pattern of enrollment in the general education system, there has been a steady decline in the enrollment in these sectors of the educational system since 1990, with no upsurge in enrollment following stabilization of the political situation.

Schools offering specialist education in medicine and nursing, teacher training, and the industrial professions represent more than half of the number of both schools and student enrollment. Female students are mostly represented in the schools of medicine and nursing and of teacher training, where they comprise 79.7 percent and 48 percent of total enrollment respectively. Overall, female students comprised 43.4 percent of total enrollment in specialized secondary schools in 1994, up from 41 percent in 1990. Total enrollment at this level of education, however, is down 15 percent since 1990 and the number of graduates has declined by 20 percent.

Vocational schools provide training for 156 occupations in all sectors of the economy, including the Industrial Pedagogical Institute that trains teachers for other vocational schools. Forty of the vocational schools (53 percent) provide training in agricultural occupations, and rural students outnumber urban students two to one in the system as a whole. Because of their location in rural areas of the south and southwest, 45 vocational schools were damaged and had their fixtures and equipment stolen during the civil war, with total losses calculated at 1993 values of RR 14.6 billion (US$14.7 million).

Students of vocational schools are entitled to free meals, lodging, and uniforms, and receive half the normal salary of the job for which they are training. In the l990s and early 2000s, however, they have been subject to the same cutbacks and shortages that have afflicted all other students, and receive no clothing and only irregular pay. As most enterprises in the country, especially industrial plants, have reduced production and laid off workers, the future of vocational school students has looked even bleaker than that of others. As a consequence, these schools have suffered the greatest attrition rates, both for students (25 percent) and for graduates (33 percent). Those who do graduate all too frequently join the ranks of the unemployed, losing even the modest incomes and benefits associated with their status as students.

Secondary school is the core of the Tajik educational system, comprising the whole period of compulsory education. Prior to independence, eight years of education was compulsory. This was expanded to nine years in 1993. The secondary school system is itself divided into three stages or phases of education, consisting of primary grades 1-4, incomplete secondary grades 5-9, and upper secondary grades 10-11. Children enter grade 1 at age 6 or 7 and graduate from grade 11 at the age of 17 or 18.

Admission to Phase III of secondary school (upper secondary), as well as to specialized secondary education, is only an option for those who can pass appropriate entrance examinations given in grade eight. Like enrollment at university level, the number of students admitted to each of the specialized secondary schools has, in the past, also been limited by the anticipated demands of employers. Specialized secondary schools offer training in teaching, health sciences, and a wide spectrum of industrial and technical trades and professions, including agronomy.

Vocational schools offer courses similar to those offered in many specialized secondary schools and, indeed, there is some overlap. These schools, however, are attached either to the Ministry of Labor and Employment or to individual industrial or agricultural enterprises, and exist primarily to train individuals to fill specific jobs within specific enterprises. Many students who have a special interest in a trade or profession but who have not gained admission to the specialized secondary schools are enrolled in the vocational schools.

Just as the inability to provide adequate nutrition is a problem in preschool establishments, so is the inability to provide hot meals in the secondary schools a matter of increasing concern. At the beginning of the 1994-1995 school year, only 1,455 schools (43 percent) had dining room facilities, and then only sufficient room to accommodate one in five students. Urban schools are far better equipped, both in numbers of facilities and in capacity, than rural schools. During the 1994-1995 school year, 202,000 students (15 percent) were provided with hot meals. Dushanbe and the Leninabad (Khujand) region fared best, with 30.3 percent and 30.4 percent respectively of students supplied meals. In Khatlon Oblast, only 2.5 percent of students were fed in schools; in Gorno-Badakhsthan, owing to a lack of foodstuffs, students were provided with no hot meals at all.

If all students enrolled in specialized secondary and vocational schools are added to enrollment in the general secondary school system, the combined enrollment ratio for the age group 7 to 18 years (primary and secondary education levels) is still only 68 percent. In simpler terms, three of every 10 children in Tajikistan are currently receiving no formal education at all. For girls, the situation is even worse. Their enrollment ratio is only 60 percent, meaning two of every five girls between the ages of 7 and 18 years are not currently in school.

Higher Education

The number of students in postcompulsory education has fallen. The duration of training is four years. The numbers enrolled in higher education establishments are remarkably constant. At present there are 24 higher education institutions in Tajikistan, offering training in 130 specialties. However, it is estimated that the country still needs 2,000 specialists trained outside the Republic, particularly in the field of railways, aviation, and industry. There is an excess of some specialists and a lack of others.

Competition for places to study subjects such as economics, management, business, foreign languages, and trade is fierce, as returns are higher. The competition constitutes up to five applicants for one seat in these departments.

Higher education is mainly provided by universities and institutes. They fall under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education. Languages of instruction are Tajik and Russian. Higher education credentials include Attestat o Srednem Obrazovanii, junior specialist diploma, bachelor's, specialist diploma, master's, doctorate, Kandidat nauk, and Doktor nauk.

University credentials for the first stage include junior specialist, bachelor's, and diploma of specialist. The junior specialist degree is conferred after two years of study. The bachelor's degree is awarded after four years of study. The diploma of specialist in a given field is conferred after five year's study.

University credentials for the second stage include master's and Kandidat Nauk. the master's degree is awarded after two years study beyond the bachelor's degree. The Kandidat Nauk degree is conferred after an additional three years study beyond the specialist degree plus defense of a thesis.

University credentials for the third stage include the doctorate and Doktor Nauk. The Ph.D. is conferred after an additional three years study beyond the master's degree. The Doktor Nauk is conferred after an additional three years beyond the Kandidat Nauk plus defense of a thesis.

A secondary school credential, Attestat o Srednem Obrazovanii is required for admission to university level studies. There is also an entrance examination for certain universities.

University student expenses for Tajik natives ranges from 0 to 800,000 Tajik rubles. For foreign students, fees ranges from US$800 to 1200.

Of all levels of education, only that at university level and above have actually expanded since 1990. There were twice the number of institutions of higher learning (22) in 1994 than in 1990; student bodies have increased by nearly 7 percent. The participation of women, however, has sharply declined from 37 percent of total enrollment in 1990 to only 28 percent in 1995 and there has been a decline of over 20 percent in the actual number of female students.

A 1993 State Statistical Agency study of students at the six institutions with the highest enrollment indicated the predominance of children from more highly educated parents. Overall, children of the intelligentsia comprised 50.2 percent of the enrollment, children of workers 32.9 percent and children of farmers only 16.9 percent. The largest percentages of farmers' children were found in the agricultural and technical universities; workers' children predominated at the medical and technical universities; and the children of the intelligentsia dominated enrollment at Tajik State University (the most competitive and highly esteemed university) and the Tajik Commercial Institute.

Despite a growth in quantity and enrollment, institutions of higher learning are beset by the same problems as other levels of the educational system: inadequate funding; lack of textbooks, instructional materials, equipment, and even basic office supplies; departure of faculty members and administrators; and the absence of rational curriculum reform.

Students continue to receive stipends, but irregularly. In any case, a stipend of 100 Tajik rubles per month (approximately US$0.30), as of December 1995, is sufficient for only one or two days' food. Dormitories are frequently unheated, lack hot water or gas for cooking and are often in such poor repair that five or six students crowd into one room originally intended for two. Some universities continue to operate student clinics, but medications are in extremely short supply and often outdated.

Some institutions have found ways to broaden their base of financial support, and this is, in fact, a stated goal of current government education policy. In 1994, some 15 percent of university students were contracted students, the cost of whose education was borne by employers, effectively subsidizing other students' education. Beginning in 1992, at least three institutes of higher learning are "commercial" universities, supporting their programs of instruction through a combination of contracted students, partial tuition payments, and fees charged to enterprises who subsequently employ their graduates: the Technological University of Tajikistan; the University of Municipal Services; and the Commercial University. The Technological University of Tajikistan has become a member of the International Associations of UNESCOthe only member in the Central Asian area.

Beyond the undergraduate level there are 14 postgraduate programs at six universities and eight research institutes offering advanced studies in 19 major subject areas and 114 narrower specialties. A total of 607 students were enrolled in these programs in 1994.

At present, tertiary-level education reaches only 14 percent of the age-eligible population. Among women, fewer than one in twelve (7.7 percent) in the 18- to 22-year-old population is enrolled at the university level.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

The total damage to the education system done by the civil war is estimated at US$100 million. Between 1997 and 1999, various U.N. agencies and donors like the World Bank have given funds to help restore and reconstruct schools around the country as well as providing food and clothing to boarding schools. In 1999 the World Bank announced approved of US$5 million for the Tajikistan Education Reform Credit which will improve access to high quality education and will raise learning achievements of students.

This project will introduce innovation and reform in primary education in Tajikistan, focusing on primary grades and carried out through the Ministry of Education, piloting new methods of teaching, school rehabilitation, and textbook development in a participatory approach. It will involve central, regional, and school administrations, as well as parents, students, and the community at large.

The total cost of the project is US$5.5 million, including US$0.5 million from the Tajikistan government. The credit will be disbursed on standard terms with a maturity of 40 years, including a 10-year grace period. Since Tajikistan joined the World Bank in 1993, commitments total approximately US$147 million for eight projects.

Educational facilities were established throughout the former Tajik Soviet socialist republic according to a rigid set of geographic and demographic criteria so as to ensure that all children, at least in the lower grades, had access to schools in their village or neighborhoods that could be reached on foot without crossing major roads. Except in the south and southwest, where damage and destruction of schools was widespread during the civil war, this pattern still holds.

Construction of new educational facilities was extremely limited in 1995, only 2,566 new places were added. Of these, the 560 that were added in Khatlon Oblast and the 582 that were added in the Regions of Republican Subordination mostly represented restoration of previously destroyed facilities. Of the remainder, 1184 were added in the relatively prosperous Leninabad (Khujand) region and 240 in Gorno-Badakhshan. It is worth noting that most schools (73 percent) in the country operate on two shifts owing to insufficient capacity to accommodate all students in their catchment area at the same time.

Work on development of the standards is also underway. Leaning on the experience of Russia, educational standards in view of national and regional peculiarities of the country have been produced. The general requirements, purposes, problems, and the principles of standardization of education are defined by the government, and the content of training, that is the standards of education under the basic educational programs, are affirmed by the Ministry of Education.

The legislative basis and budget financing of the education system is determined solely by the Madjlisi Oli (Parliament) of the country. The government is responsible for execution of the decrees and orders of the president, laws, and resolutions of the Madjlisi Oli. It carries out state policy in the field of education; considers and approves the republican programs of development of education, including interstate and international; makes financial decisions; and establishes the state specifications and order of financing of education system. The Ministry of Education is working to implement state policy. The local authority (Khukumat of areas, towns, regions) carries out state policy in the field of education, develops and realizes territorial (regional) programs of development of education in view of national and socioeconomic, cultural, demographic, and other peculiarities of the district. In the formation of state policy in the field of education, the active participation of urban and village (jamoats ) educational establishments, and public and nongovernmental organizations, is accepted.

Education funding plunged from 9.5 percent of the stage budget in 1990 to just 2.2 percent in 1998. In 2003-2005, a new system of normative financing of educational institutions will begin calculated on the basis of costs per student, instead of per class, as was earlier done. Normative financing will be calculated depending on the number of pupils or children within a certain age group. There will be the development of self-financing schools, ensuring transparent use of nonbudget means, such as parental payments. To enter mechanisms of credit for educational purposes, concessionary terms in material and resource maintenance of sphere of education are required. All measures of this period should be directed on achieving financial stabilization of the education sector.

It has always been the practice in Tajikistan to create interdepartmental commissions, or councils, within the central government and local Khukumats, on youth, children, and women, where problems of education for all are considered. However, in modern conditions it has become necessary to create special interdepartmental commissions within the government and an advisory council under the president to address certain questions, consulting experts in the field of education, scientists, experienced teachers, and other representatives of the public. The forms and modes of work of these bodies should be modern and correspond to the requirements of a democratic and open civil society as opposed to the former practice.

According to Order No. 6-0 "About the Statement of Measures of the Ministry of Education on Realization of the Law of the Republic of Tajikistan 'About Education"' signed on 24 March 1994, rules about preschool establishment, comprehensive school, secondary special school, nonschool child care establishment, students' organizations of all types, and higher education institutions are authorized. Similarly, the concepts of preschool education, concept of learning at schools, criteria of state standards of education, and mechanisms of their introduction are determined.

The concept of "national school" is the major document in the education sector, as it defines the purposes, tasks, and prospects of education. Taking into account the importance of this document, the Ministry of Education, on 3 January 1995, issued the order "About the Statement of Measures of the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Tajikistan on Realization of the Concept of National School." The developed measures cover questions of organization, including maintenance of the control, preparation, and increase of qualification of the pedagogical staff; development of urban problems; definition of the contents of education; study of the existing educational programs; textbooks and their updating; and realization of experimental work.

The Ministry of Education supervises educational programs and textbooks. The Ministry of Education, on 29 May 1993, issued the Order No. 88 "About Improvement of Development and Ordering of the Program, Textbooks and Educational Methodical Literature for Secondary Comprehensive Schools of the Republic." The present order authorizes measures for drawing up and improving the quality of educational programs, textbooks, and educational methodical literature for comprehensive schools.

Taking into account the acute shortage of experts in the education sector, the government passed Resolution No. 406 "About Some Measures on Improvement of Use of Young Experts after Graduation from Higher and Secondary Special Educational Institutions," on 12 June 1995. Thereby, the government obliges the graduates who finish high school at the expense of the state budget to not less than three years of work according to assignment and direction of ministries and departments. This document has become the legal basis for the Ministry of Education to provide work for graduates of high and secondary special pedagogical educational institutions.

Item 3 of Article 12 of the Law "About Education," grants all children the right to receive a basic nine-year education. The Ministry of Education has issued the Orders No. 476 (21 August 197), No. 608 (27 October 1997) and No. 654 (25 November 1997). These orders estimate conditions, define the number of school-aged children, and involve them in training with special emphasis on the continuation of girls' studies and compensation for the loss of studies by refugee children now returning to the country.

Nonformal Education

Not all learning takes place in schools. The Tajikistan cultural heritage sector has suffered from a lack of infrastructure. Between 1995 and 1998, not a single club was built by public funds and the number of books in the stocks of the rural libraries declined thousand of copies. City libraries are supported mainly by international organizations, and mainly school students visit libraries. Cultural employees get small salaries, equaling the average budget salary (approximately US$3.00).

Education experts say innovative programs, like distance education, could be one of the answers to education pains in countries such as Tajikistan. Distance education, based upon new information technologies, offers an opportunity to "reach the unreached," explains Dr. Mikhail Karpenko, rector of the Moscow-based Modern University of Humanities (MUH). MUH has tens of thousands of distance education students throughout Russian and former Soviet states. The university, which is also mulling projects in China, has set up an outlet in Khudjant, Tajikistan, recognizing the high potential for distance education in this mountainous country.

Teaching Profession

The plight of Tajik teachers is a major concern, as their working conditions have deteriorated and do little to ease the sorry state of education. For instance, their monthly salaries dropped from US$12.8 a month in 1994 to US$6.89 in 1998.

University faculty members have, like other teachers, been subject to low salaries irregularly paid and sometimes paid only in credits or in kind. A considerable number have been among the emigrants to Russia and to other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) or have turned from teaching to employment with international organizations, nongovernment organizations, or private enterprises. This has had a particularly pronounced impact on regional universities, such as those set up since independence in Khorog, Kulyab, Kurgan-Tyube, and Tursun-Zade.

Until the early 2000s, the number of teachers showed a fluctuation nearly identical to that of the number of students, and teacher-student ratios were actually at higher levels than in the late 1980s (about 1:13 as compared with 1:14.5 earlier). However, when the 1995 school year opened, nearly 12,000 teachers, or one out of eight of those who made up the teaching faculty in 1994, did not return to work. In Khatlon Oblast alone, 4,000 teaching vacancies exist.

In order to compensate for inadequate numbers of teaching staff, upper-level students are being called upon to teach lower forms, with graduates and students still studying in the teaching colleges teaching upper forms and specialized courses. A number of students from the teaching colleges and universities have also been called upon to suspend their studies to teach in rural schools that would otherwise be forced to cease instruction. Teaching faculties have always been predominantly female and this only worsens, as male teachers are usually the first to leave.

Traditionally, Tajik culture has placed a high value on being educated and was known as a seat of learning in the past, with those members who were educated held in high esteem. The decisions of teachers were rarely questioned. The Soviet period reinforced this emphasis, widening the experience to the whole of society with universal education.

The average teacher's salary is established by law as "higher than the average salary for industrial workers." In November 1995, the average monthly industrial salary was 2,371 Tajik rubles (US$14.00), the average monthly salary for all workers was 1,032 Tajik rubles (US$6.25), and the average monthly teacher's salary was 601 Tajik rubles (US$3.65). In addition to salary, teachers are entitled by law to free health care, rent, electricity, and heating. Teachers with more than 10 years experience are also entitled to cost-free privatization of their flats or houses. Still, as with all forms of employment, there have been long periods of time, especially in 1994 and 1995, when teachers were not paid at all or were paid only in part or in kind.

The Ministry of Education has also focused its attention on the question of maintaining schools by the pedagogical staff and increasing their professional skill. Thereforewith the purpose of complex definition of qualification of the pedagogical workers, estimation professional, business, personal qualities of the teacher, final result of his labor in training and education of the pupilsa Rule about the order of realization of certification of the pedagogical workers and retraining of the staff was developed and was authorized on 4 June 1997 by Government Resolution No. 264. Under this rule, the functions of the certification commission and the order of its work as well as qualifying requirements for certification are determined.

The government regularly considers questions related to the increasing of wages and social welfare of educational workers. On 25 December 1997 the government accepted Resolution No. 550 "About Additional Payments and Extra Charges to the Working Tariff Rates and Salaries of the Workers of the Educational System of the Republic," which promoted increased social status of teachers.


Until 1991, Tajikistan was part of the former USSR. In Soviet times, the investment in social structures allowed Tajikistan to reach a high level of development within the education system. Up until the beginning of the 1990s, literacy among the adult population (99 percent according to the 1989 census) and well-educated labor force were maintained: 77 percent had a secondary education and above. The educational institutions at all levels were accessible to the majority of the population.

Following independence in 1991, Tajikistan faced a series of crises. Separation from the Soviet Union caused an immediate economic collapse. Noninclusion in the ruble zone caused a cash crisis which was exacerbated when Russia delayed payments on shipments of cotton because of Tajik debts to Russia. A civil war in 1991-1993 resulted in significant loss of life and property and left close to 500,000 people homeless and set back children's education.

As of 2000, Tajikistan ranked among the 20 poorest nations of the world. With an average per capita annual income of some US$130, about 85 percent of Tajiks live below the poverty line.

Owing largely to its impoverished state, education has severely deteriorated in Tajikistan. Schools are physically falling apart and are often unable to supply students with quality equipment and supplies, there is a critical teacher shortage, curricular reform is lacking, and students are often faced with a choice between going to school or working to help support their families. It is hoped that recent international aid will allow the country to rehabilitate schools and curricula and recruit more teachers, along with involvement by parents, students, and their communities.

Quality education is critical for enabling people to participate actively in the economic and political process of development. It is also crucial for objectives of economic development. Education is the one of the keys to a higher standard of living and is vital for the future of Tajikistan.


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Virginia Davis Nordin

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Republic of Tajikistan

Major City:

Other Cities:
Khudzhand, Kurgan-Tyube


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated June 1997. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


The Republic of TAJIKISTAN declared its independence from the Soviet Union on September 9, 1991. Formerly known as the Tajikistan Soviet Socialist Republic, its independence was recognized by the United States on December 25, 1991 and an embassy was opened in the capital city, Dushanbe, in March 1992. Tajikistan became a member of the United Nations on March 2, 1992. Political unrest and armed conflict between Communist Party members and opposition forces have caused serious problems within the country. Many deaths have occurred. As a result, the U.S. Embassy was closed in October 1992.



Tajikistan's capital, Dushanbe, is located in the extreme west of the country about an hour's drive from the border with its western neighbor, Uzbekistan. Dushanbe was formed in 1922 when three small settlements of 5,000 people were united into one and became the capital of Tajikistan when it was formed as an autonomous republic in 1924. The city lies in a sheltered river valley at 2,300 feet above sea level, below the Hissar Mountains. The Varzob and Kofarnihon Rivers both flow through Dushanbe. Because of its sheltered location, Dushanbe is often spared the more extreme weather conditions prevalent elsewhere in the region. The cold winter, similar to Washington's, becomes a rainy spring which in turn becomes a hot, dry summer, with temperatures in some areas well over 100°F, followed by a pleasant, dry autumn. Warm, dry weather may suddenly become rainy and cool, and early frosts may be followed by warm, sunny weather.

With a 2000 estimated population of over 660,000, Dushanbe in its center retains the atmosphere of its original planners in the 1920swide, tree-lined streets with mostly low-rise apartment houses and office buildings painted white or pastel colors. Although traffic has begun to pick up with increased availability of gasoline, it is still comparatively light. Because of the trees, walking or bicycle riding is pleasant much of the year. Outside the center part of the city, where the Chancery and Embassy homes are located, neighborhoods usually consist either of rundown high-rise apartments built in the Soviet area or poor-quality, single-family houses.


The food supply in Tajikistan has been improving. Abundant, highquality fruits and vegetables are in the markets during the summer and autumn, but greenhouses were destroyed in the civil war, and the economy is not strong enough to support the usual nonseasonal imports seen in other former Soviet countries. In season, you can purchase at very reasonable prices: strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, mulberries, rhubarb; many varieties (some you may not have seen previously) of cherries, apricots, peaches, pears, figs, apples, pomegranates, melons, persimmons, grapes, and glorious lemons.

All of the above are preserved by canning, drying, etc., and sold in shops and bazaars. There are walnuts, peanuts, almonds, and pistachios. There are grains and dried beans of many kinds available, but not enough to feed the whole population and not necessarily fine quality. There are beautiful tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, beets, cauliflower, turnips, potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage, leaf lettuce, and many radishes and radish-like vegetables we have not yet properly identified. There are green and red sweet peppers and red chili peppers. Fresh herbs such as basil, mint, dill, chives, and coriander are abundant, but many herbs and vegetables popular in America (thyme and broccoli, for example) are unknown here.

Fresh lamb, beef, and chicken are in the markets, but the animals sometimes led a hard life, a fact which is reflected in the meat. Local bread is whole-wheat "nan" similar to pita, which some find delicious. Regular loaves are sometimes obtainable, but homemade bread, with or without a machine, is better.

Local stores carry soft drinks, alcoholic drinks (vodkas of all kinds and champagnes and cognacs are most popular) and some imported delicacies, such as chocolate, cheese, butter, and sausage. Tajikistan makes and bottles wines, but Tajiks prefer to drink dessert wines.

If there is a baby, bring baby food and equipment to make baby food from fresh foods.


Women in Dushanbe love to dress up. Daily wear for villager and office worker alike will include plenty of sparkle from fabric and jewelry. High-heeled shoes are worn for all occasions. Men are less apt to dress up, but business suits are worn as appropriate. Many expatriates are in development work outside the city, so one is just as likely to find camouflage and field boots at an evening function as to find people in silk and embroidery harvesting crops.

Although most people in Tajikistan are Moslem, they are used to living with Europeans and tolerant of Western dress. Shorts on either men or women elicit stares, however.

The climate is extreme and not controlled in most buildings, so whatever style of dress you prefer, layers are essential. In winter, warm feet make a big difference. Wool sockslocals wear the colorful wool knitted "Pamiri" socks. In summer, light cottons are comfortable.

Tailoring is available, but materials found in the local markets are not always suitable to American taste. Local outfits, quilted coats, and silk trouser suits, are very attractive and wearable.

Dry-cleaners have not been able to remain in business, and shoe repair is of poor quality.

Supplies and Services

Although intensive shopping or borrowing sometimes results in finding the piece of equipment you lost or forgot to bring, it equally often does not. It is best to assume there are no supplies and services and pack everything you might need.

Religious Activities

Tajiks are mostly Moslem, but there are Baptist, Adventist, Korean Pentecostal, Catholic, German-speaking Catholic, and Russian orthodox churches here. The synagogue is closed. As far as post can tell, Buddhists and Hindus do not yet have places of worship in Dushanbe.


The educational system in Tajikistan is in transition. Since funding is minimal and educational materials are unavailable, no expatriate children attend local schools at this time. There is a small group of English-speaking children from ages 5-10 who are educated by parents using the Calvert system and field trips to resources available in the community.

Older children might wish to consider the Woodstock school in India. It was created 140 years ago for the children of American missionaries and is now a highly respected international residential school whose graduates attend the best universities in the world.

Recreation and Social Life

Dushanbe has endless opportunities to play outdoors. Hiking, camping, swimming in the many local lakes, cycling, running, horseback riding, fishing, hunting, skiing, or just visiting areas outside the capital to watch local activities such as wrestling, buzkashi (a game played on horseback with a dead goat) and picnics are all enjoyed by expatriates here. Tajiks welcome the involvement of foreigners in everything they do and are very proud of their hospitality.


There are concerts operas, plays, and films in Dushanbe, but at this time it is difficult to find out where and when they are. Since theaters are unheated, it is only the bravest who attend in the winter. In the summer, the most pleasant activities are in the gardens, especially music and dance programs organized by some of the small museums around town. Poetry readings are common but a high level of Tajik is needed to fully appreciate them.

Social Activities

It is easy to meet host country nationals, and there is a good understanding of the concept of "contact," including exchanges of visits to offices, followed by invitations to homes if the relationship is developing. Americans can be a little overwhelmed by Tajik hospitality.

Informal social life for young expatriates is active, and there is a nice mix of nationalities, including Tajik citizens at their parties. Dancing is required for almost every event, and the expatriate community has adapted well to the Tajik habit of "hitting the floor" as soon as the music starts.

The early days of too much vodka and too much fat seem to have given way to a new understanding that these items are not highly valued by us, but customarily long, heavy meals are offered, and the guest is expected to toast and be toasted and to eat until the "plov" (rice with meat and vegetables) is served, after which he may go home without offending anyone.

Family occasions such as weddings, circumcisions, funerals, etc., are social occasions; anyone staying in Tajikistan will have a hard time not making Tajik friends, so he or she will be included. Again, a speech is expected, and a gift of some sort is appreciated.

Practical gifts for the household may be given, but fine objects from the U.S. are also appreciated. Urban Tajiks prize intellectual achievement, so a beautiful bookwith pictures, since reading English is not everyone's favorite pastimeis always welcome.


KHUDZHAND (formerly Leninabad) is located on the Syr Darya River in the northwestern section of the country, 90 miles south of Tashkent, Uzbekistan. One of Central Asia's oldest cities, it is now the second largest city in Tajikistan, with over 163,000 residents. The major industries consist of silk and cotton production and food canning and meat packing plants.

KURGAN-TYUBE , with a 1998 population of 59,000, is located in the southwestern part of the country, 40 miles south of Dushanbe. The agricultural sector of the economy is dependent on cotton and sheep. There are several industries in Kurgan-Tyube, most dealing with food processing or clothing manufacture.


Geography and Climate

The Republic of Tajikistan gained its independence during the breakup of the USSR and is part of former Soviet Central Asia. Tajikistan can be found at 36° 40' northern latitude and 41° 14' eastern longitude. Take an atlas or globe and locate Greece or southern Italy or Spain, trace a line eastward toward Eurasia, and there you will find Tajikistan nestled between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to the north and west, Afghanistan to the south, and China to the east.

Tajikistan is home to some of the highest mountains in the world, including parts of the Kunlun, Himalayan, Tien-shan, and Pamir Ranges. Ninety-three percent of Tajikistan is mountainous with altitudes ranging from 1,000 feet to 27,000 feet, with fully 50% of Tajikistan's territory at elevations above 10,000 feet. Earthquakes of varying degrees are frequent. The massive mountain ranges are cut by hundreds of canyons and gorges at the bottom of which run streams which flow into the larger river valleys where the majority of the country's population lives and works.

The principal rivers of central Asia, the Amu-Darya and the Syr-Darya, both flow through Tajikistan, fed by the melting snow in the mountains of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Flooding sometimes occurs during the annual spring thaw.

Although located at the same latitude as Washington, D.C., Tajikistan's climate is drier and varies with altitude. Most rain occurs between November and May. Therefore, the summer, while hot, is dry. The winters at the lower elevations are similar to Washington's but snowfall rapidly increases with altitude. The climate of the mountainous Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous oblast (GBAO), which occupies the eastern half of Tajikistan is more extreme. The mountainous east receives 90% of Tajikistan's yearly precipitation, and its average annual temperature is 49°F, whereas in Dushanbe it is 65°F.


The population of Tajikistan was was estimated at 6,194,00 in 2000. Although about 1.5 million people live in Tajikistan's urban centers, nearly three-quarters of the population continues to live and work in rural areas. In 2000, Dushanbe had a population of 664,000, nearly 300,000 less than its population prior to the disintegration of the Soviet Union. As Dushanbe has returned to calm, former refugees have returned, swelling the ranks of the city's inhabitants. However, some Russians and Uzbeks have probably left the city forever. The rest of Tajikistan's population is spread fairly evenly throughout the western half of the country; approximately 1.7 million people live in the northern or Leninabad region, 1.7 million in the Khatlon region in the south, and 1.4 million in the districts of republican subordination (Nurek, Rogun, Kofarnihon, Varzob, Hissar, Gharm, Lenin, Tursunzade, and Tavildara). According to the official census, the population in the mountainous eastern half of Tajikistan is very sparse, with a reported population of only 220,000 in Gorno-Badak-hshan, a territory that makes up almost half the area of the country.

The population is split almost evenly between men and women. With the highest birth rate in the former Soviet Union, 41% of the population is under the age of 14.

Perhaps the greatest population change in Tajikistan since the end of the Soviet era and civil war is found in the Republic's ethnic composition. From 1989 to 1994, the percentage of Russians living in Tajikistan dropped from 7.6% of the population to 3.3% or less. Many with sufficient financial resources have already left the Republic, and many of the remaining Russians are simply accumulating enough money to finance their own migration. The numbers of other, smaller, minority groups such as Tatars, Jews, and what the government refers to as "others," which includes ethnic Germans, Koreans, Ukrainians, Armenians, etc., have also been dramatically reduced in the wake of the breakup of the Soviet Union and Tajikistan's civil discord. Some minority groups have continued to thrive. The small Kyrgyz minority living in Tajikistan has not been uprooted, and the large Uzbek minority population has remained constant at 25% of the population. Even today, ethnic Tajiks make up only 65% of Tajikistan's population; the situation is reversed in Uzbekistan, where the populations of two of that Republic's most important cities, Samarkand and Bukhara, remain largely Tajik. Within the Tajik population, important social divisions exist according to an individual's place of origin. Tajiks separate themselves into Kulyabis, Gharmis/Karategins, Khojandis, Pamiris, Bukharans, and Samarkandis, as well as a host of other names based on location of origin. The Kulyabis, who were not a powerful group during the Soviet era, provided the muscle to win the civil war. Since 1993, they have dominated the government, and there was a steady migration of Kulyabis from the underdeveloped south to the capital. Conversely, the traditionally powerful Khojand (formerly Leninabod) group experienced a decline in its power in the central government based in Dushanbe.

During the Soviet period, the term "industrial workers" included the agricultural workers, i.e, those working on state or collective farms. Tajikistan thus claimed that 55% of employees were industrial workers, 21.7% were "white-collar" workers, 22.9% worked in rural areas, and 0.2% were engaged in "individual working activity." Most recent estimates indicate that the labor force is divided at 30% in services, 20% in industry and 50% in agriculture.

The collapse of Tajikistan's economy and the closure or reduction in work at many of the country's large factories, and the inability of the government to pay salaries and pensions have all contributed to large numbers of people moving into the private sector in small shops or in one of the various street markets in order to survive.

Tajikistan has also changed linguistically since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Under the Soviet Union, Russian was the language of the government. Tajik was declared the state language of Tajikistan only in 1989, and became the sole official language under the new constitution adopted in 1994. Russian, "the language of interethnic communication," continues to be used widely in the government and in Tajikistan's urban centers. Tajik belongs to the southwestern group of the Iranian family of the Indo European language group. It has four groups of dialects; northern, spoken in Khojand, Samarkand, and Bukhara; central, spoken in the upper Zarafshan; southern, spoken in Karategin and Kulob; and southeastern, spoken in Darvaz and Vanj. Uzbek, the language of almost one-fourth of the population, belongs to the Turkish group of languages and is most prevalent in Naw, Jabarrasulov, and Tursunzade. Several languages are spoken in the Pamir mountains of Gorno-Badakhshan from the eastern Iranian language group, including Shugnan, Yazgulom, and Vakhan. Kyrgyz is also spoken in the Eastern Pamirs. Yagnobi, the Eastern Iranian language of the Yagnob Valley, is a very ancient dialect whose preservation has provided the clue to understanding ancient Sogdinian dialect.

Although each regional, social, ethnic, and language group has its own traditions and beliefs, the principal religion in Tajikistan is Islam; Sunni Moslems predominate in western Tajikistan, while the population of Gorno-Badakhshan is largely Ismaili. The two Islamic holidays officially celebrated in Tajikistan, Idi Kurbon, and Id-al-Fitr, have become more popular with the collapse of communism. However, many traditional holidays, such as Navruz (new year) actually date from pre-Islamic times. The urban population is, in general, not particularly religious, but Tajik society as a whole is becoming more conservative.

Public Institutions

Having emerged from the Soviet era and a crippling civil war, Tajikistan now calls itself a newly formed constitutional, democratic, and secular republic with presidential rule. Executive power is vested in the President, Prime Minister, and the Council of Ministers in Dushanbe, and executive committees in every region, city, and district. The Republic's legislative branch is the Majlisi Oli or Parliament. Provinces, districts, and cities also have legislative bodies. Similarly, there are courts at the national, district, and city levels.

Tajikistan has seven officially registered political parties:

  • Communist Party of Tajikistan
  • Popular Party of Tajikistan
  • Party of Political and Economic Renovation of Tajikistan
  • Democratic Party of Tajikistan (one branch)
  • Party of the Popular Unity of Tajikistan
  • Union Party of Tajikistan
  • Justice Party of Tajikistan

Tajikistan also has one political movement, the Congress of the Popular Unity of Tajikistan.

Three partiesthe Islamic Revival Party, the Democratic Party of Tajikistan (one branch), and the "Rastokhez" (awakening) Partywere banned during the civil war and remain illegal.

The trade unions created under communism, the Unions of Artists, Architects, etc., and the Societies for the Blind, Deaf, etc., continue to exist but are weak, and offices housing them are frequently deserted.

Tajikistan is a member of the UN, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and many other international organizations. The International Red Cross is represented here, and Tajikistan also has a Red Crescent Society.

Arts, Science, and Education

The arts and sciences, as well as the education system in Tajikistan have suffered greatly in the wake of the breakup of the Soviet Union as government funding has disappeared. The Tajik Academy of Sciences and the education system were part of a centralized Soviet bureaucracy guided and controlled by Moscow. The end of the Soviet era and the subsequent political unrest left the arts, sciences, and education without direction or money.

There are, however, two live theaters, an opera house which houses a Western-style orchestra and ballet company in addition to the opera company, a film industry which produced a Cannes silver medal-winner in 1993, and numerous children's programs.

Poets are perhaps the most beloved of the artists, but lacking government patronage, they find it very difficult to support themselves. Still, occasional new works of poetry are published. Statues of poets replaced those of Lenin in Dushanbe.

Traditional music and dance are still alive, and professional musicians and dancers are paid to perform at weddings, receptions for visiting dignitaries, and other celebrations. Painters and craftspeople are trying to find supplies and markets. Only the best and most highly motivated will survive.

The education system in Tajikistan is suffering from lack of funds from the central government for maintenance and salaries; lack of basic supplies such as books, pencils, and paper; and a lack of training among management staff who had previously received directives from Moscow. Although the education system continues to function, its resources have been severely reduced.

Commerce and Industry

Over six years of conflict and civil war have had a serious effect on the Tajikistan's economy. Per capita gross domestic product (GDP) in Tajikistan is about $1,140 (2000 est), the lowest among the 15 other former Soviet republics. Nearly 80% of the population is living below the poverty line.

This country received substantial humanitarian assistance from the U.S., the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, the World Food Program, the European Union, and several nongovernmental organizations operating in various regions of Tajikistan. As the worst effects of the civil war are being ameliorated, these organizations are beginning to focus on developmental aid. USAID established an office in Dushanbe with a permanent USAID representative in March 1995. The IMF and World Bank also have a presence in Dushanbe. But the country still struggles to revive some of its own industries.

Part of the old Silk Route, Tajikistan's Ferghana Valley has the oldest silk factory in the world. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, it found itself unable to get its usual raw materials or to sell its production outside the immediate area. With foreign partnership, the quality of goods has increased.

Cotton production, which was forced during the Soviet period, continues to be Tajikistan's major cash crop. Wheat production, though growing, is still insufficient to feed the country. Vegetables, fruits, and nuts, both fresh and preserved, are grown for consumption and export.

One of the country's major nonagricultural industries is aluminum production based around a gigantic aluminum plant built during the Soviet era. Tajikistan provides most of the electricity but must import raw materials such as alumina, petroleum coke, and cryolite. Although production at the plant has declined, Tajikistan continues to export aluminum.

The country does have a very small oil and natural gas industry; however, the entire yield is needed for use within the country. Additional oil and gas are imported from Uzbekistan.

Major export partners include Liechtenstein, Uzbekistan and Russia (1998). At least 32% of imports come from Europe, followed by Uzbekistan and Russia.

Tajikistan does have a limited number of joint ventures established between the Government of Tajikistan and/or local firms on the one hand, and foreign firms. The largest of these is the British Commonwealth Minerals gold mining project in Penjikent. South Korean and Italian firms have joint ventures in textiles. The USAID-financed Central Asian American Enterprise Fund (CAAEF) found its first Tajik partner in a Pepsi bottling plant in Khojand; it is expected to make additional loans/investments to private Tajik enterprises. Foreign investment is hindered by poor communications and a lack of international banking facilities.

Most workers belong to member unions of the Federation of Trade Unions, a holdover from the Soviet era. They enjoy the right to strike, but before a union may legally call a strike, arbitration must take place. If arbitration fails, unions have the right to strike, but labor unions have generally disavowed the utility of strikes in a period of deepening economic crisis and high unemployment. They have espoused compromise between management and workers. Nevertheless, several unofficial wildcat strikes have occurred.

Attitudes on property ownership and investment are changing. Some state enterprises (by 1995, 8%) have privatized. Others are planning to privatize, primarily to be in a better position to attract outside investors. A few private companies have started up. Most large towns have a thriving bazaar or two, where small entrepreneurs hawk cheap consumer goods imported from the Gulf, Iran, the subcontinent, China, or Russia. By 1996, almost all apartments and houses have been privatized. Although the constitution prohibits private land, some land has been given on long lease to private farmers whose heirs may inherit it but cannot sell it. Even farmers remaining on state farms and collective farms usually have a small garden plot. These private plots collectively produce most of the country's fruit and vegetables and a sizable amount of grain.



Rental vehicles can be obtained in Dushanbe, as car-owners are often willing to rent their vehicles and themselves as drivers to supplement their incomes. To the best of post's knowledge, however, cars that you drive yourself or four-wheel-drive vehicles suitable for long trips are not available for rent. Taxis are available in cities such as Dushanbe and Khojand, though fares depend on the price of fuel, time of day, and appearance of the passenger. Most city-dwellers get around in buses or trolleybuses that run during the day.

Local official vehicles are red, for fire trucks; white and red or sometimes deep yellow for ambulances; and white and blue for police. UN vehicles, ubiquitous here, are white Nissan Patrols, Toyota Land Cruisers, or Land Rovers.

Some people, including Americans, ride bicycles in Dushanbe and environs. The light traffic, broad streets, pleasant weather, and friendly people make Dushanbe a delightful city for bicycling. However, since conditions include poor roads and hilly terrain, a good quality mountain bike with air pump, extra tires and tire repair kits, warning lights, etc., is advised.


Vehicles in Tajikistan are driven on the right side of the road. Roads in Tajikistan have deteriorated badly since the civil war; much of the terrain is mountainous and rugged. Intercity ground transportation may be by bus, truck, or rail. Buses run from Dushanbe to Samarkand, Termez, and Penjikent on a fairly regular schedule. You can get to almost all population centers by bus if you have no fixed timetable and are willing to be uncomfortable. Bus drivers do not go into areas of central Asia where there is unrest, and make these decisions based on upto-the-minute (usually accurate) rumors.

Trains leave Dushanbe on even-numbered days for Moscow (87 hours) via Samarkand (18+ hours), Tashkent (25 hours), and Oktyobinsk, Kazakstan. Passports and visas are required. Tickets are available from 20 days to 5 minutes before departure. Restaurants and bedding are available on the train. Railway officials suggest that travelers carefully watch their belongings at all times. Other trains go from Dushanbe to other destinations in central Asia, and there are still small narrow-gauge lines that are very local. Like everything else here, ground transportation is struggling to meet growing needs and maintain minimal standards with no new resources in the midst of radical change.

Air transportation is available from two airlines that are operated by former Aeroflot personnel: Tajikair and Khojand Airlines. The latter operates two (some days three) daily flights between Khojand and Dushanbe. Tashkent is less than a 3-hour drive from Khojand. Tajikair theoretically operates flights to and from Penjikent, Aini, Isfara, Jirghital, Gharm, Kulyab, and Khovaling at least weekly; Khorog daily (although the weather frequently prevents service), and to the neighboring capitals of Bishkek, Almaty, and Ashgabat. It also flies four times a week to and from Moscow and operates charter flights for local merchants to Karachi, New Delhi, and the Middle East. Tajikistan International Airlines had operated New Delhi-Dushanbe-London flights briefly during 1994, but these are currently suspended, and it is not known if or when they will resume.

It is extremely important to check on schedules before formulating an itinerary.

Do not expect international standards of safety or adherence to procedures familiar to us, such as transporting your baggage to the aircraft for you, using seatbelts or even (sometimes) sitting down.


Telephone and Telegraph

Local telephone service varies with the exchange.

Radio and TV

Russian and Tajik TV stations broadcast intermittently. You need rabbit ears or an antenna to pick them upthere is no cable TV.

Russian radio stations can be picked up in Tajikistan, and VOA, BBC, Radio China, and numerous Christian broadcasting services are available on shortwave.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

Local bookstores sell books in Tajik, Uzbek, Persian, and Russian, but the selection is extremely poor. The books, which are printed in Tajikistan, are not the best quality. Imports from Russia, Iran, and Uzbekistan are better. There are several printing houses in Dushanbe and one each in Khojand and Kulyab. They specialize in local authors.

Theoretically, there are more than 30 local magazines and newspapers printed in Dushanbe. But because of the price of newsprint and the difficulty of finding advertisers or affluent readers for most of these publications, they are dormant. Journalists also run the risk of going to jail for expressing contrary views. The central government subsidizes several newspapers, others specializing in sensational material from the Russian press survive on sales, and some regional newspapers in Tajik and Uzbek continue to find enough readers to continue printing.

There is no English-language press, nor are any Western newspapers and magazines sold locally.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

There is no acceptable local hospital, lab, dentist, or pharmacy in Tajikistan, although the clinic for microsurgery maintains a high standard.

The local health delivery system suffers from deficits of trained specialists, lack of medicines, broken equipment, and short work-hours.

The UN maintains a small clinic staffed by one doctor and two nurses for ambulatory care patients, serving the nondiplomatic expatriate community, as well as UN personnel.

Community Health

The Tajikistan Ministry of Health has advised all citizens to boil tapwater for drinking due to organic contaminants and the inability to adequately chlorinate the city water supply. Local water is deficient in iodine, and iodized salt is not available. Many local residents have enlarged thyroids due to chronic iodine deficiency. In Dushanbe, ground water contamination by heavy metals and chemicals is not a reported problem, although in outlying agricultural areas pesticides and fertilizers may be present. Use of these has been greatly curtailed since 1992, however. Locally bottled soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are also potential sources of contamination.

Fruits and vegetables should be soaked in chlorine water and washed with distilled water.

Untreated food and water are at risk for contamination by amoebas, Giardia, and other harmful bacteria.

The most frequent medical problems requiring treatment outside of Tajikistan have been for dental problems. There are good quality dental treatment centers in Moscow, dentists in New Delhi, one in Tashkent, and a clinic in Almaty of dentists trained by visiting Americans.

Some medicines are available for purchase in local pharmacies, but supply and quality are erratic. Individuals should bring all prescription and over-the-counter medicines they require on a regular basis.

Preventive Measures

Tajikistan had the highest prevalence of diphtheria in the world, but an intensive antidiphtheria campaign in 1995-96 brought the incidence down considerably. Other communicable diseases to be aware of in Tajikistan are cholera, malaria, rabies, polio, tuberculosis, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and typhoid. Booster immunizations should be up to date before arrival for diphtheria, polio, hepatitis A (havrix 1440 vaccine), hepatitis B, typhoid, and rabies. The latter should be completed before arriving. The vaccine for cholera is not recommended by WHO. There is no vaccine for malaria, but those persons traveling in south Tajikistan in the summer, including Dushanbe, should take a dose of chloroquine each week, wear insect repellent, and sleep under a mosquito net. Tuberculosis testing should be performed after departure.

Americans in Tajikistan are most likely to encounter episodes of diarrhea and respiratory infections. These are more likely to occur in conjunction with fatigue, hence rest is recommended, especially after arrival in Dushanbe. Despite all efforts to avoid diarrhea, it is a frequent problem among Americans.

Before coming to Tajikistan any specialists routinely visited should be consulted, including dentists and eye doctors. A spare set of glasses should be brought. Those wearing contact lenses should have a supply of cleaner and soaking solution, as these are not available locally. Those taking prescription medications should bring an ample supply.


Passage, Customs & Duties

Travel to, from, and within Tajikistan is difficult and unreliable. Flights may be canceled or substantially delayed. Commercial charter flights are frequently overloaded with merchandise. International train connections are dangerous because of criminals operating onboard.

The most common route to Dushanbe is via Tashkent (which has reliable connections several times a week to Istanbul, Frankfurt, London, and other locations). From Tashkent, one can take the traveler overland to Khojand, which is near Tashkent but inside of Tajikistan. From Khojand, there are generally two (and sometimes more) flights daily to Dushanbe.

From Khojand, all baggage (including hand baggage) is weighed and subject to overweight charges for excess above 25 kilos. The excess usually costs $1 U.S. per kilo to Dushanbe. There will be a $3 fee for use of the "Deputatski Zal," which essentially confirms your reservation. The ticket from Khojand to Dushanbe must be paid for in cash, with U.S. currency preferred. Bills dated 1990 or later, with no tears or markings should be accepted; others may not be.

It is also possible to reach Dushanbe via Tajik Air from Moscow (usually three flights a week), Almaty (generally twice a week), and Ashgabat (usually one flight a week). Traveling through Moscow requires the use of Domadedova Airport, an extremely difficult location to deal with. Some Russian is virtually a prerequisite to successfully finding your flight at Domadedova. The Almaty flights are often tightly booked.

A passport and visa are required. Entry into Tajikistan at points along the Gorno-Badakhshan border requires special authorization in advance. Without a visa, travelers cannot register at hotels and may be required to leave the country immediately. In the U.S., visas for Tajikistan are issued by the Russian Embassy, Consular Division, 1825 Phelps Place NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 939-8907, or the Russian consulates in New York, San Francisco or Seattle. Tajik visas granted by these offices are valid for a stay of three days in Tajikistan. If travelers plan a longer stay, they may apply for a longer visa at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after arriving in the country.

Travelers who intend to visit Tajikistan should obtain double-entry Russian, Kazakh or Uzbek visas prior to departure, depending on intended transit points.

The government of Tajikistan requires visitors who remain in country for more than 90 days to present a medical certificate showing that they are HIV-free, or to submit to an HIV test in Tajikistan. This testing requirement has not been implemented, but could be at any time. Because of the lack of medical supplies, submitting to an HIV test in Tajikistan could be risky.

Travelers to Tajikistan are subject to frequent document inspections. Therefore, U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports and Tajik visa with them at all times so that they may more readily prove that they are U.S. citizens. In accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and certain bilateral agreements, local authorities must grant a United States consular officer access to any U.S. citizen who is arrested. U.S. citizens who are arrested or detained should ask for the U.S. Embassy to be contacted immediately.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy Almaty, Kazakhstan and obtain updated information on travel and security within Tajikistan. The U.S. Embassy in Almaty is located at 99/97A Furmanov Street, telephone 7 (3272) 63-39-05. U.S. citizens may also register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Tajikistan by telephone or fax, but emergency consular services for U.S. citizens may be limited or unavailable. U.S. citizens are reminded that personnel for the U.S. Embassy to Tajikistan are resident in Almaty. Consequently, the U.S. presence in Tajikistan is not continuous. The U.S. Embassy is temporarily located at 10 Pavola Street, Dushanbe, telephone 011 (992)(372) 21-03-48/50/52 fax 011 (992)(372) 21-03-62.

Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures

As of October 2000, the new currency is the Tajik somoni (SM), which can be divided into 100 dirams. The somoni is issued in notes of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. The diram is also issued in notes with denominations of 1, 5, 20 and 50. Exchange in January 2001 was 2.2SM=US$1.

Currency can be changed at authorized exchange houses. Do not change currency on the street, as this is illegal, and Americans have been picked up in sting operations.

No Tajik bank has a particularly strong record for banking. Tajikistan is a cash economy; neither travelers checks nor credit cards are accepted. Electronic funds transfers are sometimes lost, and some banks do not permit the recipient of an EFT to withdraw the full amount of the EFT.

Tajikistan uses the metric system for weights and measures.


Jan.1 New Year's Day

Mar. 8 Women's Day

Mar. 21 & 22 Noruz (Persian New Year)

May 1 Working People's Day

May 9 Victory Day

June 27 Day of National Unity

Sept. 9 Independence Day

Nov. 6 Constitution Day


Id al-Fitr*



These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Allworth, Edward. Central Asia: 130 Years of Russian Dominance, A Historical Overview. Duke University Press: 1994. ISBN 08200532315 and ISBN 08200532315 (paper).

. The Nationality Question in Soviet Central Asia. New York: Praeger, 1973.

Asimov, Mukhamed. Tajikistan. Moscow, 1987.

Atkin, Muriel. Tajikistan's Relations With Iran and Afghanistan. National Council for Soviet and East European Research: (Washington, D.C.), 1992.

Banuazizi, Ali and Weiner, Myron. The New Geopolitics of Central Asia and its Borderlands. Indiana University Press: 1994. ISBN 02500533209.

Hopkirk, Peter. The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia. Kodansha International: 1992. ISBN 47700530017 and ISBN 15600538360 (paper).

. Setting the East Ablaze: On Secret Service in Bolshevik Asia. Oxford University Press: 1984. ISBN 01900532851.

International Monetary Fund Staff. Tajikistan. Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund, 1992.

Krader, Lawrence. Peoples of Central Asia. 3rd ed. Bloomington: Indiana University, 1971.

Lubin, Nancy. Islam and Ethnic Identity in Central Asia: A View From Below. National Council for Soviet and East European Research: (Washington, D.C.), 1994.

Mandelbaum, Michael. Central Asia and the World. Council on Foreign Relations, 1994. ISBN 08700536091.

Menon, Rajan. Understanding Security in Post-Soviet Central Asia. National Council for Soviet and East European Research (Washington, D.C.), 1994.

Mesbahi, Mohiaddin. Central Asia and the Caucasus After the Soviet Union: Domestic and International Dynamics. University of Florida: 1994. ISBN 08100533013.

Minomov, G. Khaiclarov. Tajikistan: Tragedy and Anguish of the Nation. Linko: 1993.

Olcott, Martha Brill. Asia's New States: Independence, Foreign Policy, and Regional Security. U.S. Inst. of Peace Press: 1996. ISBN 18700538379.

. The Future of Fundamentalism in Central Asia. National Council for Soviet and East European Research: Washington, D.C., 1994.

Rakowska-Harmstone, Teresa. Russia and Nationalism in Central Asia: The Case of Tadzhikistan. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1970.

Rashid, Ahmed. The Resurgence of Central Asia: Islam of Nationalism? Zed Books: 1994. ISBN 18500536491.

Thubron, Colin. The Lost Heart of Asia. Harper Collins: 1994. ISBN 00600530182.

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Republic of Tajikistan

Jumhurii Tojikiston



Tajikistan is a landlocked country situated in Central Asia. Slightly smaller than the state of Wisconsin, Tajikistan's territory is measured at 143,100 square kilometers (55,251 square miles). It shares borders with Uzbekistan (1,161 kilometers) to the west, China (414 kilometers) to the east, Afghanistan (1,206 kilometers) to the south, and Kyrgyzstan (870 kilometers) to the north. The capital, Dushanbe, is in the west, near the Uzbekistan border.


The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's estimated July 2001 population for Tajikistan was almost 6.6 million. The country's population density of 143 people per square kilometer is low except that 93 percent of the country is mountainous, resulting in a more real population density of 488 people per square kilometer; this figure is one of the highest in the world. Tajikistan's growth rate is about 2.12 percent. It also has a high infant mortality rate, estimated at 117.4 deaths per every 1,000 live births. Compared to many other countries, life expectancy at birth in Tajikistan is low, estimated at 64 years. Unlike many other countries, Tajikistan's rural population is rising due to a higher fertility rate in the countryside and reduced opportunities for employment in urban centers.

Tajiks comprise approximately 65 percent, Uzbeks about 25 percent, and Russiansdue to economic and political reasonsless than 3.5 percent of the population. The autonomous (self-governing) Badakhshan province is primarily inhabited by Pamiri Tajiks whose various dialects can be considered separate languages from other Tajik dialects spoken in Tajikistan. Furthermore, whereas Tajiks and Uzbeks are mostly Sunni Muslims, the far majority of the people of Badakhshan are Shia Muslims. Other ethnic groups, such as Turkmen, Kyrgyz, and Tatars live in Tajikistan. While Tajik is the official language of the country, Russian and Uzbek are widely used, especially in business circles.


Civil conflict from 1992 to 1997 weakened Tajikistan's economy. It is estimated to have shrunk by 60 percent since 1991, when the Soviet Union broke up and its 14 former republics, including Tajikistan, declared their independence. Despite some economic gains in the past several years, Tajikistan still has one of the lowest gross domestic products (GDP) per capita among the former Soviet republics and Soviet bloc countries of eastern Europe. The country's primary source of foreign currency is the export of aluminum.

As in many other former socialist countries, Tajikistan has been implementing a privatization program. Since privatization began in 1991, the state has sold nearly 5,500 of its smaller properties. In 1999, nearly 300 auctions were held, resulting in more than 1,400 sales and generating the equivalent of US$14.4 million for the state treasury. One of the relatively larger privatized industries was most of the 26 factories for converting raw cotton to cotton fiber. The government hopes that continued privatization in the agricultural and industrial sectors will lead to higher economic output.


Soon after declaring its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the country was engulfed in a bloody civil war (1992-1997) fought along ideological and regional lines. That violent conflict took approximately 35,000 lives and led to massive amounts of internally displaced persons and refugees fleeing to other countries. The former communists, who had controlled the government, fought against a coalition of opposition parties dominated by the Islamic Renaissance Party and mostly composed of people with Gharm/Qarateguine regional origin. In June 1997, the opponents signed a peace accord, pledged to cease all hostilities, and promised to form a government of national unity.

The constitution, adopted in 1994 and amended in 2000, replaced the Soviet-era version. It established executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. The president of Tajikistan is considered the head of state, elected every 7 years for a maximum of 2 terms. The president appoints cabinet members, the prime minister, and the justices within the court systems, all subject to approval by the legislature. The ruling party in 2001 was the People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan, associated with President Imomali Rahmonov. He has been in power since 1994 but his final term will expire in 2006. The prime minister acts as the head of government and directs the cabinet. In February 2000, elections were held to create a bicameral parliament.

The government generates most of its revenue from taxes. During 1996 and 1997, it maintained large budget deficits . There was a significant reduction of the deficit in 1999 to 3.2 percent of GDP and 3.8 percent in 1998. The government broadened the tax base and boosted revenue through the introduction of a new tax code in January 1999. The new code cut the number of tax categories from 45 to 17 and reduced the top rate of income tax . The government's budget deficit fell to a low of 2.2 percent of GDP in 2000. This was based mainly on the increased efficiency in tax collection and the revenue generated from privatization. The change was thought to increase tax revenue by as much as 1 percent of GDP.


Tajikistan's infrastructure is relatively well developed. For example, a network of 13,000 kilometers (8,100 miles) of roads, mostly pavedthough not in the best of conditionscovers large parts of the country. Despite the extensive road system, however, there is only 1 road linking Dushanbe with Khudzhand, the second biggest city in the country, which is located in the northern Leninabad region. Because climatic conditions often make this land route unusable, plans are underway to build the 13-kilometer (8.1-mile) Anzob Tunnel. The total cost for the project will likely surpass US$300 million.

The railway system is only 480 kilometers (298 miles) long and connects a few main towns to the Uzbekistan railway network. A major project nearing completion by end of 2001 is the construction of a railway from Qurghonteppa to Kulob, the 2 largest towns in the south. The country has 59 airports, 14 having paved concourses, though not all are operational due to lack of maintenance. The largest airports are in Dushanbe, Khudzhand, and Kulob. International destinations are limited and travelling on Tajikistan Airlines's dilapidated fleet is considered dangerous. Travel to Tajikistan from other parts of the world is time consuming, expensive, and cumbersome.

Access to information and communication tools are limited, with only an estimated 38 people out of every 1,000 having private access to a telephone. Moreover, the existing telecommunications system is prone to breakdowns and is in dire need of upgrading. Tajikistan was the last country among the former East European countries and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) that was connected to the Internet. At least 2 Internet service providers and several cellular telephone companies of limited range operate in the country.

The 4 most important types of household fuel in Tajikistan are firewood, electricity, cow dung, and natural gas. Households and industry rely heavily on imported petroleum, natural gas, andto a lesser extent electricity, primarily from Uzbekistan. Tajikistan has an estimated 5.6 billion cubic meters of recoverable natural gas reserves, but due to financial barriers, it has been unable to increase its production. The government is attempting to encourage foreign companies to invest in joint ventures in the extraction of natural gas. The country's own oil production is about 3,000 barrels per day, while the consumption need of the country is more than 29,000 barrels per day. Tajikistan could be one of the world's leading per capita producers of energy if it were to expand its system of dams and hydroelectric plants. As it stands, due to the east-west configuration of its electricity grids, the country imports and exports electric energy without satisfying or affording its electricity needs. Large parts of the country, especially small towns and villages, face frequent and long periods of blackouts.


In 2000, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, Tajikistan registered a real GDP of US$1.1 billion. To find an estimate of its per capita income, GDP is divided by the estimated population of 6.6 million, arriving at a per capita GDP of a mere US$167 per year

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Tajikistan 20 142 285 N/A 0 0.3 N/A 0.24 2
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Russia 105 418 420 78.5 5 0.4 40.6 13.06 2,700
Kyrgyzstan 15 112 45 N/A 0 N/A N/A 4.13 10
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

one of the lowest among East European and former Soviet republics. The economy of Tajikistan is heavily reliant on the export of 2 commoditiesaluminum and cottonand is highly susceptible to trade fluctuations. Trials of independence, a destructive civil war, and deteriorating terms of trade have combined to significantly reduce the capacity of the country to produce cotton and aluminum at levels comparable to pre-independence times. Furthermore, in 1998, due to stagnating world prices of both resources, a wide trade deficit of US$145 million and an equally large negative current account balance of US$107 million were incurred. Donor inflows, pri-

marily from the United States and the European Union, and loans from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), have helped moderate the current account deficit. However, foreign direct investment (FDI) in Tajikistan has been low, averaging only US$22 million per year between 1994 and 1998.


Tajikistan is primarily an agricultural country, with as much as 70 percent of its population living in rural areas and 65 percent of the workforce being employed in the agricultural sector, especially the cultivation and production of cotton. The Soviet Union had designated much of Central Asia's agriculture, including Tajkistan's, as a cotton monoculture (production of one type of crop). Before independence, production of raw cotton averaged more than 800,000 metric tons per year. In 1999, by contrast, raw cotton production was only 316,000 metric tons. Cotton still accounts for two-thirds of total agricultural output, however. Export of cotton fiber in 1999 accounted for a relatively low figure of US$92 million or 13 percent of GDP. The main reasons for a decline of cotton production are the substantial reduction in state subsidies to farms, the consequent inability of farms to purchase sufficient inputs such as fertilizers and other agronomic goods, and the deterioration of the irrigation system and agricultural machinery.

The primary food crops are wheat, barley, maize, potatoes, and rice. There are more than 800,000 hectares (2 million acres) of arable land in Tajikistan, which is equivalent to merely 6 percent of the country's land mass. The far majority of the arable land is located in the flood plains of the Kofarnihon, Vakhsh, Yakhsu, and Ghizilsu Rivers, all of which flow toward the Amudarya and Syrdarya rivers. In addition to the cropland, there are an estimated 3.5 million hectares (13,500 square miles) of permanent pastures. With its fast-growing population, Tajikistan has a comparatively and increasingly low per capita cropland. Wise use of agricultural lands, therefore, is an extremely important issue for Tajikistan. Since 1995, with the encouragement of semi-private farming and the distribution of more than 50,000 hectares (125,000 acres) of land to mostly rural households, there has been a significant increase in the production of grain, however, inclement weather since 1999 has severely affected overall agricultural production, including grain and cotton. The effects of floods have been exacerbated by the lack of proper land and water management by local governments, as in not maintaining riverbeds and allowing for the over-grazing of hills and valleys. The combined natural and human effects, have, among other things, led to a lowering of grain harvests, which had been an abundant 550,000 metric tons in 1997. This total fell by 57 percent to a low of 236,000 metric tons in 2000.



Following years of sharp decline, the end of the civil war in 1997 permitted relatively strong industrial sector growth, including real increases of 8 percent in 1998 and 5 percent in 1999. The mainstay of the industrial sector of Tajikistan is the production of aluminum, which requires alumina and large amounts of electrical energy. Even though Tajikistan does not have its own source of alumina, due to its potential for excess electrical energy, the Soviet Union built the Tursonzoda smelter, one of the world's largest aluminum smelters, near Dushanbe. The factory can produce as much as 500,000 metric tons of aluminum annually. Due to similar economic problems as the agricultural sector, however, since independence, aluminum production has declined. More than 90 percent of the aluminum produced is exported. Whereas the production of aluminum in 1990 was at a peak of 450,000 metric tons, by 1997, it had reached a low of 189,000 metric tons. Recently, however, the government has attempted to provide for the necessary inputs to increase aluminum production. Consequently, aluminum production in 2000 was estimated at about 300,000 metric tons.


Tajikistan has significant, largely unexplored, mineral deposits, such as gold, silver, antimony, and coal. Physical access to the sitesin remote areas with limited infrastructurehas been difficult and costly. A joint venture between British-owned Nelson Gold Company and the Tajik government, Zeravshan Gold Company, has been a success. In 1999, gold production in Tajikistan totalled 2.7 metric tons. In addition to gold, Tajikistan contains one of the world's largest silver deposits, Adrasmanskoye, which the country hopes to develop with the aid of foreign investors. Nine of the former Soviet Union's 34 antimony deposits are in Tajikistan. In 1997, 800 metric tons of lead was produced.


Tajikistan is a net importer of energy. In 1999, it consumed about 29,000 barrels of oil per day. The country has some petroleum deposits, and as much as 3,500 barrels of crude oil are extracted daily. There is no oil refinery, however, so all oil is importednearly 70 percent from Uzbekistan. Tajikistan has small natural gas reserves of about 200 billion cubic feet, and only minor domestic production. About 3 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year is produced domestically. In 1998, 37 billion cubic feet of gas was consumed, the majority imported from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Gas pipelines run from Uzbekistan to Dushanbe, and from Uzbekistan to northern Tajikistan. Tajik authorities supply gas to Uzbekistan in exchange for Uzbekistan's free use of a rail transport corridor, a gas pipeline across northern Tajikistan (for re-export to Kyrgyzstan), and other incentives.

Due to the country's terrain and plentiful water, the major domestic energy resource is hydroelectric power: in 1998, Tajikistan produced 13.1 billion kilowatt hours (kWh). The southern and the northern power grids are linked to Uzbekistan. Over the past decade, depending on rainfall and domestic needs, Tajikistan has been both a net exporter and net importer of electricity. Due to a regional drought, begun in 2000, the country has experienced serious electricity shortages. It has imported more electricity and imposed increased power cuts on residential customers. Electricity prices were raised in April 2000 to limit demand. The Tursonzoda aluminum plant consumes 40 percent of the country's generated electric power. A new hydroelectric power dam, Sangtuda, is under construction with Russian and Iranian financing. It is expected to eliminate Tajikistan's need for power imports in the north and leave sufficient surpluses for export. A link between the northern and southern power grids is also planned. A study on improvements to the Tajik power grid, funded by the Kuwaiti government has been underway since 2001.


Services is the largest sector of the economy in Tajikistan. It constituted more than 60 percent of the country's GDP in 1998 and employs a significant part of the labor force . Much of the service economy is in the form of retail trade through micro-and small-enterprises scattered throughout mostly urban markets or bazaars. According to estimates from the state statistical agency of Tajikistan, the northern province of Leninabad sees more than one-third of retail trade, Dushanbe another third, and the southern province of Khatlon one-fifth. Despite the size of Badakhshan provincenearly half the territory of Tajikistanits heavily mountainous geography limits its population to around 3 percent and its share of retail trade to even less. The primary products sold by small- and micro-businesses are domestically-produced agricultural goods and imported consumer items. Most of the consumer items sold by businesses are imported from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. Increasingly, however, Tajik entrepreneursespecially larger businessestravel to Iran and Dubai to secure consumer items for import and sale. According to a 1998 survey of small- and micro-businesses throughout the country, the top 3 constraints facing them are racketeers demanding illegal fees, political instability, and taxation (the tax police).


There were 17 registered banks in 1999. Four major commercial banksAgroinvest-bank, Orion Bank, Vnesheconombank, and Savings Bankaccount for nearly three-quarters of all deposits and loans in the country. The banking sector, however, is marred by mismanagement and a history of extending bad loans . There are also few programs specializing in small loans to the agricultural and small business sectors, which are a crucial part of the economy. One study estimated that owners of micro-and small businesses pay as much as 130 percent interest rates on loans.


International trade plays a significant role in the country's economy. Total trade in 2000 reached an estimated US$1.5 billion, equally split between imports and exports. In 2000, the country registered a small trade surplus of US$17 million. Main export items were aluminum (constituting roughly 40 percent of export earnings), electricity (19 percent), and cotton fiber (18 percent). From 1929 to 1991, Tajikistan was able to trade freely with the other Soviet republics. During that time, Tajikistan exported its minerals, cotton, and aluminum (starting in 1974) to the rest of the Soviet Union in return for consumer goods , grain, fuel, and technology. During the Soviet period, however, Tajikistan consistently registered a trade deficit and regularly received union budgetary transfers from the central government. Such budgetary assistance during the Soviet era constituted as much as 23 percent of Tajikistan's GDP.

Independence in 1991 broke much of the trade and government ties with the former USSR. Since then, most exports have gone to countries outside of the CIS. Exports to the CIS countries have been primarily electricity to Uzbekistan and vegetables and raw tobacco to Russia. The major destinations of exports with their corresponding percentage of the total value of exports are: Uzbekistan 37 percent, Liechtenstein 26 percent, Russia 16 percent, and Kazakhstan 6 percent (1997 data). The origin of most imports, however, is still the CIS. For example, the vast majority of imported electricity, natural gas, and oil are from Uzbekistan and Russia. Most grain imports are still from Kazakhstan, though as much as 100,000 tons/year of wheat and other foodstuffs are imported from western Europe and the United States as food aid. Tajikistan also has imported large amounts of alumina, the raw component needed for the production of aluminum, from Ukraine. The major sources of imports with their corresponding percentage of total value

Trade (expressed in millions of US$): Tajikistan
Exports Imports
1994 482 577
1995 748 809
1996 651 763
1997 745 750
1998 601 771
1999 N/A N/A
SOURCE: United Nations. Monthly Bulletin of Statistics (September 2000).

of imports are: Netherlands 32 percent, Uzbekistan 29 percent, Switzerland 20 percent, and Russia 9 percent (1997 data). Government tariffs stand at around 8 percent. Based on international standards, this is considered a liberal trade regime.


Tajikistan's choice of currency has normally been according to the will of Moscow. Even after independence in 1991, for example, it began to use the new Russian ruble. In May 1995, however, it finally created its own legal tender, the Tajik ruble (TR). At that time, the National Bank of Tajikistan set the exchange rate as TR100 to US$1. Between 1995 to 1999, consumer price inflation increased by a rate of 1,680 percent, or an average annual compound rate of 420 percent. In 1999, however, the inflation rate was 28 percent. The depreciation of the Tajik ruble throughout the years is attributable to internal and external factors that diminished confidence in the local currency. Civil unrest and political instability, continued lack of economic opportunities for the average citizen, and the government's loose monetary and fiscal policies were among internal factors. External factors include Russia's 1998 economic woes, rise of petroleum prices, fluctuations of world cotton and aluminum prices, and a region-wide drought. By January 2001, the exchange rate reached TR2,200 to US$1.

Meanwhile, the government embarked on a new currency called the somoni in October 2000 to take into account several years of high inflation. Hence, cash transactions no longer require large wads of currency. The name change "ruble" to "somoni" was also a tactical move by the government to use the currency as a symbol for Tajik nationalism. As of April 2001, the somoni was to have been the sole legal tender of the republic. At its introduction SM1 was equivalent to TR1,000. The exchange rate of the somoni is expected to reach SM2.5 to US$1 by the end of 2001.

Exchange rates: Tajikistan
Tajikistani somoni per US$
Jan 2001 2.2
Jan 2000 1550
Jan 1999 998
Jan 1998 N/A
Jan 1997 350
Jan 1996 284
Note: The new unit of exchange was introduced on October 30, 2000, with one somoni equal to 1,000 of the old Tajikistani rubles.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].
GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Tajikistan N/A N/A N/A 718 345
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Russia 2,555 3,654 3,463 3,668 2,138
Kyrgyzstan N/A N/A N/A 1,562 863
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000 Trends in human development and per capita income.


Tajikistan is the poorest country among the East European and CIS nations. It had the lowest per capita income among the same groups during the Soviet era. In earlier years, though, the Tajikistan economy was much more robust, with industry and agriculture being doubly productive than today. Furthermore, the central government of the Soviet Union used to provide Tajikistan with a significant amount of its national budgetary requirements. Despite its relatively low ranking during the communist era, Tajikistan was not poor. The population was healthy, wages were paid, and public services were fully functional. In 2001, on the other hand, due to independence and civil war related issues, Tajikistan is poor. There are limited employment opportunities, wages are lowparticularly in the agricultural sectorand a variety of financial and material input necessary for proper agricultural and industrial activities is sorely lacking. Poverty in Tajikistan is also evident in the decreasing access to basic public services such as education, health care, and clean water.

Income generated from employment remains the most important source of revenue for households. Other sources of income, however, such as revenue from micro-and small businesses and the sale of food and household goods, cover equally large shares of overall household incomes. The well-to-do and poor segments of the populationand between some urban folk and the mostly rural populationexhibit clear economic divergence. Expenditures at the richest households are 4 times those of the poorest. The poorest households spend 79 percent of their budget on food. They cover most of this need through subsistence farming , some remittances from abroad, and humanitarian aid. More female-headed households are considered poor than male-headed, partially due to the facts that Tajik women tend to be less educated, have fewer opportunities for business, and work in the public health and education spheres, where pay levels are significantly lower. Due to the continuing economic crisis, at best, the government can only provide minimal real provisions for social welfare to the needy. This is difficult for a population that still remembers the Soviet-era's generally good provision of health, education, and welfare services. A 1998 survey of households and small businesses throughout the country found that when asked what type of economy they hope Tajikistan to resemble in the future, 53 percent chose the USSR.


The fall of the Soviet Union, the civil war of 1992-1997 that resulted in several billions of dollars of damages, and the continued economic slump have led to a drop in the standard of living for the majority. Public-sector wages are among the lowest in the world. According to the World Bank, about two-thirds of the population of Tajikistan subsists on less than US$2 a day. Though the official unemployment rate was 3 percent at the end of 2000, it did not include more than 220,000 government employees not receiving their salaries. These figures would yield an unemployment rate higher than 16 percent. The average wages per month among the CIS countries is highest in Kazakhstan at US$101 and lowest in Tajikistan at US$8.8. The highest average monthly salaries in Tajikistan belong to people working in the sectors of finance and banking, where they earn about US$40; the lowest belong to those in education (US$6), health care (US$4), and agriculture (US$3).

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Tajikistan 48 7 10 0 14 5 16
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Russia 28 11 16 7 15 8 16
Kyrgyzstan 33 11 11 3 22 6 14
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

Some sector-specific labor organizations exist, but they cannot be considered unions. They are remnants of the communist past, when labor rights were ingrained in the system. Due to the widespread economic slump and high unemployment rate, few workers dare to organize against their employers, who can replace protesting workers with any of the thousands of unemployed. Many people are not engaged in their learned professions, due to paltry government salaries. Some use a self-owned micro-business to supplement their government salaries. The informal economy consists of thousands of micro-businesses in the various bazaars around the country, where one can find doctors, accountants and engineers selling anything from potatoes to baby clothing.


875. Samanid dynasty, with its Persian speaking court, begins a 175-year reign over territory that includes much of today's Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

1895. A treaty signed by Russia and Britain determines the southern borders and what becomes Eastern Turkestan, a Russian protectorate, which covers the territory of today's Central Asian republics and some parts of eastern China. The 1895 treaty considers Amudarya as the border between Russian and British influence.

1920. The Bolshevik army occupies Bukhara, forcing the emir to flee to Afghanistan.

1924. Tajikistan becomes an autonomous republic within the Soviet Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan.

1926. The first Tajik language newspaper in Soviet Tajikistan begins publication.

1929. Territory is annexed from Uzbekistan by orders of Stalin, and included as part of Tajikistan. Tajikistan is then declared an independent Soviet Socialist republic.

1930. Aggressive collectivization of agriculture is imposed on Tajikistan by Soviet planners, with an eye on expansion of cotton monoculture (the cultivation of a single crop).

1937. The Great Terror of Stalin purges much of the local communist elite, replacing them in favor of ethnic Russians and Europeans.

1991. Tajikistan declares independence from the Soviet Union. A coalition government is formed involving elements of the Islamic opposition as well as former communists. By June, civil war breaks out between supporters of the former communist incumbent president, Rahmon Nabiyev, and the Islamic and secular opposition groups. Shortly after, parliament appoints Imomali Rahmonov as head of state after Nabiyev's resignation in September. Civil war between government supporters and the Islamic and democratic forces begins.

1993. UTO, the Islamic opposition, which is based in Afghansitan and partly in Iran, forms an effective guerrilla force that carries out cross-border raids and eventually captures much of east-central Tajikistan.

1994. Rahmonov defeats a candidate from northern Tajikistan in a controversial election with 58 percent of the vote.

1995. Parliamentary elections are held; no opposition parties are allowed to take part.

1997. A peace accord brokered by the UN, Iran, and Russia is signed in Moscow between the government and the UTO. Refugees begin to return from Afghanistan.

1999. Voters re-elect Rahmonov as president. The UN's Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and Human Rights Watch accuse the government of vote rigging, manipulation of the media, intimidation of opponents and illegal disqualification of several political parties.

2000. The pro-government People's Democratic Party takes the majority of seats in elections to the new bicameral parliament.

2001. Despite relative calm in the country, assassinations occur sporadically and the drug trade is on the rise.


Tajikistan is still in a nation-building stage. Because its territory is cut off from the centers of Tajik civilizationthe cities of Bukhara and Samarqand, which are part of Uzbekistanany central government in Tajikistan faces political and social maneuvering and challenges to unite an ethnically mixed and geographically dispersed population. In addition, recent government propaganda on the "Tajik" nature of the country, despite ethnic Tajiks comprising only 65 percent of the population, may not easily be accepted by an ethnically diverse population. Therefore, in addition to economic woes, which continue to cause barriers to the well-being of the country, the lack of democracy and security also wreak havoc. The presidential and parliamentary elections of 1999 and 2000, for example, were thought to be mired with improper intervention and influence by the ruling elite. Furthermore, although some level of banditry may have diminished due to the govern-ment's incorporation of many former opposition forces, other problems of insecurity are on the rise. Two of the most critical are the increase in the drug trafficking from Afghanistan and armed guerillas of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) using Tajikistan as a base to invade neighboring Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

The future well-being of Tajikistan depends on a variety of factors, among which are whether the armed conflicts of Afghanistan and the sporadic guerrilla warfare of the IMU will eventually come to peaceful resolutions. Other factors are the will of the government to extend more democracy, human rights, and freedom of expression. The allowance of an independent media and encouragement of a strong civil society will be steps in the right direction. Provision of loans and logistics for small farmers and small businesses could truly alleviate the economic pains of the people. A plan to protect the natural environment in the form of establishing large parts of the country as national parks and creating accommodations for tourists via the creation of small locally-owned hotels throughout the country could encourage the establishment of a potentially lucrative ecotourism industry. This could simultaneously generate income for the local population, provide foreign capital for the central government, and preserve the natural environment. Finally, moves toward economic and cultural integration with other Central Asian republics and easing of travel throughout the region will be highly beneficial for the future of Tajikistan and the region as a whole.


Tajikistan has no territories or colonies.


Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan: 2000-2001. London: EIU, 2000.

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Tajikistan, 2000 Country Investment Profile. Geneva: EBRD, 2000.

Foroughi, Payam. 1998 Socio-Economic Survey of Households, Farms and Bazaars in Tajikistan. USAID and SCF, 1999.

International Monetary Fund. Republic of Tajikistan: Recent Economic Developments, Washington, DC: IMF, 2000.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <http://>. Accessed August 2001.

United Nations Development Programme. Human Development Report 2000. New York: UNDP, 2000.

"United Nations Statistical Yearbook 2000." United Nations. <>. Accessed February 2001.

World Bank. Tajikistan: A World Bank Country Study. Washington, DC: World Bank, 1994.

"World Outlook 2000." International Monetary Fund. <http://>. Accessed February 2001.

Payam Foroughi

Raissa Muhutdinova-Foroughi




Somoni (SM). Introduced in 2000 to replace the Tajik ruble. SM1 equals 1,000 Tajik rubles. Somoni are issued as notes of SM1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100. Also 1, 4, 20, and 50 diram notes (100 dirams in SM1).


Aluminum, electricity, cotton, gold, fruits, and textiles.


Electricity, petroleum products, natural gas, aluminum oxide, machinery and equipment, and foodstuffs.


US$7.3 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).


Exports: US$761 million (2000 est.). Imports: US$782 million (2000 est.).

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Official name: Republic of Tajikistan

Area: 143,100 square kilometers (55,251 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Qullai Ismoili Somoni (7,495 meters/24,590 feet)

Lowest point on land: Banks of the Syr Dar'ya (300 meters/984 feet)

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 6 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 700 kilometers (434 miles) from east to west; 350 kilometers (217 miles) from north to south

Land boundaries: 3,651 kilometers (2,269 miles) total boundary length; Afghanistan 1,206 kilometers (749 miles); China 414 kilometers (257 miles); Kyrgyzstan 870 kilometers (541 miles); Uzbekistan 1,161 kilometers (721 miles)

Coastline: None

Territorial sea limits: None


Tajikistan is located in central Asia. It shares borders with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, and Afghanistan. With a total area of about 143,100 square kilometers (55,251 square miles), the country is slightly smaller than the state of Wisconsin. Tajikistan is administratively divided into two oblasts and one autonomous oblast.


Tajikistan has no outside territories or dependencies.


Average temperatures vary significantly by region in Tajikistan. A continental climate predominates in the lowlands, with hot summers and cold winters. Khudzhand in the Fergana Valley has an average July temperature of 27°C (81°F) and a January average of -1°C (34°F). Extreme temperatures in summer can reach 48°C (118°F), with strong dust storms in the semiarid areas. By contrast, the eastern mountains have average July temperatures below 10°C (50°F) and January temperatures of -20°C (-4°F). Winter temperatures in the eastern Pamirs have dropped to -60°C (-76°F).

For most of Tajikistan, the average annual precipitation ranges between 70 centimeters (28 inches) and 160 centimeters (63 inches). Although generally meager in the lowlands and mountains, sudden, substantial amounts of precipitation have caused devastating landslides. Winter and spring are the chief snowfall/rainfall seasons. Summer and fall can be drought-stricken. The heaviest precipitation rates occur at the Fedchenko Glacier, where yearly totals of 223 centimeters (88 inches) have been recorded. The lowest annual averages are in the eastern Pamirs, with annual rainfall of less than 10 centimeters (4 inches).


Tajikistan is the smallest nation in Central Asia. Mountains dominate its landscape, with the Pamirs in the south (including some of the world's highest peaks) and the Trans Alai range in the north. Tajikistan's mountainous terrain is also notable for its many glacier-fed rivers. The massive Fedchenko Glacier, covering more than 700 square kilometers (270 square miles), is the largest glacier in the world outside of the polar regions.

Elevations in northwest and southwest Tajikistan are generally lower than in the rest of the country. The most notable lowland feature is the fertile Fergana Valley in the far north, whose soils of rich river deposits make the valley ideal for agriculture.

Tajikistan is on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate, not far to the north of its border with the Indian Tectonic Plate. It lies on a seismic belt that is active throughout southeastern Central Asia. Earthquakes are common and can be devastating.


Tajikistan is a landlocked country.


Most of Tajikistan's lakes were formed by glaciers and are found in the eastern Pamirs. Lake Karakul (Ozero Karakul) is the largest lake with an area of about 380 square kilometers (147 square miles). It is located in the northeast at an elevation of 4,000 meters (13,000 feet). A salt lake, Karakul is essentially lifeless.


Tajikistan's mountainous terrain has created an extensive network of rivers, but several large central Asian rivers that originate elsewhere also cross the country, most notably the Syr' Darya (Sirdaryo or Syr River) and the Amu' Darya (Amu River).

The Amu' Darya is central Asia's largest river, at 2,539 kilometers (1,578 miles). It originates in the form of its upper tributary, the Panj, which runs along the Tajikistan-Afghan border. In Tajikistan, the Amu' Darya runs for 921 kilometers (571 miles). The Vakhsh (Surkohb) River and the Kafirnigan River are two large tributaries of the Amu' Darya that run northeast to southwest in great valleys across western Tajikistan. Of these, the Vakhsh is the second-longest waterway in Tajikistan.

After the Amu' Darya, the Syr' Darya in northern Tajikistan is the second-longest river in central Asia, with a total length of 2,400 kilometers (1,488 miles). The Syr' Darya flows through the country only for a short distance, traversing the Fergana Valley in northern Tajikistan for 195 kilometers (121 miles). Another major northern river, the Zeravshan, crosses Tajikistan from east to west for 316 kilometers (196 miles). Its total length is 781 kilometers (484 miles).

Melting snow and melting glaciers cause Tajikistan's rivers to run high in the spring and summer. In summer, the glacial runoff is a critical aid to irrigation in Tajikistan's northern and western valleys.


There are no desert regions in Tajikistan.


Western Tajikistan has some scattered areas of steppe that rise into the foothills of its mountains. The steppe vegetation features not only low-growing shrubs and drought-resistant grasses, but also broad fields of wild poppies and even tulips.

In the west, about a third of Tajikistan is comprised of foothills and steppes. The nation's lowest elevations are found in the southwestern river valleys and in the northern spur region that crosses the Fergana Valley.


Nearly half of Tajikistan has elevations exceeding 3,000 meters (9,800 feet). The Pamirs are the dominant mountain range and are among the highest mountains in the world, with an extraordinary mean elevation of 3,965 meters (13,000 feet). Centered in southern Tajikistan, they branch off in every direction, connecting with other great mountain ranges such as the Tian Shan of neighboring China.

Communism Peak (Qullai Ismoili Somoni), in the Pamirs, is the highest mountain in the country at 7,495 meters (24,590 feet). Lenin Peak (Pik Lenina), in the Trans Alai range of the Pamirs in northeastern Tajikistan, is among the world's highest at 7,134 meters (23,406 feet). Many other peaks exceed 6,096 meters (20,000 feet).

The Fedchenko Glacier is one of many glaciers in the Pamirs. It is considered to be the largest continental glacier (outside of the polar regions) in the world, with a length of about 71 kilometers (44 miles) and a width of 2 kilometers (1.5 miles).


The rivers have cut numerous steep and winding canyons throughout the country's mountain region. Many of these canyons attract mountain and rock climbers.


A portion of Tajikistan lies on the high Godesberg Plateau, which also stretches into China and Afghanistan. This great plateau is considered to be part of the Pamirs system.


The Rogun Dam on the Vakhsh River, at 335 meters (1,099 feet) high, is the highest dam in the world. This earth and rock fill dam was built primarily for irrigation and hydroelectric power. The Nurek (Norak) Dam, at 300 meters (984 feet) high, is the second-highest dam in the world. It is also located on the Vakhsh River and provides water and power for the surrounding area, which is a major manufacturing center. Construction and maintenance of the Nurek Dam and its reservoir have been an ongoing concern for engineers, because the stress of the contained water further destabilizes the earth's crust nearby. Seismic activity is closely monitored in the area.



Thomas, Paul. The Central Asian States: Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan (Former Soviet States). Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 1992.


Gleason, Gregory. "The Struggle for Control over Water in Central Asia: Republican Sovereignty and Collective Action." RFE/RL Report on the USSR (Munich), 3, no. 25 (June 1991): 11-19.

Rubin, Barry M. "The Fragmentation of Tajikistan." Survival 35 (winter 1993-1994): 71-91.

Web Sites

Tajikistan Travel: Adventure on the Roof of the World. (accessed April 28, 2003).

United Nations Environment Program, Tajikistan: State of the Environment. (accessed April 28, 2003).

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Tajikistan (təjĬkĬstän´), officially Republic of Tajikistan, republic (2005 est. pop. 7,164,000), 55,251 sq mi (143,100 sq km), central Asia. It borders on China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, Kyrgyzstan in the north, and Uzbekistan in the west and northwest. Dushanbe is the capital and largest city.

Land and People

Parts of the Pamir and Trans-Alai mt. systems are in the east, and the highest peaks in the country are Ismoili Somoni Peak (24,590 ft/7,495 m) and Lenin Peak, formerly Kaufmann Peak (23,405 ft/7,134 m). The southeast is occupied by an arid plateau c.12,000 to 15,000 ft (3,660–4,570 m) high. The only extensive low districts are the Tajik section of the Fergana Valley in the north and the hot, dry Gissar and Vakhsh valleys in the southwest. In the Fergana Valley, there are two small exclaves of Tajikistan, one surrounded by Kyrgyzstan, the other by Uzbekistan. The Amu Darya, Syr Darya, and Zeravshan are the chief rivers and are used for irrigation. Dams and irrigation projects, notably the Nurek dam and the Great Gissar Canal, have opened almost 1 million acres (400,000 hectares) of land to cultivation and also provide hydroelectric power, but the country experiences critical energy shortages in the winter when water levels are lower. In addition to the capital of Dushanbe, other important cities are Khudjand, Uroteppa, and Qŭrghonteppa.

Most of Tajikistan's people are concentrated in its narrow, deep intermontane valleys. About 80% of the population is composed of Tajiks (also spelled Tadjiks or Tadzhiks), a Sunni Muslim people who speak a language virtually indistinguishable from Persian (Farsi). The rest of the people are mainly Uzbeks (15%), Russians, Kyrgyz, and others. Tajik is the official language. Russian, once widely spoken as an interethnic common language, has become less prevalent since independence.


Tajikistan's economy is dependent on agriculture and livestock raising. Two thirds of the population is engaged in subsistence agriculture, and as much as half of the workforce has been employed in Russia or other foreign countries; the remittances of workers abroad forms a significant portion (40% to 50%) of Tajikistan's GDP. More than half the country's population lives in poverty, and official corruption is a serious problem.

Tajikistan's lowlands specialize in the cultivation of cotton, wheat, barley, fruit (including wine grapes), vegetables, and mulberry trees (for silk). Karakul sheep, dairy cattle, goats, and yaks are raised. The republic's mountains hold deposits of silver, gold, uranium, tungsten, zinc, lead, coal, antimony, salt, and mercury, and mining and aluminum, zinc, and lead processing are important industries. There is some petroleum. Tajikistan is well provided with hydroelectric resources, but due to poor management the country has suffered from seasonal power shortages in recent years. Other industries include light manufacturing (textiles, chemicals, and fertilizers) and food processing.

Aluminum, electricity, cotton, fruits, vegetable oil, and textiles are exported. Imports include electricity, petroleum products, aluminum oxide, machinery and equipment. Trade is primarily with the Netherlands, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Turkey. The country's economic problems and political turmoil have led Tajikistan to become an important heroin smuggling transit point.


Tajikistan is governed under the constitution of 1994. The president, who is head of state, is popularly elected for a seven-year term and is eligible for a second term. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is appointed by the president. There is a bicameral legislature. The National Assembly has 34 members; 25 are selected by local deputies, eight are appointed by the president, and one seat is reserved for the former president. Members of the 63-seat Assembly of Representatives are popularly elected. All legislators serve five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into two provinces and the autonomous province of Gorno-Badakhshan, the eastern half of Tajikistan.


The people of Tajikistan are probably descended from the inhabitants of ancient Sogdiana. By the 9th and 10th cent., the Tajiks had achieved much success in fruit growing, cattle raising, and the development of handicrafts and trade. The Tajik territory was conquered by the Mongols in the 13th cent. In the 16th cent., it became part of the khanate of Bukhara. By the mid-19th cent., the Tajiks were divided among several internally weak khanates.

Russia took control of the Tajik lands in the 1880s and 90s, but the Tajiks remained split among several administrative-political entities, and their territories were economically backward and were exploited for their raw materials. In the aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Tajiks rebelled against Russian rule; the Red Army did not establish control over them until 1921. Tajikistan was made an autonomous republic within Uzbekistan in 1924; in 1929 it became a constituent republic of the USSR. In the 1930s canals and other irrigation projects vastly increased cultivated acreage as agriculture was more thoroughly collectivized; population also increased rapidly. Further expansion of irrigated agriculture occurred after World War II, especially in the late 1950s, as the area became increasingly important as a cotton producer. In 1978 there were anti-Russian riots in the republic.

In Dec., 1990, the Tajikistan parliament passed a resolution of sovereignty. The Republic of Tajikistan declared its independence in Sept., 1991, and in December it signed the treaty establishing the Commonwealth of Independent States. When the acting president sought to suspend the country's Communist party, the Communist-led parliament replaced him, and former Communist party chief Rakhmon Nabiyev was elected president in Nov., 1991. In 1992, Nabiyev was deposed by opposition militias.

An ethnically based civil war quickly erupted. Forces allied with the former Nabiyev government retook the capital and most of the country, and the parliament elected Russian-supported Emomali Rakhmonov president. Fighting between government troops, supported by the Russian army, and pro-Islamic forces, with bases and support in Afghanistan, persisted along the Afghan border despite a number of cease-fires. In the Nov., 1994, elections, which were boycotted by the Islamic opposition, Rakhmonov defeated another former Soviet leader to retain the presidency. In early 1996 there was a brief mutiny by Uzbek commanders, who seized towns in the south and west.

A peace accord was signed between the government and opposition forces in mid-1997, but some factions continued fighting. In a 1999 referendum, voters backed constitutional changes that would extend the president's term to seven years and allow the formation of Islamic political parties, and Rakhmonov was subesequently reelected. By the end of the 2000 a truce prevailed in most of Tajikistan. From 30,000 to 100,000 were estimated to have died in the fighting, and war and neglect had devastated much of the country's infrastructure, making the nation one of the poorest in the world. The government has continued to mount crackdowns against any Muslims that it regards as extremists, closing a number of mosques, contributing to simmering Islamist militancy.

Tajikistan remains dependent on support from Russia's military to preserve its tenuous stability and security, although Russian help patrolling the Afghan border ended in 2005, and Russian economic aid is also extremely important. A drought in W and central Asia in the late 1990s had particularly severe consequences in impoverished Tajikistan. The Feb., 2005, parliamentary elections resulted in a lopsided victory for the ruling People's Democratic party (PDP); the results were denounced by opposition parties, the usually progovernment Communist party, and European observers. The president's reelection in Nov., 2006, was boycotted by the main opposition parties and generally regarded as neither free nor fair. In Mar., 2006, President Rakhmonov called upon Tajiks to revive their national traditions and derussify their names; he changed his surname to Rakhmon.

Long-standing tensions with Uzbekistan over Tajikistan's construction of additional hydroelectric facilities, which could reduce the flow of water needed for irrigation in Uzbekistan, led Uzbekistan to withdraw from the Central Asian power grid in late 2009, preventing the importation of electricity into Tajikistan during the winter months. In further moves to isolate Tajikistan, Uzbekistan also has held up transit of goods via rail, increased tariffs on goods transported to Tajikistan, and interrupted natural gas as well as electricity supplies to Tajikistan.

In Feb., 2010, the PDP again won a lopsided victory in the parliamentary elections, and the balloting was again denounced for failing to meet democratic standards. An ambush in September of government forces in the Rasht valley in the east led to fighting in the region between government forces and militants that continued into 2011; in mid-2012 there was fighting around Khorugh between government forces and armed groups associated with several warlords. President Rakhmon was reelected in Nov., 2013; the only significant opposition candidate had been banned from running. The PDP again secured a landslide parliamentary electoral win in Mar., 2015.


See S. Akinev, Islamic Peoples of the Soviet Union (1986).

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143,100sq km (55,520 sq mi)



capital population:

Dushanbe (580,800)


Transitional democracy

ethnic groups:

Tajik 62%, Uzbek 24%, Russian 8%, Tatar, Kyrgyz, Ukrainian, German


Tajik (official)




Rouble = 100 kopecks

Republic in central Asia. The mountainous Republic of Tajikistan lies in se Central Asia. In the n is the westernmost part of the Tian Shan range. In the e lie the snow-capped Pamirs, including Kommunizma Pik at 7495m (24,590ft). The capital, Dushanbe, lies at the foot of the central Gissar-Altai range. In the nw lies part of the Fergana valley on the ancient route to Samarkand. In the sw, a plain extends from Dushanbe to the River Amudarya border with Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. Tajikistan is prone to earthquakes.


Tajikistan has a continental climate. Summers are hot and dry in the lowlands, but winters are long and cold in the mountains. Much of the country is arid, but the se has heavy snowfalls.


Vegetation varies greatly according to altitude. Much of Tajikistan consists of desert or rocky mountain landscapes capped by snow and ice.

History and Politics

The Tajiks are descendants of Iranians who settled in the area c.2500 years ago. Alexander the Great conquered the region in the 4th century bc. In the 7th century ad, Tajikistan was conquered by Arabs, who introduced Islam. In the 9th century, it fell to the Iranian Empire. The Tajik cities of Bukhara and Samarkand were vital centres of trade and Islamic learning. In the 13th century, Tajikistan was overrun by the Mongol hordes. From the 16th to the 19th century, Uzbeks ruled the area as the Khanate of Bukhara.

The fragmentation of the region aided Russian conquest from 1868. Following the Russian Revolution (1917), Tajikistan rebelled against Russian rule. Although Soviet troops annexed n Tajikistan into Turkistan in 1918, the Bukhara Emirate held out against the Red Army until 1921. In 1924, Tajikistan became an autonomous part of the Republic of Uzbekistan. In 1929, Tajikistan achieved full republic status, but Bukhara and Samarkand remained in the republic of Uzbekistan. During the 1930s, vast irrigation schemes greatly increased agricultural land. Many Russians and Uzbeks were settled in Tajikistan. As the pace of reform accelerated in Russia, many Tajiks demanded independence.

In 1989, Tajik replaced Russian as the official language. In 1990, the Tajik Parliament declared itself the supreme sovereign body. In 1991, Tajikistan became an independent republic within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). In 1992 tension between the new government, consisting mainly of former communists, and an alliance of Islamic and democratic groups descended into full civil war. The government called for Russian military assistance, and by 1993 the Islamic-Democratic rebels had retreated into Afghanistan. Imamali Rakhmonov was appointed president. Fighting continued along the Afghan border, and the rebels made frequent incursions into Tajikistan. In 1994, a brief cease-fire enabled elections to take place. Rakhmonov was elected president amid an opposition boycott. In 1995, the civil war resumed and the Russian air force launched attacks on rebel bases in Afghanistan. In 1995, fresh elections saw the return of the (former communist) People's Party of Tajikistan, amid charges of electoral corruption and another opposition boycott. In 1996, a peace agreement was signed, formally ending the five-year civil war. Rakhmonov was re-elected in 1999.


The poorest former Soviet republic, Tajikistan is a low-income developing country (2000 GDP per capita, US$1140). It faced enormous problems in the transition to a market economy. The cost of civil war devastated its fragile economy. In 1994, Tajikistan ceded much of its economic sovereignty to Russia in return for financial and military assistance. Agriculture is the main activity. Livestock-rearing is important and cotton is the chief product. Tajikistan is rich in resources, such as hydroelectricity, oil, uranium and gold. Aluminium is the major manufactured export. Textiles are an important industry.

Political map

Physical map

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Culture Name

Tajik; Tajikistani; Tajiki


Identification. The name "Tajik" may derive from the name of a pre-Islamic tribe, perhaps of Zoroastrian origin, and means "crown" or "royalty."

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.

Location and Geography. Tajikistan borders Afghanistan to the south, China to the east, Kyrgystan to the north, and Uzbekistan to the west and has a land area of 58,809 square miles (143,100 square kilometers). There are numerous glaciers.

The Fergana Valley in the northern region is densely populated. It is separated from the rest of the country by mountains from which the Syrdariya and Amu Darya rivers bring rich soil deposits. In the Soviet era, the Vakhsh River was dammed for irrigation and electric power, and factories were built along its banks. Hot summers and frigid winters characterize the climate. The high mountain ridges protect the Fergana Valley and other lowlands from Arctic air masses, but temperatures drop below freezing more than one-hundred days a year.

The isolation of the Pamiri has kept them close to their ancient traditions. Although the people of the Khujand (Leninobad) region also are isolated, they are more accessible to the other republics. They were the ruling clan in the Soviet era.

Dushanbe (Stalinobod from 1929 to 1961), the capital, is in the west-central region and is the largest city. In 1924, it was chosen to be the capital of the new autonomous republic because of its low population and central location.

Demography. In 2000, the population was estimated to be 6,213,000. In the first years after independence many non-Central Asian peoples emigrated because of the establishment of Tajiki as the official language, dissatisfaction with the standard of living, and fear of political violence.

Linguistic Affiliation. Tajiki, which is closely related to Farsi, is the most widely used language. Villagers who have developed regional dialects have only a rudimentary understanding of the official language. In the Pamiri mountain regions, various languages have kept many characteristics of ancient Iranian. Russian is preferred in government and business transactions, and Uzbeki is used widely in the Khujand region.

Symbolism. The flag has a horizontal red stripe on top, a wider white stripe with a gold crown surmounted by seven stars in the middle, and a green stripe at the bottom. Those colors represent sunshine and health, chastity, the journey on the right path of life, peace and stability, agriculture, the mountains, and the spring. The crown shows a royal house, and the stars represent friendship between nationalities, class, unity, and Islam.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Before the Soviet era, the Republic of Tajikistan experienced population changes that brought political and cultural influences from Asia and the Middle East. The conquests of Alexander the Great in the fourth century b.c.e., led to the founding of Khujand and Panjakent. Under the Sassanians (third century c.e.), the Persian language and culture and the Zoroastrian religion spread throughout the region. Conversion to Islam began in the seventh century. By the ninth century, it was the prevalent religion.

After the Uzbeki nomadic tribes conquered Central Asia, the future Tajikistan was divided into three states: the Uzbek-ruled Bukhara Khanate, the Kokand Khanate, in the Fergana Valley, and the kingdom of Afghanistan. These states lasted until the nineteenth century, when they were gradually overtaken by traders and settlers from the Russian Empire. In 1925, Tajikistan became an autonomous republic within Uzbekistan. In 1929, it was detached from Uzbekistan and given full status as a republic.

In 1991, Tajikistan declared independence from the Soviet Union, and Nabiyev was installed as president after a coup. Nationalism and anti-Russian feeling intensified, leading to a state of emergency and the suppression of opposition parties. Civil war broke out in 1992.

National Identity. Although the Soviet Union arbitrarily redefined the nation's borders, many Tajik intellectuals and nationalists believed that communism brought progress to their people and joined the Communist Party. During this period, Islam was the defining cultural element and helped consolidate the clans and reinforce ethnic solidarity.

Although the Soviet era brought stability, education, and an economic infrastructure, social integration among the ethnic groups has never been achieved. Today, people look to their history in developing a national idea, identifying with the Persian-speaking Samanids of Bukhara, who supported the revival of the written Persian language and the cultural ideals of the Zorastrians.

Ethnic Relations. The leaders of clans manipulate events to serve their own ethnoregional views. The Khojand clan in the north is identified with hard-line communism; the Kulab clan, also pro-Russian, gained control of the government after a power struggle in 1994; and the Garm clan of the Gorno-Badakhshn region is a stronghold of the Islamic Renaissance movement.

Although Sunni Islam is the most important cultural commonality, it has become a dividing force. The lack of leadership from the Islamic hierarchy allowed fundamentalists to proliferate after independence, and the revival of ancient traditions in the Fergana Valley could lead to conflict with the neighboring countries. However, tribal loyalties, Western cultural influences, and the growth of a free-market economy have militated against such movements. The hardships caused by the civil war and the economic transition have created a negative attitude toward sovereignty and a desire among many people to return to Soviet statehood.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Railroads do not link the northwest and the southwest, and only one highway connects Dushanbe in the southwest with Khujand in the northwest. In 1991, the five largest cities accounted for only 17 percent of the total population.

During the Soviet era, a purely functional architectural style developed in the form of centrally planned development projects, government office buildings, and cultural facilities. More recent architecture emphasizes the revival of the Samanid and Timurid periods.

During the Samanid period, baked brick was used in the construction of mosques, minarets, and mausoleums; calligraphic inscriptions were used to decorate walls. In the fourteenth century, the Timurids introduced the use of mosaic tile.

Today, communities are divided into mahallas, or neighborhoods, which are governed by responsible and respected elderly persons.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. With over 80 percent of the population living below the poverty line, food is scarce. A basic breakfast consists of tea and bread. A wealthy family may eat butter and jam and perhaps eggs or porridge. Soup often is served for dinner; it may contain a soup bone with meat, carrots, onions, and potatoes. Osh, a rice dish made with carrots, onions and meat, is served two or three times a week. At other times pasta, meat- and onion-filled pastries, and tomato and cucumber salads may be served. All meals are accompanied with large rounds of flat bread.

Restaurants usually offer Western and Russian food, and choihonas (teahouses) serve traditional foods. Guests often sit on a platform with a low table surrounded by thin mats.

Pork is never eaten. Bread may not be placed upside down; the crumbs are collected and disposed of ceremoniously. Tea is served to the host first to show that it is safe to drink. Islamic law forbids the consumption of alcoholic beverages, but this prohibition often is ignored.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. On holidays and ceremonial occasions, the table is covered with small plates containing delicacies that represent the pride and wealth of the host. Osh usually is served. Sumalak, a dish made from the juice of wheat sprouts, is served during the Islamic New Year. The making of sumalak is a ceremony, as the women recite poetry, sing, and dance.

Basic Economy. Rural people depend almost entirely on what they produce themselves. Seventy-five percent of households grow food for their own use, and people in the cities plant gardens in vacant lots. Farmers have difficulty gaining access to land, and farm implements are in disrepair. Millions face hunger as grain production has plummeted.

Most people have no specialized skills; most specialists were from the Russian-speaking sector and left after independence. This resulted in the closing of most factories. The country depends on international assistance for its basic needs. However, the civil war and geographic isolation have hampered international trade.

The government encourages foreign investment, but registration procedures are unclear and the laws are contradictory. In the 1990s, firms from the United States, Israel, Austria, Italy, and Canada constructed factories and mining projects.

Land Tenure and Property. In 1992, legislation was passed that protected personal property and gave citizens the right to own, lease, and inherit land. Agricultural land remains under state ownership but can be leased. Leases can be sold and inherited.

In the Soviet era, the government owned all businesses. After independence, the parliament adopted a privatization law, to transfer ownership of businesses to the public. However, no enterprise is privatized without the approval of a committee or ministry, and officials frequently refuse to cooperate. In 1997, the government created a Higher Economic Court, to handle economic disputes. Judges are subject to pressure from the executive branch, local warlords, and criminal syndicates.

Commercial Activities. The dominance of cotton has limited the growth of food products. The country cannot meet basic domestic consumption requirements, especially for meat and dairy products. Although factories produce thread, most cotton is sent abroad for processing. There are small, obsolete factories for weaving and food processing. Drug traffickers control a large proportion of the economic activity.

Major Industries. After the damming of the Vakhsh River in the 1930s, Tajikistan became the third largest producer of hydroelectric power in the world. The dams also enhanced agricultural production through irrigation and provided energy for industries. The aluminum-processing plant at Regar has the largest smelter in the world. Other industries include mining, chemicals, metal processing, and building materials. All industries are constrained by outmoded equipment, low world prices, emigration of the skilled labor force, and civil war.

Trade. Exports to the United States include aluminum, textiles, machinery, and cereals. Imports from the United States include grain, dairy products, eggs, honey, machinery, and preserved foods. An Afghani company opened shops in Dushanbe to sell clothing, textiles, fruits, and nuts. In 1992, 36 percent of imports came from Russia and 21 percent of its exports went to that country. Fruits and vegetables, textiles, and paint were exported in return for automobiles, televisions, and other consumer goods. Tajikistan exports electricity to Uzbekistan in exchange for natural gas. Other trading partners include countries in Central Asia and Europe.

Division of Labor. Jobs are assigned according to education and specialization or they are regionally determined. Political leaders and people in law enforcement usually come from the ruling clan, farmers come from the Garm area, and the Pamiris dominate the fine arts. Technical and professional jobs often go unfilled, but the most pressing economic problem is unemployment, particularly among young people. Approximately three-fourths of graduates of middle schools do not go on to receive higher education and cannot find employment. Wages are so low that even professionals take low-skill jobs to supplement their incomes.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Most class variation involves the distribution of wealth. People from different classes attend the same parties and celebrations, but the wealthy usually host a party in a restaurant. Urban residents have the highest social status, especially those who work in the national government and international organizations. Bankers, directors of enterprises, intellectuals, and professionals follow; at the lowest level are workers and peasants. Military and religious leaders have high status, although they may not be wealthy.

Symbols of Social Stratification. People are distinguished more by region than by class. People in the cities wear Western fashions, while villagers dress more traditionally. Traditionally, when a man holds a religious office, or becomes a grandfather, he grows a beard. Before the civil war, a beard was a symbol of political support for the Islamic opposition. People who work for the government often are imitated by lower classes in their speech and mannerisms.

Political Life

Government. After independence, a system based on civil law was developed. The office of president was abolished in November 1992 and reestablished in 1994.

The Council of Ministers and the prime minister manage government activities in accordance with the laws and decrees of the president and the Supreme Assembly. The judiciary includes the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Economic Court, and the Military Court as well as subordinate courts. Judges are appointed by the president. The office of the procurator general investigates and prosecutes crimes. The president appoints the heads of regional governments.

Leadership and Political Officials. After independence, politics was characterized by a long struggle for political power between cliques that sought Soviet-style dominance and opposition forces seeking to establish a new government. Opposition parties were banned in 1993 and operate from abroad. The Communist Party dominates politics, although the People's Party, the Party of People's Unity, and the Party of Economic and Political Renewal are recognized.

In dealings with government officials, a bribe usually is offered. The payer must be polite or the price may increase, and the size of the bribe is never discussed. A mediator usually conducts the transaction.

Social Problems and Control. Although the constitution guarantees human rights, governance amounts to one-man rule based on emergency executive powers. The result has been imprisonment, exile, and assassination of political figures.

The police and the procurator's office may legally detain a suspect without a warrant. Security officials use beatings to extort confessions. Most citizens fear retaliation by the police. Many judges are poorly trained. Bribery of judges is common, as is political and paramilitary pressure.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, but the Council of Ministers registers religious communities and monitors the religious establishments to observe political activity.

The way in which people conduct their lives is affected by the opinion of others. When a crime is committed, the authorities are usually contacted and the rule of law is invoked. However, when a social rule is broken, the clan will deny privileges to the offender, who may be beaten or ostracized.

One of the most widespread crimes is the smuggling of narcotics. There has been an increase in violent crime as a result of unregistered weapons remaining in private hands after the civil war. Official corruption and white-collar crime have increased. Wife beating is a common problem, as is the abduction of young women, who are raped or forced to marry.

Military Activity. In 1992, an informal coalition of political and Islamic groups seized power after two months of demonstrations, and a civil war began. By 1993 an estimated 50,000 people had been killed, and 660,000 had been displaced. This was followed by a military rebellion in 1996. In 1997, the peace process again erupted in violence. During this time there was heavy reliance on Russian equipment, arms and air power, and Russians made up almost three-quarters of the officer corps.

By the end of the decade conflict increased between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, which fears that Islamic radicalism will spill over the border. In 2000, Uzbekistan planted mines along the border. There is military tension with China over the Gorno-Badakhshan region.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Poverty has been targeted by humanitarian assistance and income-generating microprojects. With financing from the World Bank, people are implementing programs that provide job opportunities. The Women in Development Bureau and the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, and Development Program work in the areas most affected by the civil war. Some organizations are active in cultural affairs and welfare, and others represent businesswomen, teachers, and other professionals. Most have limited funding and are dependent on foreign contributions.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Tajikistan is a member of the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Confederation of Independent States, and the Economic Cooperation Organization. All state workers belong to the Confederation of Trade Unions, which controls access to pension funds, health care benefits, housing, and other social services. Many United States and multilateral institutions promote business by lowering tariffs and offering loans and consultations.

Some of the most important organizations active in the development of new businesses are the Khujand Association of Business Women, the National Association of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses of Tajikistan, the Dilafruz Association of Businesswomen, and the Tajik Center for Entrepreneurship and Management. Humanitarian organizations include the Aga Khan Foundation, Relief International, Humanitarian Health Assistance, and Medicine sans Frontieres.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Islamic law assigns all authority and power to men, but the constitution gives men and women equal rights. There is no formal discrimination in the employment of women, who work in government, academic institutes, and enterprises. However, only 27 percent of women workers are leaders or directors. In general women earn about two-thirds the salary of men doing the same work. In rural areas, husbands frequently do not allow their wives to study or work outside the home. Men control the political arena and hold the leadership positions in religion.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. While men control leadership and decision making, societal pressure encourages them to make the right decisions. They often seek the advice and council of respected elders in the community. Women raise the children, and are responsible for household management. Women are seen as the compassionate force within the home, while men are the breadwinners and the protectors of their wives, mothers, and daughters. Traditional men believe that women have the right to be taken care of by men.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Building a family through a marriage sanctified by a religious ceremony is considered one of the most sacred aspects of life. It is also a way to develop a social structure with the blessings and support of the community. Often a matchmaker is involved in choosing a bride. A daughter will move to the home of her husband's family, and her parents want to be sure that she will be provided for. They pay close attention to the groom's education and lifestyle, and the economic situation of his family.

The wedding feast or tui involves friends and relatives. The celebration includes music, dancing, and the recitation of poems. A representative of the bride brings an iron tray filled with burning herbs to chase away illness and the evil eye. The wedding bed is prepared ceremoniously for the first conjugal night. The next morning the purity of the bride must be proved to her mother-in-law.

Children may be promised in infancy, or a daughter may marry the son of her uncle. A marriage between the children of brothers is considered economically disadvantageous. Although illegal, polygyny has become common. These marriages are not officially recorded but may account for 20 percent of all marriages. After age 23, a young woman is considered unmarketable for marriage except as a second wife. Divorce is rare, and a first wife usually does not leave when her husband takes a second wife. Marriage to a non-Muslim is frowned upon.

Domestic Unit. Family size has been declining, but large families are still common. Usually the nuclear family includes the parents of the husband. Traditionally, the youngest son, with his wife and children, stays with his parents. The head of the house is the elderly father or the patriarch of the family, and the mother has authority over her daughter-in-law.

Inheritance. Because he takes responsibility for his parents in their old age, the youngest son is traditionally the heir to family property. Parents will try to provide a house for each of their sons to improve their prospects of marrying women from a higher economic class. The personal belongings of the mother-in-law go to the wife of the youngest son.

Kin Groups. A kin group extends far beyond the nuclear family, including the grandchildren of a great-uncle. These ties help develop support throughout the community. The oldest and wisest men are the leaders of the kin group. Most people in a kin group live in close proximity. Many household items are shared with the members of the group.


Infant Care. Because a baby is thought to be subject to infection, it cannot be shown until forty days after it is born, when a cradle ceremony with a feast may be celebrated. This may include a coming of age ceremony for the mother, who is not considered a woman until she gives birth to a child. Infants and children are not exposed to drafts or cold water to prevent illness. A baby is discouraged from fussing or moving about and is trained to be modest, quiet, and shy. The mother often nurses an infant until the age of two.

Child Rearing and Education. The mother trains children in the traditions of the culture. Daughters are taught how to cook, clean, and sew. A son must prepare himself to take care of his parents in their old age, work in the fields, and provide for a family. Religious training is done through participation in ceremonial events. The most important qualities of a good child are respect for the elderly and obedience to parental authority.

According to Islamic custom, boys must be circumcised between the ages of one and seven. This involves a ceremony, and a religious leader may perform the circumcision.

Soviet social policy created a modern educational system and a high degree of literacy. After independence, the education completion rate fell. The curriculum includes the Tajik language and classical Persian literature. Many people do not consider formal education important. A child's responsibility to the family takes precedence over formal schooling.

Higher Education. The facilities for higher education include Tajikistan State University in Dushanbe, which emphasizes history, philology, and economic planning, and the Polytechnic Institute in Dushanbe, which offers training in energy, architecture, and mechanical engineering. There is a shortage of textbooks in all fields of study.

The education of a son is a priority, but parents train and educate their daughters to make them marketable for marriage. A wealthy family is able to pay for a personal tutor and the contracts and bribes required to get a child into an institute of higher learning.


Hospitality, humility, and respect are considered essential for successful interaction in the culture. The elderly are always given the place of honor. A man must never enter a home where there are only women, and a girl must never be left alone with a boy. At large social gatherings, men and women often are separated. Everyone stands when another guest enters. When shaking hands in greeting, it is a demonstration of good manners and respect to place the left hand over the heart and bow slightly.

Bargaining is accepted in the marketplace. Personal space is not respected in either private or public places. When cultural rules are violated, gossip or ostracism may result.


Religious Beliefs. The Muslim communities are divided into two primary sects: Hanafi Sunnis and Ismaili Shiites. The Hanafi Sunnis are the largest group, with about 90 percent of the Islamic population.

The Zorastrian religion has influenced the traditions and superstitions of the people. Many people believe that supernatural forces affect their daily lives, and they wear amulets to protect themselves from evil. They may seek out fortune-tellers, or consult a witch to ward off illness or cast a spell on a potential lover.

Bukharan and Ashkenazi minorities constitute the tiny Jewish community. Bukharan Jews have lived in the country since the Middle Ages; Ashkenazi Jews arrived after World War II, and worked mainly as engineers and in specialized occupations. In 1989, there were approximately twenty thousand Jews; after the civil war, all but two thousand emigrated. Other religious groups include Russian Orthodox, Seventh Day Adventists, Catholics, and Baptists.

Religious Practitioners. For many people, Islam is more important as a cultural heritage than as a religion. When Islamic practices were curtailed during the Soviet era, folk Islam gained strength. Sufism, which emphasizes the spiritual side of the religion, grew during that period. An individual whose knowledge or personal qualities have made him influential becomes the religious specialist and the most respected member of the community.

Rituals and Holy Places. Religious ceremonies include funerals, periods of fasting, and weekly visits to the local mosque by men. During Ramadan, believers fast during the day. The fast is broken at sunset, when an evening feast begins.

Ismaili Shiites in Badakhshan recite religious poetry called madah; these poems are sung in Persian.

Death and the Afterlife. A deceased person is prepared for burial on the day of death. Islamic law forbids autopsies. The body is washed and wrapped in white material and placed in a box. It is carried in a procession to the cemetery, where it is removed from the box and placed in the ground. Mourners wearing traditional clothing wail and lament and sometimes dance in a slow, solemn rhythm. Osh is served to guests after three days, and memorials are held after seven days, forty days, six months, and one year.

Medicine and Health Care

Traditional medical beliefs are based on the works of Avicenna (9801037), a Persian philosopher and physician. His system of medicine was followed in Central Asia until the fifteenth century, after which many superstitions about cures and diseases became prevalent.

It is believed that burning herbs wards off illness, kills infection and cures a fever while bringing good luck. To stave off stomach ailments, one boils a pomegranate rind and drinks the broth; it is believed that mint cures fever, sore throat, and pleurisy.

Many medical professionals have left the country, and those who have remained lack the skills and technology to administer adequate health care. Medicine is officially socialized, but there is no treatment without money, and the family of a hospitalized patient must provide the patient's food. Hospitals often lack drugs, clean water, and sanitation facilities. As a result, the risk of diseases such as typhoid fever and cholera has increased. Environmental problems are believed to contribute to maternal and child mortality and birth defects.

In the 1980s, the Soviet government encouraged family planning, but its efforts failed because of poor promotion, inadequate birth control, and the traditional desire to have a large family.

Secular Celebrations

In 1999, the government created Consolidation Day (17 June) to celebrate the Saminid era, in an attempt to unify the people and promote the idea of the state. New Year's Day is celebrated on 1 January. International Women's Day is celebrated on 8 March. Navruz (21 March), a Zoroastrian feast is the traditional New Year's celebration. On this day one must think good thoughts, speak good words, and perform good deeds. International Labor Day is celebrated on 1 May. Victory Day on 10 May celebrates the triumph of the allied forces in World War II. Independence Day is celebrated on 9 September, and Constitution Day on 6 November.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. The Soviet Union supported opera, symphony orchestras, literature, painting, and sculpture, all of which attracted support from the public. In 1990, the country had twenty-seven museums, fourteen theaters, and a film studio.

Literature. Tajikistan claims ancient poets Omar Khayyám and Alisher Navoi as part of its literary tradition. Firdowsī is appreciated for creating epic poetry as a way to educate the people.

Under Soviet rule, writing had to correspond closely to official views. The main topics were the civil war in Central Asia, collectivization and industrialization, and Communist Party politics. Very little Persian literature was published in the Cyrillic alphabet.

Sadriddin Aini (18781954) witnessed most of the upheavals of the Soviet era, including the fall of the Khanate of Bukhara. Abdulqosim Lohuti (18871957) wrote both lyric poetry and "socialist realist" verse. Mirzo Tursunzoda (19111977) collected Tajik literature and wrote poetry about social change.

Graphic Arts. The great epic of Firdowsī, Shahname, influenced all genres, including painting, carpet making, and commemorative and graphic art. The trend in modern art has been to recreate the philosophical thought of the earlier civilization in order to bring about a cultural revival. This theme can be seen in all genres, including stage decoration.

Performing Arts. Women founded a classical national dance that has become a feature of family celebrations and festivities. The dances begin slowly, becoming faster and more intense as they progress. The movements are harmonious and subtle, and the costumes colorful and bright. The performers dance according to the emotions of the moment.

Folk music is characterized by solo playing and singing in small ensembles. The songs are monophonic, with harmony taking the form of a drone. Some of the most commonly used instruments are the rubob, a stringed instrument, and the karnai, a long trumpet. The daf is the most important percussion instrument, and can be traced back to the fourteenth century. Traditionally, the daf is one of the few instruments allowed in Muslim ceremonies.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

The social and physical sciences are strong in the areas of environmental studies, telecommunications, social policies of the state, geology, seismology, and archeology. Research involves cooperation among universities, technical institutes, and academies. All programs are government-financed, with contracts from the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund as well as other international organizations.


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Imperial and Asiatic Quarterly Review and Oriental and Colonial Record. Revelations Regarding Badakhshan, 1895.

Kayumova, Gulsara. Forgotten Traditions, 19931999.

Khoshmukhamedov, Sukhrob. Problems of Poverty and Economic Development during Tranistion in Tajikistan, 2000.

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Marilyn F. Petersen

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The people of Tajikistan are called Tajiks. People who trace their ancestry to Tajikistan are 62 percent of the population, and include the Pamiri or Mountain Tajiks. Uzbeks live in northwest Tajikistan, and make up almost 25 percent of the total population. Russians comprise over 7 percent, and Tatars, just over 1 percent. To learn more about Uzbeks, see the chapter on Uzbekistan in this volume; about Russians and Tatars, see the chapter on Russia in Volume 7.

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