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Tajiks

Tajiks

ETHNONYMS: Tadjiks, Tadzhiks

Orientation

Identification and Location. Tajiks are a Central Asian people who live in Afghanistan, some of the republics of the former Soviet Union, and China. The Republic of Tajikistan, which emerged after the breakup of the Soviet Union, contains the majority of the Tajik population. Tojikistoni shuravi (Soviet Tadzhikistan), a sovereign Soviet republic, was formed in 1929 from a portion of the former czarist Russian empire in Central Asia.

The distinguishing features of Tajiks are their language, sedentary lifestyle, and Islamic-Iranian culture. The widespread employment of Tajik as an ethnopolitical term emerged during the Soviet usage era; before that time regional rather than linguistic affiliation was the basis of selfidentification. In Soviet usage, the term also includes speakers of non-Persian Iranian languages who inhabit mountain valleys in the Pamir mountains area, such as Sarikolis, Wakhis, and Shugnis.

Tajik-inhabited areas fall roughly between 65 and 75° W. and 35 and 42° N. Tajikistan was the southeastern most republic of the former Soviet Union and is bordered by Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to the west and north, the Xinjiang Uigur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China to the east, and Afghanistan to the south. The land area of Tajikistan is 55,236 square miles (143,100 square kilometers) . The entire Tajik-inhabited region is very mountainous with narrow valleys; crops are nourished by mineral silt and irrigation from rapidly flowing rivers fed by melting snow. The rivers form tributaries of the Panj, which flows into the Amu Darya (Oxus River). Northern Tajikistan includes parts of the Ferghana Valley, where the waters eventually meet to flow into the Syr Darya (Jaxartes River).

Geographically, the Tajik Republic is trifurcated by mountains that are impassable by road in the winter. The northern portion is dominated by the town of Khojent, formerly Leninabad; the capital, Dushanbe, known from 1930 to 1931 as Stalinabad, is in the south. To the east but still part of the Tajik Republic is the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, a sparsely populated area inhabited mainly by small, valley-dwelling ethnic groups, including the Kyrgyz. The major urban center in this area is Khorog.

The climate falls within the temporal continental high-altitude range, with about 320 days of sunshine. Precipitation occurs as rain and snow, mainly between November and April. Summers are hot and dry.

Demography. The world Tajik population is more difficult to analyze than that within the republics of the former Soviet Union, although that statistic also has been subject to manipulation, especially outside Tajikstan. The 1989 census placed the number of Tajiks within the Soviet Union at 4,217,000, 3,168,000 of whom lived within their own republic and 932,000 of whom resided in Uzbekistan; thus, about 99 percent of Tajiks resided in those two republics. Together with the estimated 4 million Dari speakers in Afghanistan, who may also be identified broadly as Tajik, and smaller numbers in the People's Republic of China, the world Tajik population can be estimated at about 9 million. Since the 1959 Soviet census, Tajiks have more than doubled in number, making them the fastest-growing major ethnic group of the former Soviet Union. They constitute 62.3 percent of the population of Tajikistan and 4.7 percent of that of Uzbekistan (Uzbeks constitute 23.5 percent of the population of Tajikistan). The number of Russians in Tajikistan has been declining (7 percent in 1989) and had fallen to about 4 percent at the end of the twentieth century. In 2000 the population of Tajikistan was 6,440,732, showing a growth rate of just over 2 percent. Among the total population, 42 percent was under fourteen years of age. Tajiks who fled to Afghanistan during the civil war and were aided by the United Nations have largely returned to their homes or have emigrated.

Linguistic Affiliation. The standard Tajik dialect is mutually intelligible with the Persian of Iran and the Dari of Afghanistan and is increasingly being called either Farsi-Tojiki or Farsi (Persian); these languages form the major living branch of the Iranian language family, a branch of the Indo-European language group. In addition to standard Tajik, there are nineteen dialects that differ from one another morphologically and phonetically. Rural mountain valley people cannot be readily understood by urban Tajiks, who generally use the standard dialect. Tajik intellectuals are monolingual (Russian), bilingual (Tajik and Russian), or trilingual (Tajik, Russian, and Uzbek). The Tajiks on the whole are one of the least Russified Muslim communities of the former Soviet Union; in 1979, only 22,666 claimed Russian as their "first native language."

History and Cultural Relations

Tajik historical development is intertwined with that of the other sedentary people of Central Asia, especially the Uzbeks. Before the coming of the Turks to the area and their eventual sedentarization, Iranian groups dominated the urban oases. Islam eventually became universally accepted, and Turkic conquerors adjusted their religious and literary culture to that of the local inhabitants they ruled. Local (Tajik) administrators continued to dominate public life under Turkic tribally affiliated rulers. This hybrid Turko-Iranian culture dominated the important oasis towns, especially Bukhara and Samarkand. BilingualismTajik and (Turkic) Chagatay or Uzbekwas widespread on the literate and nonliterate levels through the early twentieth century. Most Tajik areas fell under the Bukharan and Khokand khanates until the Khokand khanates were destroyed by czarist forces in 1876 and incorporated into the Turkestan governor-generalship. Resistance to czarist and then Bolshevik rule gained strength in Tajik areas, where Basmachi bands of Uzbeks and Tajiks were not defeated until 1932. With the division of Soviet Central Asia along ethnolinguistic lines in 1924, a Tajik Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) was set aside within the Uzbek SSR and in 1929 became a full-fledged Tajik SSR.

Most educated and elite Tajiks lived in Bukhara and Samarkand and made the transition to Dushanbe and other Tajik territory reluctantly. Both the status and the size of the Tajik population in those two cities are sources of controversy; many Tajiks feel that those cities, together with Khiva, as traditional Tajik centers of culture, should be part of Tajikistan.

Disentangling a distinct Tajik culture from the Uzbek culture around it and from non-Soviet Persian culture became the focus of cultural activity during the Stalinist period. Separate Tajik institutions, organized on the All-Union model, attempted to use valley dialects, history, and especially archaeology to create a Tajik history disassociated from Islam and distinct from other Central Asian cultures. The thawing of Soviet-Iranianrelations led to ever-closer Iranian-Tajik cultural relations; the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 saw increasing Tajik tutelage of Afghans in Kabul as well as in Dushanbe. Important in this international cultural linking have been Russians and Russianized Tajiks. The Uzbek-Tajik bilingual pattern has been replaced by a Tajik-Russian one. Tension has been growing between Tajiks and Uzbeks owing in part to attempts by Uzbeks to increase their power in Tajikistan.

On the eve of the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Tajikistan became independent but was still under the control of functionaries from the Soviet period. By late 1992 democratic opposition had forced the displacement of leading former communists, but the challenge to stability came with the rise of regionally-based Islamic parties. Into this mix entered Iran and Russia, with Iran expressing a wish to aid a fellow Persianate entity and Russia worried about vulnerability to the spread of Islamic extremism and concern in the region that Tajikistan would become an area of conflict like the neighboring Afghanistan. As the poorest country of the former Soviet Union, Tajik's economy fell victim to a lack of energy resources and an inability to export and import caused by the war in Afghanistan and fear among its neighbors that the civil war would spread into other parts of Central Asia. At the end of the civil war (1992-1997) reconstruction efforts spearheaded by the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund and administered through bilateral arrangements with other countries have encouraged the creation of a flexible infrastructure for economic development. Despite the introduction of a Tajik currency, the Osomoni, reliance on foreign currency is widespread.

After 1994, as pressure on Tajiks in Afghanistan began to mount to give way before the Pushtun forces of the Taliban, Afghanistan's Tajiks sought shelter in the relatively less violent areas of Tajikistan. Ostensible consultation trips by President Burhannudin Rabbani to Dushanbe extended over months, especially when the Taliban drove the Tajik and allied ethnic forces out of Kabul in 1996. The close working relationship developed by the Northern Alliance to include the former communist Uzbek leader of Afghanistan, who was supported by Tashkent, brought about a confluence of interests among leaders in Tashkent, Moscow, Dushanbe, and Iran. In early 2002 it was not certain whether, with the removal of the Taliban from Kabul, that working relationship would continue.

Settlements

Most of Tajikistan is rural; 85 percent of the population lives in valleys and mountain areas up to 5,250 feet (1,600 meters) in elevation. Most of these settlements are organized in the kolkhoz/sovkhoz pattern superimposed on former villages (deh kishlaq) that are sometimes equivalent to loosely extended families practicing endogamy. There are pockets of industrialization in rural areas where non-Tajiks as well as Tajiks work. In the north and south the population density ranges from 19 to 58 per square mile (50 to 150 per square kilometer), whereas in the mountains it is as low as 1 to 1.5 per square mile (2 to 4 per square kilometer). New urban settlements have expanded from former villages. Urban administrative centers, especially Dushanbe, have grown along Western patterns, with roads for motorized vehicles, apartment blocks, parks, and industries. Old villages retain extended family homes that often are situated within orchards and vineyards. Walled compounds ensure household privacy.

Economy

Subsistence. Despite the small amount of land suitable for agriculture, most Tajiks support themselves by producing and processing agricultural products for sale or trade. The silk and cotton industry has not been reorganized to function in world markets since it had essentially been a subsidized domestic industry. The chemical and aluminum industries, relying heavily on the presence of now departing Russian or Slavic experts, also have been slow to adapt to the new economic environment. Suffering most from a lack of outside subsidies have been education, the arts, and cultural organizations, which were major employment sources. Substituting in part for some of the employment in those fields has been the large presence of nongovernmental organizations, whose need for educated office staff has attracted former university professors and other academics.

Commercial Activities. Under the Soviet system, Tajikistan was organized along Soviet Marxist economic lines. Cotton, a commercial product developed during the czarist period, has dominated Tajik agriculture; Tajikistan ranks second among former republics of the Soviet Union in cotton production. Other agricultural products, geared to the western, urban Soviet centers, include grapes and orchard fruits and nuts, vegetables, grain, and flowers. Greenhouse production, especially in the Surkhan Darya region, is flown to colder parts of the former Soviet Union. Stockbreeding, chiefly by Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, also contributes to the economy in mountainous regions. A black-market economy in produce, later expanded to manufactured goods smuggled from Afghanistan, also thrives. The privatization of industry has led to the idling of one in five factories, the sale of government tourist industry sites, and the breakdown of educational systems, especially higher education. Political stability has led to redevelopment of the economy along market lines, leading to a higher degree of production diversity in agriculture and the slow restoration of industry, especially the aluminum industrial complex.

Industrial Arts. Hydroelectric power and mining and processing are the main heavy industries. Large dams (Qairoqqum, Nurek, Sarband, Boighazi, Markazi, and Sharshara) supply power to Soviet Central Asia and Afghanistan. Industrial manufacturing is dominated by cotton-related machinery. Together with light industry in textiles, furniture, and food processing, the industrial sector employs most non-Tajiks, especially Russians.

Trade. Under the Soviet system, trade within the nation was conducted on a nonmonetary basis. Thus, Tajik cotton, hydroelectric power, and other products were traded by Moscow on the world market for hard currency or as barter items. In return Tajikistan received needed commodities and services. On a lower level, trade in fresh agricultural produce on private plots had flourished under the Soviet system and continues in urban areas where the Soviet government constructed new bazaars, which are still maintained, to facilitate private trade. The transition to an independent state, the concomitant civil war, an end to Russian aid, and the necessity for cash payments for energy and food have crippled trade. The reestablishment of regional trade depends on stability. Tajikistan exports to Russia, Ukraine, Belorus, and Switzerland. The inflation rate is 22 percent.

Division of Labor. Labor patterns changed under the Soviet system in two important ways: the importation of labor (Slavs, Koreans) and the mobilization of women into the formal labor force. This imposed system of labor resulted in nominal universal employment. Most women, however, do agricultural work. The fast-growing Tajik rural population shows signs of having outpaced the nation's capacity for agricultural employment. Entry into light or heavy industry appears to be prevented by lack of training and aptitude. Women, who are visible in high positions, continue to be the only ones who perform domestic labor.

Land Tenure. Under collectivization, little land remained private, although private homes were frequently retained. As collectivization has been dismantled, the problems of commercial crop production, the small amount of arable land for the large rural population, and the desire for private housing have created problems in the new economic order.

Kinship

Kin Groups and Descent. Extended families sharing adjacent houses or a single compound were the norm in traditional Tajik society. This pattern has been interrupted by the construction of apartment complexes in which units are distributed on the basis of a person's place of employment. Descent is determined through the father, although women retain their own family names.

Kinship Terminology. Relationships are distinguished by gender and, reflecting borrowings from the Uzbeks, age among siblings.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage patterns differ between urban and rural areas and changed in the second half of the twentieth century. In urban settings and among young people, Soviet influence on marriage may be seen in the exercise of choice of marriage partners and the importance of civil ceremonies. The couple may live with the groom's parents until a suitable apartment is found. In rural areas the older pattern of arranged marriages with religious and traditional celebrations continues to be practiced. The couple will live with the man's family until a house is constructed. Divorce is rare in both settings.

Domestic Unit. The size of the rural domestic unit is large: The average rural household has seven or eight children as well as a grandparent or other relatives. In urban areas the domestic unit is far smaller, averaging three to four children and possibly a paternal or maternal grandparent. According to Bennigsen and Wimbush (1986, p. 89), "traditional customs such as the kalym (bride-price), the early marriage of girls, the levirate and sororate, preferences of marriage between cousins, sexual segregation, aksakalism (local rule by 'white beards') and even polygamy are observed by Tajiks more generally than by any other Muslim nationality of Central Asia."

Inheritance. The residence, if privately owned, and its contents are often inherited by the oldest son or the one with whom the parent lived. Inherited property is not often sold.

Socialization. Tajiks rarely send children to institutions for care even if both parents work away from the home. Accommodation is made within the extended family for the care of young children. Children are raised to value family life, religious or ethical standards, their ethnic identity, and their regional ties. Young Tajiks intermarry with Uzbeks and other Muslims at a far higher rate than with Russians despite the extensive Westernization of urban elites.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Tajik society retains few objects of cohesion except those determined by general Central Asian customs and recent history. Cleavage between urban and rural groups also depends on a person's place of origin and descent. Bukharan immigrants socialize with each other, as do people of various valleys. Soviet institutions and the workplace have brought them together, as has a common language, but without strong economic and political institutions, the social fabric is fragile and susceptible to influence from Islamic, nationalistic, and other forces. The core of social organization remains the extended family and the region.

Political Organization. In the late Soviet era the pattern of political organization had begun to move toward the gradual entrenchment of Tajiks into positions of real power in the Communist Party. Independent parties, both nationalist and religious, have arisen since 1986, and increasingly their challenge to the government through demonstrations and eventually armed conflict has led to a redrawing of the political picture. The introduction of monitored elections and the formation of coalition governments resulting from efforts to restore peace may lead to the acceptance of real political parties.

Social Control. Modes of social behavior ingrained within the family function in society at large. They include loyalty to family members and fellow villagers. Other forms of social control exercised by the state have served to create tight alliances to preserve the welfare and safety of the group. Increasingly difficult socioeconomic conditions arising from population growth, political discord, economic upheaval, and ecological damage have strained public order. The period of civil war has changed the social composition of Dushanbe in particular.

Conflict. Social and political conflict is most apparent between local people and outsiders, in particular Russians. A secondary source is regional friction over access to resources and services. In addition, there is tension among Bukharan Jews, fundamentalist Muslim groups, and secular Muslims, arising from religious customs or convictions. Resolution of some levels of conflict has emerged with the steady emigration of Slavs and Bukharan Jews. The confrontation between zealous Muslims and secular Muslims led to armed conflict throughout much of the 1990s, a conflict that became confounded with regionalism, democratic versus leftover Soviet forces, and a scramble for economic gain after the privatization of public property and factories.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Most religious Tajiks belong to the Sunni sect and, within it, to the Hanafi juridical school. Small, isolated groups, especially among the Pamir peoples of Iranian but not Tajik language, are devotees of Isma'ili Shiism, and a smaller proportion adheres to the Ithna Ash'ari sect. With the exception of Bukharan Jews, Slavs, other Christian-associated groups, and urban-dwelling Koreans, the people of Tajikistan generally adhere to Islamic belief patterns. Belief in the supernatural, outside of formal Islam, falls into several categories: curative customs, fortune-telling, and ascription of bad fortune to the power of fate or of evil beings called jinn. Once the period of Soviet control ended, among the most successful efforts made in the field of religion was that of the Isma'ilis, who, thanks to the office of the Agha Khan, now are recipients of welfare and educational advances in the Gorno-Babakhshan region.

Religious Practitioners. The level to which religious practice had survived underground during the Soviet period became apparent within the first years of independence. Before that time strong evidence existed for the growth of Islamic practice among rural Tajiks, particularly the educated leadership on collective farms. In the absence of formal religious schools in Tajikistan, individual Tajiks have a surprising familiarity with formal Islamic theological and juridical doctrine, owing in part to unregistered mullahs, Sufi brotherhoods, and a special category of half-Sufihalf-shamans. About a dozen shrines to saints are major religious centers. Fasting during Ramadan, especially the fast-breaking feast of Eid-e Fitr, is popular and more public than it was in earlier years. Family ownership of a copy of the Quran is valued despite the lack of facilities for instruction in its contents. Informal teachers not recognized by the state or the Spiritual Directorate of Central Asia and Kazakhstan in Tashkent function throughout society on a semisecret level.

The politization of Islam under the Islamic Renaissance Party brought with it a higher level of Islamic practice and teaching and a return to pre-Soviet traditions. Despite the return of secular rule and the driving underground of the Islamic movement, there has been more open practice of Islam and widespread availability of religious teaching and materials.

Ceremonies. Rites of passage include the circumcision of male children, marriages, and funerals. Holidays include the Islamic Eid-e Qorban and Eid-e Fitr, as well as Nowruz, the traditional Iranian New Year celebrated at the vernal equinox.

Arts. Literature, especially poetry rooted in the classical culture that Tajiks share with other Iranian peoples, is foremost among the traditional Tajik arts. Architectural decoration (gach kari ), carpet weaving, metal decoration, embroidery, and calligraphy continue to be valued, although under Soviet rule all those arts had acquired some level of Soviet content to conform with political dictates. In music, dance, and theater, innovations have become widespread as Western arts have been introduced. After the formation of an independent republic, the possibilities of independent arts development were limited by war and conflict. Interest in the development of popular folk ensembles has reemerged.

Medicine. Tajik medicine falls into two categories: the Western-oriented practice represented by the Gastrointestinal and Chemistry Institutes of the Tajik Academy of Sciences established in 1955 and the traditions of folk medicine passed within families by word of mouth but also based on the written works of medieval scientists such as Ibn Sina. The two branches have drawn closer together as the herbal cures offered by folk medicine have become the object of study at scientific institutions and the medical properties of cumin and other folk remedies have been recognized.

Death and Afterlife. Formal ideas about death follow either the nonreligious pattern or the Islamic one. It is customary for funeral proceedings for Tajik communists to be conducted according to Muslim customs and for burial to take place in a Muslim cemetery. Among the traditional populace the afterlife is believed to be a time for reward and punishment for conduct in the present life.

For the original article on Uzbeks, see Volume 6, Russia and Eurasia/China.

Bibliography

Akiner, Shirin (2002). Tajikistan: Disintegration or Reconciliation. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution series: Central Asian and Caucasian Prospects.

Atkin, Muriel (1989). The Subtlest Battle: Islam in Soviet Tajikistan. Philadelphia: Foreign Policy Research Institute.

At the Foot of the Blue Mountains: Stories by Tajik Authors (1984). Moscow: Raduga Publishers.

Bennigsen, Alexandre, and S. Enders Wimbush (1986). Muslims of the Soviet Empire: A Guide. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Naby, Eden (1975). 'Transitional Central Asian Literature: Tajik and Uzbek Prose Fiction from 1909 to 1932." Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, New York.

Rakowska-Harmstone, Theresa (1970). Russia and Nationalism in Central Asia: The Case of Tadzhikistan. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

EDEN NABY

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Tajiks

Tajiks

ETHNONYMS: Tadjiks, Tadzhiks


Orientation

Identification. Tajiks are a Central Asian people who live in Afghanistan, in republics of the former Soviet Union, and in China. Within the former Soviet Union, they are concentrated in the Republic of Tajikistan, although important populations also live in Uzbekistan. Tojikistoni shuravi (Soviet Tadzhikistan), a sovereign republic, was formed in 1929. The distinguishing features of Tajiks are their language, sedentary life-style, and Islamic-Iranian culture. The widespread use of "Tajik" as an ethnopolitical term emerged with Soviet usage; prior to that, regional rather than linguistic affiliation held the key to self-identity. In Soviet usage, the term "Tajik" also includes speakers of non-Persian Iranian languages who inhabit mountain valleys in the Pamir mountain area such as Sarikolis, Wakhis, and Shugnis.

Location. Tajik-inhabited areas fall roughly between 65° and 75° W and 35° to 42° N. Tajikistan is the southeasternmost of the republics of the former Soviet Union and is bordered by Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to the west and north, the Xinjiang Uigur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China to the east, and Afghanistan to the south. The total area of Tajikistan is 143,100 square kilometers. The entire Tajik-inhabited region is very mountainous with narrow valleys; agriculture is nourished by mineral silt and irrigation waters from fast-flowing rivers fed by melting snows. The rivers form tributaries of the Panj, which flows into the Amu Darya (Oxus River). Northern Tajikistan includes parts of the Ferghana Valley, where the waters eventually meet to flow into the Syr Darya (Jaxartes River).

Geographically, the Tajik Republic is trifurcated by mountains that are impassable by road in winter. The northern portion is dominated by the town of Khojent, formerly Leninabad; the capital, Dushanbe, known from 1930 to 1931 as Stalinabad, is in the south. To the east, but still part of the Tajik Republic, is the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, a sparsely populated area inhabited mainly by small, valley ethnic groups including Kyrgyz. The major urban center of this area has become Khorog.

The climate falls within the temporal continental high-altitude range with about 320 days of sunlight. Precipitation occurs as rain and snow, mainly between November and April. Summers are hot and dry with mean daytime temperature in July ranging from 23 to 30° C.

Demography. The world Tajik population is more difficult to analyze than that within the republics of the former Soviet Union, although this too has been subject to manipulation, especially outside Tajikstan. The 1989 census placed the number of Tajiks within the Soviet Union at 4,217,000, 3,168,000 of these residing within their own republic and 932,000 in Uzbekistan; in other words, about 99 percent of the Tajiks reside in these two republics. Together with the estimated 4 million Dari speakers in Afghanistan, who may also be identified broadly as Tajik, and smaller numbers in the People's Republic of China, the world Tajik population may be estimated at about 9 million. Since the 1959 Soviet census, Tajiks have increased in number by 201.9 percent, making them the fastest-growing major ethnic group of the former Soviet Union. They constitute 62.25 percent of the population of Tajikistan and 4.7 percent of that of Uzbekistan (Uzbeks constitute 23.52 percent of that of Tajikistan). The number of Russians in Tajikistan is declining (7 percent in 1989).

Linguistic Affiliation. The standard Tajik dialect is mutually intelligible with the Persian of Iran and the Dari of Afghanistan and is increasingly being called either Farsi-Tojiki or Farsi (Persian), all of which form the major living branch of the Iranian Language Family. In addition to standard Tajik, nineteen dialects exist, which differ from each other morphologically and phonetically. Rural mountain valley people cannot be readily understood by urban Tajiks, who generally use the standard dialect. Tajik intellectuals are monolingual (Russian), bilingual (Tajik and Russian), or trilingual (Tajik, Russian, and Uzbek). The Tajiks, on the whole, are one of the least Russified Muslim communities of the former Soviet Union; in 1979, only 22,666 claimed Russian as their "first native language."


History and Cultural Relations

Tajik historical development is intertwined with that of the other sedentary people of Central Asia, especially the Uzbeks. Before the coming of the Turks to the area and their eventual sedentarization, Iranian groups dominated the urban oases. Islam eventually became universally accepted and Turkic conquerors adjusted their religious and literary culture to that of the local inhabitants whom they ruled. Local (Tajik) administrators continued to dominate in public life under Turkic tribally affiliated rulers. This hybrid Turko-Iranian culture dominated the important oases towns, especially Bukhara and Samarkand. BilingualismTajik and (Turkic) Chagatay or Uzbekwas widespread both on the literate and nonliterate level through the early twentieth century. Most Tajik areas fell under the Bukharan and Khokand khanates until the latter was destroyed by czarist forces in 1876 and incorporated into the Turkestan governor-generalship. Resistance to czarist, then Bolshevik rule gained strength in Tajik areas where Basmachi bands of Uzbeks and Tajiks were finally stamped out only in 1932. With the division of Soviet Central Asia along ethnolinguistic lines in 1924, a Tajik Autonomous SSR was set aside within the Uzbek SSR and this, by 1929, became a full-fledged Tajik SSR. Most of the educated and elite Tajiks lived in Bukhara and Samarkand and made the transition to Dushanbe and other Tajik territory with reluctance. Both the status and the size of the Tajik population in these two cities are sources of conflict; many Tajiks feel that these cities, together with Khiva, as traditional Tajik centers of culture, should be part of Tajikistan.

Disentangling a distinct Tajik culture from the Uzbek culture around itand from non-Soviet Persian culturebecame the focus of cultural activity during the Stalinist period. Separate Tajik institutions, organized on the All-Union model, labored to use valley dialects, history, and especially archaeology to create a Tajik history delinked from Islam and distinct from other Central Asian culture. Thawing of Soviet-Iranian relations led to ever-closer Iranian-Tajik cultural relations; the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (1979) saw increasing Tajik tutelage of Afghans in Kabul as well as in Dushanbe. Important in this international cultural linking have been Russians and Russianized Tajiks. The Uzbek-Tajik bilingual pattern has been replaced by a Tajik-Russian one. Tension is growing today between the Tajiks and Uzbeks, owing in part to attempts by the latter to increase their power in Tajikistan.

Settlements

Most of Tajikistan is rural; 85 percent of the population lives in valleys and mountain areas up to 1,600 meters in elevation. Most of these settlements are organized in the kolkhoz/sovkhoz pattern superimposed on former villages (deh kishlaq, which are sometimes equivalent to loosely extended families practicing endogamy). There are pockets of industrialization in rural areas where non-Tajiks as well as Tajiks work. In the north and south population density runs from 50 to 150 per square kilometer, whereas in the mountains it is as low as 5 to 10. New urban settlements have expanded from former villages. Urban administrative centers, especially Dushanbe, have grown along Western patterns, with roads for motorized vehicles, apartment blocks, parks, and industries. Old villages retain extended family homes, often placed within orchards and vineyards. Walled compounds ensure household privacy.


Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Under the Soviet system, Tajikistan became organized along Soviet Marxist economic lines. Cotton, a commercial product developed during the czarist period, has dominated Tajik agricultureTajikistan ranks second among former republics of the Soviet Union in cotton production. Other agricultural products, geared to the western, urban Soviet centers, include grapes and orchard fruits and nuts, vegetables, grain, and flowers. Greenhouse production, especially in the Surkhan Darya region, is flown to colder parts of the former USSR. Stock breeding, chiefly by Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, also contributes to the economy in mountainous regions. A black-market economy in produce, more recently expanded to manufactured goods smuggled from Afghanistan, also thrives.

Industrial Arts. Hydroelectric power and mining/processing form the main heavy industries in Tajikistan. Large dams (Qairoqqum, Nurek, Sarband, Boighazi, Markazi, and Sharshara) supply power to Soviet Central Asia and Afghanistan. Industrial manufacture is in cotton-related machinery. Together with light industry in textiles, furniture, and food processing, the industrial sector employs most non-Tajiks, especially Russians.

Trade. Under the Soviet system, trade within the union was conducted on a nonmonetary basis. Thus, Tajik cotton, hydroelectric power, and other products were traded by Moscow on the world market for hard currency or as barter items. In turn, Tajikistan received needed commodities and services. On a lower level, trade in fresh agricultural produce on private plots has flourished in urban areas where the government has constructed new bazaars to facilitate private trade.

Division of Labor. Labor patterns have undergone transformation under the Soviet system in two important ways: the importation of labor (Slavs, Koreans) and the mobilization of women into the formal labor force. This imposed system of labor has resulted in nominal universal employment. Most women, however, do agricultural work. The fast-growing Tajik rural population shows signs of having outpaced agricultural employment capacity. Entry into light or heavy industry appears barred by lack of training and aptitude. Women, regularly visible in high positions, continue to be the only ones who perform domestic labor.

Land Tenure. Under collectivization, little land remained private, although private homes were frequently retained. As collectivization is dismantled, the problems of commercial crop production, the small amount of arable land for the large rural population, and the desire for private housing all create problems in a new economic order.


Kinship

Kinship Groups and Descent. Extended families sharing adjacent houses or a single compound were the norm in traditional Tajik society. This pattern has been interrupted by the construction of apartment complexes in which units are distributed based on place of employment. Descent is determined through the father, although women retain their own family names.

Kinship Terminology. Relationships are distinguished by gender and also (reflecting borrowings from Uzbek) by age among siblings.


Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage patterns differ between urban and rural areas and over the past sixty years. In urban settings and among young people, Soviet influence on marriage may be seen in the exercise of choice in marriage partners and the importance of civil ceremonies. The couple may live with the groom's parents until a suitable apartment is located. In rural areas, the older pattern of arranged marriages with religious/traditional marriage celebrations continues to be honored. The couple will live with the man's family until a house is constructed. Divorce is rare in both settings.

Domestic Unit. The size of the rural domestic unit is large: the average rural household numbers seven to eight children as well as a grandparent or other relations. In urban areas the domestic unit is far smaller, averaging three to four children and possibly a paternal or maternal parent. According to Bennigsen and Wimbush (1986, 89) "traditional customs such as the kalym [bride-price], the early marriage of girls, the levirate and sororate, preferences of marriage between cousins, sexual segregation, aksakalism [local rule by 'white beards'] and even polygamy are observed by Tajiks more generally than by any other Muslim nationality of Central Asia."

Inheritance. The residence, if privately owned, and its contents are often inherited by the oldest son (or the one with whom the parent lived). Inherited property is infrequently sold.

Socialization. Tajiks rarely send children to institutions for care, even if both parents work away from the home. Accommodation is made within the extended family for the care of young children. Children are raised to value family life, religious or ethical standards, their ethnic identity, and within this, their regional ties. Young Tajiks intermarry with Uzbeks and other cultural Muslims at a far higher rate than with Russians, despite the extensive Russification of urban elites.


Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Tajik society retains few objects of cohesion except as determined by general Central Asian customs and recent history. Cleavage among urban and rural groups rests also on place of origin and descent. Bukharan immigrants socialize with each other, as do people of various valleys. Soviet institutions and the workplace have brought them together, as has a common language, but without the economic and political institutions, the social fabric is fragile and susceptible to influence from emergent Islamic, nationalistic, and other forces. The core of social organization remains the extended family and region.

Political Organization. In the late Soviet era the pattern of political organization had begun to move toward gradual entrenchment of Tajiks into positions of real power within the Communist party. Independent parties, both nationalist and religious, have arisen since 1986 and are increasingly challenging control of former Communists.

Social Control. Modes of social behavior ingrained within the family function within society at large. These include loyalty to family members and fellow villagers. Other forms of social control exercised by the state have served to create tight groupings to preserve the welfare and safety of the group. Increasingly difficult socioeconomic conditions arising from population growth and ecological damage have begun to strain public order.

Conflict. Social and political conflict is most apparent between local people and outsiders, in particular Russians. A secondary source is the regional friction over access to resources and services. Added to these among Bukharan Jews, fundamentalist Muslim groups, and secular Muslims are strains arising from religious custom or conviction. Resolution of some levels of conflict has emerged with the steady emigration of Slavs and Bukharan Jews. The confrontation between zealous Muslims and secular Muslims remains to be resolved.


Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Most religiously minded Tajiks belong to the Sunni sect, and within this to the Hanafi juridical school. Small, isolated groups, especially among the Pamir peoples of Iranian but not Tajik language, are devotees of Isma'ili Shiism, and yet a smaller portion follow the Ithna Ash'ari sect. As such, with the exception of Bukharan Jews, Slavs, other Christian-associated groups, and the urban-dwelling Koreans, the people of Tajikistan generally follow Islamic belief patterns. Belief in the supernatural, outside of formal Islam, falls into several categories: curative customs, fortune-telling, and ascription of bad fortune to the power of fate or of evil beings called jinn.

Religious Practitioners. Strong evidence exists of the growth of Islamic practice among rural Tajiks, particularly the educated leadership on collective farms. In the absence of formal religious schools within Tajikistan (such as are found in Uzbekistan), individual Tajiks demonstrate a surprising familiarity with formal Islamic theological and juridical doctrine, owing in part to unregistered mullahs, Sufi brotherhoods, and a special category of half-Sufi-half-shaman; about a dozen shrines to saints are major religious centers (Bennigsen and Wimbush 1986, 91). Fasting during Ramadan, and especially the fast-breaking feast of Eid-e Fitr are popular and more public than in earlier years. Family ownership of a copy of the Quran is valued despite the lack of facilities for instruction in its contents. Informal teachers not recognized by the state or the Spiritual Directorate of Central Asia and Kazakhstan in Tashkent function throughout society on a semisecret level.

Ceremonies. Rites of passage include circumcision of male children, marriage, and funerals. Holidays include the Islamic Eid-e Qorban and Eid-e Fitr, as well as Nowruz, the traditional Iranian new year celebrated at the vernal equinox.


Arts. Literature, especially poetry rooted in the brilliant classical culture that Tajiks share with other Iranian peoples, is foremost among traditional Tajik arts. Architectural decoration (gach kari ), carpet weaving, metal decoration, embroidery, and calligraphy have continued to be valued, although all these arts have acquired some level of Soviet content to conform with political dictates. In the fields of music, dance, and theater, innovations are widespread as Western arts have been introduced and local arts have been adapted.


Medicine. Tajik medicine, like other medicine in Central Asia, falls into two branches: the Western-oriented branch represented by the Gastrointestinal and Chemistry Institutes of the Tajik Academy of Sciences established in 1955, and the traditions of folk medicine passed within particular families by word of mouth but based also on written works of medieval scientists such as Ibn Sina. The two branches have drawn closer together as the herbal cures offered by folk medicine have become the object of study of the scientific institutions and the medical properties of cumin and the like have been recognized.

Death and Afterlife. Formal ideas of death follow either the nonreligious pattern or the Islamic one. It is customary for funeral proceedings for Tajik Communists to be conducted according to Muslim custom and for the burial to take place in a Muslim cemetery. Among the traditional populace, the afterlife is firmly held to be a time for reward and punishment for conduct in the present life.

See also Bukharan Jews; Kyrgyz; Pamir Peoples; Uzbeks; and see Tajik in Part Two, China


Bibliography

A tkin, Muriel (1989). The Subtlest Battle: Islam in Soviet Tajikistan. Philadelphia: Foreign Policy Research Institute.

At the Foot of the Blue Mountains: Stories by Tajik Authors (1984). Moscow: Raduga Publishers.


Bennigsen, Alexandre, and S. Enders Wimbush (1986). Muslims of the Soviet Empire: A Guide, 89, 91. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.


Naby, Eden (1975). "Transitional Central Asian Literature: Tajik and Uzbek Prose Fiction from 1909 to 1932." Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University.


Rakowska-Harmstone, Theresa (1970). Russia and Nationalism in Central Asia: The Case of Tadzhikistan. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

EDEN NABY

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Tajiks

Tajiks

PRONUNCIATION: tah-JEEKS

LOCATION: Tajikistan

POPULATION: More than 5 million

LANGUAGES: Tajiki; Russian; Uzbeki

RELIGIONS: Islam; Judaism; Christianity

1 INTRODUCTION

The Tajiks are an Indo-European people who settled the upper reaches of the Amu River (territory of present-day Uzbekistan). During the latter part of the nineteenth century, the Tajiks were divided. Most of the population occupied what would become the republic of Tajikistan in the former Soviet Union. The rest became a large minority in Afghanistan.

During the 199293 civil war in Tajikistan, thousands lost their lives. More than 10 percent of the population (100,000) fled to Afghanistan. More than 35,000 homes were destroyed, either in battle or as a result of ethnic-cleansing actions. Today, the country is still at war, although it has calmed down considerably.

2 LOCATION

Tajikistan is slightly smaller than Illinois. Geographically, it can be divided into two regions, north and south. The Zarafshan mountains and their lush valleys and flat plains form the northern kulturbund (boundary of their traditional homeland). Here, Tajik and Uzbek cultures have become fused. The Hissar, Gharategin, and Badakhshan mountains form the southern boundary of their ancestral homeland.

In 1924, the Soviet Union redrew the maps of its Central Asian republics. In doing so, the centers of the old Tajik culture (Samarqand and Bukhara), were given to Uzbekistan. Restoration of these cities to Tajikistan is one of the goals of the Tajiks.

During the 1980s, the population of Tajikistan grew from 3.8 million to more than 5 million. In addition, many Tajiks live in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, and China.

3 LANGUAGE

Tajiki is an Indo-European language. It is closely related to Farsi, the language of Iran. In 1989 Tajiki became the sole official language of the country, replacing Russian and Uzbeki. The act boosted Tajik pride, but it failed otherwise. It scared away many foreigners, including Russians, who had helped the country's economy grow. Since 1995, Russian has regained its previous status alongside Tajiki. Uzbeki, too, is allowed to flourish in regions predominantly inhabited by Uzbeks.

4 FOLKLORE

Tajikistan, Iran, and Afghanistan enjoy a unique cultural heritage. The major contribution to this shared heritage is the magnificent Shah-nameh (Book of Kings), written by the eleventh-century Persian poet Firdawsi. This book is an account of the prehistory of the region. It tells the story of the cosmic battle between Good and Evil, the development of the "divine right of kings," and the history of the Iranian monarchs.

Lesser myths include the story of Nur, a young man who, to attain his beloved, tamed the mighty Vakhsh River by building a dam on it. There is also the story of a sacred sheep that was lowered from heaven to help the Tajiks survive.

5 RELIGION

In ancient times, present-day Tajikistan was a part of the empire of the Achaemenian Persians. The religion of that empire was Zoroastrianism. After the Arab conquest in the eighth century, Islam was introduced. It remained unchallenged until the rise of atheism in the early years of the twentieth century. Today atheists, Muslims, Jews, and Christians live together.

6 MAJOR HOLIDAYS

Tajiks observe three different types of holidays: Iranian, Muslim, and civil. The most important Iranian holiday is the Nawruz (New Year). It begins on March 21 and continues for several days. This holiday dates back to Iranian mythic times. It celebrates the victory of the forces of Good (warmth) over those of Evil (cold). It also marks the beginning of the planting season and commemorates the memory of departed ancestors.

The Islamic holidays are Maulud al-Nabi (the birth of the Prophet Muhammad), Eid al-Adha (celebrating the ancient account of Abraham offering his son for sacrifice), and Eid al-Fitr (celebration of the end of the Ramadan fast). These celebrations had to be observed in secret during the Soviet era. They are now held in the open. Their dates are not fixed due to the rotating nature of the lunar calendar.

Civil holidays with origins in the Soviet era include New Year's Day (January 1), International Women's Day (March 8), Labor Day (May 1), and Victory Day (May 9). Tajik Independence Day is celebrated on September 9.

7 RITES OF PASSAGE

There are both traditional and Soviet rites of passage. After marriage, Tajik women traditionally pluck their eyebrows and wear special ornate hats and distinctive clothing. Married men and women both wear their wedding rings on the third finger of the right hand. A ring on the middle finger indicates separation or the death of a spouse.

8 RELATIONSHIPS

The Tajiks recognize three privileged groups: children, the elderly, and guests. Children, like adults, participate in most gatherings and contribute to the life of the party. The elderly, often referred to as muy sapid, are highly valued. They are consulted and obeyed in important affairs. Guests fall into various categories depending on the nature of relationships.

Family visits and visits by colleagues and friends require the preparation of a dasturkhan, a tablecloth spread over the floor or on a low table. On the dasturkhan are placed bread, nuts, fruits, various types of preserves and homemade sweetmeats. The guest of honor is seated at the head of the dasturkhan, farthest from the door.

The Tajiks have many interesting customs and superstitions. For instance, certain items such as keys, needles, and scissors should not be passed from hand to hand. Rather, they are placed on a table for the other person to pick up. It is believed that standing in a doorway will make a person go into debt. Spilling salt in the house will cause a person to get into a fight. A person who whistles in the house is likely to lose something valuable. A person who twirls a key chain on his or her finger becomes a vagabond. If someone sneezes during a departure, he or she should wait a while before leaving. If one returns home for a forgotten item, one should look in a mirror before leaving the house again.

9 LIVING CONDITIONS

Living conditions in Tajikistan, especially in Dushanbe, are difficult. Housing in Dushanbe, the largest urban area, consists of many high-rise Soviet-era apartment complexes. In these complexes, which are usually surrounded by large courtyards and common spaces, elevators rarely work and water pressure is weak on the higher floors. There has been no hot water in Dushanbe since 1993 (except for ten days before the presidential elections). Cold water is usually available, but electricity is sporadically shut off. Cooking gas is provided for only four hours in the afternoon.

Telephone service is also deficient. International calls must be made through a centralized office, which requires a two-day notice and advance payment. Express mail reaches Dushanbe in twenty to thirty days. Regular airmail takes three to four months.

10 FAMILY LIFE

The Tajiks are family oriented. Families are large but do not necessarily live in the same part of town or even in the same city. In fact, the more widely the family is spread, the more opportunities it has for amassing resources. This allows outsiders to become a part of a family and thus expand it into a clan. There are at least four or five major clans in Tajikistan.

Women's roles vary widely. Soviet-influenced Tajik women participate in all aspects of society and a few are even members of parliament. Muslim wives, on the other hand, stay at home and take care of the children.

Most marriages are arranged. After negotiations, the father of the groom pays most of the expenses for the tuy (celebration). Women can initiate divorce procedures and receive half of the family's assets.

11 CLOTHING

Men and women, especially in urban centers, wear European clothes. Farmers and herders wear a special heavy boot over their usual shoes. Older Tajik men wear long Islamic cloaks and turbans. They also wear beards.

Students, especially during the Soviet era, wore uniforms with kerchiefs and other distinctive decorations. In recent times, traditional clothing is preferred.

12 FOOD

The generic word for food is avqat. As is the custom elsewhere in the world, various courses are served. Pish avqat (appetizer) includes sanbuse (meat, squash, or potatoes with onions and spices wrapped in bread and either deep-fried or baked), yakhni (cold meats), and salad.

Recipe

Ash (Stew)

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • about ½ cup oil
  • 1 pound of beef stew meat, cut into medium pieces
  • 1 pound of carrots, julienned (cut into small, matchstick-sized pieces)
  • 4¼ cups rice, soaked for 40 minutes before adding pinch of cumin seeds

Procedure

  1. Heat oil in a large kettle. Add meat and cook until brown.
  2. Add onion, lower heat, continue cooking until meat is done (about 15 to 20 minutes).
  3. Add enough water to cover the meat. Heat the water to boiling, reduce heat, and simmer (uncovered) until water is gone.
  4. Add carrots and cook for 2 or 3 minutes.
  5. Drain presoaked rice. Put one cup of water, cumin seeds, and pepper into a kettle. Add the rice. Add lukewarm water to cover the rice by about ½ inch.
  6. Add a pinch of salt to taste. Gradually heat the water, and simmer until all water is evaporated.
  7. Turn the rice over so that cooked rice comes to the top. Poke 5 or 6 holes into the rice with a chopstick or wooden spoon handle.
  8. Cover, lower the heat, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve the rice with the carrots and meat.

The avqat is either suyuq (broth based) or quyuq (dry). Examples of the first include shurba nakhud (pea soup), kham shurba (vegetable soup), and qurma shurba (meat and vegetables sautéed in oil and then simmered in water). The main national dish is ash, a mixture of rice, meat, carrots, and onions fried and steamed in a deep pot, preferably over an open fire. Pilmeni (meat and onions in pasta and cooked in water or meat stock) and mantu (meat and onions in steamed pasta) are examples of dry avqat. Following is a recipe for ash (stew).

13 EDUCATION

The Soviet education system had both positive and negative effects on the Tajiks. On the positive side, it essentially eliminated illiteracy by 1960 and acquainted the Tajiks with Russian literature. On the negative side, it alienated most Tajiks from their own culture and language.

Today, the English language and American culture are finding their way into Tajikistan. English is stressed in schools because many people, including those who intend to emigrate, want to learn English for its role in international business.

14 CULTURAL HERITAGE

Tajik music varies by region. In the north, especially in Samarqand and Bukhara, the shashmaqam is recognized as the chief musical system normally played on a tanbur. In the south, falak and qurughli music predominate. The national hafiz (singer) is respected by all.

Various regions have reacted to Western culture differently. The Badakhshanis, for instance, have adopted Western musical innovations. The Gharmis have not.

A recurring theme in Tajik literature is the harsh measures of a bai (rich man) who "helps" an orphaned boy meet the expenses for his father's funeral. The young man ends up working for the bai for the rest of his life to pay the debt.

15 EMPLOYMENT

The makeup and circumstances of the work force in Tajikistan have changed drastically in recent years. Many youth who would traditionally have worked on cotton plantations have migrated to the cities and have become involved in trade. They import goods from Pakistan, Japan, and China and sell them in makeshift shops or in stalls alongside the street.

A large number of Tajiks work in industry. Primary industries include mining, machine-tool factories, canneries, and hydroelectric stations. In general, about 50 percent of the population is under twenty. Over one half of those are not in the labor force. There is a growing population that is neither employed nor in school.

16 SPORTS

The national sport of the Tajiks, gushtigiri (wrestling), has a colorful tradition. When the towns were divided into mahallas (districts), each district had its own alufta (tough) who was the best wrestler. The position of the alufta, usually an upright and respected individual, was often challenged by those of lower rank.

Buzkashi (which means, literally, "dragging the goat") is a sport involving strenuous bodily exertion. In this game, the carcass of a goat is dragged by horsemen who grab it from each other. The aim of the riders is to deposit the carcass in a designated circle in front of the guest of honor. Buzkashi is usually performed as part of the Nawruz (New Year's) celebrations.

In recent years, many European sports have also found their way into Tajikistan. Soccer is so popular that many believe it rivals buzkashi.

17 RECREATION

During the Soviet period, special attention was paid to the arts. The result was culturally stimulating. The Tajik cinema, for instance, produced a number of worthy films based on Firdawsi's Shah-nameh. There were also stunning productions on the lives of other poets, including Rudaki (c. 859940). With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the arts lost their primary means of support. Producers, directors, actors, and writers either joined the ranks of the jobless or became involved in business. Many left Tajikistan.

Today, television occupies some of the Tajiks' time. Programs are telecast both from Moscow and locally. Maria (a Mexican rags-to-riches soap opera), and the American program Santa Barbara are favorites. Local broadcasting is very limited in scope, dealing mostly with regional matters, especially agriculture. Videos allow Tajik youth wider choice of programs.

18 CRAFTS AND HOBBIES

Traditional Tajik crafts include the embroidered Bukhara wallhangings and bedcovers popularized in the nineteenth century. The Tajik style of tapestries typically has floral designs on silk or cotton and is made on a tambour frame. Woodcarving is also an honored Tajik craft.

19 SOCIAL PROBLEMS

The social problems of Tajikistan are too numerous to list. Perhaps the most important social problem has to do with authority and control. Since the tenth century, the Tajiks have been ruled by the others, mostly Turks and Russians. Taxes imposed by Russia have driven the Tajiks to revolt a number of times. One such revolt, the Vaase uprising of the 1870s, was put down mercilessly.

The 1992 Tajik attempt at independence was also severely repressed. The civil war that resulted nearly destroyed the country. There is a 25 percent unemployment rate, a high rate of population growth, and a lack of skilled workers. Ethnic tension and regionalism often bring the country to the verge of disintegration.

20 BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ahmed, Rashid. The Resurgence of Central Asia: Islam or Nationalism. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Bashiri, Iraj. Firdowsi's Shahname: 1000 Years After. Dushanbe, Tajikistan, 1994.

Bennigsen, Alexandre, and S. Enders Wimbush. The Muslims of the Soviet Empire. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.

Soviet Tajik Encyclopedia (Vols. 1-8). Dushanbe, Tajik S.S.R., 1978-88.

Wixman, Ronald. The Peoples of the USSR: An Ethnographic Handbook. Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, Inc., 1984.

WEBSITES

World Travel Guide. Tajikistan. [Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/tj/gen.html, 1998.

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Tajik

Tajik

ETHNONYMS: Tadjik, Tadzik


China's 33,538 (1990) Tajik represent less than 1 percent of all Tajik people. The majority live in Tajikistan. In China, most live in the Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County, which is located in the eastern Pamir Mountains in the Xinjiang Uigur Autonomous Region, where they make up the majority of the population. The rest are scattered over several counties in southern Xinjiang. The Tajik language belongs to the eastern division of the Iranian Branch of the Indo-European Family; most Tajik also speak Sarikol, and a few speak Wakhan. The Uigur script is used to write Tajik. Many younger Tajik speak and write Han as well.

Tajik live in compact villages located at high elevations. The houses are made of wood, sod, and stone and have very thick walls and flat roofs. The flat roofs ensure that the houses will be covered by snow in the winter, and so reduce the amount of fuel needed to heat them. The inside perimeter of the house is lined with kangs (raised heated adobe platforms), which are used for sitting and sleeping. Most families have also a separate animal shed and a cooking building; some larger households also have a guest house and cart shed. All of a family's buildings are surrounded by a stone wall.

The Tajik follow the seasons in their economic activities. They plant highland barley, wheat, and a few other crops in the spring, and in the early summer move their herds of sheep, horses, yaks, and camels to highland pastures. They remain there, living in felt tents or mud huts, until it is time to return in the fall to harvest their crops.

The Tajik live in three-generation households, with the oldest male serving as head of the household. With the exception of a small percentage of marriages to Uigur and Kirgiz people, who are culturally very closely related to the Tajik, Tajik people do not marry non-Tajik people. Parents arrange their children's marriages, which not infrequently took place as early as 7 years of age prior to 1949. There is a bride-price, which includes gold, silver, animals, and clothing. Women have no rights to inherit.

The Tajik converted to Islam in the tenth century. Originally Sunni Muslims, the Tajik in the eighteenth century converted to the Ismail branch of the Shiite sect. As members of the Ismail branch, the Tajik have no mosques, but instead meet weekly for prayer. Pre-Islamic religion exists synchretically; the Tajik maintain animistic beliefs, using amulets to fight the evil spirits that they believe inhabit various natural objects. The amulets are bits of paper with writing by a pir (Islamic priest) on them, and are carried in a box or cloth and worn as a necklace. Tajik funerary customs generally follow Islamic practice.

See also Tajiks in Part One, Russia and Eurasia


Bibliography

Ma Yin, ed. (1989). Chinas Minority Nationalities, 178-184. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.

National Minorities Questions Editorial Panel (1985). Questions and Answers about China's Minority Nationalities. Beijing: New World Press.


Schwarz, Henry G. (1984). The Minorities of Northern China: A Survey. Bellingham: Western Washington University Press.

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Tajiks

TAJIKS

People of Central Asia; the original Iranian population of Afghanistan and historic Turkistan.

The Tajiks are Muslim people of Central Asia living in the countries of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Their population is thought to be about 10 million, with more living outside of Tajikistan than within. About 3.5 million live in Afghanistan. Although their history is not well known, Tajiks are thought to be the original inhabitants of Central Asia, perhaps the direct descendants of the ancient Aryans. Their language, Tajiki, is a dialect of Persian.

Tajiks in Afghanistan live primarily in the northern and western provinces, where they are mainly settled farmers and landowners. Most Tajiks in Afghanistan, like most Afghans, identify with their local village or valley and are not always aware of their ethnic name. In fact, Tajik is sometimes used to describe any Persian speaker in Central Asia, whether or not the people themselves so identify.

In Afghanistan the Tajiks played an important role in the civil war of the 1980s and 1990s, especially those in the Panjsher Valley. The famous Afghan resistance leader Ahmad Shah Masoud was a Panjsher Tajik.

Although historically the Tajiks have not played an important role in the governance of Afghanistan, their position changed after 11 September 2001. The Northern Alliance, which had strong Tajik leadership, took control of Afghanistan in November 2001. Tajiks occupied a number of key Afghan ministries in the government of Hamid Karzai, including foreign affairs and defense. They have continued to play a dominant role in the Karzai government.

see also afghanistan; karzai, hamid.


Bibliography


Ewans, Martin. Afghanistan: A New History. London: Curzon Press, 2001.

grant farr

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Tajik

Tajik Native speaker of Tajiki, an Iranian language spoken in Tajikistan and (with some Turkic elements) in Afghanistan, s Russia and much of central Asia. Tajiks constitute a minority of 30% within Tajikistan.

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Tajik

Tajikbathypelagic, magic, tragic •neuralgic, nostalgic •lethargic, Tajik •Belgic •paraplegic, quadriplegic, strategic •dialogic, ethnologic, hydrologic, isagogic, logic, monologic, mythologic, pathologic, pedagogic, teleologic •georgic • muzhik •allergic, dramaturgic •anarchic, heptarchic, hierarchic, monarchic, oligarchic •psychic • sidekick • dropkick •synecdochic • Turkic •Alec, cephalic, encephalic, Gallic, intervallic, italic, medallic, mesocephalic, metallic, phallic, Salic, tantalic, Uralic, Vandalic •catlick • garlic •angelic, archangelic, evangelic, melic, melick, philatelic, psychedelic, relic •Ehrlich • Gaelic •acrylic, bibliophilic, Cyrillic, dactylic, exilic, idyllic, imbecilic, necrophilic •niblick • skinflick •acyclic, cyclic, polycyclic •alcoholic, anabolic, apostolic, bucolic, carbolic, chocoholic, colic, diabolic, embolic, frolic, hydraulic, hyperbolic, melancholic, metabolic, parabolic, rollick, shambolic, shopaholic, symbolic, vitriolic, workaholic •saltlick • cowlick • souslik • gemütlich •public • Catholic

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Tajiks

Tajiks

PRONUNCIATION: tah-JEEKS
LOCATION: Tajikistan
POPULATION: More than 7 million
LANGUAGES: Tajiki; Russian; Uzbeki
RELIGIONS: Islam (Sunni and Shia); Orthodox Christianity; Judaism; Nonreligious

INTRODUCTION

The Tajiks are an Indo-European people who, after the breakup of the Indo-Iranian tribal confederation, occupied the upper reaches of the Amu River (territory of present-day Uzbekistan). In the 9th century ad, through the efforts of the Samanids (an Iranian family promoted by the Abbasid caliphs against Turkish invaders), they came to prominence and formed the Tajik nation. After the fall of the Samanids (999 ad), they became clients of the Turks and the Mongols.

During the latter part of the 19th century, the Tajiks were divided. Most of the population occupied what would become the republic of Tajikistan in the former Soviet Union and the rest became an integral part of Afghanistan. The Tajiks' desire to maintain their ethnic unity has made them vulnerable to manipulation by their neighbors, especially Russia and Uzbekistan. On 5 December 1929, Tajikistan became an independent republic in the USSR.

After gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, clashes among clans and between Muslims and communists resulted in five years of civil war (1992–97) as a result of which thousands lost their lives, and more than 100,000 fled to Afghanistan. More than 35,000 homes were destroyed, either in battle or as a result of ethnic-cleansing actions. At present, the insecurity of the war has all but disappeared. The political situation, however, remains tense.

In November 1994, Tajikistan held its first presidential election. Imomali Rahmon (formerly Rahmonov), a former communist and the Head of Tajikistan's Supreme Soviet since 1992, was elected president. Elections of the Tajik Parliament (Majlisi Oli) have been held regularly and charges of ballot fraud and other irregularities have been leveled against the government (1999, 2000, 2005).

LOCATION AND HOMELAND

Tajikistan covers 55,250 sq mi (143,100 sq km), an area slightly smaller than Illinois. Geographically, Tajikistan can be divided into two regions, north and south. The Zarafshan Mountains with their lush valleys and flat plains form the northern kulturbund, where Tajik and Uzbek cultures have become fused. The Hissar, Gharategin, and Badakhshan mountains form the southern kulturbund. Here, Tajiks live as members of major clan organizations. During the 1924 administrative divisions of Central Asia, the centers of the old Tajik culture (i.e., Samarqand and Bukhara) were given to Uzbekistan. Restoration of these cities to Tajikistan remains a goal.

Khorog, the capital of Gorno-Badakhshan and the up-and-coming cultural center of the south, is active in the development of Tajik culture, Badakhshani style. Aided by the Agha Khan, it has the potential to become a trendsetter for the region. The diverse peoples of Badakhshan— —Ishkashims, Roshans, Shughnans, Wakhis, and others—add color and zest to the linguistic and cultural developments of the region.

The major geographic feature in the south is the Panj River, which separates southern Tajikistan from northern Afghanistan. The river collects the waters of the Badakhshan and Gharategin highlands, irrigates a network of cotton plantations in Kulab and Qurqanteppe, and feeds the Aral Sea. At present, increasing use of the water upstream is creating chronic water shortages in Tajikistan.

Since the 1980s, the population of Tajikistan has grown from 3.8 million to more than 7 million. In addition, considerable numbers of Tajiks live in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, and China. With a birth rate of 4.1 (per woman) and a death rate of 8.4 (per 1,000 people), the population of Tajikistan is expected to rise dramatically. This will no doubt put a great deal of strain on the Tajik economy, especially when prices are geared to world markets and salaries to Tajik scales.

LANGUAGE

Tajiki is an Indo-European language, a close kin of Farsi and Pashto. The subtle semantic and structural differences often form the substance of interesting conversations; in fact, an ability to compare languages and explain oddities determines a person's grasp of the culture.

In 1989 Tajiki became the sole official language of the country, displacing Russian and Uzbeki. The act boosted Tajik morale, but failed otherwise. Viewing the future job market in Tajikistan, Russians, Ukrainians, and other Soviet contributors to Tajik prosperity left the country. Since 1995, Russian, which had retained its status as the language of international communication, has regained its previous status. Uzbeki, too, is allowed to flourish in regions predominantly inhabited by Uzbeks.

The current Tajik alphabet (in use since the 1940s) is a modified version of the Russian Cyrillic alphabet. Since the adoption of Tajiki as the national language, instruction in the Arabic-based Persian alphabet has been encouraged in schools. Materials for teaching the "language of the ancestors" are provided by the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is unlikely that the Tajiks will distance themselves from either the Russian language or the Cyrillic alphabet in the foreseeable future. The economic and security needs of the state require that Russian language and culture remain as a positive force in Tajik society. There is, however, an increasing use of the Latin alphabet for using email and Internet systems.

FOLKLORE

Tajikistan, Iran, and Afghanistan enjoy a unique cultural heritage. Over the centuries, however, each has modified or developed new aspects of this culture. The major contribution to this shared heritage is the magnificent Shahname (Book of Kings) of Firdowsi—an account of the prehistory of the region, including the cosmic battle between Good and Evil, development of the "divine right of kings," and the dynastic reign of pre-Islamic Iranian monarchs. The exploits of Rustam, for instance, inspired a number of films produced by the Tajik Film Studios during the 1960s and 1970s.

Lesser myths, mostly based on Turkish prototypes, include the story of Nur, a young man who, to attain his beloved, tamed the mighty Vakhsh River by building a dam on it, and the story of a sacred sheep that was lowered from heaven to help the Tajiks survive.

RELIGION

In ancient times, present-day Tajikistan was a part of the empire of the Achaemenian Persians. The religion of that empire was Zoroastrianism. After the Arab conquest in the 8th century, Islam was introduced and remained unchallenged until the rise of atheism in the early years of the 20th century. Today atheists, Muslims, Jews, and Christians live together. The majority of the Muslims are Sunni (80%) of the Hanafisect. The Shia (5%), primarily Isma'ili, live in Gorno-Badakhshan. There are also some Nonreligious groups (10%), and others (5%).

The Tajiks' religious beliefs dictate their choice of clothing. The more orthodox Muslims wear the hijab. Less orthodox Muslims wear modest, traditional Tajik attire. Those who work in offices wear typical Western clothing.

Sufism grew in strength during the Soviet era and, by creating a conduit between the Muslims of Afghanistan and Tajiki-stan, promoted Islamic teachings at the expense of the Society of the Godless. In 1992, the two ideologies clashed but the Communists, due to their access to the media and a competent propaganda machine, won.

MAJOR HOLIDAYS

Tajiks observe three different types of holidays: Iranian holidays that date back to the Zoroastrian times; Muslim holidays that, to a large degree, are the same as those elsewhere in the Muslim world; and Soviet holidays. The most important Iranian holiday is the Navruz (New Year). It begins on March 21 and continues for several days. This holiday, celebrated by Iranians, Afghans, and most Turkic peoples of the region, dates back to Iranian mythic times. It celebrates the victory of the forces of Good (warmth) over those of Evil (cold), marks the beginning of the annual sowing season, and commemorates the memory of departed ancestors.

The major Islamic holidays are Maulud al-Nabi (the birth of the Prophet Muhammad), Id al-Adha (celebrating the ancient account of Abraham offering his son for sacrifice), and Id al-Fitr (celebration of the end of the Ramadhan fast). These celebrations, observed in secret during the Soviet era, are now held in the open. Their dates are not fixed due to the rotating nature of the lunar calendar.

Holidays with origins in the Soviet era include the New Year's Day (January 1), International Women's Day (March 8), Labor Day (May 1), and Victory Day (May 9). This latter commemorates both the end of World War II and the victory over the 1991-attempted coup. Tajik Independence Day is celebrated on September 9.

RITES OF PASSAGE

There are both traditional and Soviet rites of passage. Boys are circumcised at the age of five. After marriage, Tajik women traditionally pluck their eyebrows and wear special ornate hats and distinctive clothing. Many connect the eyebrows together (qosh). Married Soviets, both men and women, wear their wedding rings on the third finger of the right hand. A ring on the middle finger indicates separation, or the death of a spouse.

INTERPERSONAL RELATIONS

The Tajiks recognize three privileged groups: children, the elderly, and guests. Children, like adults, participate in most gatherings and, within limits, contribute to the life of the party. The elderly, often referred to as muysapid (white hair) or aksakal (white beard), are highly esteemed, consulted in important affairs, and obeyed. Guests fall into various categories depending on the nature of the relationship.

Family visits and visits by colleagues and acquaintances require the preparation of a dasturkhon, a tablecloth spread over the floor or on a low table. Bread, nuts, fruits, various types of halvo, preserves, and homemade sweetmeats are placed on the dasturkhan. The guest of honor is seated at the head of the dasturkhon, farthest from the door. Tea is served by the host who serves himself first. The host offers the piyola to the guest with the left hand while placing the right hand on the heart. The guest drinks two or three less-than-half-full piyolas (cups). A piyola turned upside-down is the sign that a guest does not want it refilled. The offer of a full piyola indicates that the guest should drink and leave. Meetings outside the house occur in the choikhona (teahouse), where guests gossip, learn the news of the day, and listen to music.

When Tajiks meet, they shake hands and place their left hand on the heart or, if they are family or close friends, hug. Very close friends kiss each other on both cheeks. Holding hands among boys and young men is normal, a casual sign of friendship. The Tajiks have many unique and interesting customs. For instance, certain items such as money, keys, needles, and scissors are not passed from hand to hand. Rather, they are placed on a table for the other person to pick up. It is believed that standing in the doorway will make a person go into debt, and spilling salt in the house will cause a person to get into a fight. A person who whistles in the house is likely to lose something valuable, and a person who twirls a key chain on his or her finger becomes a vagabond. If someone sneezes during a departure, the party should wait a while before leaving, and if one returns home for a forgotten item, one should look in a mirror before leaving the house again.

LIVING CONDITIONS

Living conditions in Tajikistan, especially in Dushanbe, are challenging. The difficulty stems from shortages of water, gas, and electricity for everyday use. This, a nuisance for the visitor, is a nightmare for the Tajiks who lack purchasing power to buy commodities at exorbitant prices. The difficulty is compounded when the steady rise in prices is not compensated with a raise in salaries.

Housing in Dushanbe, the largest urban area, consists of many high-rise Soviet-era apartment complexes. In these complexes, which are usually surrounded by large courtyards and common spaces, elevators rarely work and water pressure is weak on the higher floors and the buildings in disrepair. Housing shortages were a factor in the February 1990 uprising in Dushanbe. In recent years a vigorous program of urbanization has demolished many of the traditional houses, especially near the center of Dushanbe. The inhabitants are either relocated to new state-built apartments or are compensated with land on which they can build.

Transportation in urban areas, although far better than in the early years after independence, has suffered recently, primarily because supplies of gasoline from Russia and natural gas from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have become unreliable and expensive. In addition, roads connecting the residential suburban areas with the city are not designed to handle a large volume of commuter traffic. This leaves the citizens no option but public transportation. Dushanbe has a system of electric trolleys and gas-powered buses, as well as a large number of taxis and mashrutkas, small vans that carry 4–5 passengers and larger vans that carry up to about 10 passengers.

Telephone service is also very deficient. International calls must be made through a centralized office, which requires a two-day notice and advance payment. Express mail reaches Dushanbe in 10 days. Now, however, the cell phone, although pricey for the Tajik budget, has become available and calling cards have helped bypass the difficulties of the state service.

The medical infrastructure has deteriorated so significantly that many trained personnel have left the country. There is a general scarcity of medical equipment and medicines and a potential for significant disease outbreaks (such as hepatitis A, diphtheria and polio) due to inadequate immunization and sanitation.

FAMILY LIFE

The Tajiks are family oriented. Families are large but do not necessarily live together. Some may live in the city and some may live in the qishloq (village). In fact, the more widely the family is spread, the more opportunities it has for drawing on resources for collective use. This kind of orientation allows outsiders to become a part of a family and expand it into a clan. These clans compete for political power, social reform, educational opportunities, and economic initiatives. There are at least four or five major clans in Tajikistan. The most prominent are the Khujand clan in the north and the Kulab clan in the south. During the Soviet period, the Khujand clan was paramount. At present, the Kulab clan is at the helm. The rivalry between the two has long been a major source of discontent, especially in relation to the expenditure of international aid.

CLOTHING

Traditional Tajik clothing for men consists of a joma (a knee-length jacket) tied at the waist with a colorful mionband (kerchief), an indicator of status. The paisley design of the Tajik toqi (skullcap) distinguishes the Tajiks by region (e.g., four-cornered, tall toqis are worn by men from Gharm).

Women wear a kurta (blouse), usually made of soft, colorful, bright silk and shalvor (long pants) with decorative cuffs (sheroz). Women also wear hats with their national costume. Their hats, especially those from Bukhara and Badakhshan, are either embroidered or decorated with precious stones. Village women wear colorful rusaris (scarves). This latter is tied in the back and worn in a decorative manner more like a hat than a veil.

Men and women, especially in urban centers, wear European clothes. Rarely are European and traditional styles mixed, except perhaps that a traditional hat might be worn with a European suit. Traditional clothes for both sexes are particularly important in distinguishing ethnic groups—Kulabis, Hissaris, and Badakhshanis. Each region has a particular dance and a special fashion for its male and female dancers. Farmers and herders wear a special heavy boot over their usual shoes. Older Tajik men wear long Islamic cloaks and turbans. They also wear beards.

Students, especially during the Soviet era, wore uniforms with kerchiefs and other distinctive decorations. In recent times, the wearing of uniform and kerchief is being reestablished.

FOOD

The generic word for food is avqot. As is the custom elsewhere in the world, various courses are served. Pish avqot (appetizer) includes sanbuse (meat, squash, or potatoes with onions and spices wrapped in bread and either deep-fried or baked), yakhni (cold meats), and salad.

The avqot is either suyuq (broth based) or quyuq (dry). Examples of the former include shurbo nakhud (pea soup), khom shurbo (vegetable soup), and qurma shurbo (meat and vegetables sautéed in oil and then simmered in water). The main national dish is osh, a mixture of rice, meat, carrots, and onions fried and steamed in a deep pot or deg, preferably over an open fire. Pilmeni (meat and onions in pasta and cooked in water or meat stock), mantu (meat and onions in steamed pasta), and shishlik are examples of dry avqot. Following is a recipe and cooking directions for osh:

Osh

1 small onion, diced
200 gr (almost ½ cup) oil
500 gr (just over 1 lb.) meat, cut into medium pieces
500 gr (just over 1 lb.) carrots, julienned
1,000 gr (4 cups, 3 oz.) rice, soaked for 40 minutes before
adding
pinch of cumin seeds
Heat oil, then add meat and cook until brown. Add onion, continue cooking until meat is done. Add enough water to cover the meat and simmer until water is gone. Add carrots and sauté for 2 or 3 minutes. Add one cup of water, cumin seeds, and pepper. Add the rice. Add lukewarm water to cover the rice by about 1 cm (nearly ½ inch). Add salt to taste. Increase heat and simmer until all water is evaporated. Turn the rice over so that cooked rice comes to the top. Make 5 or 6 holes or steam vents in the rice, cover, decrease the heat and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve by dishing out the rice onto a platter and then arranging the carrots and meat on top.

Desserts include tortes, various types of murabbo (jam) and fruits. Chakka (drained yogurt) and lamb kabob are favorite treats served on special occasions. Everyday food is less elaborate. Students running to school, for example, might have shirchoi (sweetened warm milk and tea poured over bread and butter), shirberenj (rice custard), or bread and eggs.

Tea and vodka are common drinks for adults. Black tea is served during winter, green tea during summer. Tea is served ritually in piyolas (small cups). Vodka is drunk amid music, dance, and long, cheerful speeches delivered by members of the family and guests. Other drinks include koumis (fermented mare's milk) and kefir (a thick yogurt drink).

Fruits and vegetables grown in the country form a major subject of conversation. It is important, for instance, to know which part of the country produces the best melon, apple or grapes.

EDUCATION

Until the fall of Bukhara (1920), Bukharan schools taught the Quran and the Shariah. Attempts by the intellectuals and jadids to introduce new-method schools met with severe penalties.

During the Soviet era, Tajik educational establishments became subservient to the educational system of the Soviet Union. Rather than learning about the greats of Tajik culture, Russian literary figures such as Maxim Gorkii and Vladimir Mayakovskii were taught. Sadriddin Aini (d. 1954), the father of Tajik literature, gained his fame by extolling the socialist way at the expense of traditional values. Soviet education transplanted both the Tajiki language and the Tajik culture. In the long run, however, due to the instability of the Soviet system itself, a vacuum was created. By the 1970s, the anti-Russian efforts of the Muslim educators bore fruit and, eventually, ousted the communist regime.

The 1992–97 civil war, devastated southern Tajikistan. In the process, schools were destroyed, many teachers and students were killed, and many non-Tajik educators left the country.

Soviet education had both positive and negative effects on the Tajiks. On the positive side, it essentially eliminated illiteracy by 1960 and acquainted the Tajiks with Russian literature. On the negative side, it alienated most Tajiks from their own cultural heritage. At present, a gradual reversal of that trend is taking shape.

Today, the English language and American culture are finding their way into Tajikistan. English is stressed in schools because many people, including those who intend to emigrate, want to learn English for its role in international business.

Tajik parents expect their children to make steady progress toward a respectable marriage and a good, responsible job. They feel that they owe their children a good education, a respectable wedding tuy, and partial expenses for rearing their grandchildren. (They pay for the gahvorabandon, a cradling ceremony for a newborn child, for instance.) In return, they expect their children to take care of them in their old age and to see to their needs at the end of their lives.

A painful aspect of Tajik education is a lack of funds for teachers' salaries. This leads, in many cases, to bribery both in finding ones way into schools and in exiting school with an unearned degree.

CULTURAL HERITAGE

Tajik music varies by region. In the north, especially in Samarqand and Bukhara, the shashmaqom is recognized as the chief musical form normally played on a tanbur. There, the cycle of songs known as naqsh plays a prominent role in the festival of the tulips (sairi guli lola). In the south, falak and qurughli predominate. The national hofiz (singer) is respected by all.

Various regions have reacted to the new wave from the West differently. The Badakhshanis, for instance, have adopted Western musical innovations; but the Gharmis have not.

Tajik literature covers a wide range of genres over many centuries. Most of the literature, however, is poetry. Rudaki and Firdowsi are prominent classical authors, and Aini and Tursanzadah are well-known Soviet Tajik authors. In the 1990s, a division took place whereby poets such as Layeq Shir'ali and Mu'min Qana'at were distinguished for their affiliation with the communist government, whereas Bozor Sobir and Gulrukhsor Safieva were identified with the Opposition. Bozor Sobir was imprisoned for more than a year (1992–93) for his anti-Uzbek views. Other Tajik writers include the scenarists Saif Rahim and the science fiction author Adash Istad.

A recurring theme in Tajik literature is the exploitative measures of a bai (rich man) who "helps" an orphaned boy meet the expenses for his father's funeral. The young man ends up working for the bai for the rest of his life to pay the debt.

WORK

The makeup and circumstances of the work force in Tajiki-stan have changed drastically in recent years. Many youth who would traditionally have worked on cotton plantations have migrated to the cities and become involved in trade; they import goods from Pakistan, Japan, and China and sell them in makeshift shops or in stalls alongside the street.

A large number of Tajiks work in the lower echelon of industry—mining, machine-tool factories, canneries, hydroelectric stations—in non-managerial jobs. In general, about 50% of the population is under 20, and over one half of those are not in the labor force. As a result, there are a number of groups in the population that are neither employed nor in school.

In general, work can be divided along agricultural and industrial lines. Work in agriculture revolves around work in kolkhozes and sovkhozes. These collective and state farms produce most of the cotton, fruit, and vegetables consumed in the republic, and some is also exported. Work in the fields entails digging canals, planting, irrigating, and harvesting.

Women's roles vary widely. Sovietized Tajik women participate in all aspects of society and a few are even members of parliament. Muslim wives, on the other hand, stay at home and take care of the children.

Most marriages are arranged. After negotiations, the father of the groom pays most of the expenses for the tuy (celebration). Women can initiate divorce procedures and receive half of the family's assets.

Tajik women are fully acquainted with the silk culture, a labor-intensive operation that begins with feeding silkworms mulberry leaves and ends with extracting the silk. The care of orchards and vineyards as well as sheep breeding in the highlands falls on men. Both men and women work in the entertainment business, but mostly women work in textile factories as machinists and administrators.

Alongside the traditional jobs, the growing Tajik bureaucracy employs many youths, as do the burgeoning foreign businesses established in Tajikistan by Turkish and Iranian concerns.

SPORTS

The national sport of the Tajiks, gushtingiri (wrestling), has a colorful tradition. When the towns were divided into mahallas (districts), each district had its own alufta (tough) who was also the best wrestler. The position of the alufta, usually an upright and respected individual, was often challenged by those of lower rank.

Buzkashi (which means, literally, "dragging the goat") is a sport involving strenuous bodily exertion. In this game, the carcass of a goat is dragged by horsemen who grab it from each other. The aim of the riders is to deposit the carcass in a designated circle in front of the guest of honor. Buzkashi is usually performed as part of the Navruz celebrations.

In recent years, many European sports have also found their way into Tajikistan. Soccer is so popular that, in the eyes of many, it rivals buzkashi.

ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION

As early as the 9th century, Avicenna compared man's existence on earth with that of a puppet in a puppet show. Th is tradition, retained over the centuries by the maskharaboz (clown), is now expanded by professional troupes.

During the Soviet period, special attention was paid to the arts, both as a means of reducing the Tajiks' demand for jobs in the heavy industry and as compensation for the daily drudgery of the workers on the cotton plantations. Barring the purpose, the result was culturally stimulating. The Tajik cinema, for in stance, produced a number of worthy films based on Firdowsi's Shahname. They are called Rustam and Suhrab, The Story of Siyavosh, and Kaveh the Blacksmith. Similar advances were made in the production of stunning spectacles on the lives of Rudaki, Umar-i Khayyam, and others.

With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the arts lost their primary means of support. Producers, directors, actors, and writers either joined the ranks of the jobless or became involved in business. Many left Tajikistan. This fall of the cultural center has not been altogether bad, however. It has given regional groups the opportunity to showcase their talents and abilities. Troupes from Badakhshan, Kulab, and Khujand appear regularly on the national scene.

Not long ago, programs such as Maria (a Mexican rags-to-riches soap opera) or the American soap Santa Barbara were the only shows that really kept the Tajiks entertained. Local broadcasting was very limited in scope, dealing mostly with regional matters, especially agriculture. Videos allowed Tajik youth a wider choice of programs. The introduction of satellite programming has changed all that.

FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES

Traditional Tajik crafts include the embroidered Bukhara wall hangings and bedcovers popularized in the 19th century. The Tajik style of the tapestries typically has floral designs on silk or cotton and is made on a tambour frame. Woodcarving and ceramics are also honored Tajik crafts.

SOCIAL PROBLEMS

The social problems of Tajikistan are too numerous to list. Perhaps the most important social problem has to do with authority and control. Since the 10th century, when the Samanid dynasty lost its hegemony over Central Asia, the Tajiks have been ruled by the other peoples of the region, especially the Turks. Since 1868, when the Turks became subservient to the Russians, the Tajiks' situation has become even more precarious. In the 1870s, taxes imposed by Russia drove the Tajiks to revolt a number of times. One such revolt, the Vaase uprising, which was mercilessly put down, is still remembered.

The 1992 Tajik bid for independence was also met with severe reprisals. This time, however, the democratic nature of the age did not allow an open assault on the opposition. The indirect means employed turned into a civil war, crippled the administration in Dushanbe, ruined the economy, and totally destroyed the infrastructure. Russia, on the other hand, achieved its goal. The same set of circumstances that spell out social discontent in Tajikistan gains Russia a steady revenue for defending the Tajik border, places Tajikistan's foreign affairs in Russian hands, and allows Russia to reassert itself forcefully in Tajikistan's internal affairs.

Tajikistan's problems stem from dependence on Russia for military, economic, and foreign policy matters and on the international community for the rest of its needs. This is compounded by a 60% below-poverty-line economy, a high rate of population growth, and a lack of skilled workers. Ethnic tension and regionalism often bring the country to the verge of disintegration.

To remedy this situation, clan wars between the North and South must stop and the mafias of Dushanbe, Khujand, and Kulab must be deactivated. Barring this, Tajikistan cannot achieve its goals of economic and military independence, raising per capita income, decreasing unemployment, stopping population growth, improving transportation to move food and fuel, and introducing meaningful medical and educational reforms.

GENDER ISSUES

Under the Soviet system, women were treated very differently than they are today. They enjoyed equal civil rights, participated in the labor force, and were very active in politics. Most importantly, they had a considerable degree of independence. In Tajikistan, the fall of the Soviet Union was followed by five years of civil war that affected Tajik women the most. In addition to losing sons and husbands to the war and becoming refugees in neighboring lands, the textile factories were closed. That meant loss of livelihood as women were the primary labor force in that industry. Destruction of agriculture and the educational and health services further affected women as they worked in the fields, were teachers, doctors, and nurses. Male chauvinism that prevented women from the decision-making positions also subjected them to harassment and discrimination.

With 60% of the population living below the poverty line, about a million Tajik men seek work in Russia. Women whose men go to Russia stand to lose their husband as he might marry a Russian and stay, as well as their source of income and security, not to mention being burdened with childcare and provision for children.

Men who return from Russia, along with money, bring HIV. This prepares the ground for women to deal with a health system that is virtually nonexistent, fees that are exorbitant, and drugs. Soon, they are engaged in drug trafficking and prostitution to pay their bills.

Instances of domestic violence in Tajikistan are many. Nevertheless, women accept to get married even as a second wife. Those who refuse to be humiliated end up taking their own lives by either self-immolation or drug overdose.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Abdullaev, Kamaludin and Shahram Akbarzadeh. Historical Dictionary of Tajikistan. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2002.

Ahmed, Rashid. The Resurgence of Central Asia: Islam or Nationalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Bashiri, Iraj. Firdowsi's Shahname: 1000 Years After. Dushanbe, 1994.

_____. Prominent Tajik Figures of the Twentieth Century, Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan, 2004.

Bennigsen, Alexandre, and S. Enders Wimbush. The Muslims of the Soviet Empire. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1986.

Soviet Tajik Encyclopedia (Vols. 1-8) Dushanbe, 1978-88.

Wixman, Ronald. The Peoples of the USSR: An Ethnographic Handbook. Armonk NY: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1984.

World and its Peoples: Central Asia. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2007, pp. 650-671.

—by I. Bashiri

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