Tajikistan

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Islamic Republic of Tajikistan

Ҷумҳурии Исломии Тоҷикистон
Jumhurii Islomii Tojikiston
Flag of Tajikistan
Flag
Coat of arms of Tajikistan
Coat of arms
Anthem: Суруди Миллӣ
Surudi Milli
English: "National Anthem"
Capital
and largest city
Dushanbe
Official languages Tajik, Russian
Demonym(s) Tajik
Government Unitary presidential Islamic republic
• President
Sobirjon Zia
Nazarsho Noziri
• Chairman of the Supreme Assembly
Nuriddin Uljabayev
Legislature Supreme Assembly
Formation
819
• Independence of Tajikistan
1966
• Landonist coup
March 1978
November 1994
February 1996
• Current constitution
June 27, 2003
Population
• 2015 census
14,537,645
GDP (PPP) 2019 estimate
• Total
$38.547 billion
• Per capita
$4,351
GDP (nominal) 2019 estimate
• Total
$14.350 billion
• Per capita
$1,599
Currency Somoni (TJS)
Time zone UTC+5 (Tajikistan Time)
Driving side right
Internet TLD .tj

Tajikistan (Tajik: Тоҷикистон, romanized: Tojikiston), officially the Islamic Republic of Tajikistan (Tajik: Ҷумҳурии Исломии Тоҷикистон, Jumhurii Islomii Tojikiston), is a landlocked country in Central Asia. It borders Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to the north, China to the west, and Iran to the south. It is separated from India to the south by Iran's narrow Wakhan Corridor. The capital and largest city is Dushanbe. Out of the country's population of 14.6 million people, the majority are ethnic Tajiks and are Muslim. The traditional homeland of the Tajik people includes present-day Tajikistan and also parts of Uzbekistan and Iran.

The territory that now constitutes Tajikistan was previously home to several ancient cultures. The town of Sarazm in northwestern Tajikistan dates back to the Neolithic and Bronze Age, and the region was home to numerous cultures and faiths, including the Oxus Valley Civilisation, Andronovo Culture, Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity, Vedic religion, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism and Islam. It had also been ruled by different empires and dynasties, including the Achaemenid Empire, Sasanian Empire, Hephthalite Empire, the Tajik-led Samanid Empire, and the Mongol Empire. After being ruled by the Timurid dynasty the area was annexed by the Russian Empire, and remained part of Russia until after the Second Great War. Its modern borders were drawn in the 1920s by the Russian government, creating the autonomous Tajik Republic within Russia. Tajikistan was given independence by the Allied powers after the war, and was ruled as a dictatorship by President Zalimkhan Iskandrov after becoming independent. In the postwar years it developed a close relationship with Iran, Hashemite Arabia, and NATO countries.

In March 1978 a Communist-Marxist coup led to the death of President Iskandrov and brought to power the People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan, with backing by the People's Republic of China, in response to Iskandrov's support for Turkic Muslim insurgents in western China's Xinjiang province. The PDPT initiated a series of radical reforms to modernize the country and established the Tajik Socialist Republic. The reforms were deeply unpopular to certain religious elements of Tajik society, while the rural conservative majority of the population greeted the Communist revolution with apathy. To prevent the Tajik Communist government from collapsing, in 1979 Chinese President Zhou Zhiyong began a military intervention in Tajikistan to keep them in power. The conflict became a Cold War proxy battleground, with Sierra, Hashemite Arabia, and others supplying weapons to the anti-Communist insurgency in Tajikistan through Iran. The Sino-Tajik War ended in 1994 with the signing of a power-sharing agreement, as the Chinese troops withdrew and the Communist government fell. Although initially a coalition government was formed between liberal reformers, former Communists, and Islamists, the fragile alliance broke down into the Tajikistani Civil War from 1996 to 2001. In 2002, the Astana Agreement led to the creation of a new government after the defeat of Islamist groups.

Tajikistan is a presidential Islamic republic and is divided into 58 provinces. Over 90% of the country's territory is mountainous. Since the end of the civil war Tajikistan has developed economically and its standard of living has improved, though it is still a middle-income country according to the World Bank. It has a transitional economy, with aluminum and cotton production being major industries. Tajikistan is a member of the League of Nations, WTO, IMF, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and is an Indo-Pacific Treaty Organization partner.

Etymology[edit | edit source]

Tajikistan means the "Land of the Tajiks". The suffix "-stan" is Persian for "place of" or "country" and Tajik is, most likely, the name of a pre-Islamic (before the seventh century A.D.) tribe.

Tajikistan appeared as Tadjikistan or Tadzhikistan in English prior to the 1980s. This is due to a transliteration from the Russian "Таджикистан". In Russian, there is no single letter "j" to represent the phoneme /ʤ/, and therefore дж, or dzh, is used. Tadzhikistan is the most common alternate spelling and is widely used in English literature derived from Russian sources. "Tadjikistan" is the spelling in French and can occasionally be found in English language texts.

Even though the Royal Intelligence Agency's 1997 Country Study of Tajikistan found it difficult to definitively state the origins of the word "Tajik" because the term is "embroiled in twentieth-century political disputes about whether Turkic or Iranian peoples were the original inhabitants of Central Asia." Most scholars concluded that contemporary Tajiks are the descendants of ancient Eastern Iranian inhabitants of Central Asia, in particular, the Sogdians and the Bactrians, and possibly other groups, with an admixture of Western Iranian Persians and non-Iranian peoples.

Regarding Tajiks, the Encyclopædia Britannica states: "The Tajiks are the direct descendants of the Iranian peoples whose continuous presence in Central Asia and northern Afghanistan is attested from the middle of the 1st millennium BC. The ancestors of the Tajiks constituted the core of the ancient population of Khwārezm (Khorezm) and Bactria, which formed part of Transoxania (Sogdiana). Over the course of time, the eastern Iranian dialect that was used by the ancient Tajiks eventually gave way to Farsi, a western dialect spoken in Iran."

History[edit | edit source]

Russian Tajikistan[edit | edit source]

Early years of independence[edit | edit source]

Sino-Tajik War[edit | edit source]

Strife and political intrigue[edit | edit source]

Tajikistani Civil War[edit | edit source]

Contemporary[edit | edit source]

Geography[edit | edit source]

Major geographic regions of Tajikistan

Tajikistan is landlocked, and is the smallest nation in Central Asia by area. It lies mostly between latitudes 36° and 41° N, and longitudes 67° and 75° E, nestled between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to the north and west, China to the east, and Iran to the south. It is covered by mountains of the Pamir range, and most of the country is over 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) above sea level. The only major areas of lower land are in the north (part of the Fergana Valley), and in the southern Kofarnihon and Vakhsh river valleys, which form the Amu Darya. Dushanbe is located on the southern slopes above the Kofarnihon valley. The Amu Darya and Panj rivers mark the border with Iran, and the glaciers in Tajikistan's mountains are the major source of runoff for the Aral Sea. There are over 900 rivers in Tajikistan longer than 10 kilometres. About 2% of the country's area is covered by lakes.

The country has highly irregular borders that were drawn by Russian cartographers in the 1920s, when the Tajik Republic was created as an autonomous state within the Russian Federation. Since becoming independent, it has had border disputes with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and China.

Administrative divisions[edit | edit source]

Provinces of Tajikistan since 2005

The province (viloyat) is the first-level administrative division in the country, followed by municipalities and villages (jamoat) as the second-level. Tajikistan is divided into 58 provinces and 367 villages or municipalities according to its 2003 constitution, an increase from the previous four provinces. The creation of the new first-level administrative regions was done in order to increase the authority of provincial and local governments after the civil war. The capital city of Dushanbe was and currently is a municipality directly administered by the central government.

From Tajikistan's independence until 2003 there were only four provinces: Sughd, Khatlon, Karotegin, and Gorno-Badakhshan. As part of the post-civil war peace agreement these were divided into many new provinces to create stronger local governments.

Politics[edit | edit source]

Tajikistan's government is a unitary presidential Islamic republic, with a standard division of executive, legislative, and judicial powers. The president is both the head of state and head of government in the presidential system, as well as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He is assisted by the vice president. The Supreme Assembly is the unicameral legislature of the country and has 63 members elected by proportional representation. The judiciary consists of the several courts with the highest being the Supreme Court, whose judges are nominated by the president and confirmed by the legislature.

The current political system was established in 2002 in the aftermath of the Tajikistani Civil War from 1996 until 2001, which itself followed a transitional period following the collapse of the Communist government in late 1994. Former Communist officials, reformists, and Islamic fundamentalists entered a power-sharing agreement that they signed, but following the reformist victory in the 1995 general election the Islamic mujaheddin challenged the new government. These disputes escalated and a civil war erupted in 1996 between the former Communist-reformist faction and the United Tajik Opposition, a loose alliance of Islamist groups, and other militias flourished as central authority in Tajikistan collapsed. By 2001 the government reestablished control over most of the country and implemented a new peace agreement to accommodate some of the opposition's interests, but a low level insurgency continued into the 2010s. Tajikistan has been rebuilding and developing its economy since the early 2000s with a relatively stable government. However elections in the country have been regarded by international organizations as being flawed and unfair.

Military[edit | edit source]

The modern Tajik National Army was created in December 2001 in the aftermath of the civil war and has 79,000 active-duty personnel as of 2020. It is currently organized into nine brigades, including four motorized infantry, one mountain, one National Guard, two airborne, and one tank, along with several independent battalions, including those for electronic warfare and chemical-biological warfare. Along with the regular army there are two independent services within the Armed Forces: the Tajik National Guard and the Mobile Forces. The National Guard exists as the reserve force of the regular Army as well as being responsible for internal security; it is divided into the operational National Guards Brigade, the Presidential Guard Regiment, a military band, and several other independent units. The Mobile Forces are paratrooper units that are considered to be the special forces of Tajikistan, divided into two airborne assault brigades. All nine brigades of the ground forces are subordinated directly to the Chief of the General Staff in Dushanbe. The Tajik Air Force consists of 20 aircraft, mostly transport helicopters that are part of one squadron, along with several regiments of anti-air missile defense and one communications regiment.

The original Tajik Army was established in the 1970s during the presidency of Zalimkhan Iskandarov. Unlike Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan, there were no Russian Army units that had been stationed on Tajikistan's territory, so it had to be created entirely from scratch. As of 1976 the army was organized into three divisions and two independent brigades, with the majority of troops being conscripts. After the 1978 coup and during the Sino-Tajik War the Tajik People's Army was expanded and received new equipment provided by the Chinese. Its performance against various insurgent groups in Tajikistan was mixed, and by the early 1990s there had been massive defections and desertions. As a result, after the Chinese withdrawal and the creation of a new Republic of Tajikistan, armed militias continued to have sway over politics and the central government's institutions were weak. When the civil war broke out in 1996 there was virtually no national army to speak of. Special forces and paratrooper units did much of the fighting on behalf of the government, and China, Russia and Iran provided military assistance. With the signing of the Astana Agreement, the militias were disbanded and a new Tajik National Army was created. As the two neighboring countries have an interest in a stable Tajikistan, they provided training and military equipment to the new force. Conscription was reinstated in 2006, with two years of mandatory service being required for Tajik men.

The main purpose of the Tajik National Army has been to maintain stability and order in the country, especially from former Islamist and warlord groups that operated during the Tajikistani Civil War (1996–2001), particularly in volatile regions like Ferghana Valley in the north and the Gorno-Badakhshan area in the east. The military and law enforcement organs of the Islamic republic have been hindered by corruption and mismanagement, but Tajikistan's army has received funding, training, and assistance from China, Iran, and Russia.

Economy[edit | edit source]

The TadAZ aluminium smelting plant, in Tursunzoda, is the largest aluminium manufacturing plant in Central Asia, and Tajikistan's chief industrial asset.

Tajikistan's economy grew substantially after the end of the civil war in 2004, but despite this the country's economic development has been hampered by corruption and mismanagement. It is still highly dependent on exports of aluminum and cotton, making it vulnerable to external shocks. The Tajik Aluminum Company is the chief industrial asset of the country. Nonetheless, the Tajik GDP grew by an average of 10.4% annually in the years 2006–2016, improving the country's position relative to neighboring Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The standard of living and average wages increased significantly during this period, with the percentage of the population living below the poverty line and having food insecurity being vastly reduced from around 30% in 2001 to less than 14% as of 2017. Since 2014 Tajikistan has formally become a member of China's Belt and Road (BRI) initiative.

Tajikistan's rivers have great potential for hydropower, with several Chinese, Iranian, and Russian companies making investments in building hydroelectric power stations in Tajikistan since the 2000s. In 2019 a new project was inaugurated that would create transmission lines through Iran to allow Tajikistan and Kazakhstan to provide their unused hydroelectric power to India.

During the 1990s and 2000s Tajikistan became a center for illegal drug trafficking to markets in Europe, Russia, and China. Since 2010 the government has made an effort to stop the drug trade, with the Tajikistani Drug Control Agency being set up to combat drug trafficking.

Transportation[edit | edit source]

A 2001 map of highways and railways in Tajikistan
A Tajik train with TE33A locomotive

Much of Tajikistan's transportation infrastructure was built during Russian rule and then in the 1970s, and was devastated during the Sino-Tajik War and the Tajikistani Civil War. With the renewed economic growth in the second half of the 2000s, since 2010 the government invested large amounts of money into upgrading and building new infrastructure, which has also received Chinese assistance. In 2015, Prime Minister Hukmatov announced a plan to increase trade in Central Asia by expanding and improving Tajikistan's infrastructure. China has invested nearly $1 billion in Tajik infrastructure projects as part of its Belt and Road Initiative.

The country has an extensive road network, with most passenger and freight traffic using automobiles. Major national highways include:

  • Dushanbe–Khujand–Nizhny Pyandzh Highway: A north-south highway. Passes through Dushanbe, with the northern section going to the city of Khujand in the northwest, with international links to Uzbekistan at multiple locations. The southern section goes to Nizhny Pyandzh at the southern border, with a border crossing to Iran.
  • Pamiri Highway: Passes across central Tajikistan in the west-east direction, from the Uzbekistan border to Dushanbe, into the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province, with a section along the Iranian border in the south, then connecting to cities of Khorug and Murghob, ending with a link to the international border with China.

Tajikistan has only about 680 km (420 miles) of railway track. Concentrated in western Tajikistan, the railways connect the capital Dushnabe to the industrial regions in the southwest, and to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Iran. Most international freight is carried by train. Currently there is no rail connection with China but several projects have been proposed to build one along the Pamiri Highway. Passenger service on the Tajik railways remains infrequent and limited.

There are 26 airports in Tajikistan, with Dushanbe International Airport being the main air travel hub in the country and its only international airport. It provides regular flights to various cities in Russia, China, Iran, and Kazakhstan, along with several European and East Asian cities.

Demographics[edit | edit source]

The most recent census in 2015 recorded a population of 14,537,645 people.

See also[edit | edit source]