Pupils Worldwide

Middle East
North America
South America
Australia / Oceania

News in

Atlas Tajikistan

Country (long form)
Republic of Tajikistan
Total Area
55,251.22 sq mi
143,100.00 sq km
6,440,732 (July 2000 est.)
Estimated Population in 2050
Tajik (official), Russian widely used in government and business
98.0% total, 98.0% male, 97% female (1989 est.)
Sunni Muslim 80%, Shi'a Muslim 5%
Life Expectancy
60.95 male, 67.38 female (2000 est.)
Government Type
Tajikistani ruble (TJR) = 100 tanga
GDP (per capita)
$1,020 (1999 est.)
Labor Force (by occupation)
agriculture and forestry 50%, industry 20%, services 30% (1997 est.)
aluminum, zinc, lead, chemicals and fertilizers, cement, vegetable oil, metal-cutting machine tools, refrigerators and freezers
cotton, grain, fruits, grapes, vegetables; cattle, sheep, goats
Arable Land
aluminum, electricity, cotton, fruits, vegetable oil, textiles
electricity, petroleum products, aluminum oxide, machinery and equipment, foodstuffs
Natural Resources
hydropower, some petroleum, uranium, mercury, brown coal, lead, zinc, antimony, tungsten
Current Environmental Issues
inadequate sanitation facilities; increasing levels of soil salinity; industrial pollution; excessive pesticides; part of the basin of the shrinking Aral Sea suffers from severe overutilization of available water for irrigation and associated pollution
Telephones (main lines in use)
263,000 (1995)
Telephones (mobile cellular)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs)

Tajik ancestry is a murky area but the lineage seems to begin with the Bactrians and the Sogdians. In the 1st century BC the Bactrians had a large empire covering most of what is now northern Afghanistan, while their contemporaries, the Sogdians, inhabited the Zeravshan valley in present-day western Tajikistan, until displaced by the Arab conquest of Central Asia during the 7th century. The invaders succeeded in bringing Islam to the region, but the Arab domination wasn't secure and out of the melee rose another Persian dynasty, the Samanids. The brief era of the Samanids (819-992) gave rise to a frenzy of creative activity. Bukhara, the dynastic capital, became the Islamic world's centre of learning, nurturing great talents like the philosopher-scientist Abu Ali ibn Sina and the poet Rudaki - both now claimed as sons by Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

At the end of the 10th century came a succession of Turkic invaders. Despite the different ethnicities, the two races cohabited peacefully, unified by religion - the Persian-speaking Tajiks absorbed Turk culture and the numerically superior Turks absorbed the Tajik people. Both were subject to conquests by the Mongols then later by Tamerlaine. From the 15th century the Tajiks were under the suzerainty of the emirate of Bukhara; in the mid-18th century the Afghans moved up to engulf all lands south of the Amu Darya river.

As part of the Russian Empire's thrust southwards, St Petersburg made a vassal state of the emirate of Bukhara, which also meant effective control over what now passes for northern and western Tajikistan. But the Pamirs, which account for the whole of what is now eastern Tajikistan, were quite literally a no-man's-land, falling outside the established borders of the Bukhara emirate and unclaimed by neighbouring Afghanistan and China. Russia was eager to exploit this mainly in its push to open up possible routes into British India. The Pamirs thus became the arena for the strategic duel that Kipling was to immortalise as the Great Game, a game in which Russia's players eventually prevailed, securing the region for the tsar.

Following the revolution of 1917, the Tajiks found themselves part of two Soviet Socialist Republics (SSRs). Muslim guerillas resisted Bolshevik rule for four dirty years in which villages were razed and mosques destroyed. The first ever official Tajik state was formed in 1924 when the Soviet Border Commission slapped lines across Central Asia and formed an Automomous SSR under the auspices of the Uzbek SSR. In 1929 the Tajik state was upgraded to a full union republic, although Samarkand and Bukhara - where over 700,000 Tajiks still lived - remained in Uzbekistan. Moscow never really trusted Tajikistan: influential positions in the government were stacked with Russian stooges, efforts to industrialise and educate were sluggish, and living standards remained low.

In the mid-1970s the underground Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) was founded, gathering popular support as a rallying point for Tajik nationalism. Although in 1979 there were demonstrations in opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the first serious disturbances were in early 1990 when it was rumoured that Armenian refugees were to be settled in Dushanbe, which was already short on housing. This piece of Soviet social engineering sparked off riots, deaths and the imposition of a state of emergency. Further opposition parties emerged as a result of the crackdown.

During the Soviet era, Moscow and the Party had been the lid on a pressure cooker of long standing clan-based tensions. Tajikistan's various factions - Leninabaders from the north, Kulyabis from the south and their hostile neighbours from Kurgan-Tyube, Garmis from the east and Parmiris from the mountains - had all been kept in line under Soviet rule. When the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991 and Tajikistan declared independence, the country quickly descended into civil war. Imamali Rakhmanov, a Kulyabi, has been president since 1992 but opposition, particularly from the Islamic-democratic coalition, has been strident. The Kulyabi forces embarked on an orgy of ethnic cleansing directed at anyone connected with the Kurgan-Tyube or the Garm valley. Somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000 people were killed in the fighting, and there are half a million refugees.

Although a peace agreement was signed in June 1997 between President Imomali Rakhmonov and Islamic opposition leader Sayid Abdullo Nuri, tensions are still high. Rakhmanov is propped up by Russian-dominated CIS forces, mainly because Russia wants to protect the border with Afghanistan. Thousands of Tajik rebels are based in northern Afghanistan and cross-border raids and smuggling persist. Rakhmanov's government is unwilling to share power (opposition parties were outlawed for elections in 1994) and uninterested in reform. The president was re-elected for a second term in 1999 by what was reported as a nearly unanimous vote. The US and French have been allowed to station troops in the country following the terrorist attacks in the US in September 2001. A two-year drought followed the five-year civil war to deepen poverty among Tajiks, and to top things off floods and an earthquake hit the country in early 2002.