Republic of Tajikistan is a mountainous landlocked country in Central Asia. Afghanistan borders it to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and People’s Republic of China to the east. Tajikistan also lies adjacent to Pakistan but is separated by the narrow Wakhan Corridor.
Most of Tajikistan’s population belongs to the Persian-speaking Tajik ethnic group, who share language, culture and history with Afghanistan and Iran. Once part of the Samanid Empire, Tajikistan became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union in the 20th century, known as the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic (Tajik SSR). Mountains cover over 90% of this Central Asian republic.
After independence, Tajikistan suffered from a devastating civil war which lasted from 1992 to 1997. Since the end of the war, newly established political stability and foreign aid have allowed the country’s economy to grow. Trade in commodities such as cotton and aluminium wire has contributed greatly to this steady improvement.
Modern Tajiks regard the Samanid Empire as the first Tajik state. This monument in Dushanbe honors Ismail Samani, ancestor of the Samanids and a source of Tajik nationalism.
The territory of what is now Tajikistan has been inhabited continuously since 4000 BCE. It has been under the rule of various empires throughout history, for the longest period being part of the Persian Empire.
Provinces of Tajikistan and Districts of Tajikistan
Tajikistan consists of 4 administrative divisions. These are the provinces (viloyat) of Sughd and Khatlon, the autonomous province of Gorno-Badakhshan (abbreviated as GBAO), and the Region of Republican Subordination (RRP – Raiony Respublikanskogo Podchineniya in transliteration from Russian or NTJ – Ноҳияҳои тобеи ҷумҳурӣ in Tajik; formerly known as Karotegin Province). Each region is divided into several districts (Tajik: Ноҳия, nohiya or raion), which in turn are subdivided into jamoats (village-level self-governing units) and then villages (qyshloqs). As of 2006, there were 58 districts and 367 jamoats in Tajikistan.
Division ISO 3166-2 Capital Area (km²) Pop (2008)
Sughd TJ-SU Khujand 25,400 2,132,100
Region of Republican
Subordination TJ-RR Dushanbe 28,600 1,606,900
Khatlon TJ-KT Qurghonteppa 24,800 2,579,300
Gorno-Badakhshan TJ-BG Khorugh 64,200 218,000
Historically, Tajiks and Persians come from very similar stock, speaking variants of the same language and are related as part of the larger group of Iranian peoples. The Tajik language is the mother tongue of around 80% of the citizens of Tajikistan. The main urban centers in today’s Tajikistan include Dushanbe (the capital), Khujand, Kulob, Panjakent and Istaravshan.
The Pamiri people of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province in the southeast, bordering Afghanistan and China, though considered part of the Tajik ethnicity, nevertheless are distinct linguistically and culturally from most Tajiks. In contrast to the mostly Sunni Muslim residents of the rest of Tajikistan, the Pamiris overwhelmingly follow the Ismaili sect of Islam, and speak a number of Eastern Iranian languages, including Shughni, Rushani, Khufi and Wakhi. Isolated in the highest parts of the Pamir Mountains, they have preserved many ancient cultural traditions and folk arts that have been largely lost elsewhere in the country.
The Yaghnobi people live in mountainous areas of northern Tajikistan. The estimated number of Yaghnobis is now about 25,000. Forced migrations in the 20th century decimated their numbers. They speak the Yaghnobi language, which is the only direct modern descendant of the ancient Sogdian language.
Dushanbe, the capital city of the republic, is located in Hissar Valley in the south of Tajikistan. Before the revolution the site of the present capital of Tajikistan was occupied by three small kishlaks: Sary Assija, Shahmansur and Dushanbe (dushanbe means “Monday” in Tajik; the market-day in the kishlak). Although the name of the city is rather new, its historical past dated back as far as
3 thousand years. Archeologists have dug out the remains of Greek-Bactrian settlements, the site of ancient settlement from Kushan period (7th – 8th centuries), site of ancient Shishi Khon village and other medieval settlements. In the early 20th century Dushanbe was the summer residence of Hissar beks. In 1920 the last of Bukhara emirs Said Alimhon fled from Bukhara and made Dushanbe his residence. But Bolsheviks forced him to leave Dushanbe and run abroad. On July 14th, 1922 Dushanbe was taken by Bolsheviks. The Soviet power was established in the city. Dushanbe became the capital of newly-formed Tajik SSR. However, it could hardly be calle a city. There was a small settlement of 4 houses with wooden floors, 42 wagons and 283 inhabitants. In than 70-year’s time a small mountain kishlak has grown into green, modern, industrial city with more than 600 thousand inhabitants. From 1929 to 1990 it was the capital of Tajik SSR, and since 1991 it has been the capital of independent Tajikistan. From the last quarter of fourth century until the first quarter of the second century , it was part of the Bactrian Empire, from whom it was passed on to Scythian Tukharas and hence became part of Tukharistan. Contact with the Chinese Han Dynasty was made in the second century , when envoys were sent to the area of Bactria to explore regions west of China. Arabs brought Islam in the 7th century . The Samanid Empire supplanted the Arabs and enlarged the cities of Samarkand and Bukhara, which became the cultural centers of Tajiks (both of which are now in Uzbekistan). The Mongols would later take partial control of Central Asia, and later the land that today comprises Tajikistan became a part of the Emirate of Bukhara. A small community of Jews, displaced from the Middle East after the Babylonian captivity, migrated to the region and settled there after 600 , though the majority of the recent Jewish population did not migrate to Tajikistan until the 20th century.