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       A Tajikistan Bridge

 

 

 

      

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

   

   

   

     

 

     

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

History
Tajikistan, literally the "land of the Tajiks," has ancient cultural roots. The people now known as the Tajiks are the Persian speakers of Central Asia, some of whose ancestors inhabited Central Asia (including present-day Afghanistan and western China) at the dawn of history.

   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.

Despite the long heritage of its indigenous peoples, Tajikistan has existed as a state only since the Soviet Union decreed its existence in 1924. The creation of modern Tajikistan was part of the Soviet policy of giving the outward trappings of political representation to minority nationalities in Central Asia while simultaneously reorganizing or fragmenting communities and political entities.

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

As was the case in other republics of the Soviet Union, nearly seventy years of Soviet rule brought Tajikistan a combination of modernization an depression. Although barometers of modernization such as education, health care, and industrial development registered substantial improvements over low starting points in this era, the quality of the transformation in such areas was less impressive than the quantity, with reforms benefiting Russian-speaking city dwellers more than rural citizens who lacked fluency in Russian. For all the modernization that occurred under Soviet rule, the central government's policies limited Tajikistan to a role as a predominantly agricultural producer of raw materials for industries located elsewhere. Through the end of the Soviet era, Tajikistan had one of the lowest standards of living of the Soviet republics.

  Independence came to Tajikistan with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991. The first few years after that were a time of great hardship. Some of the new republic's problems--including the breakdown of the old system of interdependent economic relationships upon which the Soviet republics had relied, and the stress of movement toward participation in the world market--were common among the Soviet successor states. The pain of economic decline was compounded in Tajikistan by a bloody and protracted civil conflict over whether the country would perpetuate a system of monopoly rule by a narrow elite like the one that ruled in the Soviet era, or establish a reformist, more democratic regime. The struggle peaked as an outright war in the second half of 1992, and smaller-scale conflict continued into the mid-1990s. The victors preserved a repressive system of rule, and the lingering effects of the conflict contributed to the further worsening of living conditions.

Tajikistan has experienced three changes in government and a five-year civil war since it gained independence in 1991 from the USSR. A peace agreement among rival factions was signed in 1997, and implemented in 2000. The central government's less than total control over some areas of the country has forced it to compromise and forge alliances among factions. Attention by the international community in the wake of the war in Afghanistan has brought increased economic development assistance, which could create jobs and increase stability in the long term. Tajikistan is in the early stages of seeking World Trade Organization membership and has joined NATO's Partnership for Peace

Nevertheless, a number of opposition political parties have been legalized and are participating in elections, suggesting that the country may be stabilizing politically. Russian-led peacekeeping troops are based throughout the country, and Russian-commanded border guards are stationed along the border with Afghanistan

   This beleaguered Central Asian republic has its own flag, a national airline and a scattering of embassies abroad, but despite these emblems of sovereignty it remains a curiously incomplete and terribly troubled country. The north of Tajikistan is in all but name a part of Uzbekistan; the mountainous Pamir region, despite Soviet attempts to populate it, remains almost a vacuum; while the capital, Dushanbe, a city not yet three-quarters of a century old still feels like an apartment awaiting its tenants. The high point of the country's unparalleled scenery are the Pamirs, which dwarf anything found outside Nepal. The Pamir Highway provides all the high-altitude thrills you could ever hope to get without donning crampons.

That Tajikistan was easily the most artificial and ill-equipped of the five Soviet-fashioned Central Asian republics was tragically illustrated by the way it bloodily fell apart as soon as it was free of direct rule from Moscow. Civil war raged until a late-1996 ceasefire, and in mid-1997, Iran, Russia and the United Nations got together to broker a peace agreement. Despite celebratory dancing in the streets of Dushanbe and hopes for a peaceful future, the country has proved far from stable, surviving on a drip feed of credits and loans from Moscow while the Pamiris survive on the largesse of the Aga Khan.

 

 

 

 

 

The Tajikistan School Connectivity Project for Central Asia is a project of Relief International - Schools Online's Global Citizenship & Youth Philanthropy Program and has been made possible with major funding from the United States State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Global Catalyst Foundation.