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World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Tajikistan

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date January 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Tajikistan, January 2008, available at: [accessed 26 November 2015]
Comments In October 2015, MRG revised its World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples. For the most part, overview texts were not themselves updated, but the previous 'Current state of minorities and indigenous peoples' rubric was replaced throughout with links to the relevant minority-specific reports, and a 'Resources' section was added. Refworld entries have been updated accordingly.
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Last updated: January 2008


The Republic of Tajikistan is a small landlocked republic in south-east Central Asia. The terrain is mountainous, with the northern part of the country (Khujand) cut off from the rest of the republic. Tajikistan borders Uzbekistan to the north and west, Kyrgyzstan to the north-east, the People's Republic of China to the east and Afghanistan to the south. Its territory includes the autonomous region of Gorno-Badakhshan in the Pamiri Mountains. Partially because of its size and mountainous aspects of much of the country, it never received large numbers of Slavic settlers as other parts of Central Asia.


The land that is now Tajikistan has for more than 6,000 years been the site of human habitation. Its proximity to Iran has meant that for much of its more recent history it was within the sphere of the Persian empire. While Russia's proximity has meant it has had contacts with this part of Asia for centuries, it was in the 19th century, between 1873 and 1876, that it conquered the khanates Khokand, Bukhara, and Khiva, and in so doing prepared the ground for the eventual creation of what is today Tajikistan. In 1895, the British and the Russians agreed to use the Amu Darya River as the border between the Russian and British Empires, and this became the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. In 1924, it became the Tajik Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, a part of Uzbekistan. In 1929, it received the status of a constituent republic of the USSR as the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic.

Tajikistan declared independence in September 1991 and established a presidential republic. Rahmon Nabiyev, a former first secretary of the Tajikistan Communist Party, was elected president obtaining 57 per cent of the vote. His main rival, Davlat Khudonazarov, representing various democratic and Islamic parties, received 30 per cent. The important factor in Nabiyev's victory was the backing by the Khujand northern clans and the Uzbek and Russian minorities, who feared that the country might be transformed into a Tajik ethnic and Muslim state.

Civil war

Aggravation of the economic situation and Nabiyev's unwillingness to enter a meaningful power-sharing arrangement with the opposition, as well as the latter's inability to accept defeat, led to political deadlock. Riots started in April-May 1992 and resulted in armed clashes in Dushanbe, the capital. The civil war, which erupted in summer and autumn 1992, claimed up to 100,000 dead and a million refugees. The civil war saw mobilization of supporters along regional, ethnic and clan lines in the struggle to resolve the ideological conflict between Islam and secularism and the political question of who would rule the country.

President Nabiyev was forced to resign on 7 September 1992, but this failed to stop the war in the south. In November 1992 the Tajikistan Parliament accepted Nabiyev's resignation, abolished the presidency and elected Imomali Rahmonov as parliamentary chairman, the highest executive post. CIS peacekeeping forces for Tajikistan were created. In December the 'opposition-led' government fell, and Rahmonov took office. Uzbek and Russian military support ensured that the new government stayed in power. These developments finalized the first round of power redistribution in Tajikistan, when a Khujand-Kulob alliance was installed in power again, with Kulobis, from President Rahmonov's region, on top. Ethnic and social fragmentation increased. The mandate of the CIS peacekeeping troops was extended into 1996. Following important military gains by the opposition, a UN-brokered peace agreement was signed by Tajik President Rakhmonov and Islamic opposition leader Sayed Abdullo Nouri in December 1996. As well as an end to fighting, the agreement called for a general amnesty, a prisoner exchange and the repatriation of refugees. The December agreement was designed to become the cornerstone for the creation of a national reconciliation commission in 1997.

Post-conflict developments

While disarmament occurred in 1999 and parliamentary elections were held in 2000, some areas of the country remain under the control of former guerrillas despite President Rahkmonov largely consolidating power. There have been assassinations in recent years of a number of high-ranking officials, including a peace accords negotiator and a Minister of Culture. Overall, democratic institutions and the rule of law have not had been strengthened in the short period since peace has been achieved, and the rate of reconstruction very slow while people remain seriously impoverished.

Independent journalists and human rights activists have been harassed and worse, especially after 2005 as government officials appear to have reacted nervously to the 2005 revolution in Kyrgyzstan. Key media outlets have additionally in 2005 and 2006 been closed due to state persecution.

Parliamentary elections in 2005 were generally deemed not to have been free and fair and to meet international standards, though they appear to have been an improvement on the 2000 elections. The 2006 presidential election were also considered not to be fair, though it was peaceful.


Main languages: Tajik, Russian, Uzbek, Yagnobi, Pamiri languages

Main religions: Islam (Sunni, Ismai'li), Orthodox Christianity

Minority groups include Uzbeks 15.3%, Russians 1.1%, and Kyrgyz 1.1% (National Census, 2000).

The Tajiks are an Iranian people who speak a variety of Persian, an Indo-Aryan language. Most of them are Sunni Muslims and they make up about 80 percent of the population of Tajikistan according to an official 2000 census. The country is home to over eighty ethnic groups, most notably Uzbeks, Russians, Tatars, Kyrgyz and Ukrainians. Pamiri Tajiks arguably also constitute a minority group. A small minority in the southern province of Kurgan Tyube consider themselves Arab by descent, although they speak Tajik.


Tajikistan's recovery after almost a decade of civil war which destroyed much of the country's infrastructure and created severe humanitarian and refugee problems has been slow and painful. It is still not complete. While some stability has returned to the country in more recent years, Tajikistan remains an authoritarian state dominated by President Rahmonov and his entourage. There is a multiparty political system, but the development of the rule of law and democratic progress remains slow.

Despite the absence of comprehensive human rights legislation, the international treaties dealing with human rights ratified by Tajikistan can be applied directly by the country's tribunals, but are seldom invoked partially because of the weakness and poor status of judicial institutions, as well as a low level of awareness of the availability of these rights. Freedom of expression is protected under the country's legal system, but independent media and journalists while present in Tajikistan, are subjected to pressure and harassment, and may have problems with obtaining or keeping licences. Some journalists who offend authorities have disappeared, been beaten or arrested worse.

Non-governmental organisations - including those representing minorities - must be registered, and this process may take years, in particular in the case of international NGOs. Domestic NGOs are generally not interfered with, at least until 2005, leading to a dramatic increase in registered NGOs since 2000, especially when registration fees were later slashed.

Though the civil war has ended, tensions remain high in some parts of the country.



Minority based and advocacy organisations


Advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia (US)
Tel: +1-202-898-2500

Republican Bureau on Human Rights and the Rule of Law
Tel: +992-372-2273458

Sharq Informational-Analytical Centre
Tel: +992-372-218370, 219618

Society and Law
Tel: +992-372-218-572, 276-982


Aga Khan Foundation Tajikistan - Emergency Support Facility
Tel: +992-372-247650

Sources and further reading


Advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia:

Akiner, S., Central Asia, London, MRG report, 1997.

'Alternative NGO Report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in relation to the examination of the Initial Report', May 2005, The Republic of Tajikistan on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, retrieved 18 Jnauary 2007, _commission/ngos_report/tajikistan_alt_report.pdf

Atkin, M., 'Tajikistan: ancient heritage, new politics', in Bremmer, I., and Taras, R. (eds), Nations and Politics in the Soviet Successor States, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1993, pp. 361-84.

Bozrikova, T.N., 'Problems of Ethnic Minorities in Tajikistan', October 2004, Working Paper, Sub-regional Seminar on Minority Rights: Cultural Diversity and Development in Central Asia, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bishkek

Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: Tajikistan, 10 December 2004, UN Document CERD/C/65/CO/8.

Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Tajikistan, 18 July 2005, UN Document CCPR/CO/84/TJK.

'Ethnic Minorities', 4 December, 2003, Stop Violence against Women, retrieved 18 January 2007,

Human Rights Watch - Tajikistan: t=europe&c=tajiki

Jawad, N. and Tadjbakhsh, S., Tajikistan: A Forgotten Civil War, London, MRG report, 1995.

Kamalova, N., Vitaliev, V., and Shields, A. (eds.), 'Front Line Central Asia: Threats, Attacks, Arrests and Harassment of Human Rights Defenders', 2004, International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, retrieved 18 January 2007, %20Central%20Asia.pdf

'Language and Ethnicity Issues in Tajikistan', from Open Society Institute & Soros Foundations Network, retrieved 18 January 2007,

Makhamov, M., 'Islam and the political development of Tajikistan after 1985', in H. Malik (ed.), Central Asia: Strategic Importance and Future Prospects, Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1994.

Ochs, M., Human Rights in Central Asia, retrieved 18 January 2007,

Patnaik, Ajay, 'Nations, Minorities and States in Central Asia', MAKAIAS, 2003.

Rubin, B., 'The fragmentation of Tajikistan', Survival, vol. 35, no. 4, 1993-4, pp. 71-91.

Rubin, B., 'Tajikistan: from Soviet Republic to Russian-Uzbek protectorate', in M. Mandelbaum (ed.), Central Asia and the World, New York, Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1994, pp. 207-25.

Tajikistan Human Rights News:


'Assessment for Uzbeks in Tajikistan', 31 December 2003, Minorities at Risk, Center for International Development and Conflict Management, retrieved 18 January 2007,

Erlich, A., 'Tajikistan: From Refugee Sender to Labor Exporter', July 2006, Migration Policy Institute, retrieved 18 January 2007,

Gurr, T.R., Marshall, M.G., and Lyubov, M., Risks of ethnopolitical conflict in Central Asia in the early 21st century: an analysis of the Uzbek national minorities in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and the Tajik and Kyrgyz national minorities in Uzbekistan, Center for International Development and Conflict Management (CIDCM), University of Maryland, 2000.


Bliss, F., Social and Economic Change in the Pamirs (Gorno-Badakhshan, Tajikistan), Routledge, 2005.

Bushkov, V., and Monogarova, L., 'Ethnic Processes in Gorny Badakhshan', 2000, Journal of Social and Political Studies, No 5, 2000, CA&CC Press Publishing, Sweden, retrieved 18 January 2007,

Davlatshoev, S., The Formation and Consolidation of Pamiri Ethnic Identity in Tajikistan, January 2006, School of Social Sciences of Middle East Technical University, Turkey, retrieved 18 January 2007,

Dodykhudoeva, L., The Socio Linguistic Situation and Language Policy of the Autonomous Region of Mountainous Badakhshan: The Case of the Tajik Language, Linguapax Institute, Barcelona 2002, World Congress on Language Policies, retrieved 18 January 2007,

Kynge, J., Plight of the Pamiris Highlights Pain of Tajikistan Minorities, Reuters, 15 July 1993.

Olimov, M., and Olimova, S., 'Ethnic Factors and Local Self-Government in Tajikistan', retrieved 18 January 2007,

'The Peoples of the Pamirs', retrieved 18 January 2007,

Russians and Ukrainians

'Assessment for Russians in Tajikistan', Minorities at Risk, Center for International Development and Conflict Management, retrieved 18 January 2007,

Laitin, D., Identity in Formation: The Russian-Speaking Populations in the near Abroad, Cornell UP, 1998.

Phibbs, I., A Visit to the Russians in Central Asia, Ross & Perry, 2003.

'Russian Losing Ground', News Briefing Central Asia, 16 November 2006, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, retrieved 18 January 2007,

Russians in Tajikistan Online:

Shoumikhin, A., 'Russians in Central Asia and the Caucasus: An Uncertain Future', Perspectives on Central Asia, Volume II, Number 9, December 1997, The Eisenhower Institute, retrieved 18 January 2007, http: //

Vladimirov, N., 'Strangers in a Strange Land: The Bitter Truth about Russian Ordeals in Tajikistan', Vek (Moscow: 4-11 December 1992), No. 16.

Volos, A., Hurramabad, Glas, Moscow, 2001.

Yereshinko, M., 'Russians in Tajikistan: The Forgotten People', retrieved 18 January 2007,

Ziegler, C., 'The Russian Diaspora in Central Asia: Russian Compatriots and Moscow's Foreign Policy', Winter 2006, Demokratizatsiya, retrieved 18 January 2007, 537301/pg_1

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