Last Updated: Friday, 08 December 2017, 11:58 GMT

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Tajikistan : Russians and Ukrainians

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Tajikistan : Russians and Ukrainians, 2008, available at: [accessed 11 December 2017]
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.


Russians and Ukrainians minorities have decreased dramatically in numbers since Tajikistan's independence, mainly as a result of migration following the start of the civil war. The country's official 2000 census showed that only 61,171 Russians, and 3,787 Ukrainians remained, mainly in Dushanbe, Khujand and other cities and towns. One estimate in 2005 suggested a much larger group of 167,000 (BBC News, 23 November 2005).

Historical context

Very few Russian and Ukrainian settlers migrated to Tajikistan during the Tsarist period: in 1926, there were only an estimated 5,600 in what was considered then an imperial backwater. Soviet industrialisation was to change the country's demographics dramatically in the decades to follow. Lower infant mortality rates resulted in high natural growth rates among the Tajiks and indigenous minorities, but immigration also contributed significantly, with the number of Russians and Ukrainians going from about 5,600 in 1926 to 153,000 in 1939. This latter population almost doubled between 1939 and 1959, by which time they represented 14.7 percent of the population by 1959, mainly concentrated in urban centres.

Russian emigration started during perestroika. The first wave followed the proclamation of the Tajik language law in 1989 which made Tajik the sole state language. During the civil war Russian-speakers' sympathies were with the Nabiyev side, yet even with the victory of the latter, Russian-speakers feared further destabilisation. The effects of the Russian exodus were felt in a number of key occupational sectors.

In September 1995 Tajikistan signed an agreement with Russia on dual citizenship, partially as a means of stemming the out-migration flow. Census figures in 2000 show this has not been successful, though it appears the rate of emigration has slowed down. Anecdotal evidence suggests many of the remaining Russians and Ukrainians remain because they do not have the financial means to leave the country.

Current issues

Tajikistan has tried to encourage Russians and Ukrainians to remain in the country, as many of their members occupy technical and other skilled positions. For these reasons, schools teaching in the Russian (15 schools in 2006 have Russian as medium of instruction, though a majority of their students are Tajiks) have been maintained and the Russian language's use is still widespread in government and business. Tajik legislation now permits dual citizenship, but 2002 Russian legislation has made it much more difficult for Russians outside of Russia to gain citizenship unless they can demonstrate five years of permanent residence in Russia. Many Russians in Tajikistan still appear to want to leave because of the country's poor economic conditions.

While there does not appear to be any significant areas of discrimination by state authorities against Russian-speakers in light of the importance given to their role in society and the status still afforded to the Russian language. But there are continuing problems of intolerance and harassment in general, such as Russian families being driven out of previously all-Russian apartment buildings by Tajiks who have moved in apartments vacated by other emigrating Russians.

Violence against Russians (and other minorities) since the end of the civil war has also died down in recent years.

Copyright notice: © Minority Rights Group International. All rights reserved.

Search Refworld