Tajikistan's Transition to the World Economy

By Emadi, Hafizullah | Contemporary Review, August 2000 | Go to article overview

Tajikistan's Transition to the World Economy


Emadi, Hafizullah, Contemporary Review


THE struggle for political equality, societal justice and human rights constitute the fundamental aspect of transition in the newly independent republics in Central Asia in the post-Soviet era. This struggle has been more severe in Tajikistan than in the other republics. Soviet development strategy, based on grass-roots participation, underwent major changes in the late 1950s. The new policy over-emphasized the role of the party and the state apparatuses as the legitimate authority for civil society and resulted in the overdevelopment of the state apparatus and marginalization of civic institutions. The side effects of such development policies manifested in the monopolization of political power by the elites from the north, which excluded the southeastern peoples of Garm and Pamir from participation in the political arena.

Existing literature sees the causes and origins of armed conflict and the breakdown of law and order in Tajikistan as a direct consequence of clashes between the two antagonist ideologies of Islam and communism. There is no doubt that the struggle has had Islamic overtones but the bureaucratic policy of uneven regional development as well as the failed revised Soviet policies on the question of nationality constitute a major underlying factor in the process of de-stability in the post-Soviet era. On the pretext of promoting equality of nations and creating an artificial Tajik national identity, the ruling bureaucratic clique from the north, who dominated the state and party apparatuses, marginalized the elites from the southeast and the mountain region of Gorno-Badakhshan. This situation provoked the politically marginalized elites to fight for their rights and equality soon after Tajikistan was declared an independent state in 1991.

Tajikistan is a small mountainous country in Central Asia bordering China, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgizstan. Its population is estimated to be 5.4 million with 90 per cent of its inhabitants professing Islam (including a significant number of Shiites, mainly the Ismaili sect of Islam). Tajiks constitute 58 per cent of the population, Uzbeks 23 per cent, Russians 11 per cent, and Tatar, German, Ukrainian and Kyrgiz 1 per cent each. The word Tajik means crown and used to distinguish the Persian speaking from the Turkic speaking communities. In the early 19th century the two well-known cities of Samarqand and Bokhara served as the intellectual centre for the Tajik community and constituted the majority of the cities' population. In the mid-19th century Central Asia was occupied by Tsarist Russia and the Russian colonial empire allowed local chiefs to exploit their subjects ruthlessly. Colonialism and local oppression led to the emergence of anti-colonial sentiments manifested in the formation of Jadidi, reformist movement. When the Bolsheviks violently overthrew the Tsarist regime during the 1917 socialist revolution the new government under Lenin's leadership called for the elimination of Russian chauvinism stating that:

To recognize the rights of various nations the Soviets endorsed policies aimed at establishing independent republics for each nationality within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). To this end Moscow demarcated new political boundaries, entitling each ethnic group to a nation of its own. In 1924 Turkistan was divided and the republics of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgizstan, Qazakistan and Tajikistan were created. While the idea was a noble one, policy makers made some errors of judgment which among others included annexation of two major cities, Samarqand and Bokhara, considered the intellectual centres for Tajiks, under the legal jurisdiction of the republic of Uzbekistan, thereby depriving the Tajiks of the intellectual resources necessary for the enhancement of their national identity and culture.

A distinction must be made between the nationalism of an oppressor nation and that of an oppressed nation, the nationalism of a big nation and that of a small nation. …

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