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The Tajiks

The TajiksThe Tajiks live mostly in Tajikistan, but also in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Samara, Sverdlovsk, Tyumen, Rostov, Saratov, Volgograd Oblasts, Krasnoyarsky Krai.
There are three distinct cultural groups: The Lowland Tajiks (similar in life-style to sedentary Uzbeks), Mountain Tajiks, Pamir-Tajiks.
Also two other ethnographic offshoots: the Chagatays and the Khardurs.
Self-destination: Tojik
Language: Tajik (with 4 major dialect groups), related to Iranian group
Religion: Sunni-muslims
Diaspora: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Iran (Khorostan), Pakistan.
(Titular nation of Tajikistan)

Present-day Tajiks appear to be descendants of one of the early, proto-Indo-European civilisations that entered Central Asia 4000 years ago. The indigenous tribes of the Tajikistan region became subject of conquest from the south and east, due to its position as a corridor to the plains of Transoxiana.

The history of Tajikistan and the Tajiks has long been bound up with that of Uzbekistan to the west, as the two regions have often been under the same ruler. Two such empires, the Bactrian (6th century B.C) and the Sogdian (4th century B.C.), provide the first recorded links to the Tajiks' Iranian heritage (unlike the Turkic heritage of other Central Asian peoples like Uzbeks and Kazakhs).

By the 15th century, the bulk of Central Asia was turkicized thoroughly. Since the 4th century, there was a steady Turkic influx into the region, except for the Arab conquest of Central Asia in the mid-8th century.

The Seljuk invasion in the 11th and 12th centirues and the Genghis Khanite and Timurid Mongol invasions in the 13th through 15th century, contributed to the turkification process. Of the Indo-European speakers, only the Pamirs (speaking an East Iranian language) and the ancestors of the Tajiks (West Iranian language) successfully resisted the turkification process.

Islam was brought to Tajikistan with the Arab conquest in the 8th century, and has since been an important trait of Tajik culture. Under Islamic influence, the Tajiks established peace among themselves and this gave rise to the short-lived but spectacularly successful Perso-Arabic Samanid empire (10th century), the only expression of Tajik statehood until the Soviet period. The Samanid capital, Bukhara, became a centre of commerce and learning in the expanding Islamic world, with commercial ties even with the then so distant Russia. The Tajiks' strong commitment to Islam undoubtedly aided them in maintaining their cultural unity in the face of incursions by the Mongols, Timurids and Uzbeks.

When the Uzbek Khanates (Bukhara, Khiva and Khokand) defeated the Timurid dynasty in the 16th century, they started also to bring the Tajiks to the east under their rule, and established a number of semi-independent Tajik border states along the frontier between Uzbekistan and China.

By the middle of the 19th century, Russia accelerated its conquest of Central Asia in the face of competing British expansion from the south. In 1867, a governor-generalship of Russian Turkestan was formed under direct military administration, and the next year, the Russians conquered the Emirate of Bukhara and turned it into a protectorate. Khiva fell to the Russians in 1973, and Khokand in 1876. Thus, by the end of the 19th century, all of the territory in northern Tajikistan was under direct Russian rule, while the territory in the south came under totally Russian-dominated Bukharan control. In 1895, by an Anglo-Russian agreement, the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan was settled along the Pyanzh river. With Russian control in Tajikistan followed Russian settlers and a Russian elite.

In 1916, as the Russian Army in the First World War was desperate for more troops, the Russians for the first time introduced general military conscription among the peoples of Central Asia. This spurred a general revolt, in which the Tajiks also took part. Before this, there were also many smaller riots caused by the Russians' attempt to impose their culture on the Tajiks. But in spite of all this, the incorporation of Tajikistan into Russia had contributed to economic development among the so commerce-oriented Tajiks. Tajik commerce and crafts flourished.

After their 1917 revolution, the Bolsheviks restructured the Tajik government with much brutality. In 1918, part of the Tajik homeland was incorporated into the newly created Turkestan ASSR. In 1920, the Soviets took Bukhara, thereby claiming the rest of Tajikistan. The Emir was driven into Tajikistan, from where he organised the Basmachi revolt (Basmachi = Uzbek for "Bandit"). Th Basmachi movement posed a serious threat to Soviet authority in Central Asia. This movement consisted of Muslim clerics opposing the Bolsheviks' atheism, Muslim nationalists fighting Russian domination, Jadids who felt betrayed by the Bolsheviks, Muslim units that had defected from the Red Army, and so on. By the winter of 1921-22, the revolt was at its height, as the rebels controlled the Fergana Valley, except the biggest cities, and nearly took Bukhara from the Soviets. The movement gradually declined after this, as the Soviets instituted a series of reforms at the same time as the movement was ridden by internal feudes. Stalin finally crushed the movement in the mid-1930s.

In 1924, the Tajik ASSR was established as part of the Uzbek SSR that was created at the same time. In 1929, Tajikistan was promoted to full union status (SSR), while the Tajik cities Samarkand and Buchara remained in Uzbekistan, where the Tajik population were forced to register as Uzbeks. No serious efforts have been made to unite these areas with Tajikistan.

The majority of the Tajiks viewed Soviet authority as brutal and repressive, and the Soviets had a hard time developing a Tajik Communist party structure. Stalin's cruel purges didn't make things better, and even as late as 1990, the Tajiks were still a minority in the Tajik Communist party. The Tajiks also clung fiercely to Islam, and resisted Russification.

In 1989, during Glasnost and Perestroyka, Tajik became the official language of Tajikistan, a policy which was opposed by the Russian-speaking population. Some Russians left the country. In 1991 the independent republic of Tajikistan was proclaimed.

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