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Tajikistan (03/09)


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For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.

PROFILE

OFFICIAL NAME:
Republic of Tajikistan

Geography
Area: 143,100 sq. km.
Capital: Dushanbe.
Terrain: Pamir and Alay mountains dominate landscape; western Ferghana valley in north, Kofarnihon and Vakhsh Valleys in southwest.
Climate: Mid-latitude continental, hot summers, mild winters; semiarid to polar in Pamir mountains.

People
Nationality: Tajikistani.
Population (Oct. 2008 est.): 7,345,100
Population growth rate (2008 est.): 2.3%
Ethnic groups: Tajik 74%, Uzbek 23%, Russian and others 3%.
Religion (2003 est.): Sunni Muslim 95%, Shi'a Muslim 3%, other 2 %.
Language: Tajik (the official state language as of 1994); Russian is recognized as "the language of international communication" and is widely used in government and business; 77% of the population lives in rural communities where mostly Tajik is spoken.
Education: Literacy (according to Tajikistan official statistics, 2003)--88%. The Tajik education system is still struggling through a period of decline since independence.
Health: Life expectancy--61.95 years men; 68.15 years women. Infant mortality rate--110.76 deaths/1,000 live births (2005 est.).
Work force (2008 est.): 4.1 million. Up to half of the working age population seek jobs outside of the country, primarily in Russia. The official work force is 2.1 million.

Government
Type: Republic.
Independence: September 9, 1991 (from Soviet Union).
Constitution: November 6, 1994.
Branches: Executive--chief of state: President Emomali RAHMON since November 6, 1994; head of state and Supreme Assembly Chairman since November 19, 1992; head of government (appointed by the president): Prime Minister Oqil OQILOV since January 20, 1999; Oqilov has reached mandatory retirement age, but has not yet been replaced. Cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president, approved by the Supreme Assembly. Elections: president elected by popular vote for a 7-year term; election last held November 6, 2006. Election results: Emomali RAHMON 79.3%, Olimjon BOBOYEV 6.2%, Amir QARAQULOV 5.3%, Ismoil TALBAKOV 5.1%, Abduhalim GHAFFOROV 2.8%. Legislative--bicameral Supreme Assembly or Majlisi Oli consists of the Assembly of Representatives or Majlisi Namoyanandagon (lower chamber; 63 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve 5-year terms) and the National Assembly or Majlisi Milli (upper chamber; 34 seats; members are indirectly elected by popular vote to serve 5-year terms, 25 selected by local deputies, 8 appointed by the president, plus former presidents of Tajikistan--currently there is one; all serve 5-year terms). Elections: last held February 27, 2005 for the Assembly of Representatives. Election results: percent of vote by party--People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan 74.9%, Communist Party 13.64%, Islamic Revival 8.94%, other 2.5%. Judicial--Supreme Court; judges are appointed by the president.
Political parties and leaders: People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan or PDPT [Emomali RAHMON]; Islamic Revival Party or IRPT [Muhiddin KABIRI]; Tajik Communist Party or CPT [Shodi SHABDOLOV]; Democratic Party or DPT [Masud Sobirov heads government-recognized faction; Mahmadruzi ISKANDAROV, currently serving 23-year prison term, is chairman of original DPT; Rahmatullo VALIYEV is deputy)]; Social Democratic Party or SDPT [Rahmatullo ZOYIROV]; Socialist Party of Tajikistan or SPT [Abdukhalim GAFFOROV; Murhuseyn NARZIEV heads the original SPT party that is currently unrecognized by the government]; Agrarian Party or APT [Amir Birievich QARAQULOV]; Party of Economic Reform or PERT [Olimjon BOBOYEV].
Suffrage: 18 years of age, universal.
Defense (2003 est.): Military manpower (availability)--1,273,700.

Economy
GDP nominal (2008): $4.788 billion.
GDP nominal per capita (2008): U.S. $561. Purchasing power parity: $1,800.
GDP real growth rate (2008 est.): 4.5%.
Inflation rate (consumer prices, 2008 real): 21%.
Natural resources: Hydropower, some petroleum, uranium, gold, mercury, brown coal, lead, zinc, antimony, tungsten.
Official unemployment rate (2008): 2.3%. The official rate is estimated based on the number of registered unemployment benefit recipients; it does not take into account the significant number of people who seek work abroad. Underemployment also is very high--possibly as high as 40% of the work force; 53% live below the poverty line.
Agriculture: Products--cotton, grain, fruits, grapes, vegetables; cattle, sheep, goats.
Industry: Types--aluminum, zinc, lead, chemicals and fertilizers, cement, vegetable oil, textiles, metal-cutting machine tools, refrigerators and freezers.
Trade: Imports (2008)--$3.2 billion f.o.b.: aluminum, electricity, cotton, gold, fruits, vegetable oil, textiles. Partners include--Netherlands, Turkey, and China. Exports (2008)--$1.4 billion f.o.b.: electricity, petroleum products, aluminum oxide, machinery and equipment, foodstuffs. Partners include--Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, China, Ukraine, Italy, and Turkmenistan.
Total external debt (as of January 1, 2009): $1,371.4 billion; total bilateral external debt (2008)--$105.7 million, divided between Uzbekistan $54.1 million, U.S. $14.3 million, Turkey $5.1 million, Kazakhstan $8.5 million, and Iran $23.7 million; total multilateral debt (January 2009)--$623 million, divided between World Bank $340 million, ADB $226 million, and IDB $57 million.
Debt/GDP ratio (2008 est.): 28.5%.

GEOGRAPHY
At 36'40' northern latitude and 41'14' eastern longitude, Tajikistan is located between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to the north and west, China to the east, and Afghanistan to the south. Tajikistan is home to some of the highest mountains in the world, including the Pamir and Alay ranges. Ninety-three percent of Tajikistan is mountainous with altitudes ranging from 1,000 feet to 27,000 feet, with nearly 50% of Tajikistan's territory above 10,000 feet. Earthquakes are of varying degrees and are frequent. The massive mountain ranges are cut by hundreds of canyons and gorges; at the bottom of these run streams which flow into larger river valleys where the majority of the country's population lives and works. The principal rivers of Central Asia, the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, both flow through Tajikistan, fed by melting snow from mountains of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Flooding and landslides sometimes occur during the annual spring thaw.

PEOPLE
Contemporary Tajiks are the descendants of ancient Eastern Iranian inhabitants of Central Asia, in particular the Soghdians and the Bactrians, and possibly other groups, with an admixture of western Iranian Persians, Mongols, and Turkic peoples. Until the 20th century, people in the region used two types of distinction to identify themselves: way of life--either nomadic or sedentary--and place of residence. By the late 19th century, the Tajik and Uzbek peoples had lived in proximity for centuries and often used--and continue to use--each other's languages. The division of Central Asia into five Soviet Republics in the 1920s imposed artificial divisions on a region in which many different peoples lived intermixed.

HISTORY
The current Tajik Republic hearkens back to the Samanid Empire (A.D. 875-999), which ruled what is now Tajikistan as well as territory to the south and west, as their role model and name for their currency. During their reign, the Samanids supported the revival of the written Persian language in the wake of the Arab Islamic conquest in the early 8th century and played an important role in preserving the culture of the pre-Islamic Persian-speaking world. They were the last Persian-speaking empire to rule Central Asia.

The expanding Russian Empire encompassed the territory that is now Tajikistan, along with most of the rest of Central Asia during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Russian rule collapsed briefly after the Russian Revolution of 1917, as the Bolsheviks consolidated their power and were embroiled in a civil war in other regions of the former Russian Empire. As the Bolsheviks attempted to regain Central Asia in the 1920s, an indigenous Central Asian resistance movement based in the Ferghana Valley, the "Basmachi movement," resisted but was eliminated by 1925. Tajikistan became fully established under Soviet control with the creation of Tajikistan as an autonomous Soviet socialist republic within Uzbekistan in 1924, and as an independent Soviet socialist republic in 1929.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The Republic of Tajikistan gained its independence during the breakup of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) on September 9, 1991 and soon fell into a civil war. From 1992 to 1997 internal fighting ensued between old-guard regionally based ruling elites and disenfranchised regions, democratic liberal reformists, and Islamists loosely organized in a United Tajik Opposition (UTO). Other combatants and armed bands that flourished in this civil chaos simply reflected the breakdown of central authority rather than loyalty to a political faction. The height of hostilities occurred between 1992 and 1993. By 1997, the predominantly Kulyabi-led Tajik Government and the UTO had negotiated a power-sharing peace accord and implemented it by 2000.

The last Russian border guards protecting Tajikistan's 1,344 km border with Afghanistan completed their withdrawal in July 2005. Russia maintains its military presence in Tajikistan with the basing of the Russian 201st Motorized Rifle Division that never left Tajikistan when it became independent. Most of these Russian-led forces, however, are local Tajik noncommissioned officers and soldiers.

Tajikistan's most recent presidential election in 2006 and its 2005 parliamentary elections were considered to be flawed and unfair but peaceful. While the government and the now-incorporated former opposition continue to distrust each other, they have often found a way to work with each other to peacefully resolving their differences. In June 2003, Tajikistan held a flawed referendum to enact a package of constitutional changes, including a provision to allow President Rahmon the possibility of re-election to up to two additional 7-year terms after his term expired in 2006. The February 2005 parliamentary elections, in which the ruling party secured 49 of the 63 seats, failed to meet many key Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) standards on democratic elections, but there were some improvements over previous elections.

After the November 6, 2006 presidential election in which President Rahmon secured a new 7-year term in office, the OSCE determined that democratic practices were not fully tested "due to the absence of genuine competition, which provided voters with only nominal choice." There were four other candidates on the ballot but no strong opposition candidate. The strongest opposition party, the IRPT, decided not to field a candidate and two other parties (the DPT and SDPT) boycotted the election.

Lack of transparency in the legislative process and significant concerns regarding due process demonstrate the weakness of civil society in the country. Corruption is pervasive, and numerous observers have noted that power has been consolidated into the hands of a relatively small number of individuals.

Afghanistan continues to represent the primary security concern in Tajikistan's immediate neighborhood, although much less so than in earlier years. With the ouster of the former Taliban government from Afghanistan, Tajikistan now has much friendlier relations with its neighbor to the south. The Taliban-allied Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a U.S. Government-declared terrorist organization formerly active in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, has also been greatly diminished as a threat to Tajikistan's domestic stability. Rampant illicit trafficking of Afghan opium and heroin through Tajikistan remains a serious long-term threat to Tajikistan's stability and development, fostering corruption, violent crime, HIV/AIDS, and economic distortions.

Principal Government Officials
President--Emomali Rahmon
Prime Minister--Oqil Oqilov
Foreign Minister--Khamrokhon Zarifi
Ambassador to the United States--Abdujabbor Shirinov
Permanent Representative to the United Nations--Sirojiddin Aslov

Tajikistan established an embassy in Washington, DC in temporary offices in February 2003, and formally opened its first permanent chancery building in March 2004. Tajikistan's embassy in the United States is at 1005 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, DC 20037 (tel.: 202-233-6090; fax: 202-223-6091).

ECONOMY
Tajikistan is the poorest Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) country and one of the poorest countries in the world. Foreign revenue is precariously dependent upon exports of cotton and aluminum, and on foreign remittance flows from Tajik migrant workers abroad, mainly in Russia. The economy is highly vulnerable to external shocks.

Tajikistan has great hydropower potential, and has focused on attracting investment for projects for internal use and electricity exports. Meanwhile, the country faces severe electricity shortages, particularly during the winter, when most of Tajikistan's inhabitants receive little or no electricity for weeks at a time.

Tajikistan has followed a relatively strict fiscal and monetary policy, which has resulted in macroeconomic stability. However, government interference in the economy and massive corruption stifle economic growth and private investment. The government has attracted state-led investment for major infrastructure projects, rather than implementing the necessary economic reforms to attract private investors. Two-thirds of the workforce of Tajikistan is in agriculture, most of them pressured to grow cotton. Tajikistan struggles to implement agricultural reforms that would allow many farmers to grow the crop of their choice. Income from narcotics trafficking, while difficult to quantify, has an increasingly visible impact on the Tajik economy.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
With the ouster of the former Taliban government from Afghanistan, Tajikistan now has much friendlier relations with its neighbor to the south. Though a withdrawal of Russian border guards was completed in July 2005, Tajikistan continues to permit basing of the Russian 201st Motorized Rifle Division that never left Tajikistan when it became independent.

Tajikistan has a difficult relationship with Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan is concerned about Tajikistan's plans to develop hydropower, which Uzbekistan views as a threat to downstream irrigation. Border disagreements arise sporadically between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and the Kyrgyz Republic. For the most part these are minor disagreements concerning people moving across mostly unmarked borders, but occasionally disputes develop into situations where gunfire is exchanged. In early 2009 Tajikistan and Uzbekistan made progress in diplomatic relations and expanding commercial links.

U.S.-TAJIK RELATIONS
The United States remains committed to assisting Tajikistan in its economic and political development, as Tajikistan continues to recover from its civil war legacy. U.S. assistance efforts are evolving away from humanitarian aid and political reconciliation, as those needs increasingly have been met. Instead, our efforts are targeted toward broader goals of democratic and economic reforms.

U.S.-Tajik relations have developed considerably since September 11, 2001. The two countries now have a broad-based relationship, cooperating in such areas as counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, and regional growth and stability. In light of the Russian border forces' withdrawal from the Tajik-Afghan border, the U.S. Government leads an international donor effort to enhance Tajikistan's territorial integrity, prevent the transit of narcotics and material or technology related to weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and support a stable, peaceful Tajikistan in order to prevent the spread of influence and activities of radical groups and terrorists.

We continue to assist Tajikistan on economic reforms and integration into the broader global marketplace, for example in pursuing World Trade Organization (WTO) accession. U.S. assistance also supports health and education, as well as democracy, media, and local governance. Tajikistan has been a strong supporter of U.S. efforts in the war on terrorism and in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

A U.S. Government-funded $36 million bridge over the Pyanzh River connecting Sher Khan, Afghanistan with Nizhniy Pyanzh, Tajikistan opened for commercial traffic in October 2007 and about 200 trucks cross daily. Since the opening, trade volume has tripled. The bridge will continue to enhance economic and commercial opportunities on both sides of the river, allowing goods and people to move across more easily. On the Afghan side, the bridge road will connect to the Afghan Ring Road.

The United States recognized Tajikistan on December 25, 1991, the day the U.S.S.R. dissolved, and opened a temporary Embassy in a hotel in the capital, Dushanbe, in March 1992. After the bombings of U.S. Embassies in Africa in 1998, Embassy Dushanbe American personnel were temporarily relocated to Almaty, Kazakhstan, due to heightened Embassy security standards. American Embassy Dushanbe has since returned to full operations and in July 2006 moved into a purpose-built Embassy compound.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Tracey Ann Jacobson
Deputy Chief of Mission--Necia Quast
Management Officer--David Schafer
Political/Economic Section Chief--D. Matthew Purl
Public Affairs Officer--Jacqueline McKennan
Consular Officer--Elisabeth Wilson
Defense Attaché--LTC Larry D. Harrison
USAID Country Representative--Carolyn Bryan

The U.S. Embassy is located at 109-A Ismoili Somoni Avenue, Dushanbe, Tajikistan 734019. Embassy phone: [992] (37) 229-20-00, Consular section phone: [992] (37) 229-23-00, Embassy fax: [992] (37) 229-20-50. Website: dushanbe.usembassy.gov



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