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    This low-lying country has historic ties to India and Pakistan, but today maintains a wholly unique culture. Explore Bangladesh!

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    Tucked away in this Middle Eastern country, the famed city of Petra (pictured) links the past to the present culture. Explore Jordan!

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Ethnicity, Language, & Religion of Tajikistan


Nearly 80% of Tajikistan's population is ethnically Tajik, which is an ethnic group most closely related to the Persians. The term Tajik is generally only used in linguistic terms, but in recent decades has also been used in ethnic terms. In general a Tajik is a person who speaks a Persian language and lives in either Tajikistan or Afghanistan. Due to Soviet policies, Tajikistan's borders today form an odd shape and there are a substantial number of ethnic Uzbeks in the country today. Additionally, there are a limited number of ethnic Russians in the country today due to former Soviet rule, however the percentage of ethnic Russians in Tajikistan is minor compared to the other former Soviet Central Asian countries.


Tajik is the only official language in Tajikistan. The language was formerly called "Persian language" by the people and it is nearly identical to Dari. Other close relatives are other Persian languages, including Farsi (or Persian). Tajik is often written in the Cyrillic script, a hangover from Soviet rule, but can also be written in the Arabic script.

Few non-native Tajik speakers in Tajikistan learn Tajik, but instead often learn Russian in addition to their native language. Russian is perhaps the most common language of communication across ethnic groups and many industries rely heavily on Russian. English and other popular international languages are rarely learned in Tajikistan although some young people are choosing to learn these languages, with English (after Russian) being the most popular.


About 85% of the population of Tajikistan is Sunni Muslim. Another 5% of the population is Shia Muslim with the last 10% comprising numerous other religions.

Islam (the name of the religion, whose followers are called Muslims) is a monotheistic religion, whose holy book is called the Qur'an. The Qur'an is believed to be the word of God spoken through the prophet Muhammad from 609-632 CE (Common Era is preferred over AD (Anno Domini or "year of the Lord") since the Islamic world doesn't believe Jesus was the messiah). Islam believes Muhammad was the last prophet sent to earth by God, the last in a long line of prophets, which includes Moses, Abraham, and Jesus among others.

Muslims follow five pillars of their faith: testimony, prayer, alms-giving, fasting, and pilgrimage. These pillars, and other tenants of their faith, can give great structure to their lives as some foods, like pork, are forbidden and every Muslim is expected to pray five times a day. However, the level of participation in each of these pillars and to what degree Islam influences an individual's life varies from person to person and community to community. Generally speaking, Tajikistan is fairly liberal in how they practice Islam.

Most Muslims are Sunni, which is the branch of Islam that closely follows the teachings of Muhammad and accepts Abu Bakr as the first Caliph (a ruler of an Islamic community); the Sunni Muslims are sometimes referred to Orthodox. Shia Muslims believe only God can chose who heads the Islamic community and believed it was Ali, Muhammad's son-in-law who was first chosen; Ali became the first Imam (according to Shia Muslims, this term only refers to the leaders of the faith, to Sunni Muslims Imam is often times used in reference to the prayer leader in mosques).

This page was last updated: May, 2014