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History of Tajikistan

People have lived in what is today known as Tajikistan for hundreds of thousands of years, but the Tajik people didn't arrive until much later. The Tajiks may have come from what is today Iran as they are closely related to the Persian people. They most likely occupied the region of Bactria and Merv among others, which are located west of modern day Tajikistan.

The region and people eventually fell under the control of Alexander the Great in about 300 BC, then fell under the Kushan Empire from about 0 to 400 AD. However, it wasn't until 715 that a major change was introduced that remains today. During that time Islam was introduced to the people and to this day the Tajiks are primarily Muslim.

This also began a long rule of Muslim rulers, including the Samanid Dynasty who ruled the region throughout most of the 900s. Under their rule the Tajik people began to create a stronger identity and culture, most particularly in the city of Bukhara (modern day Uzbekistan). After the fall of the Samanid Dynasty the region fell in chaos for some time until the Mongols swept in from the east and took over the Tajik people in the early 1200s.

Among the Mongol leaders, the strongest in the Central Asian region was Timur and his descendants, who came to power in the mid- to late-1300s and ruled until the 1500s. These people ruled the region with few challenges and fully developed the Silk Trade Route as well as major cities along the path, most of which are in modern day Uzbekistan, including their capital of Samarkand.

After the fall of the Timurid Dynasty few strong leaders ruled over the Tajik people, or Central Asia as a whole, until 1868 when the Russians took the region. The Russians moved into the region for numerous economic reasons, and with no organized government and few arms to fight, the region of Central Asia, including what is today Tajikistan soon fell under Russian control.

The Tajiks remained under Russian rule until Russia fell and was replaced by the Soviet Union. The Tajiks immediately fell under Soviet control as borders were shifted in order to create ethnic diversity in the region, and hence a smaller chance of an uprising against the Soviet government. This led to the removal of Bukhara and Samarkand from Tajik control to Uzbek control as the government encouraged Tajiks to view themselves as Uzbeks.

Under Soviet rule Tajikistan, like many of its neighbors, suffered greatly. First with the loss of their two major cities, but that continued as the region soon became the poorest part of the entire Soviet Union. Due to the nearly inaccessible mountains and strong Islamic influence in the south the people of Tajikistan never truly succumbed to Soviet demands, which is part of the reason they suffered so greatly.

As the Soviet Union began to collapse, there were a number of leadership changes in the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic, but eventually the former ruler, Rakhmon Nabiyev returned to power. Despite this control over numerous government resources, when the country gained independence in 1991 he barely won a vote over opposition Davlat Khudonazarov, a filmmaker. With beliefs that the election was rigged, protests broke out on both sides and this eventually led to civil war in 1992. In 1994 the war came to an end as Russian troops continue to act as peacekeepers. Despite this, in the same year Emomalii Rahmon was elected to office and regular accusations of corruption and rigged elections continue.

On another political front, Tajikistan borders Afghanistan and since 2001 Tajikistan has been home to numerous international troops, protecting the country from spillover in Afghanistan.

This page was last updated: March, 2013