Tajikistan (Tajik: Тоҷикистон
), officially known as the Republic of Tajikistan (Tajik: Ҷумҳурии Тоҷикистон, Çumhuriji Toçikiston/Jumhuriyi Tojikiston
; Russian: Респу́блика Таджикистан, Respublika Tadzhikistan
) is a Central Asian country that was a part of the USSR until 1991. While it is lumped among the Central Asian states, it is not Turkic as the others; in fact the Tajiks are related to Iranians and Afghans, and more Tajiks live in the latter country rather than in Tajikistan itself. It was also the poorest of the former Soviet republics, being north of Afghanistan and with the attendant problems of Islamic insurgency didn't help.
The Tajiks consider themselves Persian with a slight difference. Unlike the Shia Iranians, they are Sunnis. If an Afghan introduces himself as a Persian, chances are he is mostly a Tajik.
The Tajiks consider themselves to be descendants of both Persian settlers during the Achaemenids and the native Sogdian population. It was attested that Zoroastrianism
's main book, the Avesta
, was written in Bactria, where Tajikistan and Afghanistan stands today. When it was invaded by the Arabs in the 8th century, the people living in the region became Muslims. The Samanid empire in Eastern Iran [900-999] was probably founded by Tajik-speakers. Then it came under the rule of Khorezm, the Mongols, Tamerlane, and the Shaybanids based in Uzbekistan. By the end of the 1700s, the territory of Tajikistan was under the control of the Uzbek khanates of Kokand and Bukhara.
The territory was caught into Tsarist Russia
's expansion in the late 1800s, with light resistance. During the Russian Revolution
, Bukhara became a communist state until it was subsumed to what would be the Soviet Union. During the 1930s, the Tajik ASSR, later promoted to an SSR, came to being. Its capital Dushanbe was for a time, called Stalinabad
, in honor of Joseph Stalin
. It seen its period of repression.
In 1991, the Soviet Union fell, and Tajikistan declared independence. It was soon however, under a state of civil war between secularist and Islamic factions until 1997. Being the poorest ex-Soviet republic did not help things either.
The current president is Inomali Rahmon, formerly Inomali Rakhmonov. He changed his surname to reduce Russian influence in Tajik culture. He also once considered reviving the Tajik Perso-Arabic alphabet. However, it was scrapped.
The Tajik flag
Red stands for the sun, unity and victory; white for purity, cotton (the nation's chief cash crop) and snowy mountains; and green for Islam and natural bounty. At the center is a golden crown, symbolizing the Tajik people, adorned with seven stars (seven being a number of perfection and virtue in Tajik culture).