Tajikistan (Tajik: Тоҷикистон), officially known as the Republic of Tajikistan (Tajik: Ҷумҳурии Тоҷикистон, 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 and is in fact a part of the Persian world (see below). It was also poorest of the former Soviet republics, being north of Afghanistan and with the attendant problems of Islamic insurgency didn't help. "Tajik" is actually a term that was previously used by the Turkic settlers of Central Asia to refer to their southern Muslim neighbors (at that time, the Turkics hadn't yet converted to Islam). It eventually evolved to refer to the Persian-speaking peoples of Transoxiana (basically today's Tajikistan and Northern Afghanistan) after the Turkics' conversion, but it remained a somewhat pejorative term until the Russian era. While its use is politically-motivated, the term becomes handy to differentiate between the Sunni and Shia Persians, because the Tajiks are basically Persians who remain Sunni Muslims when the other Persians were aggressively evangelized to Shia Islam during the Safavid era. A good analogy would be the Germans post-Reformation; while the Germans who follow the Protestant movement retain their ethnonym, the Germans who keep being Catholics are gradually referred to as Austrians and/or Alemanns. The analogy goes even further as the conservative Tajiks live in the highlands like the Alemanns, while the progressive Persians live in the lowlandsnote like the Germans. 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. Geographically, Tajikistan is highly mountainous, sort of like a Central Asian Switzerland. It says something when more than 90% of the country is covered by mountains, many of which are over 6000 meters tall. The perpetual snow and many glaciers that dot the landscape has supported irrigation for as long as the area was first settled. The mountains that cover the country are mainly those from the Pamir, which extends to Afghanistan and China. About the only area not covered by mountains is the Fergana Valley in the north, which is mostly flat and populated by the Uzbeks. These traits are also shared by neighboring Kyrgyzstan, which has slightly less mountains but still enough to make it part of the "Roof of the World". Tajikistan's population is one of the most homogenous in the famously diverse Central Asia. 89.9% of the population are officially Tajiks, while the rest mainly consists of Uzbeks and several small communities of Eastern Iranian peoples who once dominated the entire Central Asia before the Turkics screwed them up, though they managed to survive thanks to the mountainous terrain. Despite the high percentage, Tajikistan doesn't hold the most numerous Tajik population; that title would be awarded to Afghanistan, who has 9.4 million vs Tajikistan's 6.7 million Tajiks, though confusingly enough, the Tajiks' language is called Dari there (yes, another term to mix-up the already-convoluted way to refer to Persian).
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).