The Republic of Tajikistan is a state in the south-east of Central Asia, with an area of 143,100 sq. km. 93% of its territory is occupied by mountains. In 1987 the population was almost 5,000,000. According to the 1979 census Tajiks constituted 60% of the population, among major ethnic minorities were Uzbeks and Russians. Administratively, Tajikistan consists of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, 3 oblasts (first order civil divisions), 45 rayons (second order divisions). The Capital is Dushanbe. It is a parliamentary republic, secular state and most citizens are Muslims.
The settlement of the present Tajik territory including Central Gissaro-Alai and the Fann mountain area started in prehistoric times. From the 6th-4th century BC the provinces of Bactria and Sogdiana were located in this region of Central Asia and formed part of the Persian Empire. In the 4th century BC this territory came under the rule of Alexander the Great who had destroyed the Persian Empire. In the 2nd century BC, after the overthrow of the Greeks in Bactria, a new state called Tokharistan was formed, which later, together with Sogdiana and other areas of Central Asia was to become the tremendous Kushan Kingdom. The "Silk Road" from China and India led west through Tokharistan to the Hellenic and Roman states. In the 5th century AD Sogdiana and Tokharistan came under the power of the Ephtalites, and in the 6th century AD under nomadic Turkic tribes. At approximately this very time (6th-7th century AD) numerous principalities emerged, but by 8th century AD these principalities were conquered by the Arabs and the present Tajik territory became part of the Baghdad Khaliphate. In 874 AD, after much fighting, a feudal Tajik state ruled by the Samanids, practically independent of Arabs, was formed allowing the Tajik nation to take shape out of the ancient tribes of the Bactrians, Sogdiajis, Tokhars and others. A single language, Tajik, started to prevail. Samanids experienced a peaceful existence for more than 100 years. This was the real renaissance, which gave to the world such geniuses as the poets Rudaki and Ferdousi and the scientist-encyclopaedist Abu-Ali-lnb-Sina (Avicenna).
At the end of the 10th century the Samanids state was invaded and split by invading Turkic tribes. In the northern part of the present Tajikistan, the Karakhanids state was formed and the Ghaznevids state in the south.
At the beginning of the 13th century Central Asia was invaded by Ghenghis Khan, His conquests were split amongst his sons, the main cultural areas of Central Asia thus became possessions of his second son, Chagati. In the 14th century most of the present Tajik territory became part of Timur's (Tamerlain's) Empire. Tamerlain managed to create a great power with Samarkand as its capital. In the 16th century these lands belonged to Bukhara Khanate.
In the 17th and 18th centuries areas inhabited by the Tajiks belonged to different khanates and states. In the 1880's Central Asia was conquered by Russia and it was then that Turkestan was established as a region which included the northern areas of Tajikistan. After the socialist revolution in Russia, in April 1918, the Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) was created as part of the Russian Federation. In October 1924 the Tajik ASSR was formed as a nation-state subdivision of the Uzbek SSR. Since 1929 Tajikistan became Tajik SSR as a member of the USSR federation. After the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 the Republic of Tajikistan became an independent state and a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
Tajiks (self-name is tochic) constitutes the majority of the population of Tajikistan.
The process of the Tajik Nation formation began in the 4th century AD and ended by the 10th century under the Samanids' state. Anthropologically, Tajiks belong to the European (Caucasian) race. Most typical for them is the Pamirs-Fergana type. They have dark hair and eyes, round head and medium height. Inhabitants of the plains have distinct Mongoloid features.
The Tajik language, together with the very similar Persian, belongs to the south-western group of Iranian languages of the Indo-European language family. Linguists do not find any dialects in the Tajik language at present, they distinguish only several groups according to phonetic and morphological features. The written language is presently based on the Russian alphabet.
Many Tajiks encountered in the mountains are very well educated, most will speak good Russian and a few will speak English, French or German.
ACCESS, VISAS AND PERMITS
There are frequent international flights from London and some other major cities to Tashkent in Uzbekistan. The alternative is to fly via Moscow to Dushanbe, Tashkent. Direct flights from outside of the CIS directly to Dushanbe are being developed. Travel by train from Moscow, though possible, cannot be recommended.
Fairly regular buses service all the major Uzbek cities. Train services exist between Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara. However buses operating between Samarkand, Penjikent and Dushanbe are infrequent and crowded. It is very difficult to obtain public transport from Penjikent or Dushanbe to either Iskanderkul, Artuch or Shing.
Taxis are available in Uzbekistan but fairly expensive by local standards. In Tajikistan taxis are expensive and fuel is scarce.
It is probably best to hire your own vehicle and ideally you should make arrangements in advance with the help of a local agent or operator.
Visas are required for Tajikistan, these can be obtained through the Russian Embassy but require an official invitation from a Tajik organization.
The Fann Mountains are gradually becoming a more controlled and protected area. The government is in the process of setting up a system of entry permits which are presently reasonably priced. Details of permits required and entry procedures are best obtained via an agent or from the Tajik Ministry of Foreign Affairs.