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Tajikistan Modern History

When the Soviet Union disbanded in 1991, Tajikistan became its own nation for the first time. The contradictions within the country were great, partly between different regions and partly between the old communist elite on the one hand and nationalists and Islamists on the other. Civil war raged in 1992–1997, with great destruction as a result. Power has since remained with President Emomalii Rahmon and his immediate circle.

During the Soviet era (1920–1991), Tajikistan was essentially controlled from Moscow. When the Soviet power began to weaken during the so-called perestroke in the late 1980s, regional interests came to compete for power in Tajikistan.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Tajikistan. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

The regions are the most important platform for social, economic and political life in the country. It depends largely on the terrain; Tajikistan consists of nine tenths of mountains. During the winter months, the different parts of the country are largely cut off from one another (see also Political system).

Soon, however, new political parties began to form. The essence of their program was generally an endeavor to counterbalance the Soviet system and to promote its own culture at the expense of the Russian. Another aspect of political life was the relationship between the old elite, which depended on the Communist Party, and Islam. Primarily out in the countryside, the Islamic Renewal Party became a catalyst for a nationalist movement among young Tajiks.

Rachmonov becomes president

Contemporary History of TajikistanWhen the Soviet Union collapsed, the 15 sub-republics became sovereign states. Tajikistan, which declared its independence on September 9, 1991, was one of several republics that had never before formed its own nation.

In Tajikistan, demonstrations were held against the local leaders of the Communist Party. Among the opponents were both secular nationalists and Islamist groups. The demonstrations soon turned into armed action and in May 1992, a regular civil war broke out.

The war was fought between the Moscow-backed government army on the one hand and an alliance of Islamists and nationalists on the other. But it was also a battle between regions and clans. The government side had its main support in Kulob (or Kuljab with Russian transcription) in the south and in what was then Leninabad (today's province of Sughd with the main city of Chudzjand) in the north. The rebels were strongest in other parts of the south and in the isolated eastern half of the country. The fighting raged most intensely around Kulob, while the more economically developed Leninabad was kept out of the fighting.

Gradually, the Communist Party was divided into two camps. In fact, the Kulob faction took power from the Chudzhand faction. It was clear when a new government was formed at the end of 1992 under the leadership of Emomali Rachmonov (from 2007 spelled Emomalii Rahmon), a former Kolob chief of colleges. The power shift was cemented when Rachmonov won the November 1994 presidential election. Rachmonov has maintained his grip on power ever since and the power shift in Kulob's favor has persisted.

One million flee from civil war

Around 50,000 people were killed in the civil war. A quarter of a million people got their homes leveled and the roads, bridges, factories, hospitals and other public buildings were destroyed by hundreds. Nearly one million people became refugees in or outside the country.

The worst battles raged in 1992 and 1993. The following year, the UN succeeded in bringing about peace talks and later that year a first ceasefire was concluded, which however was repeatedly broken. In June 1997, the civil war formally ended. A national reconciliation commission was set up with the aim of incorporating the opposition into the political and military institutions. Armed Muslim opposition leader Said Abdullah Nuri and other opposition representatives could return from exile and take a seat in the new government in accordance with the peace agreement.

The peace agreement also resulted in the ban on the Islamist parties being repealed in 1998. The decision was approved by the Supreme Court the following year. As a result, Tajikistan became the only Central Asian country where Islamist parties - let alone moderate - were allowed to operate and also joined the government. Under the agreement, refugees and opposition forces returned from camps in Afghanistan.

However, the peace agreement did not end the political violence. In November 1998, Tajikistan was shaken by a coup attempt in the province of Sughd. Several former government officials were considered to be involved in the failed coup attempt, and the president also accused Uzbekistan of being behind it. Ethnic uz cups dominate the area around Sughd's main city of Chudzhand.

Manipulated choices

In the fall of 1999, armed Islamists raided Afghanistan through Tajikistan into the Kyrgyz and Uzbek parts of the Fergana Valley. The guerrilla, who belonged to the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan (known as the English abbreviation IMU), took the hostage and demanded that prisoners be released. Hard fighting was fought in Kyrgyzstan and the Central Asian neighbors agreed on closer cooperation to fight the rebels (see Foreign Policy and Defense).

In the 1999 presidential election, Emomali Rachmonov was re-elected, officially with 97 percent of the vote. Both the opposition and the OSCE were critical to how the election was conducted. Prior to the election, forthcoming terms of office had been extended from five to seven years.

The terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001 and the subsequent US-led war in Afghanistan (see Foreign Policy and Defense) meant that Tajik Islamic politicians were put under even tougher pressure. Disgruntled Islamists increasingly questioned the Islamic renewal party's cooperation with the government, a collaboration that was a cornerstone of the peace agreement. The reconciliation process also ran into difficulties in 2003, when several leading members of the Islamic renewal party were arrested and convicted of various crimes.

Parliamentary elections were held in 2000 and 2005, and presidential elections in November 2006. In all cases, Rachmonov or his People's Democratic Party won, with between 70 and 80 percent of the vote. All elections were also judged by international observers. According to the OSCE, the opposition was systematically counteracted, independent media was harassed and there was pure cheating. However, no major disturbances occurred.

Economic crisis, new violence

In 2007, a series of explosions occurred around the country, a reminder that the situation was still unstable ten years after the civil war. A new economic crisis helped to make the situation again very uncertain. Severe winters in 2007–2008 and 2008–2009 led to a food crisis and near enough collapse in electricity supply. In addition, Uzbekistan reduced its gas supplies, citing Tajikistan's growing debt.

In the wake of the international financial crisis, many foreign-working Tajiks lost their jobs and were forced to return home to growing poverty. When income from exile workers declined, many were hit hard. International observers warned that Tajikistan is beginning to resemble a failed state, with increasingly poor state apparatus.

As usual, the 2010 parliamentary elections meant a big victory for the People's Democratic Party.

From 2010, the security situation worsened. A suicide attack was carried out in Chudzhand in the Fergana Valley and in 2011–2012 several violent clashes occurred between government forces and resistance groups, mainly in the Rasht Valley in central Tajikistan and in the isolated eastern parts.

Presidential elections without opposition

Half a year before the 2013 presidential election, former Interior Minister Zaid Sajdov, along with some entrepreneurs, tried to form a new party, New Tajikistan. Sajdov had belonged to the opposition during the civil war but was given a government post as part of the peace settlement; he was a member of the government until 2006.

New Tajikistan wanted to represent the business community, and did not intend to stand in the presidential election. But the regime seemed to perceive Sajdov as a serious threat. He was arrested and sentenced in late 2012 to 26 years in prison for sexual offenses, fraud and corruption.

Prior to the election, an opposition alliance, including the Islamic Renewal Party and the Social Democratic Party, the lawyer and human rights activist Ojnihol Bobonazarova, appointed his joint presidential candidate. However, Bobonazarova was out-maneuvered and forced to leave the electoral movement a month before Election Day. The Islamic renewal party and the Social Democrats then boycotted the election.

Thus, all real political opposition failed. Rahmon did not campaign but relied on all the attention he received in state media. None of the five counter-candidates criticized him. Rahmon won by far, according to the state electoral authority. The OSCE noted, as in previous elections, that voters had no real alternative to Rahmon.

Islamic renewal party is banned

The 2015 parliamentary elections were also unexpectedly a major victory for the People's Democratic Party. The Islamic renewal party and the Social Democratic Party were subjected to such severe pressure from the authorities that they could hardly reach the electorate at all. The Islamic renewal party lost all its mandates, and shortly after the election the party was declared illegal and the terrorist stamped. Most senior party leaders were sentenced during the year to lengthy prison sentences following trials that were described by human rights groups as having a strong political impact.

Those convicted were charged with conspiring with an Islamist group that, during a couple of days in September 2015, fought fierce fighting with security forces around Dushanbe. Whether there was any connection between the Islamic renewal party and these rebels, or whether the fighting became a sweeping reason to strike against the party, is not clear.

1999 Modern History

November

Rachmonov reelected

President Rachmonov is re-elected for a second term with just over 96 percent of the vote.

1998 Modern History

November

Coup averted

A coup attempt is struck down in the province of Sughd.

February

Islamist becomes deputy head of government

President Rachmonov pardons all opposition leaders in exile and an Islamist leader becomes the first deputy prime minister.

1997 Modern History

June

The Civil War ends

The civil war ends when the government and the opposition sign a peace agreement. A Reconciliation Commission is formed to monitor compliance with the agreement.

 
 

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