Historical background

The Tajiks are of Persian origin, and were known to be farming the great river valleys of the region 3-4,000 years ago. Modern literary Tajik, written in the Arabic alphabet, emerged under the great Muslim civilization of Bukhara and Samarkand (Transoxiana) in the 9th century. It was also at this time that the Tajiks adopted Islam. By the 11th century Persian and Chagatai had replaced Tajik as the main languages of the civilization of Bukhara and Samarkand.

The Bukharan Emirate—including most Tajiks (although not the Pamiris)—became a Russian protectorate in the mid-19th century.

Tajikistan a union republic in 1929
Flag of the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic (public source)

Flag of the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic

In 1924, Tajikistan became an autonomous republic within the Uzbek SSR. It became a union republic separate from Uzbekistan in 1929.

Perestroika slow to impact Tajikistan

Independent political groups began to appear in 1989, but were not allowed to take part in the 1990 elections to the Supreme Soviet.

Polarized society

Tajikistan faced the collapse of the Soviet Union as a deeply polarized society. When the hard-line coup was mounted in Moscow in August 1991, the Tajik party boss supported the hardliners. Following the failure of the coup, mass demonstrations in Dushanbe forced him to resign. In September 1991, the Supreme Soviet of the republic declared Tajikistan independent.

Presidential elections of 1991

Rohman Nabiev, a former party boss and chairman of the Supreme Soviet, won with 58% of the vote. An opposition candidate, a well-known cinematographer named Davlat Khudonazarov, received 25%, but charged that the result had been falsified.