The civil war

The civil war of 1992-97 in Tajikistan was the bloodiest armed conflict that accompanied the breakup of the Soviet Union. About 750,000 people were uprooted from their homes and the economy was devastated, while estimates of the number killed range from 70,000 to 100,000.

Rival demonstrations in Dushanbe spark violence

The Tajik civil war was triggered by rival demonstrations in Dushanbe in 1992. In response to the non-stop opposition demonstration on Shohidon Square, Supreme Soviet speaker Safarali Kenjayev summoned supporters from Kulob Province to a counter-demonstration on Ozodi Square.

President Nabiev reached a compromise with the opposition, providing for a new coalition government and replacement of the unrepresentative Supreme Soviet by a new assembly. A coalition government was set up, but the old Supreme Soviet refused to disband. Instead, arms were given to demonstrators on Ozodi Square, who returned to Kulob Province ready to fight.

Popular Front: a pro-Soviet paramilitary force

In the summer of 1992, violence spread to the southwest of the country. A pro-Soviet paramilitary force called the Popular Front attacked migrants from Garm and other mountain districts, which it assumed to be opposition supporters.

Reign of terror against the opposition

In November 1992, the old Supreme Soviet re-convened in Khujand and chose a new government that excluded the opposition. The presidency was abolished, and the new Supreme Soviet speaker Emomali Rakhmon, who was associated with the Popular Front, was nominated head of state. In December 1992, the Popular Front, aided by the intervention of Uzbekistan military forces, captured Dushanbe, installed the new government in the capital, and embarked on a reign of terror against the opposition.

CIS "peacekeepers" deployed

While activists in the democratic wing of the opposition took refuge in Moscow, those belonging to the Islamist wing—together with many ordinary refugees—crossed into Afghanistan. From there they returned to Tajikistan and joined the armed resistance in the mountain districts. The Russian military deployed forces in Tajikistan in an effort to seal off the border with Afghanistan. (This job was taken over later by a CIS “peacekeeping force” that consisted mainly of Russian troops, but included small Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Uzbek contingents. Border control was turned over to Tajik forces in 2004. In spite of these efforts, Tajikistan continues to be a major transit point for drugs from Afghanistan.)


Neither side could achieve victory. The opposition could not topple a government that had the military and economic backing of Russia and Uzbekistan. The government was unable to secure effective control over large areas of Tajikistan.

1994 presidential election

Meanwhile, the government side split between politicians from Kulob Province, represented by Rakhmanov, and politicians from Leninobod Province (Khujandis), led by Abdumalik Abdullojanov.

The Presidency was restored and elections held in 1994, together with a referendum on a new constitution. Abdullojanov stood against Rakhmonov, who won with 58% of the vote to Abdullojanov's 40%. Power shifted from the formerly dominant Khujandi leaders to the new Kulobi elite.

1995 parliamentary elections

Elections for a new 181-seat parliament followed in 1995. Almost all the deputies elected were supporters of the government.