From Soviet Socialist Republics to Independent States: A story of Central Asia (Tajikistan)

OpinionFrom Soviet Socialist Republics to Independent States: A story of Central Asia...

A story of Central Asia (Tajikistan)

Read Part I to click this link

By Agha Iqrar Haroon


Uzbekistan Presidential Election and western goggles---A review
Agha Iqrar Haroon, Development Observer working in Central Asia and eastern Europe regions


Almost all Central Asian states are going to celebrate their 25th Independence from August 31, 2016 to December 25, 2016.
Uzbekistan was the first Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) that announced its Independence and came out from the clutches of former Soviet Union on August 31, 1991. Other Central Asian SSRs followed Uzbekistan instantly.
Tajikistan announced independence on 9 September 1991, Turkmenistan announced its independence on 27 October 1991, Kazakhstan announced its independence on 16 December 1991 and Kyrgyzstan announced its independence on 31 August 1991 but it was recognized an Independent state on 25 December 1991.

This phenomenon of disintegration and coming out from the clutches of former Soviet Union is called as “Uzbek way” by Russian anthropologists and historians.
Kazakh SSR had biggest land volume in former Soviet Union while Tajik SSR was the smallest.  These Republics were called Constituent Republics of the Soviet Union (USSR).
Almost every SSR had certain production entity except Tajikistan which was known only for water and hydel energy production. Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan were known for their oil and gas productions, Kyrgyzstan was popular for copper, iron and gold mines, and Uzbekistan ruled the former SSRs for its cotton production.
Kazakhstan had an edge of being a wheat producer and hosting Baikonur Cosmodrome which is the first and largest operational space launch facility in the world. But all SSRs had other smaller products also including uranium and iron ore. The future of SSRs was determined by their products when they decided to disintegrate from former Soviet Union and they all performed well in their respective fields except Tajikistan that fell in civil war due to its proximity and social linkages with Afghanistan. A civil war and rule of radical Islamists continued for over five years and ruined this country from top to bottom. Tajikistan has yet to come out of adverse impact of civil war and remains poorest country in Central Asia.
Almost all heads of states of newly independent states had been a part or heads of Soviet system in their respective SSR therefore they decided not to disintegrate from new Russia culturally and socially because they had fears that radicalism would be injected in their countries by United States that had been financing Jihad in Afghanistan. Almost all newly born states did not go far away from Russian orbit though some of them wishes to stay little away from the gravity of New Russia.
New Russia had no interest in Tajikistan because of it proximity and cultural linkages with Afghanistan but new Russia did not wish to disintegrate from biggest country—-Kazakhstan and biggest cotton producer—Uzbekistan. Turkmenistan fell in Western bloc soon and weak Russia let it went away farther.
Almost every new state decided to preserve certain elements and values of the “old system” therefore Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan  and Uzbekistan decided to provide socioeconomic basics including free education and health care, special support to elderly people, cheaper oil and subsidies on wheat because these three countries were rich SSRs while Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan could not do this without the support of new Russia because their productivity was less like of Kyrgyzstan.

One should look into political, social and financial conditions of these former Soviet Republics after they have completed their first quarter of century as independent states.


From Soviet Socialist Republics to Independent States: A story of Central Asia (Part II)


Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) had been considered illiterate, unproductive and rebellion during Soviet era. Nikita Khrushchev tried to lift Tajik SSR at par of other SRRs during 1957–58 under his initiative known as “Освоение целины” (Virgin Lands Campaign). However, this initiative also failed to change Tajik SSR and Tajikistan had the lowest household saving rate and the lowest rate of university graduates per 1000 people till 1980.

Influenced by Afghan Jihad, Tajik Communists had been demanding increased rights if not independence and Administrative disturbances were common, resulting poor performance and productivity during 80s.

According to some documents of Soviet Politburo, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Tajikistan Rahmon Nabiyevich Nabiyev had links with Afghan Mujahideen and CIA in early 80s therefore he was replaced in 1985. However, his influence continued on party and he led a group of Communist Party that declared the independence of the Republic of Tajikistan a week after its neighbour Uzbekistan declared Independence on August 31, 1991. Communist Party officially announced Independence on September 9 and decided to hold elections in December 1991. Nabiyev won the elections and became the first elected President of Tajikistan. Secret documents revealed in late 2001 indicated that Rahmon Nabiyev who had links with Afghan fighters promised them to share power with Tajik Islami groups before coming into power but he broke this promise and Islamic ethnic groups from Garm and Gorno-Badakhshan launched attacks against government in May 1992.

While Rahmon was fighting against Islamist groups, his own militias staged a coup against him in September 1992. He was forced to resign and Emomalii Rahmon from Kylyab province captured Dushanbe but civil war continued for another five years and Tajikistan lost its chance to stand at par with other newly independent states of Central Asia.

Eight million population of Tajikistan is working hard to find their prosper future in a country that has to import almost everything including wheat and gasoline because 90% of area is covered with mountain and its economy is highly dependent upon remittances, aluminium and cotton production. Contrary to the other former SSRs, Tajik government does not offer free education and or free health services or any subsidies on wheat to its population.

Since country is poor, its border management is weak and it is being run on international support. On the other hand, presence of one Russian and another Indian military base, regular exercises by combined Tajik, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Russian and Chinese troops are keeping Tajikistan at bay from hostile forces from Afghanistan though Taliban and  Daesh are putting pressure on Afghan-Tajik border since early 2016.

At home front, war lords system is yet to be eliminated and they still fight each other in underground wars, mainly over control of drug, arms and other illegal businesses.

Economic and industrial output growth is perceivable but not trickling down to poor people. Tajikistan wishes to export hydropower to other countries including Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tajikistan believes that a big dam namely Rogun on Vakhsh River in southern Tajikistan will provide 3,600 megawatts for export but this project is yet to be completed though it was started during Soviet era.

Meanwhile Tajikistan building CASA-100 project but transmission line of this project is designed to enter Pakistan from Afghanistan through areas where Taliban are ruling since last December. Exporting electricity is the only hope for Tajikistan to come out of economic crises as Tajik economy had worse situation in late 2014 and early 2015 due to devolution of Russian currency and slowdown of Russian economy. Tajik economy strongly depends upon remittances from Russia.

According to a World Bank report, foreign investors are shy to invest in long term basis due to fluid economy and tight bureaucratic rules. World Bank suggests that Tajikistan should implement sound macroeconomic policies and structural reforms that are necessary to attract foreign investments.

One of the World Bank report indicates that the country has done less well in reducing non-monetary poverty. Recently available micro-data suggests that limited or no access to education, heating and sanitation are the main contributors to non-monetary poverty. These three are the most unequally distributed services, with access to education varying by income level and heating and sanitation according to location.

Its topography does not allow it to produce much food and while landlocked situation compels it import with higher rates due to higher freight.

In 2014, Tajikistan exported $697M and imported $4.82B, resulting in a negative trade balance of $4.12B.

The top exports of Tajikistan are Raw Aluminium ($184M), Gold ($120M), Zinc Ore ($63.5M), Lead Ore ($58.4M) and Raw Cotton ($49.5M) while its top imports are Refined Petroleum ($377M), Wheat ($179M), Knit Men’s Suits ($175M), House Linens ($136M) and Footwear ($128M).

The top export destinations of Tajikistan are Kazakhstan ($172M), Turkey ($158M), Switzerland ($121M), Italy ($67.4M) and Algeria ($51.6M). The top import origins are China ($2.46B), Russia ($890M), Kazakhstan ($518M), Turkey ($277M) and Switzerland ($120M).

According to social development experts, Tajikistan needs to implement a deeper structural reform agenda to reduce the role of the state and enlarge that of the private sector in the economy through a more conducive business climate, modernize and improve the efficiency and social inclusiveness of basic public services.


A Series of articles covers 25 years of independence of all Central Asian republics. Preamble of all articles is same to give a background of Soviet Socialist Republics (SSRs) so readers can understand circumstances new states went through after disintegration of former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Independence of Central Asian states caused a snow ball effect and entire USSR was disintegrated on December 26, 1991– just one day after Independence of Kyrgyzstan was recognised.  
The Soviet Union was officially dissolved on December 26, 1991, as a result of the declaration no. 142-Н of the Soviet of the Republics of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. The declaration acknowledged the independence of the former Soviet republics and created the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), although five of the signatories ratified it much later or not at all.


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