Tajikistan is a landlocked country with the smallest land area in Central Asia. It is mostly located between latitudes 36° and 41° N (with a tiny region north of 41°) and longitudes 67° and 75° E (with a minor area east of 75°). It is surrounded by mountains of the Pamir range, and more than half of the nation is more than 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) above sea level. The only significant regions of lower ground are in the north (part of the Fergana Valley) and in the south (the Kofarnihon and Vakhsh river valleys that create the Amu Darya). Dushanbe lies on the southern slopes of the Kofarnihon valley.
Tajikistan has a population of 7,349,145 people (as of July 2009), of whom 70% are under the age of 30 and 35% are between the ages of 14 and 30. Tajiks (Persians) who speak Tajik (a dialect of Persian) are the majority ethnic group, with significant minorities of Uzbeks and Russians, whose numbers are decreasing owing to emigration. The Pamiris of Badakhshan, a tiny community of Yaghnobi people, and a sizable minority of Ismailis are all considered Tajiks. Tajikistanis refer to all Tajik nationals.
Tajikistan’s ethnic Russian population was 7.6 percent in 1989, but it is currently less than 0.5 percent due to Russian exodus caused by the civil war. Tajikistan’s ethnic German population has similarly decreased owing to emigration; it was 38,853 in 1979 and has almost disappeared since the Soviet Union’s demise.
Tajik is Tajikistan’s official and colloquial language, but Russian is widely used in commerce and communication. The Constitution mentions Russian as the “language for inter-ethnic communication,” but an amendment passed in 2009 was thought to remove all Russian’s official roles, but it was later clarified that the status was later re-instated, and Russian has returned to its status, being a language permissible for law-making, though all official communications should formally take place in Tajik first.
Despite its poverty, Tajikistan boasts a high percentage of literacy because to the former Soviet system of free education, with an estimated 99.5 percent of the population being literate. Sunni Islam is practiced by the vast majority of the people.
In 2009, approximately one million Tajik men and women worked in other countries (mainly in Russia). Traditional villages are home to more than 70% of the female population.
Since 2009, the government has legally acknowledged Sunni Islam of the Hanafi school. Tajikistan considers itself a secular state, with a Constitution that guarantees religious freedom. The government has designated two Islamic holidays as state holidays: Eid ul-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Tajikistan’s population is 98 percent Muslim, according to a US State Department statement and the Pew Research Center. Approximately 87–95 percent of them are Sunni, approximately 3 percent are Shia, and approximately 7 percent are non-denominational Muslims. Russian Orthodoxy, Protestantism, Zoroastrianism, and Buddhism comprise the remaining 2% of the population. During Ramadan, the vast majority of Muslims fast, but only approximately one-third in the countryside and 10% in cities follow daily prayer and food restrictions.
Bukharan Jews have resided in Tajikistan since the 2nd century BC, but there are now practically no survivors. Tajikistan’s Jewish population totaled approximately 30,000 individuals in the 1940s. The majority were Persian-speaking Bukharan Jews who had resided in the area for millennia, as well as Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe who had relocated there during the Soviet period. The Jewish population is currently believed to be fewer than 500 people, with about half of them residing in Dushanbe.
Relationships between religious groups are usually cordial, but mainstream Muslim officials are concerned that minority religious organizations may damage national unity. There is fear that religious organizations may get involved in politics. By law, the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP), a key fighter in the 1992–1997 Civil War and a proponent of the establishment of an Islamic state in Tajikistan at the time, is limited to 30 percent of the government. Membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a violent Islamic organization that now seeks to topple secular governments and unite Tajiks under a single Islamic state, is illegal, and members face arrest and jail. The number of big mosques suitable for Friday prayers is restricted, which some believe is discriminatory.
Religious communities are required by law to register with the State Committee on Religious Affairs (SCRA) and municipal authorities. Registration with the SCRA requires a charter, a list of ten or more members, and proof of local government permission for a prayer site location. Religious organizations without a physical structure are not permitted to assemble in public for prayer. Failure to register may result in significant penalties and the closure of a house of worship. According to accounts, registration at the municipal level may be difficult to acquire at times. People under the age of 18 are likewise prohibited from publicly practicing their religion.
Immigrant remittances account for almost 47 percent of Tajikistan’s GDP (mostly from Tajiks working in Russia). The present economic position is nevertheless precarious, due mainly to corruption, unequal economic reforms, and economic mismanagement. The economy is extremely susceptible to external shocks since foreign income is dangerously reliant on remittances from migrant workers abroad and exports of aluminum and cotton. International aid remained an important source of support for rehabilitation initiatives that reintegrated former civil war fighters into the civilian sector, thus helping to maintain the peace in FY 2000. International aid was also required to handle the second year of severe drought, which resulted in a continuing food production deficit. On August 21, 2001, the Red Cross declared a famine in Tajikistan and requested international assistance for Tajikistan and Uzbekistan; nevertheless, access to food remains an issue today. Food insecurity affected 680,152 Tajiks in January 2012. 676,852 were at danger of Phase 3 (Acute Food and Livelihoods Crisis) food insecurity, whereas 3,300 were at risk of Phase 4 food insecurity (Humanitarian Emergency). Those at greatest risk of food insecurity lived in GBAO’s rural Murghob District.
Tajikistan’s economy expanded significantly following the conflict. According to World Bank statistics, Tajikistan’s GDP grew at an average annual rate of 9.6 percent between 2000 and 2007. This boosted Tajikistan’s standing in comparison to other Central Asian nations (particularly Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), which seem to have deteriorated economically subsequently. Tajikistan’s main sources of revenue include aluminum manufacturing, cotton cultivation, and remittances from migrant labor. Cotton provides for 60% of agricultural production, supports 75% of the rural population, and accounts for 45 percent of irrigated arable land. The state-owned Tajik Aluminum Company represents the aluminium industry, since it is the largest in Central Asia and one of the largest in the world.
Tajikistan’s rivers, such as the Vakhsh and the Panj, offer significant hydropower potential, and the government has prioritized soliciting investment for projects for domestic consumption as well as energy exports. Tajikistan is home to the world’s tallest dam, the Nurek Dam. Russia’s RAO UES energy conglomerate has recently been working on the Sangtuda-1 hydroelectric power plant (670 MW capacity), which began operations on January 18, 2008. Other projects in the planning stages include Iran’s Sangtuda-2, China’s SinoHydro’s Zerafshan, and the Rogun power plant, which, if completed, would surpass the Nurek Dam as the tallest structure in the world at 335 meters (1,099 feet). CASA-1000, a proposed project, would transport 1000 MW of excess energy from Tajikistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan. The entire length of the transmission line is 750 kilometers, and the project is intended to be a Public-Private Partnership with the assistance of the World Bank, IFC, ADB, and IDB. The project is expected to cost approximately $865 million USD. Other energy resources include large coal deposits and lesser natural gas and petroleum reserves.
Tajikistan was the world’s most remittance-dependent economy in 2014, accounting for 49 percent of GDP, and remittances are projected to decrease by 40 percent in 2015 owing to Russia’s economic crisis. Tajik migrant workers abroad, mostly in Russia, have become by far the primary source of income for millions of Tajiks, and the World Bank predicts that with the 2014–2015 Russian economic slump, a significant number of young Tajik males would return home with limited economic prospects.
Approximately 20% of the population, according to some estimates, lives on less than US$1.25 per day. Tajik migration and remittances have been unparalleled in terms of volume and economic effect. Tajik labor migrants’ remittances reached an estimated $2.1 billion US dollars in 2010, an increase from 2009. Tajikistan transitioned from a planned to a market economy without significant and prolonged need on assistance (of which it currently gets only minimal amounts), and solely via market-based methods, simply by exporting its primary comparative advantage – inexpensive labor. According to the World Bank’s Tajikistan Policy Note 2006, remittances have played an essential role as one of the drivers of Tajikistan’s strong economic development over the last few years, increasing earnings and, as a consequence, helping to considerably decrease poverty.
Tajikistan’s main illicit source of revenue is drug trafficking, since it serves as a transit nation for Afghan drugs destined for Russian and, to a lesser degree, Western European markets; some opium poppy is also grown locally for the domestic market. However, with increased support from international organizations such as the UNODC and collaboration with US, Russian, EU, and Afghan authorities, some headway in the battle against illicit drug trafficking is being made. Tajikistan ranks third in the world in terms of heroin and raw opium confiscations (1216.3 kg of heroin and 267.8 kg of raw opium in the first half of 2006). According to some analysts, drug money corrupts the country’s administration; well-known individuals who fought on both sides of the civil war and had positions in the government after the ceasefire was reached are now engaged in the drug trade. The UNODC is collaborating with Tajikistan to improve border crossings, offer training, and establish joint interdiction teams. It also aided in the establishment of the Tajikistani Drug Control Agency.
Tajikistan is an active member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (ECO).