Tajikistan, Relations with

Tajikistan, Relations with
   Modern Tajikistan came under Russian control during the last decades of the 19th century, when Russia abolished the Khanate of Qoq and and established a protectorate over the Emirate of Bukhara. After the conclusion of the Russian Civil War and the Basmachi Rebellion, Joseph Stalin oversaw the region’s organization as the Tajik Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) within Uzbekistan.
   In 1929, Tajikistan gained the status of a full union republic, though with only a small amount of the historical territory associated with the Indo-Iranian Tajiks (particularly the predominantly Tajikspeaking cities of Samarkand and Bukhara). Mountainous, lacking in fossil fuels, and economically underdeveloped, Tajikistan faced instant hardships when it gained independence from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1991. Within a year, political rivalries between the late Soviet-era nomenklatura> and opposition forces plunged the country into the Tajik Civil War, which lasted until 1997. Fearful of Islamist contagion in Central Asia, Boris Yeltsin supported the old guard against its rivals, a loose coalition of Islamists and liberal democratic reformers. Both Russia and Uzbekistan intervened to help the government recapture the capital in the early days of the conflict.
   In 1992, Emomali Rahmon became the de facto head of state when the country’s first president, Rakhmon Nabiyev, stepped down in the midst of widespread unrest. Fighting intensified in 1993, and soon degenerated into clan-based and interregional warfare in much of the country. In 1994, Rahmon became president in an election that was uncontested by opposition political parties. During the war, the Tajik economy collapsed and the country became dependent on Russian aid. In 1997, Rahmon—disturbed by the Taliban’s seizure of the Afghan capital, Kabul—signed a peace agreement with the more moderate members of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), a coalition of moderate Islamists from the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) of Tajikistan as well as secular politicians; the deal was brokered with support from Russia and Iran. Upward of 100,000 died in the conflict and more than a million were displaced (particularly Pamiris and Gharmis who fled across the Afghan border).
   With the support of Vladimir Putin, Rahmon agreed to allow the United States access to air bases as part of the 2001 campaign against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. In June 2004, Tajikistan signed an agreement with Russia allowing for the establishment of a permanent Russian military base in Tajikistan; Dushanbe also wrote off much of its foreign debt by granting ownership of the Okno space tracking station at Nurek to Russia. Since that time, Russian influence in the national economy has dramatically increased, particularly in infrastructure, hydroelectric power, and the aluminum industry; remittances from Tajik guest workers in Russia are also a vital sector of the economy.
   Tajikistan is a member of a number of Russian-backed international organizations such as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Eurasian Economic Community. Tajikistan hosts Russia’s 201st Motorized Infantry Division, a contingent of several thousand soldiers who patrol the 1,344-kilometer Tajik-Afghan border; the multiethnic force includes Tajik, Uzbek, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz soldiers and is part of the CIS Collective Peacekeeping Force. During the civil war, the unit—which had strong antidemocratic and pro-Eurasianist sympathies— acted as an independent political force, supplying weapons to the pro-government paramilitary group the Popular Front (now the dominant political party and known as the People’s Democratic Party of Tajikistan). Russia’s Federal Border Guard Service also has a large presence in the country to interdict narcotics traffic and Islamist insurgents attempting to enter Central Asia from the Middle East and Pakistan via Afghanistan. In addition to more than 20,000 soldiers, Russia has numerous advisors in the country attached to the Ministry of Defense of Tajikistan.
   In August 2008, the new Russian president, Dmitry Medvyedev, paid an official visit to Tajikistan to initiate new agreements on buttressing the Russian military presence at Gissar Airport, expanding cultural links, policing intellectual property rights, and participating in joint agricultural projects and new educational exchanges. The summit, which occurred in the wake of the South Ossetian War, demonstrated that Rahmon was backing away from plans to expand his country’s relationship with Washington in favor of a closer orbit with Moscow.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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