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Tajikistan

Tajikistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia that borders Afghanistan to the south, China to the east, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and Uzbekistan to the west and northwest. The ancient Silk Road passed through it.

See

Pamir mountains, with passes between 3200 and 4500 meters, and Lake Karakol. Penjikent, a town next to the border, 70km from Samarkand, Uzbekistan, with ruins of an ancient city.

Climate

Mid-latitude continental, hot summers, mild winters; semiarid to polar in the Pamir Mountains.

Terrain

The Pamir and Alay Mountains dominate Tajikistan's landscape. The western Fergana Valley is in north, and the Kofarnihon and Vakhsh Valleys are in the southwest.

The country's lowest point is at Syr Darya (300 m), and it's highest point is at Qullai Ismoili Somoni (7,495 m)

Etymology

Tajikistan means the "Land of the Tajiks" in Persian. Some believe the name Tajik is a geographic reference to the crown (Taj) of the Pamir Knot, but this is a folk etymology. The word Tajik was used to differentiate Iranians from Turks in Central Asia, starting as early as the 10th century. The addition of 'k' might have been for the purpose of euphony in the set phrase Turk-o Tajik ("Turks and Tajiks") which in Persian-language histories is found as an idiomatic expression meaning "everyone." According to some other sources, the name Tajik (also spelled Tadjik or Tadzhik) refers to a group of people who are believed to be one of the pure and close descendents of the ancient Aryans. Their country was called Aryana Vajeh and the name Taa-jyaan from which came the word Tajik is mentioned in The Avesta. Zoroaster's Gathas were also directed to an Aryan audience and there are several references to this[which?] community as being situated in the "home" of the Aryans.

Tajikistan frequently appeared as Tadjikistan or Tadzhikistan in English, transliterated from the Russian ??????????? (in Russian the phoneme /dzh/ is represented as ??, i.e., dzh or dj.) Tadzhikistan is the most common alternate spelling and is widely used in English literature derived from Russian sources.

Controversy surrounds the correct term used to identify people from Tajikistan. The word Tajik has been the traditional term used to describe people from Tajikistan and appears widely in literature. But the ethnic politics of Central Asia have made the word Tajik a controversial word, as it implies that Tajikistan is only a nation for ethnic Tajiks and not ethnic Uzbeks, Russians, etc. Likewise, ethnic Tajiks live in other countries, such as China, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, making the term ambiguous. In addition, elements among the Pamiri population in Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshan region have at times sought to create an ethnic identity separate from that of the Tajiks. History

Modern Tajiks regard the Samanid Empire as the first Tajik state. This monument in Dushanbe honors Ismail Samani, ancestor of the Samanids and a source of Tajik nationalism.

The territory of what is now Tajikistan has been inhabited continuously since 4000 BCE. It has been under the rule of various empires throughout history, for the longest period being part of the Persian Empire.

Most of modern Tajikistan had formed parts of ancient Kamboja and Parama Kamboja kingdoms, which find references in the ancient Indian epics like the Mahabharata. Linguistic evidence, combined with ancient literary and inscriptional evidence has led many eminent Indologists to conclude that ancient Kambojas (an Avestan speaking Iranian tribe) originally belonged to the Ghalcha-speaking area of Central Asia. Achariya Yasaka's Nirukta (7th century BCE) attests that verb Savati in the sense "to go" was used by only the Kambojas. It has been shown that the modern Ghalcha dialects, Valkhi, Shigali, Sriqoli, Jebaka (also called Sanglichi or Ishkashim), Munjani, Yidga and Yaghnobi, mainly spoken in Pamirs and countries on the headwaters of the Oxus, still use terms derived from ancient Kamboja Savati in the sense "to go".

The Yaghnobi language, spoken by the Yaghnobis in the Sughd Province around the headwaters of Zeravshan valley, also still contains a relic "Su" from ancient Kamboja Savati in the sense "to go".Further, Sir G Grierson says that the speech of Badakshan was a Ghalcha till about three centuries ago when it was supplanted by a form of Persian. Thus, the ancient Kamboja, probably included the Badakshan, Pamirs and northern territories including the Yaghnobi region in the doab of the Oxus and Jaxartes.

On the east it was bounded roughly by Yarkand and/or Kashgar, on the west by Bahlika (Uttaramadra), on the northwest by Sogdiana, on the north by Uttarakuru, on the southeast by Darada, and on the south by Gandhara. Numerous Indologists locate original Kamboja in Pamirs and Badakshan and the Parama Kamboja further north, in the Trans-Pamirian territories comprising Zeravshan valley, north up parts of Sogdhiana/Fargana Ч in the Sakadvipa or Scythia of the classical writers. Thus, in the pre-Buddhist times (7thЦ6th century BCE), the parts of modern Tajikistan including territories as far as Zeravshan valley in Sogdiana formed parts of ancient Kamboja and the Parama Kamboja kingdoms when it was ruled by Iranian Kambojas till it became part of Achaemenid Empire.

The capital of Dushanbe

From the last quarter of fourth century BCE until the first quarter of the second century BCE, it was part of the Bactrian Empire, from whom it was passed on to Scythian Tukharas and hence became part of Tukharistan. Contact with the Chinese Han Dynasty was made in the second century BCE, when envoys were sent to the area of Bactria to explore regions west of China.

Arabs brought Islam in the 7th century CE. The Samanid Empire Iranians supplanted the Arabs and built the cities of Samarkand and Bukhara, which became the cultural centers of Tajiks (both of which are now in Uzbekistan). The Mongols would later take partial control of Central Asia, and later the land that today comprises Tajikistan became a part of the emirate of Bukhara. A small community of Jews, displaced from the Middle East after the Babylonian captivity, migrated to the region and settled there after 600 BCE, though the majority of the recent Jewish population did not migrate to Tajikistan until the 20th century.

In the 19th century, the Russian Empire began to spread into Central Asia during the Great Game. Between 1864 and 1885 it gradually took control of the entire territory of Russian Turkestan from today's border with Kazakhstan in the north to the Caspian Sea in the west and the border with Afghanistan in the south. Tajikistan was eventually carved out of this territory, which historically had a large Tajik population.

After the overthrow of Imperial Russia in 1917, guerrillas throughout Central Asia, known as basmachi waged a war against Bolshevik armies in a futile attempt to maintain independence. The Bolsheviks prevailed after a four-year war, in which mosques and villages were burned down and the population heavily suppressed. Soviet authorities started a campaign of secularization, practicing Muslims, Jews, and Christians were persecuted,[citation needed] and mosques, churches, and synagogues were closed.

In 1924, the Tajik Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was created as a part of Uzbekistan, but in 1929 the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic (Tajik SSR) was made a separate constituent republic. The predominantly ethnic Tajik cities of Samarkand and Bukhara remained in the Uzbek SSR. In terms of living conditions, education and industry Tajikistan was behind the other Soviet Republics. In the 1980s, it had the lowest household saving rate in the USSR, the lowest percentage of households in the two top per capita income groups, and the lowest rate of university graduates per 1000 people. By the late 1980s Tajik nationalists were calling for increased rights. Real disturbances did not occur within the republic until 1990. The following year, the Soviet Union collapsed, and Tajikistan declared its independence.

The nation almost immediately fell into a civil war that involved various factions fighting one another; these factions were often distinguished by clan loyalties. The non-Muslim population, particularly Russians and Jews, fled the country during this time because of persecution, increased poverty and better economic opportunities in the West or in other former Soviet republics. Emomali Rahmonov came to power in 1992, and continues to rule to this day. Ethnic cleansing was controversial during the Civil war in Tajikistan. In 1997, a ceasefire was reached between Rahmonov and opposition parties (United Tajik Opposition). Peaceful elections were held in 1999, but they were reported by the opposition as unfair, and Rahmonov was re-elected by almost unanimous vote. Russian troops were stationed in southern Tajikistan, in order to guard the border with Afghanistan, until summer 2005. Since the September 11, 2001, attacks, American, Indian and French troops have also been stationed in the country.

In 2008, the harshest winter in a quarter century caused financial losses of $850 million. Russia pledged $1 billion in aid.[13] Saudi Arabia sent about 10 planes carrying 80 tons of relief and emergency supplies in February and another 11 tons in March.

Geography

Tajikistan is landlocked, and is the smallest nation in Central Asia by area. It is covered by mountains of the Pamir range, and more than fifty percent of the country is over 3,000 meters (approx. 10,000 ft) above sea level. The only major areas of lower land are in the north (part of the Fergana Valley), and in the southern Kofarnihon and Vakhsh river valleys, which form the Amu Darya. Dushanbe is located on the southern slopes above the Kofarnihon valley.

Mountain Height Location

Ismoil Somoni Peak (highest) 7,495 m 24,590 ft North-western edge of Gorno-Badakhshan (GBAO), south of the Kyrgyz border

Ibn Sina Peak (Lenin Peak) 7,174 m 23,537 ft Northern border in the Trans-Alay Range, north-east of Ismoil Somoni Peak

Peak Korzhenevskaya 7,105 m 23,310 ft North of Ismoil Somoni Peak, on the south bank of Muksu River

Independence Peak (Revolution Peak) 6,974 m 22,881 ft Central Gorno-Badakhshan, south-east of Ismoil Somoni Peak

Akademiya Nauk Range 6,785 m 22,260 ft North-western Gorno-Badakhshan, stretches in the north-south direction

Karl Marx Peak 6,726 m 22,067 ft GBAO, near the border to Afghanistan in the northern ridge of the Karakoram Range

Mayakovskiy Peak 6,096 m 20,000 ft Extreme south-west of GBAO, near the border to Afghanistan.

Concord Peak 5,469 m 17,943 ft Southern border in the northern ridge of the Karakoram Range

Kyzylart Pass 4,280 m 14,042 ft Northern border in the Trans-Alay Range

The Amu Darya and Panj rivers mark the border with Afghanistan, and the glaciers in Tajikistan's mountains are the major source of runoff for the Aral Sea. There are over 900 rivers in Tajikistan longer than 10 kilometers.

Culture

Historically, Tajiks and Persians come from very similar stock, speaking variants of the same language and are related as part of the larger group of Iranian peoples. The Tajik language is the mother tongue of around two-thirds of the citizens of Tajikistan. Ancient towns such as Bukhara, Samarkand, Herat, Balkh and Khiva are no longer part of the country. The main urban centers in today's Tajikistan include Dushanbe (the capital), Khujand, Kulob, Panjakent and Istaravshan.

The Pamiri people of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province in the southeast, bordering Afghanistan and China, though considered part of the Tajik ethnicity, nevertheless are distinct linguistically and culturally from most Tajiks. In contrast to the mostly Sunni Muslim residents of the rest of Tajikistan, the Pamiris overwhelmingly follow the Ismaili sect of Islam, and speak a number of Eastern Iranian languages, including Shughni, Rushani, Khufi and Wakhi. Isolated in the highest parts of the Pamir Mountains, they have preserved many ancient cultural traditions and folk arts that have been largely lost elsewhere in the country.

The Yaghnobi people live in mountainous areas of northern Tajikistan. The estimated number of Yaghnobis is now about 25,000. Forced migrations in the 20th century decimated their numbers. They speak the Yaghnobi language, which is the only direct modern descendant of the ancient Sogdian language.

Sport

Tajikstan's mountains provide many opportunities for outdoor sports, such as hill walking, mountain biking, and more challenging mountain climbing. Facilities are limited so tourists need to be largely self sufficient and plan carefully. Mountain climbing tours to the Fann Mountains and the Pamirs, including the 7,000 m peaks in the region, are seasonally organized by local and international alpine agencies. Football is a popular sport. The Tajikistan national football team competes in the FIFA and AFC leagues. It also hosts many football clubs.

Talk

Tajik-Persian is the main official language. Russian is also useful in most cities and it is normal to hear Russian in the streets of Dushanbe. Some people use Russian as their language. Tajik-Persian is useful for markets and cabdrivers. Even a few words will be appreciated. Tajik dialect of Persian is intelligible for the Persian-speakers of Iran and Afghanistan.

Eat

Plov. The national dish is made with rice, beef or mutton, and carrots. Sambusa (samosas)

Take care with street food and do NOT eat unwashed produce. It's best to soak the produce in distilled water and cook thoroughly.

Drink

Green tea. Tajiks customarily pour a small amount out three times and return it to the pot.

Compote. A distilled fruit punch.

Stay safe

Some factional fighting spilling over from nearby Afghanistan (as well as local warlordism) still occurs in Tajikistan. Visitors should keep abreast of the security situation and not take any unneccessary risks. After sunset, it is not advisable to walk around outside alone; and generally do not travel unaccompanied to rural areas. Any concern you should have during your stay in Tajikistan, please write about as soon as possible it to your embassy or the European Commission Ц External Relations Directorate General in B-1049 Brussels

Stay healthy

DO NOT drink tap water. There is no working purification system, and outbreaks of typhoid and cholera are common. Other preventable endemic illnesses are hepatitis A, rabies, poliomyelitis, tick-borne encephalitis, and Japanese encephalitis. The occasional anthrax case comes in. There are, during the hot season, a few pockets where malaria can occur. There is now an English-speaking comprehensive primary care clinic in operation by the name of Prospekt Medical, right behind the Embassy of China. In the Pamir mountains, the risk of altitude sickness is substantial - one may read up on this here: (in English) or (in German). In case of ANY accident, call your embassy. Health insurance and medical evacuation insurance are recommended.

General Information

Capital Dushanbe
Government Republic
Currency Somoni (TJS)
Area 143,100 km2
Population 7,211,884
Language Tajik Persian
Religion Sunni Muslim 85%, Shi'a Muslim 5%.
Electricity 220 V, 50 Hz
Calling Code +992
Internet TLD .tj
Time Zone UTC +5

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