Historically, after the breakup of the
Indo-European family, the Aryan branch subdivided so that the
Medes and the Pars migrated to the Iranian plateau where they
created the Median and Persian Empires respectively; the Sughd
and the Hind migrated to the Aral Sea region. Subsequently, the
Hind migrated southeast and occupied the northwestern regions
of the Indian subcontinent.
if not all, of what is today Tajikistan was part of ancient Persia's
Achaemenid Empire (sixth to fourth centuries B.C.), which was
subdued by Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C. and
then became part of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom, one of the successor
states to Alexander's empire.
The northern part of what is now Tajikistan was part of Soghdiana,
a distinct region that intermittently existed as a combination
of separate oasis states and sometimes was subject to other states.
Sughdiana, settled between 1,000 and 500 BC by Iranian TRIBES,
passed into the hands of the Achaemenians who lost it to Alexander
the Great in the 4th century BC.Two important cities in what is
now northern Tajikistan, Khujand (formerly Leninobod; Russian
spelling Leninabad) and Panjakent, as well as Bukhoro (Bukhara)
and Samarqand (Samarkand) in contemporary Uzbekistan, were Soghdian
in antiquity. As intermediaries on the Silk Route between China
and markets to the west and south, the Soghdians imparted religions
such as Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and
Manichaeism, as well as their own alphabet and other knowledge,
to peoples along the trade routes.
The Arabs conquered Sughdiana in the early 600s. Under Muslim
rule, especially with Samanid support, Sughdiana grew to encompass
Maymurgh, Qabodian, Kushaniyya, Bukhara, Kish, Nasaf, Samarqand,
and Panjekent, each a virtual kingdom.
Persian Culture in Central Asia
The Persian influence on Central Asia, already prominent before
the Islamic conquest, grew even stronger afterward. Under Iran's
last pre-Islamic empire, the Sassanian, the Persian language and
culture as well as the Zoroastrian religion spread among the peoples
of Central Asia, including the ancestors of the modern Tajiks.
In the wake of the Islamic conquest, Persian-speakers settled
in Central Asia, where they played an active role in public affairs
and furthered the spread of the Persian language and culture,
their language displacing Eastern Iranian ones. By the twelfth
century, Persian had also supplanted Arabic as the written language
for most subjects.
the development of a modern Tajik national identity, the most
important state in Central Asia after the Islamic conquest was
the Persian-speaking Samanid principality (875-999), which came
to rule most of what is now Tajikistan, as well as territory to
the south and west. During their reign, the Samanids supported
the revival of the written Persian language.
Early in the Samanid period, Bukhoro(Buchara) became well-known
as a center of learning and culture throughout the eastern part
of the Persian-speaking world. Samanid literary patronage played
an important role in preserving the culture of pre-Islamic Iran.
The Tajiks came into prominence as a people under the rule
of the Samanids (875-999) who undermined and, to a great degree
CENTRALized the government. They also revived the ancient urban
centers as Bukhara, Samarqand, Merv, Nishapur, Hirat, Balkh,
Khujand, Panjekent, and Holbuq which, in turn, elevated the
socio-political, economic and, necessarily, cultural dynamics
of the new and progressive Samanid state. Additionally, the
Samanids introduced a major program of urbanization, a new civic
administration, and a revival of traditional local customs.
Furtheremore, the Samanids allocated resources for public education
and encouraged innovation and enterprise. In short, they created
a civilization that, in many respects, was unique for its time.
Samanid revival benefited the sciences, especially mathematics,
astronomy, and medicine. Geography, historiography, and philosophy,
alongside literature, cultivated the social aspects while mining,
zoology, and agriculture contributed to the economy and the
well-being of the State. There is hardly anyone in the history
of medieval mathematics and the theory of numbers who could
rival the fame of al-Khwarazmi, the author of Kitab al-Mukhtasar
fi Hisab al-Jabr wa al-Muqabilah. Just a mention of the word
"algebra" is sufficient to conjure up the milieu to
which al-Biruni, Ibn-i Sina, Sijzi, and Buzjani contributed.
Both al-Biruni and Ibn-i Sina were involved in the field of
physics as well. The former excelled in the practical aspects
of physics while the latter contributed to the theoretical dimensions
of the same. The physicist par excellence of the era, however,
was Muhammad Zakariyyah al-Razi, the founder of practical physics
and the inventor of the special or net weight of matter. Other
contributors to physics were Ibn-i Sina (accoustics), Ibn-i
Haitham (optics), and al-Biruni (the completion of the efforts
of al-Razi in determining special weights).
Medicine was the first of the Greek sciences to attract the
attention of Muslim scientists. The history of medicine in the
region, however, dates back to pre-Islamic times when, in AD
529, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian closed the Plato Academy
that had been working under the direction of Precleus. Seven
Roman scientists, who did not have an academy in which to work,
were invited by Khusrau I Anushiravan to Iran to carry out their
research in the newly founded University of Gundishapur. The
forte of the researchers of the University of Gundishapur, which
continued into Islamic times‹until the middle of the ninth century‹was
Finally, the promotion of the arts and sciences led to the institution
of new centers of learning such as madrasahs built on the model
of the University of Gundishapur. It also led to the creation
of centers for storing and retrieving information such as the
Sivan al-Hikmat in Bukhara. These were libraries full of manuscripts
spanning translations from Greek and Syriac languages on aspects
of philosophy to innovative theories of contemporary scholars
such as Ibn-i Sina and al-Biruni.
Two major factors contributed to the demise of the rule of the
Tajiks. The rising power of the Turks, originally slaves and
later commanders in the army of the Samanids; and the rise of
the Mongols who, in 1220 overrun Central Asia and devastated
the region. Whether the Tajiks would have been able to whether
the tide of Turkish ascendancy and recaptured the glory of the
Samanid days remains a matter of speculation.
During Mongol rule (1219-1370), agricultural development and
urban expansion were halted, local traditions of kingship were
dismissed, and the Shari'a was replaced by the Yasa. Indeed,
the Yasa was used to enforce anti-Muslim policies, discouraging
the Central Asian elite from rebellion against the Chaghatai
khans. Tajiks who could not tolerate the intensity of Mongol
rule either migrated abroad or lived in isolation in the highlands.
The fortunes of the Tajiks declined when the Golden Horde was
dissolved and its constituent TRIBES joined the Oguz Turks who
had settled transoxiana in the 10th century. Rather than settling
on the fringes of the urban areas as they had on the Qipchak
plain, the new invaders wrested the Tajiks' farms and became
farmers. Leaving their cultural centers of Samarqand and Bukhara,
the Tajiks continued to take refuge in the highlands. Thus,
during the Shaibanid, Astarkhanid, and Manghit rule, Tajik cultural
domination declined so that in 1920 the Tajiki language was
discontinued as the official language of the Emirate of Bukhara.
The Uzbeks, however, were not the only intruders. Russians,
after Muzaffar's defeat in 1868, dominated both the Turks and
the Tajiks. Indeed, the Uzbek-Turks served as governors and
tax collectors for the Russians.
Short after Russian revolution (1917) the Tajik basmachi guerrillas
began a campaign to free the region from Bolshovik rules. It
took four years for Bolshoviks to crush this resistance and
in the process entire villages were razed, mosques destroyed
and great tracts of land waste.
In 1924, the Soviets divided the Tajik population between the
Autonomous Republic of Turkistan and the People's Republic of
Bukhara. The Tajiks, however, continued their struggle; to gain
But Soviet rule, and the creation of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist
Republic in October 1924, ultimately created and solidified
a new kind of Uzbek identity. At the same time, the Soviet policy
of cutting across existing ethnic and linguistic lines in the
region to create Uzbekistan and the other new republics also
sowed tension and strife among the Central Asian groups that
inhabited the region. In particular, the territory of Uzbekistan
was drawn to include the two main Tajik cultural centers, Bukhara
and Samarqand, as well as parts of the Fergana Valley to which
other ethnic groups could lay claim.
But the republic borders inherited from Soviet territorial
adminstration are as problematic as the ethnic distinctions
inherited from Soviet nationality policy.Republic borders were
drawn in Central Asia to divide the population into supposed
national homelands according to the Soviet-certified nationalities.
No political entity with the current borders of Uzbekistan ever
existed before the Soviet period, but the newly written histories
of Uzbekistan implicitly project the idea of the present day
territory as a coherent whole indefinitely backwards in time,
thereby giving it a timeless legitimacy.
Between 1929 when Tajikistan SSR centered on Dushanbe came
into existence and 1970, Tajikistan underwent intensive Sovietization
which, by necessity, accompanied the type of education compatible
with carrying out collectivization and industrialization. As
was the case in the other republics of the Soviet union, those
with nationalistic tendencies were purged.
The building of the new socialist republic began in earnest
in the early 1930s. In the early stages, a casual observer would
not perceive the change immediately. Much of ancient Bukhara
continued to resist change. Besides, many peasants preferred
the plow to the tractor and many others advocated a return to
the old ways. Their numbers, however, were decreasing as were
the numbers of their donkeys, mules, and carts that carried
the fruits of their labor to the town and city markets.
By the early 1930's, there was no question in anyone's mind
that Tajikistan was on the way to becoming a modern republic
with a growing industrial base in the north and a burgeoning
agricultural enterprise in the south. The record of production
of devoted Tajik workers, driven by ideology, confirms this
The Bolshoviks never fully trusted this troublesome republic
and during the 1930s almost all Tajiks in positions of influence
within the government wrer replaced by stooges from Moscow.