Tajikistan, officially the Republic of Tajikistan, is a landlocked country in Central Asia with an area of 143,100 km2 (55,300 sq mi) and an estimated population of 9,537,645 people. Its capital and largest city is Dushanbe. It is bordered by Afghanistan to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north and China to the east. The traditional homelands of the Tajik people include present-day Tajikistan as well as parts of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.
The territory that now constitutes Tajikistan was previously home to several ancient cultures, including the city of Sarazm of the Neolithic and the Bronze Age and was later home to kingdoms ruled by people of different faiths and cultures, including the Oxus Valley Civilisation, Andronovo Culture, Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity, Vedic religion, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism and Islam. The area has been ruled by numerous empires and dynasties, including the Achaemenid Empire, Sasanian Empire, Hephthalite Empire, Samanid Empire and the Mongol Empire. After being ruled by the Timurid dynasty and the Khanate of Bukhara, the Timurid Renaissance flourished. The region was later conquered by the Russian Empire and subsequently by the Soviet Union. Within the Soviet Union, the country’s modern borders were drawn when it was part of Uzbekistan as an autonomous republic before becoming a full-fledged Soviet republic in 1920.
On 9 September 1991, Tajikistan became an independent sovereign nation as the Soviet Union disintegrated. A civil war was fought almost immediately after independence, lasting from 1992 to 1997. Since the end of the war, newly established political stability and foreign aid have allowed the country’s economy to grow. The country has been led by President Emomali Rahmon since 1994 who rules an authoritarian regime, as there is extensive corruption and widespread violations of human rights, including torture, arbitrary imprisonment, worsening political repression, and a lack of religious freedom and other civil liberties.
Tajikistan is a presidential republic consisting of four provinces. Most of Tajikistan’s population belongs to the Tajik ethnic group, who speak Tajik (a dialect of Persian) — the first official language. Russian is used as the official inter-ethnic language. While the state is constitutionally secular, Islam is practiced by 98% of the population. In the Gorno-Badakhshan oblast, despite its sparse population, there is large linguistic diversity where Rushani, Shughni, Ishkashimi, Wakhi and Tajik are some of the languages spoken. Mountains cover more than 90% of the country. It is a developing country with a transition economy that is highly dependent on remittances, aluminium and cotton production. Tajikistan is a member of the United Nations, CIS, OSCE, OIC, ECO, SCO and CSTO as well as an NATO PfP partner.
Cultures in the region have been dated back to at least the 4th millennium BC, including the Bronze Age Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex, the Andronovo cultures and the pro-urban site of Sarazm, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The earliest recorded history of the region dates back to about 500 BC when much, if not all, of modern Tajikistan, was part of the Achaemenid Empire. Some authors have also suggested that in the 7th and 6th centuries BC, parts of modern Tajikistan, including territories in the Zeravshan valley, formed part of Kambojas before it became part of the Achaemenid Empire. After the region’s conquest by Alexander the Great it became part of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, a successor state of Alexander’s empire. Northern Tajikistan (the cities of Khujand and Panjakent) was part of Sogdia, a collection of city-states which was overrun by Scythians and Yuezhi nomadic tribes around 150 BC. The Silk Road passed through the region and following the expedition of Chinese explorer Zhang Qian during the reign of Wudi (141BC–87 BC) commercial relations between Han China and Sogdiana flourished. Sogdians played a major role in facilitating trade and also worked in other capacities, as farmers, carpet weavers, glassmakers, and woodcarvers.