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Tajikistan - Loosening the Knot by Ross Howard

Tajikistan - Loosening the Knot by Ross Howard

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The narrative is of travels through Tajikistan, the poorest country economically in Central Asia. As the Soviet Union disintegrated, the economy collapsed, the people suffered extreme privation and large elements of the country reverted to what became known as a "yak economy". Shortly after the declaration of independence in 1991, the country descended into Civil War, with open hostilities between the warring factions only coming to an end in 1997. The country is still recovering from the economic devastation wrought by the conflict and today, over half the population is deemed to be in poverty, surviving on an income equivalent to or less than US$2.00 per day. Tajikistan is the smallest nation in Central Asia with over 50 per cent of the land-mass being more than 3,000 metres above sea level. It is also the most water rich country with lakes, major glaciers and more than 900 of its rivers over 10 kilometres in length. The journey follows the border with Afghanistan and traverses the High Pamirs and the so-called Pamir Knot. This term identifies the junction of the Himalaya, Karakoram, Tian Shan, Kunlun and Hindu Kush mountain ranges. Collectively, these mountains form the roof of the world. The ethnic composition of a population of 8 million is 60 per cent Tajik, who include the Pamiris who occupy much of the Pamir region, followed by 23 per cent Uzbek. The balance is made up of Russian, Kyrgyz and several other smaller minorities. The majority of Tajiks are Sunni Muslims, while the Pamiris are almost exclusvely followers of the Ishmaeli sect of Shia. Tajikistan is a secular republic and elections are held for the presidency and the parliament. However, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the system has been dominated by the same power structure, and Emomalii Rahmon, the President, came to power in 1994 following a disputed election, and has remained in place through a sequence of similarly disputed ballots. His regime is seen to be corrupt and he has been described as running the country for his own pesonal profit and is prepared to use threats and intimidation to remain in power. The narrative considers the issues of corruption and poverty and how the majority of people were focused on survival and didn't wish to be distracted by those things over which they had no control. However, they do know that the aspirations they have for their children and the future will not come to pass unless the constraining knot of poverty, dictatorship and corruption is loosened and brought undone. Only then with the human spirit prevail.

Ross Howard
Date of release


Tajikistan - Loosening the Knot

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