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Oct 24, 2021
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“We have slaughtered our paradise.” How did Tajikistan live 30 years after the collapse of the USSR?

50 year old Tajik businessman Islojon Safarov pours green tea into bowls. “Brother, I’ll tell you honestly. The USSR was a great state, and you will not find here a single person of our age who thinks otherwise. ” This is true – nostalgia for the Soviet Union is even more popular in Tajikistan than in Russia.

“Oh, how wonderful we lived!” – old men smack their lips in the village of Vorukh near the Kyrgyz border. “There was enough pension for everything!” “Oh-oh-oh-oh, it was wonderful there! – praises the Soviet past former paratrooper Talab in Bokhtar. “The real paradise, we shouldn’t have killed it … that is, destroyed it.” “The USSR is a fairy tale, where citizens were given apartments and cars for free, who can imagine such a thing?” – admires a 20-year-old student in Dushanbe. “You did not find that time.” “Parents Tell.”

It is not surprising that at the referendum on March 17, 1991, 96.2% of the population (!) Of Tajikistan voted for the preservation of the USSR. “Russia has abandoned us, has shown that it does not need Central Asia,” sighs a trader in the market of Khujand (formerly Leninabad). “So we all had to learn to survive.”

Tajikistan,
Photo: AiF / Georgy Zotov

“They would have killed themselves”

Perhaps, in the nineties, Tajikistan suffered the most from the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“Now it’s no longer visible,” recalls pensioner Shahzoda Sultanova… – And even twenty years ago, all the bazaars had enough legless cripples – they asked for alms. It was scary to pass by. “

The civil war between the “Vovchiks” (radical Islamists) and “Yurchiks” (supporters of the secular path), as the opponents were called among the people, went on in 1992-1997. Entire cities (like Kurgan-Tyube) were destroyed, Dushanbe was taken by storm – 150,000 people were killed, the overwhelming majority were civilians.

I walk down the street and I see huge portraits everywhere President Emomali Rahmon, who has been ruling Tajikistan for 29 years – in shops, government offices, and high-rise buildings. Smiling, waving his hand, surrounded by aksakals, and even trying pilaf. “I understand, you may find this strange,” explains engineer Shakhrier Bobojonov… – But in Central Asia there has always been a sacred reverence for power. Look how things were when Niyazov in Turkmenistan, Nazarbayev In Kazakhstan, Karimov in Uzbekistan there are streets named after presidents, portraits and monuments. And Rahmon at least provided peace, stopped the terrible war. Our blood was pouring so desperately throughout the country that I am afraid the Tajiks would have exterminated themselves. “

Photo: AiF / Georgy Zotov

“Where did the dollars go?”

Some of our citizens see Tajikistan as a poverty-stricken state like Afghanistan, where hungry ragamuffins huddle in squalid shacks. This is not at all the case. I am going to Khujand from Dushanbe along a magnificent highway, through tunnels in the mountains. Previously, the journey along the “killed” road took eight hours, now you can reach it in three hours. Very small towns (like Isfara or Bokhtar) are very clean (the streets are simply licked), old houses are well renovated, many new buildings have been built. Once lying in ruins, covered with corpses, Kurgan-Tyube now sparkles with lights, people walk in beautiful parks and new squares, teahouses are overflowing with visitors. Construction sites are everywhere – skyscrapers, banks, mosques are being erected.

“All this was for Chinese loans … we took billions of dollars, and how are we going to give it back? – asks the elderly literature teacher Abdullo Mansuriev… – We already owe 40% of our loans to China. And how many beautiful old buildings in Dushanbe were demolished! ” “In neighboring republics, they also take loans, only their roads are broken, and their money has been stolen,” his work colleague objected. Ravshan Mukhammedov… “Here you can at least see where these dollars went, the eye rejoices.”

Photo: AiF / Georgy Zotov

“Relatives in Russia help”

There are more sellers than buyers at the Merhgon bazaar in Dushanbe and the Khujand market. Still – the prices are quite high (as in Russia, in Tajikistan everything has risen sharply due to the pandemic), the average salary in the capital is 7,000 rubles a month, in the regions – 5,000 rubles a month. People do not hide the fact that they are greatly helped by money sent from Russia by relatives – builders, installers, taxi drivers, janitors: about 1.5 million Tajiks left for the Russian Federation to work. For a year, they send their relatives $ 2 billion, and this is what the families of guest workers live on.

“We have a crowd on payday in Russia,” they say in one of the banks in Dushanbe. “People are queuing up on the street, they can’t fit in the building anymore.” The Tajiks have a lot to do with Russia. “Few people understand us, except for the Russians,” believes financier Nurullo… – And of course, it’s easier for us to do business with Russia. But you are not interested in Tajiks. They set up a military base – and that’s all, the rest does not concern you. It’s a pity. A lot of good goods – the same dried apricots, nuts or fruits would be much cheaper for the citizens of Russia. “

Photo: AiF / Georgy Zotov

“They love the Russian language here”

I speak Russian in Tajikistan, and almost everywhere they understand me perfectly – however, mostly people over forty. Tajik youth learn Russian at school, after graduation, not everyone speaks well: I try to communicate more slowly, choose simpler words. The official alphabet in the country is the Cyrillic alphabet, introduced in 1940: in contrast to neighboring Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, which switched to the Latin alphabet. For several years in a row, the republic has been sluggishly discussing the transition to the Arabic script: but the matter does not go further than conversations.

“Now the Russian language in Tajikistan is fantastically popular,” says philologist Rahim Murodov… “More people speak it than under the Soviet Union!” Yes, I confirm – when I was on a business trip in Tajikistan in 1992, in mountain villages I could rarely be answered in Russian, now there are fewer difficulties. People always try to send their children to a Russian school, where they send teachers from Russia.

Photo: AiF / Georgy Zotov

In 1989, there were 388 thousand Russians in the republic, and by 2019 there were only 35,000 left – it is almost impossible to meet a Russian person on the street in Tajikistan. Most of our compatriots left the republic during the civil war. “Nobody offended me and touched me with a finger,” 88-year-old tells me pensioner Lydia Krizhanova from Dushanbe. – But I understand the people who left – the fighting was going on and the people were dying, it was monstrous: Islamist militants killed everyone indiscriminately – Russians, Uzbeks, and Tajiks. I am quite old, I cannot visit the graves of my relatives outside the city. But my neighbors and other Tajiks go to the Russian cemetery, clean up there. ”

“I hear in Russia – ah, they wanted to secede, so now you yourself and now disentangle!” – complains to me at a meeting in a cafe Said, who came to see his family – he works as a taxi driver in Novosibirsk. “But that’s not true, brother! We did not want to leave you. Nothing else can be returned, so we are building our state as we can. Personally, I will always regret the Soviet Union, and I tell my children about it while I am alive. Have a drink with me to the peace of the USSR, please. Will you really refuse? ” I nodded. And then we silently drank to our dead country. Of course, not clinking glasses.

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