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(self-designation, Tojik), a nation (in Russian, natsiia; “nation” in the historical sense), the main population of the Tadzhik SSR. The Tadzhiks in the USSR number 2,136,000 (1970 census), of whom 1,630,000 live in the Tadzhik SSR, 449,000 in the Uzbek SSR, and 22,000 in the Kirghiz SSR. A significant number of Tadzhiks live abroad, mainly in northern Afghanistan. The vast majority of Tadzhiks speak Tadzhik, a west Iranian language of the Indo-European family. The Pamir peoples and the lagnobs speak separate languages and dialects, which are part of the eastern Iranian group of the same family. Religious Tadzhiks are Muslims (mainly Sunnites, with some Shiites; the Pamir peoples are Ismailites).
The formation of the Tadzhik people was preceded by lengthy ethnogenetic processes extending as far back as the second millennium B.C. In the late second and early first millennia B.C., Iranian-speaking tribes came out of the Eurasian steppes and spread throughout Middle Asia. They mixed with the local tribal populations in the late Bronze Age, and the main population of Middle Asia became Iranian-speaking. The Tadzhik people took shape in ancient Bactria (the basin of the Amu Darya), Sogdiana (the basins of the Zeravshan and Kashkadar’ia), the Fergana valley, and the region south of what is now Middle Asia. These were lands inhabited by the Bactrians, Sogdians, and Parkans (ancient Ferganians), all of whom were land cultivators, and also by tribes of the Sacae, who led a nomadic existence along the northern and eastern borders of Middle Asia. According to linguistic data, the lagnob were the descendants of the Sogdians; the Sacae played an important role in the formation of the Pamir Tadzhiks. In the second century B.C., the Tochari, or Yüeh-chih, penetrated Bactria, and their numbers also included Sacae. One branch of the Sacae-Tochari—the Kushans—formed a powerful state, the Kushana Kingdom. The weakening of the Kushana Kingdom in the fourth and fifth centuries of the Common Era led to the incursion into Middle Asia of a new steppe people, the Ephthalites, who created a far-flung state. When the Turkic khanate was formed in the sixth century, the penetration of the area of Turkic ethnic elements increased.
At the time of the Arab conquest (eighth century), there were three main ethnic regions in what is now the Tadzhik SSR: the Sogdian region in the north, the Fergana region in the northeast, and the Tochari region in the south. For many centuries the inhabitants of those areas retained some of the specific features of their culture and life-style. The ethnic composition of these regions was very complex. The compact mass of the local Iranian-speaking population was receiving newly arrived groups, including Turkic-speaking elements, all of which played a determining role in the ethnogenesis of the Tadzhiks. At first the Arab incursion acted as somewhat of a check on the formation of Tadzhik people, but later the struggle of the popular masses against the invaders facilitated the consolidation of the Tadzhiks. The rise of the Samanid state in the ninth and tenth centuries completed the formation of the ethnic core of the Tadzhiks. This process was closely linked to the spread of a common Tadzhik language, which became the dominant language during the Samanid era. Tadzhik culture and science developed in this language, and a rich literature was formed.
In the late tenth century the Turkic-speaking peoples rose to political dominance in Middle Asia. New waves of Turkic, and later Mongolian, tribes continued to enter the region settled by the Tadzhiks. The extension of Turkic influence over the Tadzhiks, especially in the plains and to a lesser degree in the mountains and the large cities, began at that time; it was to continue for centuries. The Tadzhik language, however, was not only preserved but became predominant, the official language of the Turkic rulers.
The history of the Tadzhiks in the second half of the 19th and the early 20th centuries was complex. The northern regions of Tadzhik settlement became part of the Russian possessions (1868), whereas the population of southern Tadzhikistan remained under the rule of the feudal Bukhara emirate. In their economic situation, social relations, and daily life, the Tadzhiks, especially in the southern regions, retained their feudal-patriarchal customs; in the north, elements of capitalist relations appeared.
The age-old occupation of the Tadzhiks was land cultivation (based in large part on artificial irrigation) and fruit growing; cattle raising was of a secondary nature. Various handicrafts, including artistic work, were well developed; many of the skills had ancient traditions (wood-carving, alabaster carving, and decorative embroidery).
The life of the Tadzhiks was radically changed after the October Revolution of 1917. As a result of socialist construction, Tadzhikistan was transformed into a republic with a developed industry, an intensive agriculture, and a high cultural level. All forms of national creativity were developed in a continual process, and a national intelligentsia developed.
The Tadzhik people formed and developed in close cooperation with the other native peoples of Middle Asia. The medieval history of the Tadzhiks and Uzbeks is particularly close, and the two peoples share a number of ethnic elements. The cultural treasures of the Tadzhik people were the national property of the Uzbeks, just as the achievements of Uzbek culture were widely assimilated by the Tadzhiks.
In the process of socialist transformation, the Tadzhiks in the USSR were formed into a socialist nation. (For information on the history, economy, and culture of the Tadzhiks, see .)
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Bartol’d, V. V. Tadzhiki: Istoricheskii ocherk. Soch., vol. 2, part 1. Moscow, 1963.
Kisliakov, N. A. “K voprosu ob etnogeneze tadzhikov.” In the collection Sovetskaia etnografiia, vols. 6–7. Moscow, 1947.
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N. A. KISLIAKOV