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(تاجک Тоҷик)
Total population
ca. 18 to 26 million
Regions with significant populations
        (varying estimates)
 Tajikistan 5,849,331[3]
    (suggestive estimates)
 Pakistan 1,220,000[6]
 Iran 500,000[7]
 Russia 120,000[8]
 Germany 90,000[9]
 Qatar 87,000[citation needed]
 United States 52,000[10]
 Kyrgyzstan 47,500[11]
 Canada 15,870
varieties of Dari and Tajiki
Islam (predominantly Sunni (Hanafi), with Shi'a (Twelver and Ismaili) minorities)

Tajik (Persian: تاجيکTājīk; Tajik: Тоҷик; Russian: Таджики) is a general designation for a wide range of Persian-speaking peoples of Iranian origin,[13] with traditional homelands in present-day western Afghanistan, Tajikistan, southern Uzbekistan. Because of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, large refugee populations can also be found in both Iran and Pakistan.[14] Alternative names include Fārsī (Persian), Fārsīwān (Persian-speaking), and Dīhgān (cf. [Деҳқон, Dehqon] error: {{lang-xx}}: text has italic markup (help), literally "peasant", in a wider sense "settled" in contrast to "nomadic").[15]

As a self-designation, the term Tajik, which earlier on had been more or less pejorative, has become acceptable only during the last decades, particularly as a result of Soviet administration in Central Asia.[13]

The Persian-speaking Tajiks are, at least in terms of language, culture, and history, closely related to the Persian-speakers of Iran. The Tajiks of China, although known by the name Tajik, speak Eastern Iranian languages and are distinct from Persian Tajiks.


The Tajiks trace their ancestry to the East Iranian-speaking Bactrians, Sogdians, and Parthians, which means that the historical ancestors of the Tajiks did not speak Persian - the southwestern Iranian language, today known as 'Farsi' in Iran and Afghanistan. The 'Tajiks' adoption of the now dominant southwestern branch Persian language is believed to have as its root cause, the Islamic conquest of Central Asia by the Arabs. This conquest sent large numbers of Persians fleeing into Central Asia. Subsequently, many Persians, after conversion to Islam, entered Central Asia as military forces and settled in the conquered lands. As a result of these waves of Persian migration (Zoroastrian and Muslim) over the course of more than 200 years, the Tajiks have ethnic Persian ancestry in addition to their original East-Iranian ancestry. Cultural dissemination through Persian literature also helped to establish the new language, as well as intermittent military dominance. According to Iranologist Richard Nelson Frye, the Persian migration to Central Asia may be considered the beginning of the "modern" Tajik nation, and ethnic Persians along with East-Iranian Bactrians and Sogdians, as the main ancestors of "modern" Tajiks.[16]

The geographical division between the eastern and western Iranians is often considered historically and currently to be the desert Dasht-e Kavir, situated in the center of the Iranian plateau.

Origin of the term

"Tājik" is a word of Turko-Mongol[17] origin and means (literally) Non-Turk[18]. The 17th century Persian dictionary Farhang Burhan Qati' (فرهنگ برهان قاطع) by Muhammad Husayn ibn Khalaf Tabrizi also defines it as "non-Arab" and "non-Turk". It has the same root[19] as the word Tat which is used by Turkic-speakers for the Persian-speaking population of the Caucasus. In a historical context, it is synonymous with Iranian[20] and particularly with Persian. Since the Turko-Mongol conquest of Central Asia, Persian-speakers in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran and all the way to Pakistan and Kashmir have been identified as Tājiks[citation needed]. The term is mainly used as opposed to "Turk" and "Mongol". "Tajik" is just another word for "Persian". In the past 1200 years, Persians had to face 2 important foreign invasions: Arabs and Turks. Although the Iranian people have always called themselves and their lands "Iran", "Irani", the foreign invaders never called them that way. The Greeks called them "Persians", the Arabs called them "Ajam", and Turks called them "Tajik". The origin of the name Tajik has been embroiled in twentieth-century political disputes about whether Turkic or Iranian peoples were the original inhabitants of Central Asia. The explanation most favored by scholars is that the word evolved from the name of a pre-Islamic Arab tribe[21].

History of the name

First mentioned by the Uyghur historian Mahmoud Al-Kāshgharī, Tājik is an old Turkic expression referring to all Persian-speaking peoples of Central Asia. From the 11th century on, it came to be applied principally to all East-Iranians, and later specifically to Persian-speakers.[20] It is hard to establish the use of the word before the Turkic- and Mongol conquest of Central Asia, and since at least the 15th century it has been used by the region's Iranian population to distinguish themselves from the Turks. Persians in modern Iran who live in the Turkic-speaking areas of the country, also call themselves Tājik, something remarked upon in the 15th century by the poet Mīr Alī Šer Navā'ī.[22] In addition, Tibetans call all Persian-speakers (including those in Iran) Tājik.

The word "Tajik" in medieval literature

The word Tājik is extensively used in Persian literature and poetry, always as a synonym for Persian. The Persian poet Sa'adi, for example, writes:

It is clear that he, too, uses the word as opposed to Turk. The oldest known reference of this usage of the word Tajik in Persian literature, however, can be found in the writings of Djalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, himself being an Persian-speaker - and thus a "Tājik" - from present-day Afghanistan.[23]

Other meanings of the word

At certain periods of history, the word Tājik also referred to Persian-speaking scholars and clerks of early Islamic time who were schooled in Arabic[citation needed]. In the Safavid Empire, Tājik referred to the Iranian administrators and nobles of the kingdom, linked to the so-called Qezelbâš movement.

According to some old Tājik folktales, as well as old Persian books, the word "Tājik" literally refers to the "people having the crown" ("Tāj" means crown in Persian). It is believed that it initially refers to the East-Iranian people who ruled over the Bactrian, Soghdian, Arian, Kabul, Sistan and Gandhar (Kandahar) highlands and later over other areas of Central Asia and beyond - a region traditionally known as the "crown of the world".

Alternative names

As an alternative, the term Sart was also used as a synonym for Tājik and Persian in the medieval - post Genghis Khan - period. Turkic people named by this word the local East-Iranian population. However, the term was abolished by the Soviet government of the Central Asian states.


A Tajik from Tajikistan, wearing a traditional hat

The Tajiks are the principal ethnic group in most of Tajikistan, as well as in northern and western Afghanistan. North and western Pakistan. Tajiks are a substantial minority in Uzbekistan, as well as in overseas communities. Historically, the ancestors of the Tajiks lived in a larger territory in Central Asia than now.[citation needed]


Tajiks comprise between 27-39% of the population of Afghanistan.[1][24] They predominate four of the largest cities in Afghanistan (Kabul, Mazar-e Sharif, Herat, Ghazni) and the northern and western provinces of Balkh, Parwan, Kapisa, Panjshir, Baghlan, Takhar, Badakhshan, and Ghor, some parts of Konduz Province, and they predominate in the city of Herat and large parts of Farah Province. In addition, Tajiks live in all other cities and provinces in Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, the Tajiks do not organize themselves by tribes and refer to themselves by they region, province, city, town, or village they are from; such as Badakhshani, Baghlani, Mazari, Panjsheri, Kabuli, Herati, etc.[25]


Today, Tajiks comprise around 79.9% of the population of Tajikistan.[3]


A view of the Registan architectural monuments in Samarkand. Although the second largest city of Uzbekistan, it is predominantly a Tajik populated city, along with Bukhara

In Uzbekistan the Tajiks are the largest part of the population of the ancient cities of Bukhara and Samarqand, and are found in large numbers in the Surxondaryo Province in the south and along Uzbekistan's eastern border with Tajikistan. According to official statistics (2000), Surxondaryo Province accounts for 20.4% of all Tajiks in Uzbekistan, with another 24.3% in Samarqand and Bukhara provinces.[26]

Official statistics in Uzbekistan state that the Tajik community comprises 5% of the nation's total population.[4] However, these numbers do not include ethnic Tajiks who, for a variety of reasons, choose to identify themselves as Uzbeks in population census forms.[27] During the Soviet "Uzbekization"[when?] supervised by Sharof Rashidov, the head of the Uzbek Communist Party, Tajiks had to choose either stay in Uzbekistan and get registered as Uzbek in their passports or leave the republic for the less developed agricultural and mountainous Tajikistan.[28] It is only in the last population census (1989) that the nationality could be reported not according to the passport, but freely declared on the basis of the respondent's ethnic self-identification.[29] This had the effect of increasing the Tajik population in Uzbekistan from 3.9% in 1979 to 4.7% in 1989. Subjective expert estimates suggest that Tajiks may make up 20%- 30% of Uzbekistan's population.[5][30]


According to the 1999 population census, there were 26,000 Tajiks in Kazakhstan (0.17% of the total population), about the same number as in the 1989 census.


According to official statistics, there were about 47,500 Tajiks in Kyrgyzstan in 2007 (0.9% of the total population), up from 42,600 in the 1999 census and 33,500 in the 1989 census.


According to the last Soviet census in 1989, there were 3,149 Tajiks in Tukrmenistan, or less than 0.1% of the total population of 3.5 million at that time. The first population census of independent Turkmenistan conducted in 1995 showed 3,103 Tajiks in a population of 4.4 million (0.07%), most of them (1,922) concentrated in the eastern provinces of Lebap and Mary adjoining the borders with Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.[31]


Tajiks have inhabited Pakistan's north western valleys which lay adjacent to Tajikistan since ancient time, though many are not counted as ethnic Tajik's due to Census irregularities. Tajik's historically, travelled to the Indus region of Pakistan as religious mystics (Sufis), for commerce/trade and as learned scholars. There are many shrines doted throughout Pakistan in honour of noted Tajik noblemen. In recent years, many Tajiks from Tajikistan have also settled in Pakistan due to the economic conditions prevalent in their home country, many have settled in the northern city of Ishkuman. In 1979, with the invasion by the Soviet Union of Afghanistan, a large number of Tājik refugees from that country came and settled throughout Pakistan. Exact numbers are difficult to ascertain as many don't have official identity cards or are counted as being Chitrali or Gilgiti in official census figures.[citation needed]


The population of Tajiks in Russia is 120,000 according to the 2002 census, up from 38,000 in the last Soviet census of 1989.[8] Most Tajiks came to Russia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Physical characteristics

Children in Tajikistan

On the whole, Tajiks are a genetically eclectic population, displaying a wide range of phenotypes.[25] Physically, most Tajiks resemble the Mediterranean-Caucasian stock.[25] The typical Tajik has dark hair and eyes, and medium to fair skin. Lighter hair and eye colors are a bit common and are found in western Afghanistan (e.g., Herat and Ghor) . A small minority of Tajiks in Central Asia also show a Turko-Mongol admixture. Remote mountain Tajiks more closely resemble the ancient Indo-European populations who dominated the region prior to the Turko-Mongol invasions and migrations.

The Pashtun government of Afghanistan officially distinguishes Tajiks from the Farsiwan and other Persian subgroups, such as Chahar Aimak, Qizlbashs or Hazara, usually due to religion or physical appearance. Their main intention is primerly to weak Tajiks graphical. In the case of Farsiwans and Qizlbashs who are ethnical the same as the Tajiks, share with them the same culture, identity, mythes, history, background (origine) and language, these two group are of Shia faith, while majority of Tajiks are Sunnis. On the other hand in north-eastern Afghanistan there are about 1.6 Mio. Shia Tajiks living in Badakhchan and Wakhan and are called as Tajiks.



The language of the Tajiks, as of their Persian brothers in Iran, is Persian, also called Dari or Parsi-e Darbari (Persian of royal courts/Language of royal court). The cyrillic variety written in Tajikistan is called Tajiki. Persian is an Indo-European language. Tajiks speak an eastern dialect of Persian, historically called Dari or also Parsi-e Darbari (see also the Persian population of eastern Iran´s dialect). Historically, it was considered the local dialect of Persian spoken by the Tajik/Persian ethnic group in Central Asia, from where it spread westward only to drive the Arabic language out as the mothertongue of ethnic Persians. In Afghanistan, unlike in Tajikistan, Tajiks continue to use the Perso-Arabic script as well as in Iran. However, when the Soviet Union introduced the Latin script in 1928, and later the Cyrillic script, the Persian dialect of Tajikistan (soghdi dialect) came to be considered a separate (Persian) language. This dialect remains partly influenced by Russian for historical reasons.

A transcribed Tajik text can, in general, be easily read and understood by Persians outside Tajikistan, and vice versa, and both groups can converse with each other. The languages of the Persians of Iran and of the Tajiks of central Asia have a common origin. This is underscored by the Tajiks' claim to such famous writers as Anwari, Rumi, other famous Persian poets. Russian is widely used in government and business in Tajikistan as well, but the government of Tajikistan is trying to replace it gradually with full Persian.


The great majority of Tajiks follow the Sunni Islam, although small Twelver and Ismaili Shia minorities also exist in scattered pockets. Some of Shia- and Sunni´s famous scholars were from East-Iranian regions and therefore can arguably viewed as Tajik. They include Abu Hanifa, Al-Ghazali, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood, and Imam Bukhari amongst many hundred other Tajiks.

In Afghanistan, Tajiks who follow Twelver Shiism are called Farsiwan[citation needed]. Additionally, small Tajik Jewish communities (known as Bukharian Jews) have existed since ancient times in the cities of Bukhara, Samarqand, Dushanbe, and other Tajik populated centers.[32] Over the 20th century, the majority of these Tajik-speaking Jews emigrated to Israel and the United States. Most of these Jewish emigrants have negative views towards Tajikistan especially because of the destruction of the Dushanbe synagogue.

Various scholars have recorded the Zoroastrian, Buddhist, and Aryan pre-Islamic heritage of the Tajik people. Early temples for fire worship have been found in Balkh and Bactria and excavations in present day Tajikistan and Uzbekistan show remnants of Zoroastrian fire temples.[33]

Recent developments

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the civil war in Afghanistan both gave rise to a resurgence in Tajik nationalism across the region. Tajikistan in particular has been a focal point for this movement, and the government there has made a conscious effort to revive the legacy of the Samanid empire, the first Tajik-dominated state in the region after the Arab advance. For instance, the President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, dropped the Russian suffix "-ov" from his surname and directed others to adopt Tajik names when registering births.[34] In an interview to Iranian news media in May 2008, Tajikistan's deputy culture minister said Tajikistan would study the issue of switching its Tajik alphabet from Cyrillic to Persian script used in Iran and Afghanistan when the government feels that "the Tajik people became familiar with the Persian alphabet".[35]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b "Afghanistan". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. December 13, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-26.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ Dupree, L. "Afghānistān: (iv.) ethnocgraphy". In Ehsan Yarshater. Encyclopædia Iranica (Online Edition ed.). United States: Columbia University.  Unknown parameter |accessyear= ignored (|access-date= suggested) (help); Unknown parameter |accessmonthday= ignored (help)
  3. ^ a b "Tajikistan". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. December 13, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-26.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ a b "Uzbekistan". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. December 13, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-26.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ a b Richard Foltz, "The Tajiks of Uzbekistan", Central Asian Survey, 15(2), 213-216 (1996).
  6. ^ There are 1,000,000 Persian-speakers native to Pakistan and 220,000 Tajik war-refugees from Afghanistan remain in Pakistan. Ethnologue.com's entry for Languages of Pakistan. Census of Afghans in Pakistan.
  7. ^ UN Refugee Agency: about 50% of the total number of Afghan refugees in Iran in 2006 (920,000)
  8. ^ a b 2002 Russian census
  9. ^ GTZ: Migration and development – Afghans in Germany: estimate for Tajiks based on total of 100,000 Afghans in Germany.
  10. ^ This figure only includes Tajiks from Afghanistan. The population of people from Afghanistan the United States is estimated as 80,414 (2005). Of this number, 65% are estimated Tajiks. "US demographic census". Retrieved 2008-01-23..  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help); Check date values in: |accessdate= (help) Robson, Barbara and Lipson, Juliene (2002) "Chapter 5(B)- The People: The Tajiks and Other Dari-Speaking Groups" The Afghans - their history and culture Cultural Orientation Resource Center, Center for Applied Linguistics, Washington, D.C., [http://worldcat.org/oclc/56081073 OCLC 56081073.
  11. ^ Ethnic composition of the population in Kyrgyzstan 1999-2007
  12. ^ This figure only includes Tajiks from Afghanistan. The population of people with descent from Afghanistan in Canada is 48,090 according to Canada's 2006 Census.. Tajiks make up an estimated 33% of the population of Afghanistan. The Tajik population in Canada is estimated form these two figures. Ethnic origins, 2006 counts, for Canada.
  13. ^ a b C.E. Bosworth, B.G. Fragner (1999). "TĀDJĪK". Encyclopaedia of Islam (CD-ROM Edition v. 1.0 ed.). Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV. 
  14. ^ Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan
  15. ^ M. Longworth Dames, G. Morgenstierne, and R. Ghirshman (1999). "AFGHĀNISTĀN". Encyclopaedia of Islam (CD-ROM Edition v. 1.0 ed.). Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV. 
  16. ^ Richard Nelson Frye, "Persien: bis zum Einbruch des Islam" (original English title: "The Heritage Of Persia"), German version, tr. by Paul Baudisch, Kindler Verlag AG, Zürich 1964, pp. 485-498
  17. ^ According to Professor Walter Bruno Henning, the term comes from Tat(Iranian)+Jik. Source: Dehkhoda dictionary under Tajik. Actual quote:استاد هنينگ تاجيک را ترکي ميداند مرکب از تا (= تات «ترک» + جيک «پسوند ترکي » جمعاً يعني تبعه ترک و اين کلمه را با «تازيک » و «تازي » (و طايي ) لغةً مرتبط نميداند - انتهي
  18. ^ Lambton, Ann K.S. Landlord and Peasant in Persia, p.57. I.B.Tauris, 1991. ISBN 1850432937.
  19. ^ Bergne, Paul. The Birth of Tajikistan, p. 4. I.B.Tauris, 2007. ISBN 1845112830.
  20. ^ a b M.E. Subtelny, "The Symbiosis of Turk and Tajik" in B.F. Manz (ed.), Central Asia in Historical Perspective, (Boulder, Col. & Oxford), 1994, p. 48
  21. ^ Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress (1996). "Tajikistan: Tajik". Country Studies Series. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2009-02-04. 
  22. ^ Ali Shir Nava'i Muhakamat al-lughatain tr. & ed. Robert Devereaux (Leiden: Brill) 1966 p6
  23. ^ C.E. Bosworth/B.G. Fragner, "Tādjīk", in Encyclopaedia of Islam, Online Edition: "... In Islamic usage, [Tādjīk] eventually came to designate the Persians, as opposed to Turks [...] the oldest citation for it which Schraeder could find was in verses of Djalāl al-Dīn Rūmī ..."
  24. ^ Dupree, L. "Afghānistān: (iv.) ethnocgraphy". In Ehsan Yarshater. Encyclopædia Iranica (Online Edition ed.). United States: Columbia University. Retrieved 2007-01-28. 
  25. ^ a b c Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress (1997). "Afghanistan: Tajik". Country Studies Series. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  26. ^ Ethnic Atlas of Uzbekistan, Part 1: Ethnic minorities, Open Society Institute, table with number of Tajiks by province (in Russian).
  27. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (February 23, 2000). "Uzbekistan". Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 1999. U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2007-12-19.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  28. ^ Rahim Masov, The History of the Clumsy Delimitation, Irfon Publ. House, Dushanbe, 1991 (in Russian). English translation: The History of a National Catastrophe, transl. Iraj Bashiri, 1996.
  29. ^ Ethnic Atlas of Uzbekistan, Part 1: Ethnic minorities, Open Society Institute, p. 195 (in Russian).
  30. ^ Svante E. Cornell, "Uzbekistan: A Regional Player in Eurasian Geopolitics?", European Security, vol. 20, no. 2, Summer 2000.
  31. ^ Population census of Turkmenistan 1995, Vol. 1, State Statistical Committee of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, 1996, pp. 75-100.
  32. ^ J. Sloame, "Bukharan Jews", Jewish Virtual Library, (LINK)
  33. ^ Lena Jonson, Tajikistan in the New Central Asia: Geopolitics, Great Power Rivalry and Radical Islam (International Library of Central Asia Studies), page 21
  34. ^ McDermott, Roger (2007-04-25). "Tajikistan restates its strategic partnership with Russia, while sending mixed signals". The Jamestown Foundation. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  35. ^ "Tajikistan may consider using Persian script when the conditions are met", interview of Tajikistan's Deputy Culture Minister with Iranian News Agency, 2 May 2008.

Further reading

External links