The Republic of Tajikistan is a rugged, mountainous, landlocked and isolated country in Central Asia with lush valleys to the south and north. It borders Afghanistan to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and China to the east. Pakistan also borders Tajikistan to the south east but is separated by the narrow Wakhan Corridor. Tajikistan is a major water source for Central Asia, with many wild and beautiful rivers flowing through it and across its borders. It also has vast areas of alpine and desert wilderness, with the southwest region being intensely farmed.
In 1991Tajikistan was plunged into civil war almost as soon as it became independent from the Soviet Union. The country’s economy has never really recovered from the civil war, as a result poverty is widespread and it has become Central Asia’s poorest nation.
The Tajik people share culture and history with the Iranian people and speak a dialect of the Persian language (officially named Tajiki). The country has many other ethnic groups, primarily Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, and a small minority of Russians, and many other languages are spoken and understood. Most Tajiks speak Russian as it is the common business and administrative language, and can be the predominant language in the cities and is an important link to the rest of the post-soviet nations.
Sunni Islam dominates in Tajikistan and is the official state religion, although it considers itself a secular state with a constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion. The population of Tajikistan is 98% Muslim, and so the majority are influenced by Islamic traditions. Folk Islam is widely practised here as in other parts of Central Asia, and is unorthodox because it relies on faith-healers, holy places and objects (such as the evil-eye talisman) to influence everyday events. The major events of life – birth, circumcision, marriage and death – are governed by Islamic rituals and are marked by some type of religious ceremony.