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Please Pray Responsibly, We ID

June 20, 2011

Not everyone out there holds the same freakish fascination with out-of-the-way places as I do. This blog post is dedicated to you! You can find more information then you would potentially ever care to know about Tajikistan all in one convenient place! Not that I am an expert yet, or anything, but I did read quite a bit before I left and I’ve been trying to observe all that I can since I got here June 8th. To orient everyone as to my whereabouts (get it, I’m in the Orient?), I am about 90 km north of the Afghan border. You can see in the southwest where 2 rivers come together,  that is the Shaartuz/ Qabodion district and where I’ll be spending most of my summer.

Introduction now would be a good time to grab a cup of coffee cause this portion is going to be nerdy and potentially very boring. Most of these facts are pulled from the CIA factbook and wikipedia.

Tajikistan is known as the “rooftop of the world” mostly due to the striking Pamir and Alay mountain ranges. Also, over half the country is  10,000 ft. above sea level. There are a little over 7 million people living in Tajikistan. Most of them can speak Russian, Tajik, Uzbek, and in the north, Kyrg.

I’ll spare everyone the ancient history of the Steppe region and fast forward to modern history (although it’s fun to note that though Attila the Hun and Ghengis Khan may not have been Tajik per se they are from this general region of the globe). With the break up of the soviet empire came considerable violence for Tajikistan; it dissolved into civil war, especially in the South, where the different ethnic populations are centered. The war ended in 1997,and though I don’t get any vibe of social tensions among the different people today, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some people who are still nursing old wounds. Russian infrastructure is still operational today, though run-down and out of date (these are euphemisms, infrastructure here is pretty damn sketchy compared to say the Czech Republic, but better than say Somalia).

 Around 15% of the GDP is agriculture, but the sector employs nearly 50% of the people. This translates to around $2,000 per year per capita income. Which is why I have an internship here. Mercy Corps sending programs to Spain would be about as practical as the Mormon church deploying all of its missionaries to Salt Lake City. What all this means, in sum, is that there is an incredible amount of growth potential here if people are given the chance.

Tajikistan is also the world’s number one heroin trafficking country. From here, it can go anywhere. There are war-lords in the Pamir mountains who traffic some of the drugs, but most of them just come straight up the country from Afghanistan. And as with most black market trade routes, with drugs come people. unfortunately souls who get sold into slavery are moved through Tajikistan, into Russia, and then all over Europe. Apparently the government doesn’t do very much to stop it, probably because a lot of the officials are the heads of their smuggling rings. Or nicely connected. Funny how often crime and politics are linked.


Observing Tajik culture after a week and a half I have to conclude that these are all around some very welcoming people. Hospitality runs deep here and is not defined as an insincere invite. They go all out. They are also patient and very nice. I speak very little Tajik, and no Russia, but miming and smiling like an idiot seem to be paying off. This being said, it is also built on respect, show proper respect, and it tends to pay off.

Mosque at Chili Char Chasma (44 Springs)

In cultural orientation, we interns learned that there have recently been some interesting laws passed in Tajikistan. Loudspeakers for the call to prayer are not allowed. This makes me sad, because it is honestly one of the most beautiful sounds once you get used it. And second, children under the age of 18 are not allowed in Mosques. Please Pray Responsibly. People here associate themselves with Iran and Persian (Tajik is Persian’s cousin), but I think it’s so the Taliban in Afghanistan don’t decide to come up here and narc on some infidels. 

Drinking is also pretty widely accepted. I have yet to partake in a “Ghosty” but the gist is you get invited by a Tajik to a feast at their house. Once the eating is done, out comes the handle of Vodka. You go shot for shot with your host until either you die of alcohol poisoning, or the bottle is finished. Tajiks take hospitality very seriously, so if you accept a ghosty invite there is really no way out of it once it starts. I will avoid this tradition as long as I can. It sounds too much like my Sophomore year at good ol’ U of I.


Most of the country’s wealth actually comes from Tajik men (nearly 1 million of them) who work abroad in Russia during the summer and send remittances back home. I don’t hear any Russians complaining about job-loss to immigrants, so food for thought U.S. law-makers: maybe take a peek at Russia’s program and, um, I dunno dig your heads out of your asses. Controlled immigration can work.

Please excuse my digressions, I find that I learn more about America outside of it then I do from within! Anyways hope this post hasn’t been a complete bore, but instead an awesome waste of time.

Malesh! (that’s all)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Shelbi permalink
    June 20, 2011 18:49

    Hey Kim!! I just wanted to let you know I read your blog posts and am so excited for you to be in Tajikistan! How cool! I am looking forward to updates on how the watermelon economy project goes! 🙂 have fun and stay safe!


    • June 21, 2011 08:22

      Thanks for the well wishes! Tajikistan is pretty cool, hotter than Egypt though, if you can believe it. I want updates on your life, I love looking at the pictures you throw up on the FB. Hopefully I can get some pictures up soon.


  2. July 1, 2011 21:30

    Howdy Kim,
    Your blog is a fun read-not boring at all-in fact, quite informative but with pithy commentary. In other words I love it.

    Speaking of ants-battling carpenters this summer.
    Love, Mom


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