Tajikistani Civil War
Part of the post-Soviet conflicts and spillover of the Afghan Civil War (1992–1996)

Spetsnaz soldiers of the 15th Independent Special Forces Brigade during the Civil War
Date5 May 1992 – 27 June 1997
(5 years, 1 month, 3 weeks and 1 day)
Result Tajikistani government victory


 Kyrgyzstan Supported by:

Afghanistan Afghanistan
(until 1996)

Commanders and leaders
Tajikistan Rahmon Nabiyev
Tajikistan Akbarsho Iskandrov
Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon
Uzbekistan Islam Karimov
Russia Boris Yeltsin
Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev
Kyrgyzstan Askar Akayev
United NationsJordan Hassan Abaza
Sayid Abdulloh Nuri (UTO)
Mohammed Sharif Himmatzade (IRP)
Ibn al-Khattab
Shadman Youssof (Democratic Party)
Tajikistan 42,000–45,000
Russia 5,000–15,000 border troops
Uzbekistan 20,600
Kazakhstan 10,300
Kyrgyzstan 278[9]
Estimated around 50,000–70,000
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown
20,000[10]–150,000 killed[11]
1.2 million displaced

The Tajikistani Civil War,[pron 1] also known as the Tajik Civil War, began in May 1992 and ended in June 1997. Regional groups from the Garm and Gorno-Badakhshan regions of Tajikistan rose up against the newly-formed government of President Rahmon Nabiyev, which was dominated by people from the Khujand and Kulob regions. The rebel groups were led by a combination of liberal democratic reformers[12] and Islamists, who would later organize under the banner of the United Tajik Opposition. The government was supported by Russian military and border guards.[13]

The main zone of conflict was in the country's south, although disturbances occurred nationwide.[14][15] The civil war was at its peak during its first year and continued for five years, devastating the country.[14][16] An estimated 20,000[10] to 150,000[11] people were killed in the conflict, and about 10 to 20 percent of the population of Tajikistan were internally displaced.[13] On 27 June 1997, Tajikistan president Emomali Rahmon, United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leader Sayid Abdulloh Nuri and Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General Gerd Merrem signed the General Agreement on the Establishment of Peace and National Accord in Tajikistan and the Moscow Protocol in Moscow, Russia, ending the war.[17]



1990 Dushanbe riots

See also: History of Tajikistan

There were numerous causes of civil war in Tajikistan, such as economic hardship, communal way of life of Tajiki people and their high religiosity. Under Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's 'Perestroika' policies, a Muslim-Democratic movement began to emerge in Tajiki SSR. The backbone of opposition were Party of Tajikistan Muslim Resurrection, Democratic party of Tajikistan and some other movements. The fight between the former communist elite and opposition shifted from the political sphere to an ethnic and clan based one.

Tensions began in the spring of 1992 after opposition members took to the streets in demonstrations against the results of the 1991 presidential election. President Rahmon Nabiyev and Speaker of the Supreme Soviet Safarali Kenjayev orchestrated the dispersal of weapons to pro-government militias, while the opposition turned to mujahideen in Afghanistan for military aid.

Conflict (1992–1993)

Fighting broke out on 5 May 1992 between old-guard supporters of the government and a loosely organized opposition composed of ethnic and regional groups from the Gharm and Gorno-Badakhshan areas (the latter were also known as Pamiris). Ideologically, the opposition included democratic liberal reformists and Islamists. The government, on the other hand, was dominated by people from the Leninabadi region, which had also made up most of the ruling elite during the entire Soviet period. It was also supported by people from the Kulob region, who had held high posts in the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Soviet times. After many clashes, the Leninabadis were forced to accept a compromise and a new coalition government was formed, incorporating members of the opposition and eventually dominated by them.[18] On 7 September 1992, Nabiyev was captured by opposition protesters and forced at gunpoint to resign his presidency.[19][20] Chaos and fighting between the opposing factions reigned outside of the capital Dushanbe.

With the aid of the Russian military and Uzbekistan, the Leninabadi-Kulobi Popular Front forces routed the opposition in early and late 1992. The coalition government in the capital was forced to resign. On 12 December 1992 the Supreme Soviet (parliament), where the Leninabadi-Kulobi faction had held the majority of seats all along, convened and elected a new government under the leadership of Emomali Rahmon, representing a shift in power from the old power based in Leninabad to the militias from Kulob, from which Rahmon came.[21][22]

The height of hostilities occurred from 1992 to 1993 and pitted Kulobi militias against an array of groups, including militants from the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRP) and ethnic minority Pamiris from Gorno-Badakhshan. In large part due to the foreign support they received, the Kulobi militias were able to soundly defeat opposition forces and went on what has been described by Human Rights Watch as an ethnic cleansing campaign against Pamiris and Garmis.[23] The campaign was concentrated in areas south of the capital and included the murder of prominent individuals, mass killings, the burning of villages and the expulsion of the Pamiri and Garmi population into Afghanistan. The violence was particularly concentrated in Qurghonteppa, the power base of the IRP and home to many Garmis. Tens of thousands were killed or fled to Afghanistan.[21][22][24][25]

Continued conflict (1993–1997)

In Afghanistan, the opposition reorganized and rearmed with the aid of the Jamiat-i-Islami. The group's leader Ahmad Shah Masoud became a benefactor of the Tajik opposition. Later in the war the opposition organized under an umbrella group called the United Tajik Opposition, or UTO. Elements of the UTO, especially in the Tavildara region, became the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, while the leadership of the UTO was opposed to the formation of the organization.[26]

Other combatants and armed bands that flourished in this civil chaos simply reflected the breakdown of central authority rather than loyalty to a political faction. In response to the violence the United Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikistan was deployed. Most fighting in the early part of the war occurred in the southern part of the country, but by 1996 the rebels were battling Russian troops in the capital city of Dushanbe.

Armistice and aftermath

Holiday flags in Khujand in 2007 in honour of 'Day of National Unity', declared a work-free holiday in 1998.

A United Nations-sponsored armistice finally ended the war in 1997. This was in part fostered by the Inter-Tajik Dialogue, a Track II diplomacy initiative in which the main players were brought together by international actors, namely the United States and Russia. The peace agreement eliminated the Leninabad region (Khujand) from power. Presidential elections were held on 6 November 1999.

The UTO warned in letters to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon on 23 June 1997 that it would not sign the proposed peace agreement on 27 June if prisoner exchanges and the allocation of jobs in the coalition government were not outlined in the agreement. Akbar Turajonzoda, second-in-command of the UTO, repeated this warning on 26 June, but said both sides were negotiating. President Rahmon, UTO leader Sayid Abdulloh Nuri and Russian President Boris Yeltsin met in the Kremlin in Moscow on 26 June to finish negotiating the peace agreement. The Tajik government had previously pushed for settling these issues after the two sides signed the agreement, with the posts in the coalition government decided by a joint commission for national reconciliation and prisoner exchanges by a future set of negotiations. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov met with the Foreign Ministers of Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to discuss the proposed peace accord.[27][28]

By the end of the war, Tajikistan was in a state of complete devastation. Around 1.2 million people were refugees inside and outside the country. Tajikistan's physical infrastructure, government services and economy were in disarray and much of the population was surviving on subsistence handouts from international aid organizations. The United Nations established a Mission of Observers in December 1994, maintaining peace negotiations until the warring sides signed a comprehensive peace agreement in 1997.[29]

Targeting of journalists

See also: List of journalists killed in Tajikistan

Journalists were particularly targeted for assassination and at least 40 Tajik journalists were killed.[30] Many more fled the country, leading to a brain drain. Notable individuals murdered include journalist and politician Otakhon Latifi, journalist and Jewish leader Meirkhaim Gavrielov, politician Safarali Kenjayev and four members of the United Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikistan: Yutaka Akino, a noted Japanese scholar of Central Asian history; Maj. Ryszard Szewczyk from Poland; Maj. Adolfo Scharpegge from Uruguay; and Jourajon Mahramov from Tajikistan;[31] and documentary filmmaker Arcady Ruderman, from Belarus.


See also


  1. ^ Tajik: Ҷанги шаҳрвандии Тоҷикистон, romanizedJangi shahrvandiyi Tojikiston / Çangi shahrvandiji Toçikiston; Russian: Гражданская война в Таджикистане
  1. ^ "Tajikistan: President Meets With Popular Front Commanders". Radio Liberty Archives. 9 July 1997. Archived from the original on 12 October 2017. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  2. ^ "Американцы боятся белорусских танков. Белоруссия американских санкций не боится" [Americans are afraid of Belarusian tanks. Belarus is not afraid of American sanctions]. Lenta.ru (in Russian). 1 March 2002. Archived from the original on 20 November 2021.
  3. ^ Jonson, Lena (25 August 2006). Tajikistan in the New Central Asia. Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 9781845112936. Archived from the original on 16 January 2016. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  4. ^ Inside Al Qaeda: global network of terror, by Rohan Gunaratna, pg. 169
  5. ^ "Iran dismisses Tajik civil war claims as attempt to damage ties". Reuters. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
  6. ^ "A Thaw Between Tajikistan and Iran, But Challenges Remain". Jamestown. Retrieved 10 July 2019. Fearing a continuity of Soviet-era policies, Iran supported the Islamic and nationalist opposition during the civil war.
  7. ^ Abdulfattoh, Shafiev (February 2016). "Iran and Tajikistan: A Story of Love and Hate" (PDF). Central Asia Policy Brief. 34. At the end of 1992, Tajikistan entered into a bloody civil war. Tehran gave refuge and support to the leaders of the Democratic-Islamic coalition of the Tajik opposition, and was therefore considered to be a pro-Islamic actor. However, it also contributed a critical role in helping peace discussions: Tehran hosted several rounds of the Tajik peace negotiations in 1994, 1995, and 1997, bringing both sides to the discussion table. President Rahmon paid an official visit to Tehran in 1995 and opened an embassy there. But seen from Dushanbe, Moscow was a more reliable ally than Tehran, and any kind of pan-Persian nationalism was rapidly shut down by the authorities.
  8. ^ Ahmad, Majidyar. "Tajikistan Accuses Iran of Sponsoring Terrorism, Restricts Iranian Organizations' Activities". Middle East Institute. Retrieved 9 August 2017. Tajikistan has accused Iran of having played a subversive role in the country's civil war in the 1990s by sending terrorists to the Central Asian republic, the latest sign of deteriorating relations between the two countries.
  9. ^ "Боевые действия на таджикско-афганской границе (начало 1990–х гг.)". Archived from the original on 13 November 2020. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  10. ^ a b Pannier, Bruce (26 June 2017). "The Many Agents Of Tajikistan's Path To Peace". Radio Liberty. Archived from the original on 3 July 2017. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  11. ^ a b "The Peace Deal That Ended Tajikistan's Bloody Civil War". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. 27 June 2021. Archived from the original on 31 August 2022. Retrieved 31 August 2022.
  12. ^ Dubovitsky, Viktor (February 2003). "Features of the ethnic and confessional situation in the Republic of Tajikistan" (in Russian). Archived from the original on 11 April 2008.
  13. ^ a b Pannier, Bruce (23 June 2017). "Tajikistan's Civil War: A Nightmare The Government Won't Let Its People Forget". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Archived from the original on 5 June 2019. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  14. ^ a b "The Tajik civil war: Causes and dynamics". Conciliation Resources. 30 December 2011. Archived from the original on 12 April 2019. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  15. ^ Hays, Jeffrey. "TAJIKISTAN CIVIL WAR – Facts and Details". factsanddetails.com. Archived from the original on 5 May 2019. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  16. ^ Pannier, Bruce (9 October 2018). "Tajikistan's Unconquerable Gorno-Badakhshan Region". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Archived from the original on 12 April 2019. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  17. ^ Tajikistan Civil War Archived 14 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine Global Security
  18. ^ "Department Sozialwissenschaften : Institut für Politische Wissenschaft : Arbeits- und Forschungsstellen : Arbeitsgemeinschaft Kriegsursachenforschung : Kriege-Archiv : ... VMO: 208 Tadschikistan (BK) – Bewaffneter Konflikt in Tadschikistan 1992–1998 und 1998–2001 (Universität Hamburg)". Archived from the original on 16 November 2002. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  19. ^ Political Construction Sites: Nation-building in Russia and the Post-Soviet States Archived 16 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine, page 76
  20. ^ "Tajikistan – Government". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  21. ^ a b Between Marx and Muhammad. Dilip Hiro.
  22. ^ a b The Resurgence of Central Asia. Ahmed Rashid
  23. ^ Human Rights Watch Press Backgrounder on Tajikistan Archived 19 October 2010 at the Wayback Machine Human Rights Watch
  24. ^ Tajikistan: Refugee reintegration and conflict prevention Archived 3 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine Open Society Institute
  25. ^ Human Rights Watch World Report: Tajikistan Archived 24 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine Human Rights Watch
  26. ^ Ahmed Rashid. Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia. Orient Longman. Hyderabad. 2002.
  27. ^ Tajikistan: Opposition warns it may not sign peace accord Archived 30 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty
  28. ^ Tajikistan: Opposition may not sign peace accord tomorrow Archived 30 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty
  29. ^ Tajikistan: rising from the ashes of civil war Archived 18 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine United Nations
  30. ^ "Tajikistan's Civil War: A Nightmare The Government Won't Let Its People Forget". Radio Liberty. 23 June 2017. Archived from the original on 23 June 2017. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  31. ^ "eurasianet.org". Archived from the original on 17 June 2006.

Further reading

Post–Cold War conflicts in Asia