Total population
c.19–26 million
Regions with significant populations
 Afghanistan8-15 million (2024)[1] [2]
 Tajikistan~8,700,000 (2024)[3] [4]
~1,700,000 (2021)[5]
other, non-official, scholarly estimates are 8-12 million[6][7][8]
 United States52,000[a]
Persian (Dari and Tajik)
Secondary: Pashto, Russian, Uzbek
Predominantly Sunni Islam[15]
minority Shia Islam[16]
Related ethnic groups
Other Iranian peoples

Tajiks (Persian: تاجيک، تاجک, romanizedTājīk, Tājek; Tajik: Тоҷик, romanizedTojik) are a Persian-speaking[17] Iranian ethnic group native to Central Asia, living primarily in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Tajiks are the largest ethnicity in Tajikistan, and the second-largest in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. They speak varieties of Persian, a Western Iranian language. In Tajikistan, since the 1939 Soviet census, its small Pamiri and Yaghnobi ethnic groups are included as Tajiks.[18] In China, the term is used to refer to its Pamiri ethnic groups, the Tajiks of Xinjiang, who speak the Eastern Iranian Pamiri languages.[19][20] In Afghanistan, the Pamiris are counted as a separate ethnic group.[21]

As a self-designation, the literary New Persian term Tajik, which originally had some previous pejorative usage as a label for eastern Persians or Iranians,[22][23] has become acceptable during the last several decades, particularly as a result of Soviet administration in Central Asia.[17] Alternative names for the Tajiks are Fārsīwān (Persian-speaker), and Dīhgān (cf. Tajik: Деҳқон) which translates to "farmer or settled villager", in a wider sense "settled" in contrast to "nomadic" and was later used to describe a class of land-owning magnates as "Persian of noble blood" in contrast to Arabs, Turks and Romans during the Sassanid and early Islamic period.[24][22]


Tajiks in Bamiyan, Afghanistan
Tajik man and woman in 19th century photos

Further information: Ghurid Empire and Kartids

See also: Ancient Iranian peoples and Proto-Indo-Europeans

The Tajiks are an Iranian people, speaking a variety of Persian, concentrated in the Oxus Basin, the Farḡāna valley (Tajikistan and parts of Uzbekistan) and on both banks of the upper Oxus, i.e., the Pamir Mountains (Mountain Badaḵšān, in Tajikistan) and northeastern Afghanistan (Badaḵšān).[22] Historically, the ancient Tajiks were chiefly agriculturalists before the Arab Conquest of Iran.[25] While agriculture remained a stronghold, the Islamization of Iran also resulted in the rapid urbanization of historical Khorasan and Transoxiana that lasted until the devastating Mongolian invasion.[26] Several surviving ancient urban centers of the Tajik people include Samarkand, Bukhara, Khujand, and Termez.

Contemporary Tajiks are the descendants of ancient Eastern Iranian inhabitants of Central Asia, in particular, the Sogdians and the Bactrians.[27] Possibly are descendants from other groups, with an admixture of Western Iranian Persians and non-Iranian peoples.[28][29] According to Richard Nelson Frye, a leading historian of Iranian and Central Asian history, the Persian migration to Central Asia may be considered the beginning of the modern Tajik nation, and ethnic Persians, along with some elements of East-Iranian Bactrians and Sogdians, as the main ancestors of modern Tajiks.[30] In later works, Frye expands on the complexity of the historical origins of the Tajiks. In a 1996 publication, Frye explains that many "factors must be taken into account in explaining the evolution of the peoples whose remnants are the Tajiks in Central Asia" and that "the peoples of Central Asia, whether Iranian or Turkic speaking, have one culture, one religion, one set of social values and traditions with only language separating them."[31]

Regarding Tajiks, the Encyclopædia Britannica states:

The Tajiks are the direct descendants of the Iranian peoples whose continuous presence in Central Asia and northern Afghanistan is attested from the middle of the 1st millennium BC. The ancestors of the Tajiks constituted the core of the ancient population of Khwārezm (Khorezm) and Bactria, which formed part of Transoxania (Sogdiana). Over the course of time, the eastern Iranian dialect that was used by the ancient Tajiks eventually gave way to Farsi, a western dialect spoken in Iran and Afghanistan.[32]

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.[33]

Modern history

Tajik men in Tajikistan
Young Tajik women in the 21st century

During the Soviet–Afghan War, the Tajik-dominated Jamiat-e Islami founded by Burhanuddin Rabbani resisted the Soviet Army and the communist Afghan government. Tajik commander, Ahmad Shah Massoud, successfully repelled nine Soviet campaigns from taking Panjshir Valley and earned the nickname "Lion of Panjshir" (شیر پنجشیر).


See also: Dehqan, Sart, and Tayy § Fifth century

According to John Perry (Encyclopaedia Iranica):[22]

The most plausible and generally accepted origin of the word is Middle Persian tāzīk 'Arab' (cf. New Persian tāzi), or an Iranian (Sogdian or Parthian) cognate word. The Muslim armies that invaded Transoxiana early in the eighth century, conquering the Sogdian principalities and clashing with the Qarluq Turks (see Bregel, Atlas, Maps 8–10) consisted not only of Arabs, but also of Persian converts from Fārs and the central Zagros region (Bartol'd [Barthold], "Tadžiki," pp. 455–57). Hence the Turks of Central Asia adopted a variant of the Iranian word, täžik, to designate their Muslim adversaries in general. For example, the rulers of the south Indian Chalukya dynasty and Rashtrakuta dynasty also referred to the Arabs as "Tajika" in the 8th and 9th century.[34][35] By the eleventh century (Yusof Ḵāṣṣ-ḥājeb, Qutadḡu bilig, lines 280, 282, 3265), the Qarakhanid Turks applied this term more specifically to the Persian Muslims in the Oxus basin and Khorasan, who were variously the Turks' rivals, models, overlords (under the Samanid Dynasty), and subjects (from Ghaznavid times on). Persian writers of the Ghaznavid, Seljuq and Atābak periods (ca. 1000–1260) adopted the term and extended its use to cover Persians in the rest of Greater Iran, now under Turkish rule, as early as the poet ʿOnṣori, ca. 1025 (Dabirsiāqi, pp. 3377, 3408). Iranians soon accepted it as an ethnonym, as is shown by a Persian court official's referring to mā tāzikān "we Tajiks" (Bayhaqi, ed. Fayyāz, p. 594). The distinction between Turk and Tajik became stereotyped to express the symbiosis and rivalry of the (ideally) nomadic military executive and the urban civil bureaucracy (Niẓām al-Molk: tāzik, pp. 146, 178–79; Fragner, "Tādjīk. 2" in EI2 10, p. 63).

The word also occurs in the Tonyukuk inscriptions as tözik, used for a local Arab tribe in the Tashkent area.[36] These Arabs were said to be from the Taz tribe, which is still found in Yemen. In the 7th-century, the Taz began to Islamize Transoxiana.[37]

According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, however, the oldest known usage of the word Tajik as a reference to Persians in Persian literature can be found in the writings of the Persian poet Jalal ad-Din Rumi.[38] The 15th-century Turkic-speaking poet Mīr Alī Šer Navā'ī also used Tajik as a reference to Persians.[39]


The Tajiks are the principal ethnic group in most of Tajikistan, as well as in northern and western Afghanistan, though there are more Tajiks in Afghanistan than in Tajikistan. 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.


Main article: Demographics of Tajikistan

Tajik family in Tajikistan

Tajiks make up around 84.3% of the population of Tajikistan.[40] This number includes speakers of the Pamiri languages, including Wakhi and Shughni, and the Yaghnobi people who in the past were considered by the government of the Soviet Union nationalities separate from the Tajiks. In the 1926 and 1937 Soviet censuses, the Yaghnobis and Pamiri language speakers were counted as separate nationalities. After 1937, these groups were required to register as Tajiks.[18]


Main article: Demographics of Afghanistan

Burhanuddin Rabbani served as President of Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, a "Tajik", is typically defined as any primarily Dari-speaking Sunni Muslim who refer to themselves by the region, province, city, town, or village that they are from;[41] such as Badakhshi, Baghlani, Mazari, Panjsheri, Kabuli, Herati, Kohistani, etc.[41][42][43] Although in the past, some non-Pashto speaking tribes were identified as Tajik, for example, the Furmuli.[44][45] By this definition, according to the World Factbook, Tajiks make up about 25–27% of Afghanistan's population,[46][47] but according to other sources, they form 37–39% of the population.[48] Other sources however, for example the Encyclopædia Britannica, state that they constitute about 12–20% of the population,[49][50] which is mostly excluding Persianized ethnic groups like some Pashtuns, Uzbeks, Qizilbash, Aimaqs etc. who, especially in large urban areas like Kabul or Herat, assimiliated into the respective local culture.[51][52][53] Tajiks (or Farsiwans respectively) are predominant in four of the largest cities in Afghanistan (Kabul, Mazar-e Sharif, Herat, and Ghazni) and make up the qualified majority in the northern and western provinces of Badakhshan and Panjshir while making up significant portions of the population in Balkh, Takhar, Kabul, Parwan, Kapisa, Baghlan, Badghis and Herat.


Main article: Demographics of Uzbekistan

View of the Registan 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 Samarkand, and are found in large numbers in the Surxondaryo Region in the south and along Uzbekistan's eastern border with Tajikistan. According to official statistics (2000), Surxondaryo Region accounts for 24.4% of all Tajiks in Uzbekistan, with another 34.3% in Samarqand and Bukhara regions.[54]

Official statistics in Uzbekistan state that the Tajik community accounts for 5% of the nation's population.[55] However, these numbers do not include ethnic Tajiks who, for a variety of reasons, choose to identify themselves as Uzbeks in population census forms.[56] During the Soviet "Uzbekization" 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 Tajikistan, which is mountainous and less agricultural.[57] It is only in the last population census (1989) that the nationality could be reported not according to the passport, but freely declared based on the respondent's ethnic self-identification.[58] This had the effect of increasing the Tajik population in Uzbekistan from 3.9% in 1979 to 4.7% in 1989. Some scholars estimate that Tajiks may make up 35% of Uzbekistan's population, and believe that just like Afghanistan, there are more Tajiks in Uzbekistan than in Tajikistan.[59]


Main article: Tajiks of Xinjiang

Chinese Tajiks or Mountain Tajiks in China (Sarikoli: [tudʒik], Tujik; Chinese: 塔吉克族; pinyin: Tǎjíkè Zú), including Sarikolis (majority) and Wakhis (minority) in China, are the Pamiri ethnic group that lives in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwestern China. They are one of the 56 nationalities officially recognized by the government of the People's Republic of China.


Main article: Demographics of Kazakhstan

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.


Main article: Demographics of Kyrgyzstan

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.


Main article: Demographics of Turkmenistan

According to the last Soviet census in 1989,[60] there were 3,149 Tajiks in Turkmenistan, 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.[61]


The population of Tajiks in Russia was about 350,236 according to the 2021 census,[62] up from 38,000 in the last Soviet census of 1989.[63] Most Tajiks came to Russia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, often as guest workers in places like Moscow and Saint Petersburg or federal subjects near the Kazakhstan border.[64] There are currently estimated to be over one million Tajik guest workers living in Russia, with their remittances accounting for as much as half of Tajikistan's economy.[65]


Main article: Tajiks in Pakistan

There are an estimated 220,000 Tajiks in Pakistan as of 2012, mainly refugees from Afghanistan.[66] During the 1990s, as a result of the Tajikistan Civil War, between 700 and 1,200 Tajiks arrived in Pakistan, mainly as students, the children of Tajik refugees in Afghanistan. In 2002, around 300 requested to return home and were repatriated back to Tajikistan with the help of the IOM, UNHCR and the two countries' authorities.[67]

United States

Main article: Tajik Americans

80,414 Tajiks live in the United States.[68]


Tajik girls in Khwahan, Afghanistan

A 2014 study of the maternal haplogroups of Tajiks from Tajikistan revealed substantial admixture of West Eurasian and East Eurasian lineages, and also the presence of South Asian and North African lineages, as well.[69] Another study reports that "the Tajik mtDNA pool gene pool harbors nearly equal proportions of eastern Eurasian and western Eurasian haplotypes."[70]

West Eurasian maternal lineages included haplogroups H, J, K, T, I, W and U.[71] East Eurasian lineages included haplogroups M, C, Z, D, G, A, Y and B.[72] South Asian lineages detected in this study included haplogroups M and R.[73] One lineage in the Tajik sample was assigned to the North African maternal haplogroup X2j.[74]

The dominant paternal haplogroup among modern Tajiks is the Haplogroup R1a Y-DNA. ~45% of Tajik men share R1a (M17), ~18% J (M172), ~8% R2 (M124), and ~8% C (M130 & M48). Tajiks of Panjikent score 68% R1a, Tajiks of Khojant score 64% R1a.[75] The high frequency of haplogroup R1a in the Tajiks probably reflects a strong founder effect.[76] According to another genetic test, 63% of Tajik male samples from Tajikistan carry R1a.[77]

Schematic map showing the possible admixture model for Tajik populations. The time in parentheses represent a range. Arrows in different colors indicate ancestral sources and directions of the gene flows.

An autosomal DNA study by Guarino-Vignon et al. (2022), suggested that modern Tajiks show genetic continuity with ancient samples from Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. The genetic ancestry of Tajiks consists largely of a West-Eurasian component (~74%), an East Asian-related component (~18%), and a South Asian component samplified by Great Andamanese (~8%). According to the authors, the South Asian (Great Andamanese) affinity of Tajiks was previously unreported, although evidence for the presence of a deep South Asian ancestry was already found previously in other Central Asian samples (e.g. among modern Turkmens and historical Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex samples). Both historical and more recent geneflow (~1500 years ago) shaped the genetic makeup of Southern Central Asian populations, such as the Tajiks.[78] A follow-up study by Dai et al. (2022) estimated that the Tajiks derive between 11.6 and 18.6% ancestry from admixture with from an East-Eurasian steppe source represented by the Xiongnu, with the remainder of their ancestry being derived from Western Steppe Herders and BMAC components, as well as a small contribution from the early population associated with the Tarim mummies. The authors concluded that Tajiks "present patterns of genetic continuity of Central Asians since the Bronze Age".[79]


Haft-Seen, White House ceremony for new Persian Year, prepared by Laura Bush.


Main articles: Tajik language, Dari (Persian), and Persian language

Tajik autonomous republic coat of arms with Persian language: جمهوری اجتماعی شوروى مختار تاجيكستان

The language of the Tajiks is an eastern dialect of Persian, called Dari (derived from Darbārī, "[of/from the] royal courts", in the sense of "courtly language"), or also Parsi-e Darbari. In Tajikistan, where Cyrillic script is used, it is called the Tajiki language. In Afghanistan, unlike in Tajikistan, Tajiks continue to use the Perso-Arabic script, as well as in Iran. When the Soviet Union introduced the Latin script in 1928, and later the Cyrillic script, the Persian dialect of Tajikistan came to be disassociated from the Tajik language. Many Tajik authors have lamented this artificial separation of the Tajik language from its Iranian heritage.[80] One Tajik poem relates:

Once you said 'you are Iranian', then you said, 'you are Tajik' May he die separated from his roots, he who separated us.[81][80]

Since the 19th century, Tajiki has been strongly influenced by the Russian language and has incorporated many Russian language loan words.[82] It has also adopted fewer Arabic loan words than Iranian Persian while retaining vocabulary that has fallen out of use in the latter language.

Many Tajiks can read, speak or write in Russian, however the prestige and importance of Russian has declined since the fall of the Soviet Union and the exodus of Russians from Central Asia. Nevertheless, Russian fluency is still considered an vital skill for business and education.[83]

The dialects of modern Persian spoken throughout Greater Iran have a common origin. This is due to the fact that one of Greater Iran's historical cultural capitals, called Greater Khorasan, which included parts of modern Central Asia and much of Afghanistan and constitutes as the Tajik's ancestral homeland, played a key role in the development and propagation of Persian language and culture throughout much of Greater Iran after the Muslim conquest. Furthermore, early manuscripts of the historical Persian spoken in Mashhad during the development of Middle to New Persian show that their origins came from Sistan, in present-day Afghanistan.[22]


Main articles: Islam in Afghanistan, Islam in Tajikistan, and Islam in Uzbekistan

Various scholars have recorded the Zoroastrian, Hindu,[84][85] and Buddhist 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.[86]

Today, however, the great majority of Tajiks follow Sunni Islam, although small Twelver and Ismaili Shia minorities also exist in scattered pockets. Areas with large numbers of Shias include Herat, Badakhshan provinces in Afghanistan, the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province in Tajikistan, and Tashkurgan Tajik Autonomous County in China. Some of the famous Islamic scholars were from either modern or historical East-Iranian regions lying in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and therefore can arguably be viewed as Tajiks. They include Abu Hanifa,[22] Imam Bukhari, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood, Nasir Khusraw and many others.

According to a 2009 U.S. State Department release, the population of Tajikistan is 98% Muslim, (approximately 85% Sunni and 5% Shia).[87] In Afghanistan, the great number of Tajiks adhere to Sunni Islam. A small number of Tajiks may follow Twelver Shia Islam; the Farsiwan are one such group.[88] The community of Bukharian Jews in Central Asia speak a dialect of Persian. The Bukharian Jewish community in Uzbekistan is the largest remaining community of Central Asian Jews and resides primarily in Bukhara and Samarkand, while the Bukharaian Jews of Tajikistan live in Dushanbe and number only a few hundred.[89] From the 1970s to the 1990s the majority of these Tajik-speaking Jews emigrated to the United States and to Israel in accordance with Aliyah. Recently, the Protestant community of Tajiks descent has experienced significant growth, a 2015 study estimates some 2,600 Muslim Tajik converted to Christianity.[90]

Tajikistan marked 2009 as the year to commemorate the Tajik Sunni Muslim jurist Abu Hanifa, whose ancestry hailed from Parwan Province of Afghanistan, as the nation hosted an international symposium that drew scientific and religious leaders.[91] The construction of one of the largest mosques in the world, funded by Qatar, was announced in October 2009. The mosque is planned to be built in Dushanbe and construction is said to be completed by 2014.[92]

Recent developments

Cultural revival

Tajiks celebrating Mehregan in Dushanbe park.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Civil War in Afghanistan both gave rise to a resurgence in Tajik nationalism across the region, including a trial to revert to the Perso-Arabic script in Tajikistan.[93][22][94] Furthermore, 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, Emomalii Rahmon, dropped the Russian suffix "-ov" from his surname and directed others to adopt Tajik names when registering births.[95] According to a government announcement in October 2009, approximately 4,000 Tajik nationals have dropped "ov" and "ev" from their surnames since the start of the year.[96]

In September 2009, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan proposed a draft law to have the nation's language referred to as "Tajiki-Farsi" rather than "Tajik." The proposal drew criticism from Russian media since the bill sought to remove the Russian language as Tajikistan's inter-ethnic lingua franca.[97] In 1989, the original name of the language (Farsi) had been added to its official name in brackets, though Rahmon's government renamed the language to simply "Tajiki" in 1994.[97] On 6 October 2009, Tajikistan adopted the law that removes Russian as the lingua franca and mandated Tajik as the language to be used in official documents and education, with an exception for members Tajikistan's ethnic minority groups, who would be permitted to receive an education in the language of their choosing.[98]

See also


  1. ^ This figure only includes Tajiks from Afghanistan. The population of people from Afghanistan the United States is estimated as 80,414 (2005).[11]


  1. ^ "Afghanistan Population 2024 (Live)".
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  4. ^ "Tajikistan Population 2024 (Live)".
  5. ^ "Permanent population by national and / Or ethnic group, urban / Rural place of residence".
  6. ^ Foltz 2023, p. 175.
  7. ^ Karl Cordell, "Ethnicity and Democratisation in the New Europe", Routledge, 1998. p. 201: "Consequently, the number of citizens who regard themselves as Tajiks is difficult to determine. Tajikis within and outside of the republic, Samarkand State University (SamGU) academic and international commentators suggest that there may be between six and seven million Tajiks in Uzbekistan, constituting 30% of the republic's 22 million population, rather than the official figure of 4.7%(Foltz 1996;213; Carlisle 1995:88).
  8. ^ Lena Jonson (1976) "Tajikistan in the New Central Asia", I.B.Tauris, p. 108: "According to official Uzbek statistics there are slightly over 1 million Tajiks in Uzbekistan or about 3% of the population. The unofficial figure is over 6 million Tajiks. They are concentrated in the Sukhandarya, Samarqand and Bukhara regions."
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Further reading