Factors Affecting Uzbek Identity in Tajikistan

Factors Affecting Uzbek Identity in Tajikistan

Author(s) by Ted Elder
Pages 166-172
Keywords Uzbek, identity, Tajikistan, Soviet Central Asia
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Abstract


Turkic speaking Uzbeks constitute the largest ethnic minority in Tajikistan, where the majority of the population is made of up Persian speaking Tajiks. These Uzbeks however are divided into a variety of subethnic groups. The Uzbeks in Tajikistan are much less homogenous than Uzbeks in Uzbekistan. They have conceptions of their identities which are based on tribal background, region of origin, and language dialect. This paper seeks to identify the factors which affect how Uzbeks in Tajikistan think about their own identity, particularly in relation to other Uzbeks. While some historians write of the long, illustrious history of the Uzbeks, other scholars see the current Uzbek ethnic identity as something largely crafted by the Soviet state. Prior to the Soviet period, ethnic identities in Central Asia were much more diffuse, and less important than today. Tajikistan’s Uzbeks are descendants of both Turkic speaking nomadic or semi-nomadic groups, and of the Persian and Turkic speaking oasis-dwellers, formerly known as Sarts. The Soviet efforts to create a much clearer sense of ethnic identities in Central Asia were largely successful. Yet the Soviet attempts to shape Uzbek identity were much less marked in Tajikistan, resulting in more lasting tribal identities, and more distinct dialects. Another historical phenomena that brought Uzbeks into Tajikistan were the population transfers, or resettlements, of the twentieth century. Soviet efforts to grow cotton in the Vakhsh valley of southern Tajikistan included bringing many experienced Uzbek cotton farmers from Uzbekistan. Then in their attempts to attract Slavic people to move to the new Soviet built capital of Tajikistan, Dushanbe, they created an environment that encouraged some Uzbeks to move to Dushanbe because of its economic advantages. All these factors must be taken into account in order to have a nuanced understanding of Uzbek identities in Tajikistan today.

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