The Postwar Period
The post-World War II era saw the expansion of irrigated agriculture,
the further development of industry, and a rise in the level of
education in Tajikistan. Like the rest of the Soviet Union, Tajikistan
felt the effects of the party and government reorganization projects
of Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev (in office 1953-64). Especially
in 1957 and 1958, Tajikistan's population and economy were manipulated
as part of Khrushchev's overly ambitious Virgin Lands project,
a campaign to forcibly increase the extent of arable land in the
Soviet Union. Under Khrushchev and his successor, Leonid I. Brezhnev
(in office 1964-82), Tajikistan's borders were periodically redrawn
as districts and provinces were recombined, abolished, and restored,
while small amounts of territory were acquired from or ceded to
During the Soviet period, the only Tajikistani politician to
become important outside his region was Bobojon Ghafurov (1908-77),
a Tajik who became prominent as the Stalinist first secretary
of the Communist Party of Tajikistan in the late 1940s. After
Stalin's death in 1953, Ghafurov, a historian by training, established
himself as a prominent Asia scholar and magazine editor, injecting
notes of Tajik nationalism into some of his historical writings.
The fate of Ghafurov's successors illustrates important trends
in the politics of Soviet Central Asia in the second half of the
twentieth century. The next first secretary, Tursunbai Uljabayev
(in office 1956-61), was ousted amid accusations that he had falsified
reports to exaggerate the success of cotton production in the
republic (charges also leveled in the 1980s against Uzbekistan's
leadership); apparently the central government also objected to
Uljabayev's preferential appointments of his cronies from Leninobod
Province to party positions (see Russification and Resistance,
ch. 5). Uljabaev's replacement as first secretary, Jabbor Rasulov,
was a veteran of the prestigious agricultural bureaucracy of the
republic. Like first secretaries in the other Central Asian republics,
Rasulov benefited from Brezhnev's policy of "stability of cadres"
and remained in office until Brezhnev's death in 1982.
Rasulov's successor, Rahmon Nabiyev, was a man of the Brezhnevite
political school, who, like his predecessor, had spent much of
his career in the agricultural bureaucracy. Nabiyev held office
until ousted in 1985 as Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev (in
office 1985-91) swept out the republic's old-guard party leaders.
Nabiyev's 1991 installation as president of independent Tajikistan,
by means of an old-guard coup and a rigged election, exacerbated
the political tensions in the republic and was an important step
toward the civil war that broke out in 1992.
All the post-Stalin party first secretaries came from Leninobod,
in keeping with a broader phenomenon of Tajikistani politics from
the postwar period to the collapse of the Soviet Union--the linkage
between regional cliques, especially from Leninobod Province,
and political power. Although certain cliques from Leninobod were
dominant, they allowed allies from other provinces a lesser share
of power. As the conflict in the early1990s showed, supporters
of opposing camps could be found in all the country's provinces.
The forces of fragmentation in the Soviet Union eventually affected
Tajikistan, whose government strongly supported continued unity.
Bowing to Tajik nationalism, Tajikistan's Supreme Soviet adopted
a declaration of sovereignty in August 1990, but in March 1991,
the people of Tajikistan voted overwhelmingly for preservation
of the union in a national referendum. That August the Moscow
coup against the Gorbachev government brought mass demonstrations
by opposition groups in Dushanbe, forcing the resignation of President
Kahar Mahkamov. Nabiyev assumed the position of acting president.
The following month, the Supreme Soviet proclaimed Tajikistan
an independent state, following the examples of Uzbekistan and
Kyrgyzstan. In November, Nabiyev was elected president of the
new republic, and in December, representatives of Tajikistan signed
the agreement forming the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS--see
Glossary) to succeed the Soviet Union.
Antigovernment demonstrations began in Dushanbe in March 1992.
In April 1992, tensions mounted as progovernment groups opposing
reform staged counterdemonstrations. By May, small armed clashes
had occurred, causing Nabiyev to break off negotiations with the
reformist demonstrators and go into hiding. After eight antigovernment
demonstrators were killed in Dushanbe, the commander of the Russian
garrison brokered a compromise agreement creating a coalition
government in which one-third of the cabinet positions would go
to members of the opposition. The collapse of that government
heralded the outbreak of a civil war that plagued Tajikistan for
the next four years (see Transition to Post-Soviet Government,
Data as of March 1996