The Russian Conquest
After several unsuccessful attempts in earlier times, the Russian
conquest and settlement of Central Asia began in earnest in the
second half of the nineteenth century. Spurred by various economic
and geopolitical factors, increasing numbers of Russians moved
into Central Asia in this period. Although some armed resistance
occurred, Tajik society remained largely unchanged during this
initial colonial period.
The Occupation Process
By 1860 the Central Asian principalities were ripe for conquest
by the much more powerful Russian Empire. Imperial policy makers
believed that these principalities had to be subdued because of
their armed opposition to Russian expansion into the Kazak steppe,
which already was underway to the north of Tajikistan. Some proponents
of Russian expansion saw it as a way to compensate for losses
elsewhere and to pressure Britain, Russia's perennial nemesis
in the region, by playing on British concerns about threats to
its position in India. The Russian military supported campaigns
in Central Asia as a means of advancing careers and building personal
fortunes. The region assumed much greater economic importance
in the second half of the nineteenth century because of its potential
as a supplier of cotton.
An important step in the Russian conquest was the capture of
Tashkent from the Quqon Khanate, part of which was annexed in
1866. The following year, Tashkent became the capital of the new
Guberniya (Governorate General) of Turkestan, which included the
districts of Khujand and Uroteppa (later part of Tajikistan).
After a domestic uprising and Russian military occupation, Russia
annexed the remainder of the Quqon Khanate in 1876.
The Bukhoro Khanate fought Russian invaders during the same
period, losing the Samarqand area in 1868. Russia chose not to
annex the rest of Bukhoro, fearing repercussions in the Muslim
world and from Britain because Bukhoro was a bastion of Islam
and a place of strategic significance to British India. Instead,
the tsar's government made a treaty with Bukhoro, recognizing
its existence but in effect subordinating it to Russia. Bukhoro
actually gained territory by this agreement, when the Russian
administration granted the amir of Bukhoro a district that included
Dushanbe, now the capital of Tajikistan, in compensation for the
territory that had been ceded to Russia.
In the 1880s, the principality of Shughnon-Rushon in the western
Pamir Mountains became a new object of contention between Britain
and Russia when Afghanistan and Russia disputed territory there.
An 1895 treaty assigned the disputed territory to Bukhoro, and
at the same time put the eastern Pamirs under Russian rule.
Tajikistan under Russian Rule
Russian rule brought important changes in Central Asia, but
many elements of the traditional way of life scarcely changed.
In the part of what is now Tajikistan that was incorporated into
the Guberniya of Turkestan, many ordinary inhabitants had limited
contact with Russian officials or settlers before 1917. Rural
administration there resembled the system that governed peasants
in the European part of the Russian Empire after the abolition
of serfdom in 1861. Local administration in villages continued
to follow long-established tradition, and prior to 1917 few Russians
lived in the area of present-day Tajikistan. Russian authorities
also left education in the region substantially the same between
the 1870s and 1917.
An important event of the 1870s was Russia's initial expansion
of cotton cultivation in the region, including the areas of the
Fergana Valley and the Bukhoro Khanate that later became part
of Tajikistan. The pattern of switching land from grain cultivation
to cotton cultivation, which intensified during the Soviet period,
was established at this time. The first cotton-processing plant
was established in eastern Bukhoro during World War I.
Some elements of opposition to Russian hegemony appeared in
the late nineteenth century. By 1900 a novel educational approach
was being offered by reformers known as Jadidists (jadid
is the Arabic word for "new.") The Jadidists, who received support
from Tajiks, Tatars, and Uzbeks, were modernizers and nationalists
who viewed Central Asia as a whole. Their position was that the
religious and cultural greatness of Islamic civilization had been
degraded in the Central Asia of their day. The Tatars and Central
Asians who shared these views established Jadidist schools in
several cities in the Guberniya of Turkestan. Although the Jadidists
were not necessarily anti-Russian, tsarist officials in Turkestan
found their kind of education even more threatening than traditional
Islamic teaching. By World War I, several cities in present-day
Tajikistan had underground Jadidist organizations.
Between 1869 and 1913, uprisings against the amir of Bukhoro
erupted under local rulers in the eastern part of the khanate.
The uprisings of 1910 and 1913 required Russian troops to restore
order. A peasant revolt also occurred in eastern Bukhoro in 1886.
The failed Russian revolution of 1905 resonated very little among
the indigenous populations of Central Asia. In the Duma (legislature)
that was established in St. Petersburg as a consequence of the
events of 1905, the indigenous inhabitants of Turkestan were allotted
only six representatives. Subsequent to the second Duma in 1907,
Central Asians were denied all representation.
By 1916 discontent with the effects of Russian rule had grown
substantially. Central Asians complained especially of discriminatory
taxation and price gouging by Russian merchants. A flashpoint
was Russia's revocation that year of Central Asians' traditional
exemption from military service. In July 1916, the first violent
reaction to the impending draft occurred when demonstrators attacked
Russian soldiers in Khujand, in what would later be northern Tajikistan.
Although clashes continued in various parts of Central Asia through
the end of the year, Russian troops quickly brought the Khujand
region back under control. The following year, the Russian Revolution
ended tsarist rule in Central Asia.
In the early 1920s, the establishment of Soviet rule in Central
Asia led to the creation of a new entity called Tajikistan as
a republic within the Soviet Union. In contrast to the tsarist
period, when most inhabitants of the future Tajikistan felt only
limited Russian influence, the Soviet era saw a central authority
exert itself in a way that was ideologically and culturally alien
to the republic's inhabitants. The Tajik way of life experienced
much change, even though social homogenization was never achieved.
Data as of March 1996