Until the mid of the first millennium B.C. the territory of modern Tajikistan in the areas of Amudarya and Sirdarya were settled by Eastern Iranian tribes. Bactria and Sogdiana were the most ancient states, lying along the banks of the upper and middle Amudarya. In the 6th – 4th century B.C. these states were part of the Akhamenids Empire established by Persians. The agricultural area of Sogdiana, that included Fergana and Zerafshan valleys and reaching in the west the area of Bukhara, played an important role in international trade, as it was on trade routes that linked China and Central Asia. The Akhamenid State collapsed in 330 B.C. under pressure from Greek-Macedonian forces. Bactrians, Sogdians and other people of Central Asia were conquered, in spite of their heroic resistance to the army of Alexander the Great.
About 200 years later, the population of Bactria and Sogdiana together with massaget nomad tribes overthrew the Greek-Macedonian sway. A state was established in Bactria – Tokharistan, which later together with Sogdiana became part of the big Kushan kingdom. The Silk Road crossed via Tokharistan and silk was bought at the markets near the river Tarima and was delivered to the countries of Greek-Roman Empires of the west. In the reverse direction from Rome and Byzantine to China, glass products (such as crystal and thin multi-coloured glassware) were imported, from Central Asia – items such as adornments, gems and from India – paper, woolen fabrics and spices.
In the 5th century, Tokharistan, Sogdiana and other areas of Central Asia were under the rule of Ephtalits, and later in the 6th century – nomad Turkic speaking tribes occupied the same region. Sogdians had a great influence on the nomads, who while settling mixed with the local population. During the 6th and 7th centuries in Tokharistan and Sogdiana there were many slaves and at the same time the formation of a feudal system had already started. As a result the economy and culture developed quickly. Iron, copper, lazurite and rubies were extracted at mines, irrigation channels were constructed, and arid places were irrigated. The importance of feudal cities started to grow, as well as craft and trade was developing. The main languages were Bactrian and Sogdian – which are Eastern Iranian languages. Numerous independent principalities emerged with the development of feudal relationships. But they were weak and could not resist the Arabs, who in the 7th & 8th centuries invaded Central Asia.
The population of Sogdiana and Tokharistan tirelessly struggled for their liberation. Because of continuous revolts it became difficult for the Arabs to keep control of Central Asia with the help of their governor-generals; therefore they more often resorted to the help of the service of their feudal partners. Their participation prepared the ground for releasing Central Asia from Arab rule. Hence, at the end of the 9th century independent from the Bagdad caliphate (successor of Muhammed), the Tajik state of Samanid formed. In the period of its most extensive growth Samanid stretched from the deserts of Central Asia to the Gulf and from the borders of India to Bagdad. During the Samanids Empire Tajik people and culture became widespread and Tajik language became dominant. The Samanids state lived in peace for more than 100 years which fostered the growth of cities , craft, development of farming and trade and mining. This was truly the era of Renaissance that produced some of the world’s greatest humanitarians such as the founder of the Persian-Tajik poetry – Rudaki, creator of the immortal poem – ‘Shahname’ Firdawsi, and world renown scientist-Encyclopaedis Abu Ali ibn Sina (Avicenna). However internal conflicts and frequent raids of nomads undermined and weakened the Samanid state, which in 999 collapsed under the strike of the Turkic speaking tribes. The dynasties of Karakhanids (in the North) and Gaznavids (in the South) founded their power on the ruins of the Samanids state.
In the beginning of the 13th century (1219-1221) Central Asia was invaded by Mongols, under the command of Chingizkhan. The country was completely devastated, cities destroyed, gardens and vineyards turned into pastures for horses of the invaders. Not long before his death Chingizkhan he divided the invaded lands between his sons. The main cultural areas of Central Asia went to ulus (independent principalities) of his second son Chagatai. People showed resistance. The biggest revolt broke out in 1238 in Bukhara, which was led by a craftsman Mahmud Tarabi. Another revolt in Samarkand was led by “sarbadars” – hanged men, who defeated the Mongol army in Bukhara, which brought to power a new ruler – Tamerlan.
Timur’s ascent to power in 1370 temporarily put an end to feudal factions. Timur, as a result of his numerous campaigns to conquer Eastern countries and unheard cruelty and genocide especially towards the Persian speaking population, built an enormous empire with its capital in Samarkand. The majority of today’s Tajikistan was part of Timur’s empire. During the reign of his son and especially his grandson Ulugbek– prominent scientist, astronomer and loyal ruler – the widely abandoned oasis of Central Asia was restored with the flourishing of astronomy, math, history, literature and art. But the inter-dynasty struggle and raids of nomads undermined this empire too. The leader of Uzbek nomad tribes Muhammad Shaibani khan, who lived in Ural, using hostility between the descendents of Timur, invaded Central Asia in 1500-1507. During his rule the state consisted of independent principalities with the biggest ones being Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, and Balkh.
From 1557 to 1598 Central Asia was ruled by Shaibanid Abdulla Khan, founding Bukhara kingdom. In 1598 Abdulla Khan was killed and the power moved to the dynasty of Ashtarkhanids, being the rulers from a dynasty of Mongols. In this period downstream of Amudarya Khivin a principality was formed. Due to continuous wars and excessive taxes the economy of this area declined. All the following centuries of this principality remained backward and politically disconnected. What is known today in modern Tajikistan as Kulyab, Gissar, Karategin, Darvaz, Vakhan, and Shugnan principalities already existed. The majority of Tajiks of Central Asia lived in Bukhara and Kokand principalities, and minority in independent principalities.
During the second half of the 14th century, areas of Central Asia were conquered by Russia and Turkestan and a general government was formed on its territory. The Northern areas of Tajikistan and the Pamirs were part of this new territory, and the central and Southern areas (called Eastern Bukhara) were left in the ownership of vassal of the Russian tsar – emir of Bukhara. At the end of the 14th century the tsarist government implemented agrarian reforms which meant that the settled population received irrigated lands, however the majority of lands was withheld for the benefit of the government funds. Increases in taxes, numerous duties and illegality provoked in those areas of the emirate frequent disorders. Especially one of the biggest revolts was in 1888 in Baljuvanbekstvo, which was ruled by chum maker Vose. In 1900 peasants of Kelif bekstvo staged a rebellion, in 1901 – in Denau, in 1902 –in Kurgan Tube. All these outbursts of the peasant farmers were cruelly suppressed.
World War I particularly intensified opposition and disintegration of society. In summer 1906 the biggest revolution broke out which was suppressed by the army of Emir. On 31 March, 1917 the administrative centre of Russia influenced Central Asia and caused the Turkestan general government to be abolished.
In October 6, 1920 the first all Bukhara national assembly was proclaimed and the Bukhara People Soviet Republic was established. Farmers were exempted from taxes, households that were affected by war were given loans, seeds and agricultural instruments. In 1924 a new state emerged in Central Asia: the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, which also included the Tajik Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1929 the Tajik ASSR was reformed into independent Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic.
As a member of USSR the Tajik Republic transformed into an agrarian-industrial country for a short period of time. Tajikistan became the main source of fine-fibre cotton for the USSR. A working class formed in the republic, as well as a national intelligentsia, and the first higher education institutions came into existence. It is also worth noting that Tajikistan’s contribution in the fight against fascism in World War II was of some importance. More than 190,000 envoys fought in battlefronts of the war and more than 60,000 worked at military plants of Siberia and other cities of Russia. Fifty four envoys of the republic were awarded the highest military award as Heros of the Soviet Union. After the war ended the economy of Tajikistan grew to a new level. Production of row cotton continued to increase. Tajikistan as part of USSR took the first place on productivity of cotton and third on gross yield.
Industry was well developed due to construction of some big hydro-power stations among one of which was Nurek, which is the biggest in Central Asia.
In September 1991 with the break-up of the Soviet Union a new state emerged on the world map – the independent democratic republic of Tajikistan. In 1992 critical political conflict on the ground of regional-clan conflicts burst out which led to civil war. Protracted negotiations between Tajiks under aegis of UN starting in April 1994 concluded by signing the Treaty for Peace and Reconciliation in Tajikistan on June 27, 1997 by the President of Tajikistan E.Rahmon and A. Nuri, the leader of the United Tajik Opposition in Moscow.
Today Tajikistan is an independent democratic state which is recognized by 117 countries worldwide. The country is a full member of the UN and some other international organizations.