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Fears Of Social Unrest In Tajikistan

Source of unrest?

Source of unrest?

A piece in Slate last week took a snapshot of village life in Tajikistan and what could happen if "upward of 1 million young, restless, broke, and mostly male Tajiks" returned home from Russia "to a nation without electricity and bereft of jobs, impoverished and misgoverned, where half the population is under the age of 18."

RFE/RL has covered the problems the financial crisis has created for migrant workers (especially those working in Russia) who can no longer send remittances home. In Tajikistan, about a half of GDP is earned from remittances.

According to the Slate story:

Criminal networks and radicalism could quickly fill the void. In a recently released report widely cited by Western diplomats here, the International Crisis Group concluded that Tajikistan is at risk for massive social unrest and is no longer a "bulwark against the spread of extremism and violence from Afghanistan." Rather, it is a potential source for both.

The article and ICG report make it sound like unrest is likely, but there are several reasons why that might not be the case.

Many Tajiks say they tried an armed uprising against the government in the civil war in the 1990s and look where that got them.

There are no influential political groups or leaders with any clear program; President Emomali Rahmon has successfully managed to eliminate them all.

And Tajik observers were predicting antigovernment protests last year -- after an unprecedented cold winter coupled with severe shortages of gas, electricity, and food -- but it didn't happen then.

-- Farangiz Najibullah

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at