DUSHANBE -- Tajikistan is marking 29 years of post-Soviet independence in an uncharacteristically low-profile affair avoiding public events due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Each year on September 9, concerts and public celebrations are held across the Central Asian nation to mark its declaration of independence from Moscow ahead of the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
But Tajik officials announced last week that this year there would be no public events for reasons of public health.
Dushanbe and officials at all levels of the Tajik government were among the last in the world to acknowledge any coronavirus infections.
As of September 8, the official number of cases in Tajikistan was 8,860, including 70 deaths.
An investigation by RFE/RL’s Tajik Service in June revealed that the actual number of COVID-19 deaths there might be several times that figure, including dozens of physicians and nurses who treated infected patients.
The pathogen behind the global COVID-19 outbreak had been confirmed in nearly 28 million patients worldwide by September 9.
The Supreme Council of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Tajikistan adopted a declaration of independence that was signed by then acting President Qadriddin Aslonov on September 9, 1991, less than four months before the Soviet Union's official dissolution.
The current Tajik president, Emomali Rahmon, emerged as leader early in a bloody civil war that lasted from 1992 to 1997.
Rahmon has never won an election deemed free or fair by Western observers and is regarded by Human Rights Watch (HRW) as a dictator with an "abysmal human rights record" who routinely persecutes political opponents and stifles free media.