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From Civil Unrest

In the mid-1970s, Tajikistan began to feel the impact of the rise of Islamic forces in neighbouring Afghanistan, particularly in the south around Kurgan-Tyube (Kurgonteppa). This region had been neglected by Dushanbe’s ruling communist elite, who were mainly drawn from the prosperous northern city of Leninabad (now Khojand). In 1976 the underground Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) was founded, gathering popular support as a rallying point for Tajik nationalism.

Although in 1979 there had been demonstrations in opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the first serious disturbances were in early 1990 when it was rumoured that Armenian refugees were to be settled in Dushanbe, which was already short on housing. This piece of Soviet social engineering sparked riots, deaths and the imposition of a state of emergency. Further opposition parties emerged as a result of the crackdown.
On 9 September 1991, following the failed coup in Moscow and declarations of independence by other Central Asian states, Tajikistan proclaimed itself an independent republic. Elections were held 10 weeks later and the Socialist Party (formerly the Communist Party of Tajikistan or CPT) candidate, Rakhmon Nabiev, was voted into power.

There were charges of election rigging but what really riled the opposition was Nabiev’s apparent consolidation of an old-guard, Leninabad-oriented power base that refused to accommodate any other of the various clanfactions that make up the Tajik nation. Sit-in demonstrations on Dushanbe’s central square escalated to violent clashes and, in August 1992, antigovernment demonstrators stormed the presidential palace and took hostages. A coalition government was formed, but sharing power between regional clans, religious leaders and former communists proved impossible and Tajikistan descended into civil war.