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German, Jewish & Korean connections


In Soviet times, Dushanbe was known as the "Paris of Central Asia" - pushing it a bit, but for Russians visiting from a Moscow winter it must have seemed a bit like coming to paradise. There were, of course the bright blue skies, so many varieties of fruit and the hospitable people, but there was also the design of the city. As part of the Soviet Union it had many similarities with other cities across that empire. However, perhaps there is also a lighter feel about the design and architecture of the city.

I am grateful to Susan McQuail who has sent me information about her parents Hans and Hedwig Adler. They were Germans who were in the Soviet Union in 1931-33 as members of a team under the leadership of Ernst May, who was recruited by the Soviet government to assist with the planning and construction of Magnitogorsk. May had built his reputation as City Planner of Frankfurt. The Adlers left May's team in 1932 and went to Dushanbe, where they stayed until 1933. They both played a major role in the planning and construction of Dushanbe at a key stage in the development of the city. Both were modernists, with perhaps some influence from the Bauhaus movement. Because Hans had a Jewish identity they left Germany in 1939, but had a continued involvement with town planning in England.

Another German was Konstantin Redlich who established the Dushanbe Botanical Gardens. Many other Germans, either the Volga Germans deported by Stalin or prisoners of war played an important role in building the infrastructure and developing the economy. Virtually all have now left.

A mark of the German community is the former Lutheran church in the southern suburbs.


There were Jews in Central Asia going back before the Middle Ages. The most famous group were the Bukharan Jews, who played an important role in the trade and culture of that great city. There were substantial Jewish communities in Dushanbe and some other towns. The Jewish synagogue was one of the oldest buildings in Dushanbe. It has now been demolished, a new one built, but virtually all Jewish people have emigrated. They played an important role in business and academic life in the city.


Stalin deported many Koreans to Central Asia; many came to Dushanbe where they were famous for their market gardens. There remains a small Korean community, most of whom are Christians. Some have stalls in the Green Market, where they continue to sell their excellent vegetables. They are famous for producing the best salads in Tajikistan. Although most are Russian speaking, they maintain their traditions at home. There are community leaders, who are pleased to link up with visitors from Korea.

All these communities were held in high regard for their honesty, hard work and for what they contributed to the country. Many Tajiks regret they left.