The executive heads of the provinces are appointed by the president. Provincial councils are chosen by direct election. Each province is divided into districts (totaling 13) and towns. Districts are directly subordinate to the central government. Heads of district and town governments are appointed by the president with the approval of district and town councils, which are elected by popular vote. [Source: Library of Congress, January 2007 **]

Tajikistan is divided into three main provinces: Soghd (formerly Leninobod), including all of the northwestern part of the country; Khatlon, including all of the southwest, and the autonomous province of Gorno–Badakhshan, which covers the entire sparsely populated eastern half of the country. Dushanbe, the capital, is administered separately. **

Administrative divisions: 2 provinces (viloyatho, singular - viloyat), 1 autonomous province* (viloyati mukhtor), 1 capital region** (viloyati poytakht), and 1 area referred to as Districts Under Republic Administration***; Dushanbe**, Khatlon (Qurghonteppa), Kuhistoni Badakhshon [Gorno-Badakhshan]* (Khorugh), Nohiyahoi Tobei Jumhuri***, Sughd (Khujand)/ [Source: CIA World Factbook =]

Local divisions have a judiciary with nominal independence but no actual power to enforce rule of law. Below the republic level, provinces, districts, and cities have their own elected assemblies. In those jurisdictions, the chief executive is the chairman of a council of people's deputies, whose members are elected to five-year terms. The chairman is appointed by the president of the republic. The Supreme Assembly may dissolve local councils if they fail to uphold the law. For most of the late Soviet and early independence periods, Tajikistan had four provinces: Leninobod in the north, Qurghonteppa and Kulob in the south, and the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province in the southeast. The precise status of that region is unclear because separatists have declared it an autonomous republic and even the government does not always call it a province. Beginning in 1988, Qurghonteppa and Kulob were merged into a single province, called Khatlon. (The two parts were separated again between 1990 and 1992.) A large region stretching from the west-central border through Dushanbe to the north-central border is under direct federal control. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

Bureaucracy in Tajik Republic in the Soviet Era

The old Soviet-era Communist Party bureaucracy remains in place in Tajikistan. Kirill Nourzhanov and Christian Bleuer wrote: ““Article 39 of the 1937 Constitution identified the Council of Ministers of Tajikistan as the highest executive and administrative organ in the republic. At the same time, its status and prerogatives were not clearly defined—for example, technically it did not have the right to initiate legislation, though in reality draft bills were often prepared in ministries and state committees. Article 41 stipulated that Tajikistan’s Council of Ministers act to implement decrees and orders given by the USSR’s Council of Ministers. The latter also had the right to suspend the execution of the former’s directives, but in more than 50 years such a contingency never arose. [Source: “Tajikistan: Political and Social History” by Kirill Nourzhanov, Christian Bleuer, Australia National University, 2013 ]

“As elsewhere in the USSR, in Tajikistan the ministerial structure consisted of two tiers: republican ministries, answerable exclusively to the Council of Ministers of Tajikistan, and union-republican ministries of dual subordination that took orders from the central institutions (and ultimately from the Council of Ministers of the USSR) but simultaneously were under the jurisdiction of the republic’s Council of Ministers. Gregory Gleason has rightfully observed that ‘this overlapping authority frequently has resulted in an awkward pattern in the distribution of responsibilities’, often leading to disputes over competence. In practice, however, the centre always had the upper hand. Its dominant positions in Tajikistan were reinforced by the fact that more than half of the republic’s gross industrial output was produced by enterprises under direct control of All-Union ministries, which are beyond even nominal control by Tajikistan’s government. Such vital industries as mining, machine-building, metallurgy, chemicals and electricity generation in Tajikistan were developed exclusively under the auspices of central institutions that did not necessarily take the republic’s demands into consideration. In the 1980s only 7–10 per cent of all industrial enterprises in Tajikistan were subordinate to the republic; the rest operated in the interests of various All-Union branches rather than those of the local economy.

“In a situation in which the Supreme Soviet of Tajikistan was little more than a ceremonial institution and the republic’s executive organs acted as mere extensions of central ministries, it was the party apparatus that carried out decision-making and served as the vehicle to articulate the republic’s needs at the federal level. The party institutions permeated the entire society and were well geared to implement social control, political indoctrination and economic management. Party organs at lower levels—regional, district and city committees—had a similar configuration, with a ramified network of specialised departments that covered every aspect of life of the populace in a given territory. In the USSR, the Communist Party ceased to be just a major centre of power primus inter pares in the late 1920s. Under Stalin it not only became the core of the government, it also eventually subjugated or liquidated all other formal social institutions, thus putting in place the Soviet mono-organisational order where the party ‘is entrusted with integrating all the others into a single organisational whole, and does so primarily by appropriating and exercising on their behalf the key prerogatives of any autonomous organisation, namely determination of their goals, structures and leadership’.

“The party performed its integrative role through: a) prescribing the innumerable rules of behaviour in the society based on its unchallenged political legitimacy; b) empowering its organs at all levels with control and coordination functions; and c) placing its cadres at the head of non-party hierarchies. Soviet legitimation—that is, ‘an acceptance, even approbation, of the state’s rules of the game, its social control, as true and right’—was based on the supreme goal of building communism, the validity of which was never allowed to be questioned. The leadership deduced intermediate tasks and objectives from this ultimate goal. Accordingly, as T. H. Rigby has noted, ‘the central role in the [Soviet] political system is played by institutions concerned with formulating the goals and tasks of the constituent units of society and supervising their execution’.This state of affairs found formal reflection in the USSR Constitution of 1977 (Article 6) and the 1978 Constitution of Tajikistan (Article 6). Of course, it would be incorrect to assume that before this time party directives had not been legally binding for all Soviet citizens, as they most certainly were.

“Officials in the legislature, government institutions, judiciary and law enforcement agencies, industrial and agricultural managers as well as the party membership were subordinated to the party apparatus through an effective system of personnel appointments, the so-called nomenklatura system that was characterised by first, the concentration of important positions in all official and ‘voluntary’ organisations in the nomenklatury of party committees; second, the inclusion of elective positions (and most of the more important ones are in form elective); and third, the comprehensiveness of the system, which omits no position of any significance in the society, and thereby incidentally converts the occupants of nomenklatura positions into a distinct social category.

“Party organisations exercised the power of personnel selection and placement according to the administrative level on which they operated. Their spheres of jurisdiction changed frequently, but in the postwar period the general trend was for the republic and regional party committees to acquire more independence in staffing official structures.

“In the 1930s, almost all positions of authority in Tajikistan, including secretaries of district and city party committees, were in the sphere of duty of the VKP(b) Central Committee. After Stalin’s death the situation changed dramatically. In 1960, there were more than 7000 officials of authority (otvetstvennye rabotniki) in the republic who were answerable to local party committees, 1779 of whom were in the nomenklatura of the CPT Central Committee.

“As Rolf Theen has astutely observed:[W]e must be aware that the appointment, advancement, transfer, and dismissal of key personnel in the apparatuses of the trade unions, the Komsomol, the central and local soviets, the administrative organs (police, courts, procuracy), the vast ministerial structure, as well as all economic and cultural organisations, are subject to a nomenklatura process controlled by the leading officials in those institutions, that is, almost invariably by members of the CPSU or non-party individuals who are considered politically trustworthy.

Examples from Nomenklatura Lists of Party Organisations

1) CPSU Central Committee: a) First secretary of the CPT CC, heads of departments and party control of the CPT CC, first secretaries of regional party committees; b) Members of government, the KGB chairman, members of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, chairman of the Supreme Court; c) Chairman of the council of trade unions, first secretary of the Komsomol, editor of the republican newspaper Kommunist Tadzhikistanad) Directors of crucial industrial enterprises (for example, VOSTOKREDMET uranium complex in Chkalovsk). [Source: Newspapers and statutes of the Communist Party of Tajikistan; Rol’ selskikh raikomov partii v osuschestvlenii agrarnoi politiki KPSS v sovremennykh usloviiakh (Moscow: Izdatelstvo politicheskoi literatury, 1987), pp. 17, 45, 116–17.

2) CPT Central Committee: a) Regional and city party secretaries and heads of departments, secretaries of district party committees in the districts of republican subordination; b) Chairmen of the executive committees of the regional soviets and cities, judges at all levels; c) Heads of public associations such as Society for Nature Protection, regional Komsomol leaders, editors of newspapers and magazines; d) Directors of industrial enterprises, research and cultural institutions.

3) Regional Party Committee (obkom): a) Party functionaries at the district and city levels, secretaries of primary party organisations of large factories and farms; b) Chairmen of the executive committees of districts; c) Secretaries of the district Komsomol committees, trade union leaders of districts; d) Chairmen of collective farms (kolkhozy) and directors of state farms (sovkhozy), engineers and managerial personnel of industrial enterprises, directors of vocational training colleges, university professors. The administrative division of Tajikistan provided for the existence of districts subordinated directly to Dushanbe. In their cases, the prerogative of staffing the most important positions belonged to the CPT CC, which thus fulfilled the role of an obkom.

4) District and City Party Committee (raikom, gorkom): a) Raikom and gorkom instructors, heads of primary party cells; b) Chairmen of local representative organs (mahalla soviets); c) Heads of primary Komsomol cells, functionaries of primary trade union organisations (mestkoms); d) Brigade leaders at factories and farms, schoolteachers, librarians.

Nomenklatura lists of various bodies often overlapped and contradicted one another, but party organs always had the final say in matters involving movement of cadres. For example, the Ministry of Culture of Tajikistan would appoint graduates of its training institutions as directors of provincial clubs, libraries and museums, but district party committees would not let them work, nominating their own candidates, who sometimes ‘could not carry out their duties on the grounds of not knowing the job’.

“It was general practice that the party committees, on top of providing universal coordination and staffing for all other agencies, were directly involved in executing local and specialised measures, especially in the economic sphere. Setting tasks for the economic development of national republics always featured prominently on the agenda of the CPSU Central Committee; suffice to say that of the 56 cases between 1931 and 1980 when Tajikistan was mentioned in resolutions passed by the highest party bodies, 49 (or 88 per cent) were of a purely economic nature and only three dealt with political issues. The lower the level of a party committee, the more it focused on the running of the economy. The CPT Central Committee issued one-year and five-year guidelines for economic development of the republic wherein, within the limits set by the centre, all major economic indicators and the ways to attain them were specified in a very detailed manner. At the district level, the raikoms eventually ran industrial enterprises and collective farms. As a Soviet source has stated, the district party committees often had to bear the economic-distributional functions uncharacteristic of them: to allocate funds for supply of agricultural machinery and other materials, to be thoroughly immersed into the questions of growing various crops, to coordinate the activities of economic partners, to arbitrate, etc. All this placed an excessive burden on the Party apparatus and did not allow it to indulge fully into organisational and political work.

“Failure to fulfil the directives of the party organs usually meant sacking for the manager in question. The turnover amongst agricultural administrators was especially high: in 1956, more than 50 per cent of kolkhoz chairmen were replaced. In 1984, the first secretary of the Qurghonteppa obkom, F. Karimov, assembled more than 400 kolkhoz chairmen, brigade leaders, agronomists and other specialists from the region in a conference hall and in the course of five hours a special commission questioned every single one of them about his/her performance during an extraordinarily bad harvest campaign; those who could not come up with a plausible account of their work were dismissed or demoted on the spot.

“Generally, the structure of the political system in Tajikistan conformed ideally to the common Soviet model, which remained stable from the 1930s; it consisted of a core organisation, the Communist Party of Tajikistan, and a number of specialised agencies with varying degrees of autonomy. The entire decision-making process was concentrated almost exclusively in the CPT Central Committee, which: a) initiated projects and settled conflicting interests vested in them; b) mobilised support for their implementation by launching public campaigns, coercion or otherwise; and c) put them into effect. Consequently, in Tajikistan until the late 1980s political activism was confined to covert struggle amongst units within the CPT hierarchy or to bargaining with the superior organs of the CPSU for more resources and the freedom to use them.

Bureaucracy in Post-Stalin Tajikistan

Kirill Nourzhanov and Christian Bleuer wrote: ““The recruitment and movement of elite cadres in Tajikistan, as in any other republic of the USSR, were based on, a) objective-rational, and b) personality, factors. If under Stalin and, to a lesser degree, Khrushchev, elite careers were made and ruined primarily at the discretion of higher officials in the party hierarchy, in later years knowledge, technical and administrative skills and ‘life experience’ played an ever-growing part in the elite’s upward mobility. To advance rapidly through the party/state ranks, a person was required: 1) to be a Tajik; 2) to have a lengthy record of party membership (minimum of five years for obkom secretaries, three years for raikom secretaries and one year for primary cell secretaries); 3) to have a good education; 4) to possess practical experience as a government official or an industrial or agricultural manager; 5) to show commendable administrative performance. [Source: “Tajikistan: Political and Social History” by Kirill Nourzhanov, Christian Bleuer, Australia National University, 2013 ]

“Grey Hodnett has put Tajikistan into the ‘partly self-administering’ category of the Soviet republics in his exhaustive study of personnel movement in the USSR, using the criterion of native occupancy of all leading positions in a given republic. Indeed, certain crucial jobs (second secretaries of the CPT CC and regional and district party committees responsible for personnel matters, heads of industrial departments of the CPT CC and the Council of Ministers, the KGB chairman, and so on) were reserved for non-natives, usually Russians. It should be kept in mind, though, that these officials arrived in Tajikistan for a tour of duty and after its completion were transferred to other regions of the USSR. At the same time, native cadres in Tajikistan had the lowest age thresholds for positions of authority of all Soviet republics; they also faced less competition for primary leadership jobs than aspirants elsewhere in the USSR.All these favourable conditions for the Tajik elite existed only within the boundaries of the republic; it was almost impossible for a Tajik party or state official of high standing to be transferred to a higher or equal position in the All-Union hierarchy. Unlike their colleagues from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, Tajik party leaders never made it to the Politburo or Secretariat of the CPSU Central Committee. Secretaryship of the CPT CC appeared to be the limit in terms of upward mobility for local cadres; upon reaching the level of a regional party secretary or deputy minister (usually, stepping-stone posts in the Soviet personnel system), a Tajik would find it extremely difficult to make further merit-based advancement. This may explain why obkom functionaries in Tajikistan had the most protracted initial tenures in office in the entire Soviet Union: 191 months, 2.5 and three times longer than those of their Uzbek and Kazakh peers respectively.

“The tendency to let officials occupy one position in a particular region for a substantial period, especially salient under Brezhnev’s policy of ‘stability of cadres’ (1964–82), was conducive, alongside other factors, to the creation of well-established networks of informal exchange amongst elite groups in Tajikistan. As S. N. Eisenstadt has shown, the monolithic Soviet political system gives rise to areas of uncertainty which … create conditions under which patron–client relations thrive. Such conditions are also fostered by the monopolistic character of the ruling groups, which seemingly reinforces the possibility of control by various ‘stronger’ groups over access to markets and to public goods. The combination of these factors allows a very far-reaching spread of patron–client relations, their continuous reappearance, and their concentration into somewhat more enduring patterns among the central elites.

“Practices of favouritism, cronyism, protection, overt and covert sponsorship not only flourished in the context of bureaucratic contacts but also pervaded the daily life of the populace under the circumstances of scarcity of the most basic commodities (food, clothes, housing) in the USSR. In Tajikistan, the viability of patronage networks was reinforced by the existence of particular patrimonial, family and sub-ethnic social institutions.

“At the level of the republic, the creation of potent patron–client dyads was a natural product of the peculiar nature of the centre–periphery relationship in the Soviet polity. Moscow assigned local authorities specific economic tasks, which were to be met at any cost. If in the course of their implementation the prescribed standard operation modes were violated or altered, the centre, more likely than not, would turn a blind eye, provided that the plans were (or appeared to be) fulfilled. In Gregory Gleason’s words: [F]or local leaders to succeed in their charges, they must develop and steward the resources necessary to inspire, enthuse, mobilise, and promote within their republics. That is, they must develop political resources. To the extent that they succeed at this, they concentrate in their hands the ability to conduct politics in the traditional sense of the word, namely, to help friends and hurt enemies.

Government Budget, Taxes and Welfare

Budget: revenues: $2.828 billion; expenditures: $2.868 billion (2014 est.). Taxes and other revenues: 30.9 percent of GDP (2014 est.), country comparison to the world: 86. Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-): -0.4 percent of GDP (2014 est.), country comparison to the world: 48. [Source: CIA World Factbook =]

The year 2004 was the first year of budget deficit after three consecutive years of budget surpluses, which in turn had followed four years of deficits between 1997 and 2000. In 2005 revenues totaled US$442 million (aided by improvements in tax collection), and expenditures were US$542 million, a deficit of US$100 million. The approved 2007 state budget calls for revenues of US$926 million and expenditures of US$954 million, leaving a deficit of US$28 million. [Source: Library of Congress, January 2007]

In 2006 the United Nations estimated that 64 percent of Tajikistanis were living below the national poverty line (US$2.15 per day), compared with 82 percent in 1999. However, in the interim the disparity increased between those below and above the line. Pensioners have been among those most severely affected by Tajikistan’s economic crisis and the lingering effects of the civil war. Pensions are paid for old age, disability, loss of the wage earner, and for dependents. Most of the state’s welfare expenditure goes to pensions for retired workers who have worked a minimum number of years (25 years for men, 20 years for women). The age criteria are lowered for some disabled workers and mothers with five or more children. Persons who have never worked for wages receive a reduced old-age pension. Dependents and widows receive pensions that are half the minimum allowance. In the post-Soviet era, the welfare system has not served the public well because of unpredictable state revenue and the erosion of pension value by high inflation. The national budgets for 2005 and 2006 included substantial increases in spending for the social sector. [Source: Library of Congress, January 2007**]

Poverty has been targeted by humanitarian assistance and income-generating microprojects. With financing from the World Bank, people are implementing programs that provide job opportunities. The Women in Development Bureau and the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, and Development Program work in the areas most affected by the civil war. Some organizations are active in cultural affairs and welfare, and others represent businesswomen, teachers, and other professionals. Most have limited funding and are dependent on foreign contributions. [Source: Everyculture.com]

In the 1990s pensions were only $2 or $3 a month.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated April 2016

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