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Date: Tue, 13 Feb 1996 09:25:01 -0500
Sender: Former Soviet Republic - Central Asia Political Discussion List <CENASIA@VM1.MCGILL.CA>

Date: Sun, 11 Feb 96 11:23:27 +0400
From: Daria Fane <>
Subject: Comments on Tajikistan events

Some thoughts on Tajikistan events

By Daria Fane, 11 February 1996

Daria Fane, formerly an official in the OSCE mission to Dushanbe, now serving in the OSCEmission in Tbilisi, asked me to forward this to the list.

Barney Rubin

The recent events in Tajikistan are typical of a pattern involving victory of a wartime alliance made up of odd-bedfellows. Almost inevitably, following the victory the partners in the alliance get drawn into a struggle between themselves. The U.N.-sponsored negotiations have tended to focus on the disagreement between the Government and the "Opposition" that was defeated in the war, without recognizing the other sides in the Tajikistan equation. As has been pointed out by others in this discussion, the winning coalition was Kulyabis plus Leninabadis and Hissaris. The power struggle with Leninabad was personified in the election struggle with Abdullajanov, and became even clearer following the elections as those who had supported Abdullajanov were systematically removed from their posts.

Ibod Boymatov had led Hissari forces that helped bring Rakhmonov into power. It was Rakhmonov himself who made an enemy out of Ibod by removing him from power as the Tursonzade Mayor in Summer 1994. At that time Ibod enjoyed solid support in Tursonzade, and the city council voted to keep him in. Rakhmonov should not have doubted that he would make a permanent enemy out of Boymatov when he nonetheless removed him following the local show of support.

There is another element to these events that has been glossed over in the recent discussions, but may be related. The new Mufti, Sharipov (Sharifzade), who was brutally gunned down along with the rest of his family on January 21, is Hissari. While he has been described as the "pro-Communist mufti" and a Rakhmonov pawn, nonetheless, I am struck by the Hissari element. Despite the symbolism of his being killed on the 1st day of Ramadan, it is also significant that this killing was only days before the Boymatov rebellion. Is there a connection? Does anyone have any good theories about who killed him and why?

Thus in terms of coalition politics, this element of Hissar discontent with the results since the civil war clearly has its regional element. As many of us have noted before, the ethnic divisions in Tajikistan exist but seem blurry at times compared to regional lines. Leninabad and Hissar clearly do have in common that they are heavily Uzbekified regions. Garm and Pamir do have in common that they are the "pure" Tajik regions that do not have Uzbeks. And yet within Leninabad and Hissar as the Uzbekified regions, the individual lines between Tajiks and Uzbeks are not particularly divisive, as the two are connected in their regional affiliation. An interesting element, I noticed in the February 6 Monitor was a reference to a third mutiny in Leninabad that was quickly defused by the government. That is the only mention I have seen/heard of it, but it fits the pattern of Popular Front allies disaffected with Kulyabi monopolization of power. Does anyone know more?

Clearly we cannot ignore the Uzbekistan element in this equation. As Gero Fedtke pointed out there is a major distinction to be made between various groups of Tajikistan's domestic Uzbeks, and I agree with him that Kurbon Sattarov's Society is not representing all Uzbeks, indeed, I think it hardly represents any Uzbeks. His office is in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and I think plays a largely formalistic role with respect to center-minority relations, presenting an Uzbek the government can deal with.

Similarly, a distinction has to be made between the interests of groups of domestic Uzbeks, and the actual state of Uzbekistan. John Schoeberlein-Engel's later comments introduce another element in terms of the relationship of Leninabad's "Uzbekness" to its traditional domination of Tajikistani politics. While John dismissed the view of Leninabadi leaders doing Uzbekistan's bidding as a slander, this is exactly the argument of Garmis and Pamiris who wanted to remove them from power. Such opposition view the addition of Leninabad to Tajikistan as a Trojan Horse that allowed an element of Uzbek control to persist despite the elevation of Tajikistan from ASSR to SSR status.

Tursonzade, as the border town on the road to Uzbekistan, is a town that looked towards Uzbekistan in many ways. Because of the aluminum plant its salaries were higher and paid more regularly than in the rest of Tajikistan. The Tursonzade market attracts both vendors and consumers from nearby Uzbekistan on a daily basis. Boymatov, as Tursonzade's Mayor enjoyed support from and a good relationship with Karimov's Uzbekistan, a factor which I believe forms part of the explanation for how a bus driver rises to be mayor. The painting of Karimov hanging over the sofa in his living room is just a detail symbolic of his loyalty. There were also times when I visited Tursonzade and was told that Boymatov was in Uzbekistan and would be back in a few days.

I agree with Barney Rubin's suggestion (also having no evidence) that Karimov likely supported Boymatov and Khudaberdaev's revolt covertly. However, there are some contradictory elements to consider, such as Karimov's recent rapprochement with former Qazi Turajonzade. Boymatov and Turajonzade are still opposite sides of the coin.

There are two more sets of issues to add to this discussion, -- (1) why Rakhmonov gave in so quickly, and the meaning of his choices, (2) the connection of immediate outbreak of fighting in Tavildara. Firstly, Rakhmonov's quick willingness to see Ubaidullaev step down may indicate that this is no great loss for him. In early 1995 my impression was that Ubaidullaev was a significant power, widely reputed to be more intelligent than Rakhmonov, one who advised Rakhmonov and pulled a lot of the strings, at times appearing to command him. Rakhmonov may actually have been glad to see Ubaidullaev go, in that it enabled him to emerge stronger in his own inner circle. Interestingly enough, though Ubaidullaev, Jamshid Karimov and Khoyoyev were let go, Rakhmonov put his foot down and insisted on keeping Minister of Defense Khairullaev, who then proceeded to have a busy week in Tavildara. The conjunction of Tavildara fighting with the other uprisings strikes me as odd. Each year since the civil war, there has tended to be a summer Tavildara offensive. It is not a good season now for Tavildara fighting -- does this strike anyone as perhaps some sort of pincer movement? The opposition and the disaffected elements of the winning coalition both moving against the government?

Of course, as in any discussion of Tajikistan, after examining the role of Uzbekistan, the discourse would not be complete without a quick look at the Russian role. While Boymatov included removal of the CIS PKF as one of his demands, this is clearly useless posturing and fantasy. All of the above happened in the context of the recent January 19 CIS Summit which renewed the mandate of the PKF. Defense Minister Grachev came and quickly indicated that Russia will send more troops. And the Primakov visit on January 28, on the eve of the Ashgabat talks, was heralded as his first "foreign" trip since being named Foreign Minister. Russian forces have been carrying out exercises in Tajikistan, and, as in other CIS conflict zones, it appears that local instability only seems to further boost the Russian role.

Daria Fane (direct) (forwarding cenasia)
P.S. Sorry this got so long. I jumped into the discussion late, and so there was just a lot to say. The chronic lack of electricity in Tbilisi makes it difficult to keep up with E-Mail, but then I downloaded two weeks of events in one day, and wanted to respond to it all.