BBC Country Profile, Thursday 3 May 2001, 09:58 GMT 10:58 UK
Nearly half of Tajikistan's population is under 14 years of age. Tajiks are the largest ethnic group, with Uzbeks making up a quarter of the population, over half of which is employed in agriculture and just one-fifth in industry.
The five-year civil war between the Moscow-backed government and the Islamist-led opposition, in which up to 50,000 people were killed and over one-tenth of the population fled the country, ended in 1997 with a United Nations-brokered peace agreement. However, Tajikistan remains the least stable country in Central Asia as the post-war period has been marred by frequent outbreaks of violence.
Recently, Tajikistan has been accused by its neighbours of tolerating the presence of training camps for Islamist rebels on its territory, an accusation which it has strongly denied.
Owing to the continuing security problems and dire economic situation, Tajikistan relies heavily on Russian assistance. It is the only country in the region which allows a Russian military presence, charged in particular with guarding its border with Afghanistan. Skirmishes between the Russian military and drug smugglers crossing illegally from Afghanistan occur regularly, as Tajikistan is the first stop on the drugs route to Russia and the West.
President: Emomali Sharipovich Rahmonov
Rahmonov was instrumental in the pro-communist effort to remove Islamist rebels from Dushanbe. He led troops from southern Kulob District and supported the intervention of forces from other former Soviet republics.
Rahmonov was elected president in 1994 and re-elected in 1999.
There are two independent radio stations, one in the north and the other in the south. Eighteen non-governmental television stations have opened in Tajikistan since the USAID-backed Internews started there in 1995.
There are no daily newspapers in Tajikistan, although 203 newspapers and 56 magazines are officially registered. Two opposition newspapers started publication again in 1999 following the lifting of a six-year ban on the activities of their parties and movements.
A media conference held in early 2001 noted that journalists practised self-censorship.