Introduction / History
Tajiks are one of the major people groups of Central Asia. While the majority live in Tajikistan, there are significant communities in most of the other Central Asian republics, including neighboring Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
Tajiks have repeatedly been invaded and conquered throughout their history. The armies of Alexander the Great, the Arabs in the seventh century, Genghis Khan, the Turks, the British, and the Russian empire have all had a profound impact on these people. In fact, the numerous invasions have been the major factor in the dispersion of the Tajik to other locations.
The term "Tajik" comes from the word taj, which means "crown." This name was probably first used by the seventh century Arabs to differentiate the Persian (Tajiki) speakers from the Turkic speakers.
What are their lives like?
Most Tajiks are mountain farmers and shepherds. Seasonal grasses create suitable pastures for raising sheep, goats, cattle, a few camels, and some horses. They also practice a remarkable system of terraced, mountainside irrigation so that wheat and barley can be grown at the higher, dry altitudes.
More and more Tajiks have moved to the cities over the past fifty years. Most families farm during the summer period, then return to the cities for the remainder of the year. This has resulted in an unstable work force throughout the region. Conflicts often occur between the Uzbeks and the Tajiks as a result of the competition for jobs.
A majority of the urban Tajiks live in governmental housing. Rural Tajiks live instead in village communities located on non-farmable, rocky land. There they build low, square or rectangular houses out of unbaked mud. Pressed mud bricks made with stone are used for the foundations. Flat roofs are made of tightly packed earth and twigs, and are supported by mat covered beams.
Women wear colorful national costumes with printed cottons and silks accented by flowered head scarves. They rarely wear veils; however, they do wear chaddors, which are multi-purpose shawls. The men wear shirts and trousers, sometimes with quilted robes and belts. They also wear embroidered skull caps, and some wear turbans or fur hats during the cold mountain winters. The upper class and city dwellers tend to wear European style clothing.
Green tea is served with most meals. Bread is a staple food, and the Tajik bake bread out of anything that can be ground into flour, including a variety of peas and mulberries. They also eat starchy foods, rice, grapes, dried fruits, chicken, lamb, and vegetable dishes.
Tajik society is patriarchal, meaning that the authority belongs to the oldest males of the extended family. Inheritances are passed down through the males, and after marriage, a new bride moves in with the husband's family. Traditionally, marriages were arranged by the family. Today, however, most Tajik are free to choose their own mates.
Villages and communities are ruled by a majlis, or council, made up of the male leaders of prominent families. A chief is elected from among the council. The "kinship structure" is still dominant in social and political spheres of life. The Tajiks live in tight-knit communities and are a very hospitable people.
What are their beliefs?
Most Tajiks are Sunni Muslims of the Hanafite branch, although some Shi'ites exist. Approximately one-tenth of the Tajiks are classified as non-religious. This has probably been a result of Russian atheistic pressure.
What are their needs?
The people have remained closed to the Gospel.
* Ask God to raise up long-term missionaries who will go to Uzbekistan and share the love of Christ with Tajiks.
* Pray that God will open the hearts of Uzbekistan's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
* Pray that God will call out prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Tajiks.