Azamat Sultonov

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Tajikistan PhotoBook Introduction

Azamat Sultanov | 02/06/14

"I want to say a few words about Tajiks.  Tajiks are a special people. These are not Kyrgyzs nor Uzbeks, these are Tajiks, the most ancient people of Central Asia.  Tajik - means the carrier of the crown, they were so called by the Iranians, but the Tajiks justified this title. Of all non-Russian Muslim peoples in the USSR, the Tajiks are the only non-Turkic, but Iranian. The Tajiks are a people whose intelligentsia has gave birth to the great poet Firdausi, and not surprisingly, they, Tajiks, take their cultural traditions from him. You must have felt during this ten-day period that they, the Tajiks, have a finer artistic sense, their ancient culture and a special artistic taste are manifested in music and song and dance. " 


Joseph Stalin. April 22, 1941

Speech at a reception in the Kremlin in honor of the ten days of Tajik art


Hej Shodi nest andar in jahon.

Bartar az didori roi duston.

Hej talhi nest bar dil talhtar

Az firoki dustoni purhunar .


There is no joy in this world stronger.

Than the sight of relatives and friends.

There is nothing on the earth more torturous than the pain

Of being separated from renowned friends.

Rudaki, X century


We invite you on a an exciting journey along the mountain tops covered with centuries-old ice, the world's warmest and most sincere people on a trip through Tajikistan, through “the land of the "crowned people" (translated from Persian.  Arab.)

This land is rich in variety, in size Tajikistan is more than three times as large as the Netherlands, Austria or Switzerland.

On the one hand, this country is rich in the unique, natural unrestrained force of its mountain rivers with raging energy and temperament, which are transmitted in the rhythms of folk music. On the other hand, the land is rich in the winds of the plains of the Fergana Valley and the famous makom* (a slow style of music based on classical poetry recitation).  These are warm and emotional evenings on the couch, spent in conversations on philosophy and poetry.


I would like to share with you the history of this wonderful land, show it through the lens of a camera and talk about the genetic memory of the people inhabiting it. The history of the origin of Tajiks is very complex, but one thing is clear that it is an original and ancient nation. One does not have to be a historian to understand the whole diverse picture of events that took place in this land, located at the crossroads of world civilizations. In different historical periods, this area was part of the geopolitical interests of the Persians, Chinese, Greeks, Arabs, Mongols, Turkic peoples, British, Russians and Americans.


If we turn to the genetic origins of the Tajiks as a distinct nation, then we can go back  thousands of years in our research.

It so happened that this nation originated, not only at the intersection of the interests of the world's great empires, but not far from the center of the origin of modern civilization, 15,800 years ago in the area of West India where the DNA haplogroup R1a1 originated.

Recently a hypothesis has gained popularity based on DNA genetic research and haplogroups and specific sets of repetitive DNA of different ethnic groups who participated in the great migration. Modern genetic research in conjunction with the Kurgan theory hypothesizes a common origin of the peoples of the Indo-European language group. Today, for a small fee anyone can commission a study of its own DNA and try to understand the story of one’s origin.  Moreover, with the advancement of technology and with increasing access to it in the near future it will be possible to determine in more detail and justify genetically historical origin of every people.


According to research by American geneticist Peter Underhill and Sheila Mirabal from the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, International University in Miami (FL), in 2009, R1a1 in Europe is found in up to 70% of the population in some of the countries - more than 30% of the population in the major regions of East Europe.  According to the authors, R1a1 appeared in Europe 4,500 years later than in Asia.


DNA analysis of several hundred respondents in each of the ethnic groups revealed high haplogroup R1a1a as the most common (more than 65%) in the Republic of Tajikistan. Furthermore, this haplogroup today is widespread (over 50%) in Western India, Pakistan, Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, Belarus and parts of Russia. In Iran, which is considered to be related to Tajiks in language and culture, this group is found in 12.66% and 6.88% in Turkey.


Before the advent of Islam in modern Tajikistan Buddhism and Zoroastrianism was widespread, this is also a pagan territory of the Scythians, who lived on these lands up to 3 thousand years BC, this is the land of ancient Bactria, Sogdiana, Khorezm, and the land of Alexander the Great. The National Museum of Tajikistan preserved a 12-meter statue of Buddha in nirvana related to the pre-Islamic period of history. In Khujand city preserved the urban Fortress of Alexandria Scathe in 4 century BC.


One of the theories of history of the ethnonym "Tajik" is the history of the return of these lands under their control by the Persians as their historical ancestral home (The Persians originated in the Aryan tribes coming from Central Asia).


At that time, Tajiks, in Persian "wreath bearers", represented the crown of the Persian Empire in the region.  According to another theory the later origin of the ethnonym is associated with the arrival of the Arabs in Central Asia and the role of the Tajiks as major spreaders of Islam, a settled lifestyle and literacy in the region.


It is known that for over a thousand years of its existence as a nation, Tajiks occupied considerably more territory of  Central Asia than it does now, but after being swept away by waves of Turkic conquests from the north and the east, they assimilated, while in some cases they were completely wiped out by numerous occupiers. At the same time you need to understand that if we look at this region a hundred years ago: the entire area of Central Asia was an open space of the Great Silk Road without national states; dominated by large city-states, in which representatives of various nationalities inhabited their niche of activity.


During that time the Persian language was used in education, religion and documents.  Consequently, those Tajiks who could read and write were in a privileged position in relation to the Turkic population

Soviet authorities placed more emphasis on the more loyal Turkic population, as opposed to the British Empire, which at that time was underpinning its influence in the region through Iran and Afghanistan. The number of Tajiks in Afghanistan to this day exceeds the population of Tajikistan.


In 1999, the central square of the capital, Dushanbe in place of the monument to Lenin there was erected a monument to Ismail Samani, a new national currency was named in his honor, the central avenue of the capital renamed, including the world-famous peak of Communism in the Pamirs.


The history of the Samanid dynasty that dominated the region in the period 819-999 years is closely linked to the spread of Islam in Central Asia. Saman- khudat,  founder of the dynasty according to L. Gumeleva, was an influential landowner and supreme fire-worshiper, and a descendant of the famous army commander of the Sassanian dynasty and fighter against the invasions of Turkic nomads of Bahrami Chubin.

According to historians Saman-Khudat in the VIII century was invited from Balkh to Merv, where he met with Khorasan Khalifa Assad Al Kasri, resulting in giving up Zoroastrianism and embracing Islam, naming his son after the khalifa - Assad. In 819, the five sons of Assad, grandchildren Saman- Khudat, in gratitude for their loyalty and service to the Caliphate were appointed heads of the most important areas Maverannahr: Samarkand, Istravshan, Tashkent, Fergana, and Herat. Then grandson Ismail Samani al-Assad was able to consolidate power in his own hands, joining Khorasan and Maverannahr and founded the Samanid state with its center in Bukhara, which he ruled in 892-907.  The state of Samanid retained formal ties to the Caliphate, but in fact was independent, since it minted its own coinage.

It should be emphasized that the Samanid Dynasty was the first dynasty of the Persian language, which came to power after the victory of the Arabs and the collapse of the Sassanids. It contributed to the spread and development of the Tajik-Persian culture in the Islamic tradition. This was the golden age of the region; famous Rudaki and Avicenna (Ibn Sina) were at the court of the Samanids. Rudaki was acknowledged as a founder of the modern Persian language and Persian-Tajik literature. Avicenna, as a court doctor, was recognized as one of the founders of medicine. (Medicine - from the Arabic. "Madadde Sino"). At an early age Avicenna healed the Samanid Emir of a serious illness. Avicenna was only 22 years old when in 1004 the Samanid dynasty finally collapsed and his father, being one of the "wali", died in battle. Avicenna then refused service under the Turkic Ghaznavid dynasty.


During the reign of Samanids the Quran was first translated into Persian; the main mission of the Samanids in Central Asia was to spread Islam, educate and bring culture to the numerous Turkic tribal groups that made up a large part of the population of the region. Due to dissension which arose because of a struggle for power within the Samanid dynasty at the end of the X century, as well as numerous uprisings of Turkic mercenaries devoted to Islam, the Ghaznavid dynasty seized power, initiated by Alp Tugan , a fugitive Samanid general.  After the fall of the Samanid dynasty in Central Asia until the Mongol invasion in 1219, except during the kingdom of the Gurids (1148-1206) the Turkic dynasties ruled for two centuries.  The Ghaznavid s were replaced by the Seljuks, then the Khwarizmshahs.


The coming to power of the Turks and then the Turko-Mongol dynasties was quite logical, as well as the quite predictable the fall of the Perso-Tajik dynasty of the Samanids, yielding to the significantly numerous Turkic peoples in the region.  In this respect, today's picture is indicative of the ratio of the Turkic and Tajik populations in the region: of the 64 million people living in the region of Central Asia, according to various sources Tajiks constitute no more than 15% of the population, and are, in fact, an enclave in the Turkic world.


At the same time, it should be noted the huge contribution of the Samanids to the revival of Persian culture and the formation of the modern Persian-Tajik language and literature. The renaissance of Persian literature and culture begins with creativity of the great Rudaki (858-941 y.), born on the territory of modern Tajikistan in Panjikent up to the famous poems by Ferdowsi (940-1020 y.), and unique discoveries by Avicenna (980-1037), as well as followers of their traditions Omar Khayyam (1048-1131) and Rumi (1207-1273).  The seven stars around the crown on the coat of arms and flag of the modern Republic of Tajikistan were originally conceived by authors as the seven greatest figures of Tajik-Persian literature.  The ideological foundations laid in the huge cultural heritage of the Samanids, made ??a significant contribution to world civilization, and the modern Tajik state justifiably considers this historical period as the most important and successful period of regional leadership. At the same time, the capital of Samanid state, as well as the grave of  Ismail Samani, are located in the territory of modern Uzbekistan, in the city of Bukhara. This fact preserves in the minds of most Tajiks the issue of historical injustice and ambition and a return Tajik native lands.


Modern Tajikistan is extremely interesting and in its own way a unique country in which the Soviet legacy, western Westernization, its proximity to China, and the present Muslim East intersect.  All this is manifested in the intercourse with people and their way of daily life, and in the features of urban planning and architecture, for example the building by Leningrad architects in the early '40s. of the XXcentury,  the  S. Aini Tajik State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, or, until recently, . the  A.Firdousi State Library -beautifying A. Rudaki Avenue interspersed with modern buildings of concrete and glass.


Tajikistan is one of the youngest countries in the composition of the population, more than half the population is under 25 years old. Despite its difficult economic situation, Tajikistan maintains and increases its most important resource - human capital. It's the people - the main resource and wealth of this beautiful land that gave us "Medade Sino" (the medical practice of Ibn Sina (Avicenna) from the Persian.), humanism of one of the founders of Sufism  Rumi, the wit of Omar Hayam, and the modern Persian language, created by Rudaki.

It is said that individuals who have received international recognition, have no nationality and belong to world civilization. At the same time, the public organization "Peshraft" ("Progress"), among many others, on the land of the crowned people, far from the eyes and attention of the world community in Tajikistan is actively engaged in the development of talented young people, and is searching for new Rudakis, Avicennas, or Hayams, Rumis, and prominent figures of science and culture of the past century, a new generation that will be able to surprise the world and each of us in the near future.


In conclusion, I would like to cite the opinion of a simple Russian intellectual about the Tajik people with whom you have an opportunity to familiarize yourself, by turning this page - ".... their eyes burn and one can feel the ardor when they have something to tell, they can have fun and dance  without alcohol and drugs , so that no one would believe most of them are people with a big open heart, a soft subtle eastern nature, and a warm  soul. Their face radiates bright sunshine and a smile, and in the heart of every Tajik – there is a poet. "


Azamat Sultanov

London, 7th of February, 2014