Silk Road and Me (Part 2)

Silk Road and Me (Part 2)

Categories: Blog

Conflicts between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and the famous Silk Road city of Sarmarkand

In the previous post I ended with how in Hong Kong I have continued my prolonged relationship with Silk Road and Central Asia. Back then I was based in Uzbekistan in Central Asia, I had also frequently visited Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, but had never made it to Tajikistan. But as I joined in the new company, I became a constant visitor in Tajikistan due to business needs (although normally I would just be in Dushanbe).

Somoni Square

Dushanbe is the capital of Tajikistan, and is located adjacent to my familiar Uzbekistan. Normally, I would imagine Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to be countries of rather similar ethnicities. But in fact, the two countries and ethnic groups are at daggers-drawn till forever. After the Soviet Union collapsed, relationships between these two have been under continuous aggravation, till the point that they would make each other’s life difficult by cutting off supplies of natural gas and fighting over water resources, omitting the fact that they have been neighbours in generations.

In a non-governmental perspective, the two ethnic groups also seem to be irreconcilably hostile to each other. My perceived understanding of the conflicts between Uzbeks and Tajiks would have to date back to the days when I worked at Uzbekistan. Those who rose about the topic (topic being the conflict between the two ethnicities) were normally not Uzbeks themselves, but the Tajiks residing inside the Republic Uzebkistan.

Man in a traditional Tajik dress

This happened most to me in Sarmarkand, the 2nd largest City of Uzbekistan. One can never be sure exactly how many Tajiks or how many Uzbeks the city has. The reason to this being, apparently, that the Uzbek government has been forcing residents of Tajik descendants to change their ethnicity over the years! Almost everytime when I accompanied somebody to Sarmakand for business or leisure, no matter it’s the local driver, tour guide or host, they always tred to find every single chance possible to inform me that they were Tajiks and not Uzbeks.

They would also love to add that Sarmakand, in fact, belonged to Tajiks and that all residents were Tajiks, but as it joined the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union did not put history under consideration when it came to drawing territories between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, which had created many unresolved issues that have been affecting daily lives of locals till this day.

Mosque in the city of Sarmakand

Sarmakand is the 2nd largest city of Uzbekistan, and was included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2001. According to the UNESCO, Sarmakand is a melting pot of the world’s various cultures built in 7th century BC. There are many famous ancient architecture within Sarmakand, including the Madrasas at Registan, Bibi-Khanym Mosque, Timurid Mausoleum, Ulugh Beg Observatory, just to name a few. Sarmakand was the capital of the Timurid Empire that was found by Turkic Mongols in the 14th Century.

The Timurid Empire.
Image credit : Wikimedia Commons

The founding father of the empire, Timurid, married a lady from the Genghis Khan’s family, which made him eligible to inherit the throne of the country Western Chagatai Khanate. After Timurid became king, he changed the name of Western Chagatai Khanate into Timurid Empire.

Timurid Empire had dominated numbers of countries. The empire had become so huge that in its heyday, the territory covered West Asia, Central Asia and part of South Asia. Its realm reached as far as Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf. Timurid’s ambition to revive the Mongolian Empire had come to a halt as he died young, was yet another story.

Portrait of Timur
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Gur Amir mausoleum

Sarmakand, being the capital of the ancient Western Chagatai Khanate, has always been the crossroads of culture since more than two thousand years ago. A big portion of the population are Tajiks, who were seen as Turks in the Tang Dynasty, and Uzbeks during the Soviet Union era. Because of these complex historical roots, it seems as no surprises that Uzbeks and Tajiks are still fighting against each other and having disputes over ethnicities, resources and history today.

Tuesday, 15th September

Author: Moja

Grew up next to the Soviet Union’s Embassy in Beijing, studied at the former “Anti-Revisionism Road Secondary School” (there was a time when China used to advocate opposition to US Imperialism and Soviet Union’s Revisionism). Born in the years of “Anti-Revisionism” and was taught Russian. At college received an education that was a by-product of the “authentic” Soviet Union way to “plan for the economy”, seen as the “most fortunate” generation in China (as it was back in the 60’s, where amid the Cultural Revolution that “it doesn’t matter where you come from”, the “honour” of being the “most fortunate” was thus granted) . Worked at few famous conglomerates that grew importance after the open door policy was introduced. Had been to North America, Northern Africa, most parts of Europe, Central Asia, West Asia, and had resided in St Petersburg of Russia and Tashkent of Uzbekistan. Hold great respect to all kinds of religion, culture and history of different ethnicities!