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    A Basic Course in Tajik    (Grammar & Workbook) written & edited by RANDALL B. OLSON   Copyright © 1994 All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of  brief quotations. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number Pending Olson, Randall B. Tajik     INTRODUCTION  A Basic Course in Tajik  –   Randall Olson 1 AN INTRODUCTION TO THE TAJIK LANGUAGE AND PEOPLE The Tajiks trace their history to the earliest known inhabitants of Central Asia. These were the Indo-Iranian people who lived along the Oxus River during the Greco-Bactrian dynasties of the fourth to the first centuries B.C. The Tajiks diffused themselves over most of Central Asia, between the Jaxartes River (Syr Darya) and the Oxus River (Amu Darya), northern and western centuries, during the rule of the Samanids, that the basic ethnolinguistic features of the Tajiks were formed and established. The Tajiks lost their state with the fall of the Samanids, though they fought tenaciously for their freedom in the ensuing centuries. Later the Tajiks lost significant amounts of territorial influence and suffered a decrease in  population as a direct result of the conquest of the Mongol and Turkic tribes. The term Tajik (from taj meaning “crown”) was probably first introduced in the seventh century by the Arabs to differentiate the Persian speakers from the Turkic speakers they encountered as they fought their way northward and eastward. Physically, the Tajiks are classified as being of the Mediterranean substock of the Caucasian race (Iranian). Centuries of misgenation with Turkic-Mongoloid groups have produced Mongoloid characteristics in the Tajiks, especially as one moves toward areas dominated by the Uzbeks. In contrast to the Uzbeks, the Tajiks are about half as numerous, having an estimated  population of about four and a half million in Tajikistan, at least 1 million in Uzbekistan, up to a half a million in the republics of Kazakhstan, Kirgizistan and Turkmenistan. Many of the Tajiks living in Uzbekistan live in or near the cities of Samarkand and Bukhara, the cities which historically have been populated and governed by the sedentary Tajiks. In addition to the Tajiks who live north of the Oxus River, there are also approximately four to five million Tajiks in Afghanistan, though the numbers of mother-tongue speakers of Persian in Afghanistan, in all its various dialects, may be two to three million more. Linguistically, the Tajik language is a dialect of modern Persian, which is included in the West Iranian group, a group which also includes such languages as Balochi and Kurdish. Within the West Iranian branch Persian is categorized as a Southwest Iranian language. There are numerous dialects of Persian, but the three major regional dialects include the Iranian dialect of “Tehrani” Persian, sometimes reffered to as Farsi, the Afghan dialect of Persian which is called Dari and the Tajik dialect spoken north of the Oxus River primarily in the republics of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. There are more similarities than there are differences  between these three dialects, yet certain major linguistic differences do distinguish each of the three dialects. The ethnolinguistic genesis of modern Persian began to take shape between the seventh and ninth centuries after the Muslim conquest of Iran and Central Asia. The first written documents in modern Persia, written by the Tajik poets Rudaki and Ferdousi, came from what is now eastern Afghanistan and a region in Central Asia called the Khorasan. It was also in Central Asia, in ninth and tenth centuries, that written Classical Persian, which used an adaptation of the Arabic script, as a powerful literary medium. The birth of Classical Persian, as a written language, also sparked a reassertion of Persian nationalism, which peaked in Central Asia in the tenth century under the “Tajik” Samanid dynasty. Even after the Mongol conquest of the region in the thirteenth century,  INTRODUCTION  A Basic Course in Tajik  –   Randall Olson 2 Central Asia continued to be the major source of written Classical Persian, especially in the cultural centers of Samarkand, Bukhara, Balkh, Merv and Herat. Classical Persian, in fact,  became the official language of communication from Iran to India, despite the subsequent Turkic conquests of those regions, and it continued such up through the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, shortly after Tajikistan became a republic in 1929, the Russian communists began to implement a linguistic policy which sought to undermine what they  perceived to be a threat in their southern flank, i.e., a pan-Islamic resistance movement. As they had done in the republic of Uzbekistan and the other Turkic republics, the Russians cut off the Tajiks from their Persian speaking neighbors, i.e., the Afghans and the Iranians by forcing a Latin based alphabet on the Tajiks in 1930 and then a modified Cyrillic alphabet in 1940. This was done to “modernize” Tajik, which it did to a cer  tain extent and to expurgate the language from all the Arabic and Classical Persian “archaisms”. Reformers based their “modern” Tajik on the northern dialect of Tajik, which is spoken in Samarkand, Bukhara and Khojand. In reality, however, their modernization policy was designed to help the Soviets in the Russification of the Tajik language and culture. Such a step also greatly enhanced the  pace of which the Russian language could be introduced to the Tajik school children. Though the Russians succeeded in partly fulfilling their goals, their ultimate goal of cultural and linguistic assimilation backfired. If anything, the Russians helped to reinforce the Tajik sense of historical self-identity and to revive a spirit of nationalism that had been subdued for centuries. The awakened ethnicity of the Tajiks found its opportunity to openly manifest itself during Gorbachev’s program of glasnost. The power of this reawakened force was felt throughout the republic when in 1989 the Tajik language was declared the state language of Tajikistan, derailing the plans of those who had sought to make the Russian language the lingua franca of the Soviet Union. During this time it was also decided that an educational policy should be put into effect that would re-establish the Perso-Arabic script as the main written medium of Tajik by the end of this century. This new policy was again reversed when remnants of the “old guard” came back into power at the end of 1992. But the future of which script to use is yet unclear and now that Uzbekistan is in the process of adapting the Latin script, Tajikistan may follow suit as well. Despite the entholinguistic differences the Tajiks have with the Uzbeks they do share a number of cultural similarities. From a socio-religious perspective the majority of the Tajiks, like the Uzbeks are of the Hannafi Sunni sect of Islam and are still very much influenced by Islamic traditions. As many as 80 percent of the Tajiks in Tajikistan, according to a recent Soviet survey, admitted to still adhering to at least some of their traditional religious beliefs and indicated a desire to see their children raised as Muslims. In spite of the fact that the Soviet Communist system limited official religion, folk Islam, as it has for centuries, continues to function at the grass-roots level. Through this system a large number of holy men and women, Sufi guides, religious instructors, faith healers, and those who combine magic and Islam together are sought after for spiritual guidance. The existence of holy places also provides the more religious opportunities for pilgrimage and worship. Families also instruct their children in the basic tenants of the faith or they may even hire local non-official religious teachers to do so. Children are often taught the spiritual side of life from their grandparents and the social side of life from their father and mother. The natural process of the Tajik’s life cycle is also still largely governed by Islamic cultural  principles. Even in Tajikistan the major events of life (birth, circumcision, marriage and death) are usually marked by some type of religious ceremony. Gorbachev’s program of
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