As people came and went through the region that today makes up Tajikistan, the ethnic
Persian eventually arrived and settled the region. Like the people from the past,
these people settled in the valleys as it was the only hospitable place to live.
Over time the locals and new settlers intermarried, but the people remained closely
tied to the Persian people through language, culture, food, and lifestyle; as changes
occurred in Persia they usually also influenced the way of life for the Tajiks,
who are very similar in many ways.
Among the most important introductions from Persia was Islam; most of the people
converted to this religion and even today nearly every Tajik is Muslim. The influences
from the north had the greatest impact with the arrival of the Mongols. The Tajiks,
in many ways, inherited Mongol power, which was for some time centered in the cities
of Bukhara and Samarkand (both in modern day Uzbekistan) as the Silk Trade routes
rose in importance. At the time these cities were run by the ethnic Tajiks.
The Silk Trade Route brought new people to the Tajik-controlled lands and daily
life shifted to focus on economic progress as people urbanized and began to open
and run small shops; prior to this the majority of people worked as farmers. Unfortunately,
when the Silk Trade Route fell so did much of the economy in Tajikistan.
When the Russians and the Soviets arrived, first in the late 1800s, but only fully
taking control in the early 1900s, they pushed the Tajik people further east, removing
the cities of Samarkand and Bukhara from their rule as they suppressed religion.
In some ways this actually encouraged stronger feelings of pride in being Tajik,
but it also vastly altered the way of life for the people as people were forced
onto farms or factories.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 Tajikistan has made a return to its
roots, but numerous Soviet introductions have remained as well. The people remain
a very humble people who continue to work on farms and in factories as the economy
is domestically focused. Religion has returned and there is a clear expression of
their Persian past as their foods reflect that of Iran, although Russian foods are
now available as well. As the country remains economically starved, the people continue
to focus on family and survival with few funds to purchase modern day luxuries or
even cars as the remnants of the Soviet public transportation system dominate the
country. Today the culture strongly reflects that of their past in both Soviet changes
as well as Persian roots.