chapter  6
17 Pages

Tajiks and the Persian World

ByMuriel Atkin

Although "Turkestan" is a historically well-established name for the region which includes what is now Soviet Central Asia, its inhabitants are not now, nor were they in the past, exclusively Turkic. By far the most numerous and self-assertive of the Iranian peoples in contemporary Central Asia are the Tajiks, who speak an eastern variety of Persian. At least for many of the educated and politically active among them, their Iranianness, and particularly their Persianness are essential parts of what defines them as a nationality and justifies their unwillingness to be assimilated by their Turkic neighbors or become homogenized, Russified "new Soviet men." Nonetheless, educated Tajiks see their links to the wider Iranian/Persian world, past and present, as vital to their survival as a people. Tajiks also use their Persian and Iranian links in a combative or at least a competitive sense in opposition to perceived offenses against their national dignity by others.