Militarism in Tajikistan: Realities of Post-Soviet Nation Building
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Shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union, the newly independent Central Asian republic of Tajikistan fell into a brutal civil war (1992-97) that exacerbated internal divisions based on ethno-regional groupings. In the following decade, the new government formed its own armed forces while maintaining the presence of the Russian 201st Motorized Rifle Division in the country. This made Tajikistan the only former Soviet republic that did not inherit the Soviet units located within its territory; thus, Tajikistan formed its own national military. This dissertation examines the effect of military service on the development of national sentiments in the Tajikistan, focusing on three main points: 1)the practice of military recruitment, 2) the conditions within the national military, and 3) the available option for Tajikistan nationals to serve in active military units of the Russian Federation. The autocratic Tajikistan government’s state symbolism is associated with the importance and glory of the military. However, the population has shown a strong distaste for service in this military, and the state’s approach to recruitment is both a response to this aversion and a contributor to it. I show that military recruiters’ use of an illegal but tacitly accepted practice of impressment called “oblava” (Russian: roundup) during bi-annual conscription drives has negative consequences for the development of national sentiments and state legitimacy. This conscription method is coupled with a lack of pay, training, adequate food, and health care during a member’s service. The conditions within the Tajikistan military stand in contrast to those within the Russian military, which has units based in Tajikistan and into which Tajikistan nationals may enlist as contract soldiers. I conclude by conceptualizing the majority of military service in Tajikistan as the state use of biopower to control young males in a territory with a rapid population growth rate but few economic opportunities while relying on the Russian Federation for its existential defense.