Is that even a real country? Q and A about Tajikistan

20 July 2010 at 10:50 11 comments

As one of the new Kiva Fellows who will be in the field by the end of month, I bubble with excitement about going to a foreign country and helping Kiva. I tell anyone who asks that I am going to Tajikistan, usually with a big smile, or at least excitement in my voice.

People usually look at me with the squinty eyed pondering look, then I get asked a lot of the same questions:

1. What country is that?

2. Is that even a real country???

3. Ok, ok, so if it is real, where is it?

4. How do you spell that?

5. Why do you want to go there?

I do not assume many people actually know where Tajikistan is. After all, before the Soviet Union, it didn’t exist under its current borders, ever. And though it has been a few decades since the Soviet Union collapsed (those entering college this year never had the Soviet Union in the news. EVER), Tajikistan was ignored at the beginning because of a Civil War, and then because the countries around it were much more interesting for journalists.

So I would like to take this time to answer the questions:

1. -The country is Tajikistan.

2. -Yes, it is a real country, with a real government, with their own language, and like all countries its own set of unique problems.

3. – Take out a map of the most volatile part of the world. Find Afghanistan. Got it? Tajikistan is North of that. Ok now find Western China. Got that? Good, Tajikistan is just west of that. Now for a few harder countries. Find Kyrgyzstan (that’s the country most recently in the news due to ethnic unrest). Ok got that one, it is south of that. Now do you see Uzbekistan? (this country was in the news a lot in 2005-2006) Ok. Tajikistan is south, and east of this country. As you can see Tajikistan lives in an interesting Neighborhood.

4. – haha sure I can spell it: T.A.J.I.K.I.S.T.A.N. I can spell the capital as well if you want.

5. -I asked to be sent here for my Kiva Fellows assignment. This country is one of the least understood in the world. Its hidden from most newspapers, text books make only passing notes about it, even finding books in English about it is HARD. (I think I now own all of them… its about 15 really) This is the home of the Farsi based language Tajik, and some of the earliest Muslim people in the region (according to their history books), it’s the place where Alexander the Great got married to his bride Roxann (played by Rosario Dawson in the most recent big budget  Alexander the Great movie), and after 5 years of civil war, it has had peace which has held up really well, especially considering all the different forces pushing the country at all times. Plus who wouldn’t want to walk in the Pamir mountains, which Marco Polo said were “so high and so cold that no birds flew”?

To me, this country isn’t dangerous, it is just not really understood. I want to go there to show the beauty as well as the ugliness, the stories, and the gifts that I know Tajikistan has to offer. And what better way then with Kiva.

If you have any questions about Tajikistan, or Central Asia in general, please feel free to ask me while I am in the field. If I do not know the answer, I will be more than happy to try to find out.

By Sam Kendall KF12 Tajikistan

Kiva currently has two partners in Tajikistan, please make a loan to one of the many people in Tajikistan.

And be sure to follow me and one other Kiva Fellow in Tajikistan on this blog.

Entry filed under: Eastern Europe & Central Asia (EECA), KF12 (Kiva Fellows 12th Class), Tajikistan. Tags: , , , , , .

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  • […] had received a request from someone on the Kiva Fellows blog to find out about female education in Tajikistan, and my girlfriend has a big interest in […]

  • 2. Headed to Tajikistan « Notes from the Journey  |  5 August 2010 at 01:25

    […] Upon telling people that I’m headed to Tajikistan, I am often met with a quizzical look or a question of where it is located.  Faced with similar questions, the other Kiva Fellow who will be in a different part of Tajikistan put together a quick reference guide. […]

  • 4. Annamarie  |  27 July 2010 at 13:02

    Hi Sam,
    I am a BU alum from SED and have taught about 35 years, am currently retired but am still interested in education. I’d be curious to learn about the educational system in Tajikistan, especially with regard to women and girls.
    Best wishes in your travels. Regards, Annamarie

    • 5. Sam  |  27 July 2010 at 17:23

      Hey Annamarie,
      Could you tell me what exactly are you interested in? The numbers of girls in school, what they study and go on to do? How the education system works in general?
      Let me know and I’ll see if I can find answers.

  • 6. brittanygoesglobal  |  20 July 2010 at 23:15


  • 7. fred  |  20 July 2010 at 13:16

    OK, I’ll bite.

    A couple of months ago I heard a singer whose voice was really peculiar in the best possible way. Her name was inconsistently written as Sahiba Davlatshaeva or Sahibe Davlatshoeva — the show was headlined by Aqnazar Alovatov, so he got his name spelled in the same way throughout. I wouldn’t even try to describe her vocal style, but just in case you have heard (of) her, is that her own thing or a regional style? And if the latter, is there anyone like her you would recommend? Of course someone who has records out would be nice, but any name would be welcome, I would just have to be on the lookout for a performance in my neck of the woods.

    • 8. lermatov101  |  20 July 2010 at 13:36

      Sahiba/sahibe is a name you can hear in the Pamir mountains (in Tajikistan), in a region commonly called Badakhshan.
      I looked her up and I can not tell you if there are cd’s you can get with her, or people like her. I do know that her chanting is traditional, and is actually one of the music forms common within the followers of the Aga Kahn. If you would like I know they have a website that is dedicated to the promotion of the traditional music,

      As I believe she has only performed in France, I would suggest, if you are not in France to go there if you wish to see a concert from her again. The second form of the name is the most common in Latin spelling of the name, when looking for her.
      I hope this helped you in your search. From what I have heard, I quite agree that her music is very interesting and fun to listen to.

    • 9. Sal Towse  |  20 July 2010 at 13:55

      Music of Central Asia vol. 5: The Badakhshan Ensemble: Song and Dance from the Pamir Mountains (The Badakhshan Ensemble)
      is for sale by the AKDN. The video features Soheba Davlatshoeva, who is the ensemble’s founder.

      If you Google “Soheba Davlatshoeva,” you’ll find multiple links.

    • 10. fred  |  20 July 2010 at 14:33

      Thanks a lot!
      I actually heard her in France, and if I remember correctly the Aga Khan trust was involved in that concert. I really like that “music from Central Asia” series, but for some reason they didn’t have that one on sale that day.
      My earlier searches about music from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Mongolia have yielded even better stuff on imprints like Ocora and Buda, but as both are French labels, I thought widening the net wouldn’t hurt.
      Thanks again for the help with the spelling, the links and the background, there are useful leads I’ll be pursuing to hear more of this music.

  • 11. donaldhart  |  20 July 2010 at 12:00

    Great to see the first KF12 post — as the other Fellow headed to Tajikistan I’ve been asked many of those same questions (so now I can just refer them to this post!). Cheers

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