Located in Central Asia, Tajikistan was originally settled in 600 BC, and was subsequently part of the Persian, Greek and Kushan empires before becoming part of the Samanid Empire in 875 AD. Under the Samanids, Tajikistan revived the Persian language, and helped to preserve Persian culture in Central Asia. Russia colonized Tajikistan in the 19th century as it expanded its empire. Tajikistan was part of Uzbekistan in 1924, but then became an “independent” Soviet socialist republic in 1929. Tajikistan remained under Russian control until 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed. After a bloody civil war in the 1990s, Tajikistan has tried to rebuild its economy and political stability. During the winter of 2007-2008, a severe energy crisis added further stress to a population already in poverty. The United States has sought to develop stronger relations with Tajikistan, as part of its counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics strategies in the region. Tajikistan lies along a major drug trafficking route, which the Taliban uses to export opium. American support for the Tajikistan government has come despite its terrible human rights record, one of the worst in Central Asia.
Lay of the Land: Tajikistan forms a bridge between Eastern Europe and Asia. It is located between Afghanistan and Pakistan to the south, China to the east, and Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to the West. Mountains dominate much of the country’s terrain.
During Tajikistan’s early history, it was part of the Persian, Greek and Kushan Empires before becoming part of the Samanid Empire (875-999 AD).
Relations between the United States and Tajikistan began on December 25, 1991, the day the USSR dissolved. The US opened a temporary embassy in a hotel in the capital, Dushanbe, in March 1992. That outpost was evacuated in October 1992, at the height of the civil war, and was not reopened until March 1993.
Current relations between the United States and Tajikistan are cooperative. The United States has helped Tajikistan with its economic and political development as it recovers from its civil war of the 1990s. To aid these efforts, the US has provided humanitarian aid as well as political reconciliation devoted to the promotion of democracy and maintenance of stability in the region.
In 2010, US imports from Tajikistan totaled $1.51 million, a decrease of about $7 million from 2009, while US exports to Tajikistan amounted to $56.8 million, an increase of about $15.7 million from 2009.
Flourishing Drug Trade Assists Taliban
According to the State Department, Tajikistan has, “restricted right of citizens to change their government; torture and abuse of detainees and other persons by security forces; impunity for security forces; denial of right to fair trial; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; prohibition of international monitor access to prisons; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, association, and religion; corruption, which hampered democratic and social reform; violence and discrimination against women; arbitrary arrest; and trafficking in persons.”
Tracey Jacobson served as the United States Ambassador to Tajikistan from August 29, 2006, until August 2009.
The Central Asian nation of Tajikistan, a one-party state dominated by President Emomali Rahmon, has sent a new diplomat to the U.S. who has significant experience defending his country’s human rights record in global forums. Nuriddin Shamsov succeeds Abdujabbor Shirinov, who left Washington in early 2012 to become Chairman of the National Bank of Tajikistan.
Born on November 15, 1956, in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, which was then part of the Soviet Union, Shamsov earned a degree at Tajik State University in Arabic Philology in 1977.
He started his career in 1977 as an Arabic interpreter in Iraq. From 1979 to 1988, he was a researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Tajik Academy of Sciences. Returning to his work as an Arabic interpreter, from 1988 to 1990 Shamsov worked as interpreter in Yemen. Back home in the capital city of Dushanbe, Shamsov served as a senior expert on the Executive Committee of Dushanbe’s Mayor from 1990 to 1992, when he joined the newly-formed Tajikistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a senior specialist.
In 1993 Shamsov was named as head of the International Organizations Section in the Foreign Ministry’s Department of International Organizations and International Law, rising to deputy head of the department in 1997, and switching to deputy head of the Consular Department in 1999. From 2001 to 2007, Shamsov served as head of the International Organizations Department, where he was responsible for relations with the numerous non-governmental organizations or NGOs present in the country, primarily to work on development efforts. In that capacity, in August 2006 Shamsov, according to a State Department diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks, “summoned” Tom Hushek, who was then chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe, to pressure the U.S. to intervene with the NGO Mercy Corps, a foreign employee of which had been accused by twelve Tajik employees of abusive behavior and disparaging the Tajik people as a whole. Hushek wrote that Shamsov “does not quite understand the ‘non’ in non-governmental organization, and views civil society NGOs such as Mercy Corps entirely as
agents of the U.S. Government.”
Shamsov’s first overseas assignment came in May 2, 2007, when he was named chargé d’ affaires at the Tajik Embassy in Vienna, Austria, and permanent representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other international organizations located in Vienna. Just three weeks later, on May 26, Shamsov was promoted to ambassador to Austria, a post he held until his July 2012 appointment as ambassador to the United States.
Shamsov is married and has one daughter and two sons. He speaks fluent Russian, Tajik, Arabic and English.
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Tajik Children, Facing Mosque Ban, To Be Offered Islamic Courses (Radio Free Europe)
One of the most oppressive post-Soviet dictatorships, the central Asian nation of Tajikistan has won the friendship of the U.S. government through its cooperation with Washington’s wars in the region. President Barack Obama on April 16 nominated career diplomat Susan Marsh Elliott to be the next ambassador in Dushanbe. If confirmed by the Senate, Elliott will be the second female U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan after her predecessor’s predecessor, Tracey Ann Jacobson, who is currently Ambassador to Kosovo.
Born circa 1952, Elliott earned a B.S. at Skidmore College in Sarasota Springs, New York, in 1974, an M.S. at Russell Sage College in Troy, New York, and a doctorate in Nursing at Indiana University in 1987, with a thesis entitled “Variables associated with organizational effectiveness of schools of nursing.” She taught Nursing at Ball State University and the University of Virginia.
Elliott joined the Foreign Service in 1990 after working as a nurse at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Her early career postings included service in Lima, Peru, from 1990 to 1992, and Moscow, Russia, from 1992 to 1994. She served as a desk officer from 1994 to 1995 in the Office of the Coordinator for Regional Conflicts in the New Independent States, where she reported on conflicts in the Caucasus (Nagorno-Karabakh and Georgia) and Central Asia, including Tajikistan. Elliott also worked as a member of the Executive Secretariat Staff from 1995 to 1997. Elliott then served four years at the embassy in Athens, Greece, as deputy economic counselor from 1999 to 2001 and as visa section chief from 2001 to 2003.
From 2003 to 2005, Elliott served as office director of the Executive Secretariat Staff, and from 2005 to 2007 as a deputy executive secretary on the staff of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, where her responsibilities included Europe, and South and Central Asia. Elliott was the principal officer at the U.S. consulate general in Belfast, Northern Ireland, from 2007 to 2009, and served in Moscow as minister counselor for Political Affairs from 2009 to 2010. Since September 2010, Elliot has been deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.
Elliott speaks Russian, Greek, and Spanish. She is married to Matthias Mitman, who is also a Foreign Service officer. They have two adult sons.