Tajikistan is a former Soviet republic in Central Asia. It is landlocked, bordering China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Unlike the other Soviet -stan countries, Tajiks are related to Iranians, not Turks, and they speak a Persian language, not a Turkic one.
The region has long played an important role due to its location between southwest Asia and eastern Asia, lying on the east-west route that became known as the Silk Road. Part or all have been the possession of the Achaemenid Empire, Alexander the Great, Sogdia, the Kushan Empire, Kara-Khanid Khanate, the Mongol empire, Chagatai Khanate, Tamurlane's empire, the Khanate of Bukhara, and from the second half of the 19th century the Russian Empire, which developed into the Soviet Union after 1917.
Tajikistan became independent in 1991 from the Soviet Union. It immediately fell into civil war, mostly along tribal and clan lines. It escalated into a war pitting the Tajik, Uzbek, and Russian governments against various nationalist and Islamist groups. An armistice was declared in 1997, after the war had claimed 50,000-100,000 lives. 
The dictatorial leader of Tajikistan, Emomalii Rahmon, has held office since 1992 (he changed his name from Rahmonov to appear less Russian). The most recent elections (held in 2013) gave him 84% of the vote, with the other candidates being "virtual unknowns even inside the country". Human rights activist Oynihol Bobonazarova, the candidate nominated by a coalition of opposition groups, was barred from running. . Media is also severely censored and repressed in Tajikistan.
Tajikistan is nominally secular but the population has been largely Muslim for over 1000 years. The government is worried about Islamism and pan-Tajik nationalists (who want to unite Tajikistan with its neighbours). In 2017 it effectively banned the wearing of the Islamic veil (hijab), requiring women to wear traditional Tajik dress in which the headscarf is tied at the back of the neck rather than under the chin; this followed an earlier ban on the hijab in government buildings.
As in other central Asian republics, one of the most popular sports is Buzkashi in which players attempt "to grab a 50 kg dead goat, ride clear of the other players, get back to the starting point and drop it in a designated circle".
- See the Wikipedia article on Tajikistan.
- See the Wikipedia article on Tajikistani Civil War.
- Tajik Opposition Nominates Single Presidential Candidate | Radio Free Europa/Radio Liberty
- Tajikstan passes law 'to stop Muslim women wearing hijabs', The Independent, 1 September 2017
- See the Wikipedia article on Religion in Tajikistan.