Tajikistan’s 2023 in Review Between Government’s Optimism and the Country’s Challenges

Map of Tajikistan with flag.
Map of Tajikistan with flag (Credits: PavelD, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 38 Issue 6

Although Tajik President Emomali Rahmon announced to the nation a prosperous future, Tajikistan still faces essential problems related to domestic stability, the threat coming from neighbouring Afghanistan, the government’s management of Gorno-Badakhshan, and the economic performance.

The country’s focus on energy independence, transit development, industrialisation, and food security underline Dushanbe’s primary directives for the national stability and development. Despite ongoing efforts, challenges persist, and the geopolitical landscape presents risks that demand careful consideration.

Key Findings

  1. Tajikistan has successfully implemented the plans envisaged for 2023, showcasing advancements in infrastructure and social development.
  2. The emphasis on energy independence, transit development, and agricultural growth highlights the government’s strategic priorities for economic sustainability.
  3. Although positive outcomes achieved in 2023, Tajikistan still must face problems related to domestic stability and external pressure.

Background Information

On December 31st, 2023, the President of the Republic of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, addressed the nation with the annual congratulatory message on the occasion of the New Year 2024.

Rahmon stressed Tajikistan has made notable progress, with 37% of the 35th-anniversary plan achieved, showcasing advancements in infrastructure and social development. Indeed, the country has been engaged in comprehensive development initiatives, including the construction of power plants, roads, bridges, and social facilities.

The government’s focus on agriculture aims to enhance domestic food production and improve the overall quality of life for its citizens.


Tajikistan’s geopolitical position, nestled amidst Central Asia’s complex regional dynamics, demands a cautious examination. The country’s initiatives are in line with its broader goals, like achieving energy independence and promoting public transportation.

The emphasis on agriculture not only supports food security but also underscores economic diversification. However, the nation faces challenges such as global threats of terrorism, extremism, and cybercrime, requiring continual vigilance.

The ongoing socio-economic development projects, if successfully implemented, have the potential to elevate Tajikistan’s standing internationally. By the way, Dushanbe confronts internal challenges emanating from the administration of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO).

President Rahmon’s attribution of military action in GBAO to foreign-financed terrorists seeking revolution, following the May 2022 protests, underscores internal tensions. While foreign involvement specifics remain unclear, foreign entities are primarily concerned with internal clashes in GBAO, rather than pursuing distinct foreign interests.

Geopolitically, Gorno-Badakhshan occupies a crucial position in eastern Tajikistan, sharing borders with Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR), and other regions of Tajikistan. The region’s significance lies in its abundant resources, including minerals, water, and natural gas, attracting attention from global and regional powers.

Notably, China’s investment in GBAO’s infrastructure, exemplified by the Dushanbe-Kulma highway, and its announcement of a military base in the region reinforce its strategic interests. Concurrently, Russia asserts influence through the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), using military collaboration to maintain a strategic presence.

The geopolitical landscape’s recent shifts, marked by the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s rise to power, amplify regional risks. The concerns emanating from the potential utilisation of Afghanistan’s terrain by terrorist groups, exemplified by the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), heighten security apprehensions for Dushanbe.

Risk Assessment

Despite achieving positive strides in economic development, Tajikistan remains heavily influenced by Russia and China. Dushanbe recognises the imperative to diversify its commercial and political partnerships, with a key goal of reducing dependence on Moscow and Beijing.

To enhance collaboration with the European Union and the United States, Tajikistan must navigate and mitigate criticism from the West regarding its strategy in the GBAO. A more cooperative stance towards Western concerns would open avenues for increased engagement with Washington and Brussels, potentially alleviating the pressures exerted by Russia and China.

While Emomali Rahmon’s leadership has effectively curtailed political opposition, there is discontent among the populace because of the current socioeconomic situation, exacerbated by Western sanctions on Russia. The significance of remittances from the substantial Tajik diaspora in Russia, coupled with economic challenges, creates a delicate situation.

This discontent could provide a fertile ground for jihadist propaganda, especially considering terrorist groups like the ISKP and Tehrik-e-Taliban Tajikistan in neighbouring Afghanistan.

The disillusionment and diminished trust in the government, particularly among the younger generation, might create conditions conducive to radicalisation and recruitment by terrorist elements. To prevent this potential security threat, Dushanbe must address domestic concerns and concurrently navigate its diplomatic relations with external partners to ensure a stable and resilient future for Tajikistan.

While Tajikistan is making strides in various sectors, the geopolitical environment introduces risks. Regional complexities, coupled with global threats, pose challenges to the nation’s stability. Economic dependencies and potential external pressures could affect the successful execution of development plans.

Scenarios Analysis

  1. Diplomatic Success and Economic Resilience. Tajikistan successfully navigates and addresses the concerns raised by Western nations regarding its strategy in the GBAO. Dushanbe adopts a cooperative stance, leading to increased collaboration with the European Union and the United States. This diplomatic success helps ease pressures from Russia and China, allowing Tajikistan to diversify its commercial and political partnerships. Concurrently, the nation bolsters its economic resilience through continued progress in energy independence, transit development, industrialisation, and food security. Successful implementation of these measures enhances domestic stability and contributes to sustained economic growth.
  2. Escalation of Internal Tensions. Internal challenges in the Gorno-Badakhshan escalate, leading to heightened tensions within Tajikistan. President Rahmon’s strategy to manage the regional crisis creates further internal discord, impacting the country’s stability. The lack of clarity regarding foreign involvement contributes to increased suspicions and frictions within the nation. This escalation of internal tensions poses a significant challenge to Tajikistan’s efforts for economic development and stability.
  3. Security Challenges and Radicalisation. Discontent among the populace because of the current socioeconomic situation and external pressures intensifies. Western sanctions on Russia, economic challenges, and the significance of remittances from the Tajik diaspora in Russia create a volatile domestic environment. The disillusionment and diminished trust in the government, especially among the younger generation, provide fertile ground for jihadist propaganda. This scenario sees an increase in radicalisation and recruitment by terrorist elements, posing a serious security threat. Tajikistan faces challenges in managing both internal discontent and external pressures, requiring a comprehensive strategy to address security concerns and foster socio-economic stability.


Tajikistan stands at a critical juncture where diplomatic activity, internal stability, and economic resilience are paramount. To navigate the complex geopolitical landscape and address internal challenges, Dushanbe should adopt a balanced approach.

Promoting open dialogue with the European Union and the United States, addressing concerns in GBAO, and diversifying partnerships beyond Russia and China will enhance the nation’s diplomatic standing.

Mitigating domestic discontent, especially among the younger generation, is imperative to safeguard Tajikistan’s stability and resilience. Strengthening socio-economic development initiatives will not only address economic challenges but also enhance the overall well-being of the populace, fostering a sense of hope and optimism.

Concurrently, improving governance is crucial to build trust in the government and ease disillusionment. Fostering unity among citizens, regardless of ethnic or regional differences, will contribute to social cohesion, a vital factor for long-term stability.

Failure to address the grievances and discontent may heighten the country’s geopolitical risk, exposing it to external pressures. The disillusion and disappointment among the Tajik people could create a vulnerable environment conducive to jihadist propaganda, increasing the region’s susceptibility to the complex geopolitics of Central Asia.

For those with an interest in acquiring comprehensive insights into Tajikistan’s domestic and foreign strategies, we encourage you to reach out to our team by sending an email to info@specialeurasia.com. We are poised to facilitate an assessment of the opportunity for you to obtain a meticulously crafted and specialised report tailored to your intelligence needs.

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