History, Reforms and Repression
glasnost, local affairs, Dushanbe, Soviet government, democratic reforms
An opportunity for greater local autonomy (self-government) presented itself in the 1980s under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev introduced a program for political reforms called glasnost (Russian for “openness”). Although reform was gradual and limited in Tajikistan, this program allowed, among other things, the formation of unofficial political groups. The government of the Tajik republic relaxed its censorship policies, and the increased freedom fostered a renewed interest in Tajik culture. In 1989 the Tajik Supreme Soviet (legislature) declared Tajik the official state language.
In early 1990 social unrest broke out in Dushanbe. Protestors called for democratic reforms and challenged the government to address the scarcity of work and housing. Demonstrators clashed with police, and the local government declared a state of emergency. Some 5,000 Soviet troops were dispatched to Dushanbe and suppressed the demonstrations. Opposition parties were then refused official registration.
In August 1990 the Tajik Supreme Soviet asserted the sovereignty of the Tajik republic. Although it fell short of a declaration of independence, the assertion did indicate a desire for less centralized control over local affairs. In November the first secretary of the Communist Party of Tajikistan, Qahhor Mahkamov, was elected by the legislature to the new post of president. His only opponent was Rahmon Nabiyev, who had served as first secretary of the party from 1982 to 1985. Mahkamov resigned in August 1991, after a failed coup attempt in Moscow by Communist hard-liners to take control of the Soviet government. In reaction to the Tajikistan government’s support of the coup attempt, some advocates of reform began antigovernment demonstrations, which continued sporadically over the succeeding months. The chairperson of the Supreme Soviet then stepped in as acting president.
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