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Tajikistan: Intelligentsia Feud Flares in Dushanbe

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, seen here on a billboard in the capital Dushanbe, recently greeted the return of Bozor Sobir, a well-known Tajik poet who has lived in the United States for 19 years. Sobir, who received a free apartment upon his return, is now openly supportive of Rahmon’s administration, drawing fierce criticism from a prominent journalist. The leader of the official Writers’ Union has threatened to sue the journalist, Olga Tutubalina, for libel. (Photo: EurasiaNet)

Official recognition as a member of the intelligentsia in present-day Tajikistan means lots of perks, including apartments and access to state-funded vacation resorts. In exchange, members – described as the “conscience of the nation” – are expected to support incumbent authorities. But one journalist is kicking up a storm by shining light on intellectual corrosion in the existing system.

The official “intelligentsia” in Tajikistan harkens back to Soviet days, when an artist or writer whose work buttressed state policies would gain membership in one of several state-supported “creative unions,” such as the Writers’ Union. It was a quid pro quo in which the artists enjoyed a relatively cushy life, and the state enhanced its legitimacy via arts and culture.

Important elements of the old Soviet system remain in place in Tajikistan. Loyalty still matters, and members of the existing, officially recognized intelligentsia are expected to embrace President Imomali Rahmon’s policies, providing the administration with intellectual cover.

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Konstantin Parshin is a freelance writer based in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan: Intelligentsia Feud Flares in Dushanbe

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