Given the highly regionalized nature of power dynamics in Tajikistan, this weekend’s marriage between a granddaughter of the president and the son of an influential northern family is worthy of note.
Sources in the northern city of Khujand told EurasiaNet.org that the marriage took place on November 19 between President Emomali Rahmon’s oldest granddaughter and the grandson of the governor of the Sughd region, Adburahmon Kodiri. In another seemingly symbolic gesture, the ceremony was held at the Arbob Cultural Palace, where Rahmon was in effect first appointed head of state, almost exactly 25 years ago, on November 16, 1992.
On the bride’s side, the parents are one of Rahmon’s daughters, Firuza, and Mahmadzoir Sohibov.
Because of the outsized role played by localism in Tajikistan, such marriages between powerful families from different regions are almost unheard of. Most of Rahmon’s in-laws are from his native south. Indeed, the inexorable post-civil war ascendancy of Rahmon’s regional kinfolk to positions of power has even given a rise to a Russian neologism coined from the name of the Kulob, a city and district in south — namely, “Kulyabizatsiya.”
This is the first known occasion in recent times in which the presidential family has married such a visible representative of a northern clan.
Sohibov, the father of the bride, does not formally hold a government position, but he is widely believed to wield considerable political influence as an informal senior advisor to Rahmon on key personnel issues and on the allocation of business-related favors. He is also said to have financially lucrative tobacco and jewelry interests of his own.
Residents of the north are apparently delighted by the news as they believe this will culminate in the redistribution of greater government spending in their direction, as well as giving them a greater say in governance. Many people in the region pride themselves on their nose for commerce, although their limited access to power has crimped their potential.
The relative decline of the north over the years represented something of a fall from grace since Soviet times, when it was the Khujand clan that was charged by Moscow with running the Tajik republic. In the dying years of the Soviet Union, the Kulob clan increased its influence, through mostly violent means, and when nationwide conflict broke out following independence, this improbable alliance tightened their ranks to constitute the continuity, pro-ruling elite front. As the war dragged on, the considerable more muscular Kulob clan effectively arrogated the bulk of power to itself. The prime minister’s seat is now customarily reserved for northerners, although the post is more administrative rather than indicative of real power.