Russian and Tajik Spat: Nothing But Politics
This article was originally published at NewEurasia partner, Kanal PIK
A lengthy row between Russia and Tajikistan over the imprisonment of a Russian pilot, Vladimir Sadovnichy, has finally come to an end with the pilot’s release on Nov 24. Yet, and in spite of various officials claims that there was nothing political about the whole episode, there are many reasons to believe that political considerations, or geopolitical considerations to be more precise, were behind the Russian government’s so called “asymmetric response”; that is, mass deportation of Tajik nationals on the bases of legal and public safety concerns.
Tajikistan is a small country located in “the geophysical center of the Asian landmass”. Bordered to the south by Afghanistan, to the east by China, and to the west and north by Uzbekistan and Kirgizstan, Tajikistan lies at the interstices of several cultures, languages, religions, and zones of commerce. At the first glance, it ought to be confessed, it is difficult to understand the geopolitical importance of Tajikistan to Russia since they neither share a common border nor a similar culture. In fact, Tajikistan is culturally far removed from Russia. The predominant native language there is Tajik, a variant of Farsi, and it has more cultural ties to the Middle East and West Asia than to Russia. In addition, Tajikistan is of no significant commercial value to Russia. The country has virtually no oil or gas production. It is rich in metal mineral resources and has a vast hydroelectric potential, but mineral resources are plentiful in Russia and Tajikistan’s hydroelectric energy is “too far away to transport cost-effectively”. Lastly, Tajikistan’s largest commodity export, aluminum, “competes with Russian domestic enterprises” rather than offering “complementary” commercial possibilities.
So what are the ties that actually bind Russia and Tajikistan? Read further here.