Monday, August 21, 2023

Tajikistan Changes Names of Almost 5,000 Place Names, Dropping Soviet and Russian Names and Replacing Them with Tajik Ones

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 18 – Over the past month, Dushanbe has examined more than 12,500 place names in Tajikistan and concluded that the names for more than 4,000 mountains and glaciers and 802 cities and towns must be changed to bring them into conformity with current realties (

            Overwhelmingly, the names dropped are those which were imposed by Russian and Soviet officials; and the names put in their place are those of Tajik heroes. Three things make this superficially housekeeping action important:

·       First, Tajikistan has been among the slowest of the former Soviet republics to make such changes. That it is doing so now shows that Dushanbe apparently feels it can take this step with relative impunity given Moscow’s desire not to rock the boat at a time when the Russian Federation remains so dependent on Tajik migrant workers.

·       Second, the names, almost all of which are Tajik rather than Turkic further set Tajikistan apart from the other former Soviet republics in Central Asia, all of whom are Turkic and whose earlier changes in place names reflected that reality.

·       And third – and by far the most important – many of the borders in Tajikistan, including with foreign states are described even now not by the international standard of talking about lines between places of a given latitude and longitude but in terms of lines between particular mountains or glaciers.  


Because the international community had gotten used to Tajikistan’s traditional descriptions of where its borders lie, there is now likely to be some confusions given the appearance of new names. Those who work with Tajikistan and its neighbors need to keep this in mind. 


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