The Sick Man of Central Asia
Reason‘s December special issue marks the 30th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union. This story is part of our exploration of the global legacy of that evil empire, and our effort to be certain that the dire consequences of communism are not forgotten.
Of all the countries to emerge from the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Tajikistan has arguably fared the worst. It ranks 149th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, worse than every other former Soviet republic except Turkmenistan. It has the highest poverty rate of the former Soviet republics; a full 27 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) is the result of remittances sent home by Tajik migrants working mostly in Russia; and its GDP per capita for 2021 ($810) ranks 179th out of the 195 countries for which the International Monetary Fund has data.
Why is Tajikistan so poor? It is landlocked, which means importing and exporting are more expensive and the country is more vulnerable to supply chain disruptions. And the violent civil war that followed the USSR’s fall, which pitted the incumbent Soviet power holders and their militias against a coalition of liberal re
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