“What the Hell Is Tajikistan?” “Why Do They Even Exist?”

Years ago I worked for a UN agency in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. My boss at the organization often said that her main task was to “put Tajikistan on map”. She complained that people and organizations in the West willing to fund charity projects were reluctant to give their money to Tajikistan, mainly because most of them could not even tell whether the country was real.

Very little has changed since then.

Therefore, I understand why Tajikistan is sending a handful of athletes to the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Although these athletes don’t have a slightest chance of winning medals, they are sent to Sochi precisely to “put Tajikistan on a map” (as well as to justify the Tajik president’s trip there). Millions of people around the world watch opening ceremonies for the Olympics. The ceremonies, featuring the various countries’ national teams walking behind their national flags, offer the little-known nations like Tajikistan an opportunity to tell the rest of the world that they exist.

The opening ceremony for this year’s Winter Olympics gave me an opportunity to monitor people’s online reactions to watching team Tajikistan enter the Sochi stadium. Below are just some of the most typical reactions, in English and some other languages (in cases when I could understand the meaning). These tweets show that Tajikistan is still an obscure “one-of-those-stans” or “it-is-Russia-right?” countries for most people in western countries.
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Russian Commentator Mistakes Uzbekistan for Tajikistan at Olympics Opening Ceremony

tjuzb-200x200A renowned Russian sports commentator mistook Uzbekistan’s national team for that of Tajikistan in a live broadcast from the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

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“Real Patriots Choose Patriotic Names” in Tajikistan

2005_Tajikistan_Passport-200x200In Tajikistan, a person’s name is no longer a private matter. Officials insist that a name is an indication of the degree of patriotism of its bearer.

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Also, read these shorter pieces on the subject:

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“It Has Become Hard to Breathe”: Tajikistan’s Capital Gets a Coal Plant… and Hazardous Dust

dushanbecoalplant5-200x200As Dushanbe’s new coal-fired power plant begins to supply electricity, rising levels of coal dust set off alarm bells in the city.

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“Tajikistan is not the Center of the World”: Rewriting of Country’s History Spurs Ridicule

tj_historybooks-200x200As historians in Tajikistan seek to move the origins of the nation as far back in time as possible, netizens are increasingly distrustful of the updated history.

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Filed under History, Internet, Nationalism, Social media, Tajikistan