Official name: Republic of Tajikistan
Area: 143,100 square kilometers (55,251 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Qullai Ismoili Somoni (7,495 meters/24,590 feet)
Lowest point on land: Banks of the Syr Dar'ya (300 meters/984 feet)
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 6 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 700 kilometers (434 miles) from east to west; 350 kilometers (217 miles) from north to south
Land boundaries: 3,651 kilometers (2,269 miles) total boundary length; Afghanistan 1,206 kilometers (749 miles); China 414 kilometers (257 miles); Kyrgyzstan 870 kilometers (541 miles); Uzbekistan 1,161 kilometers (721 miles)
Territorial sea limits: None
1 LOCATION AND SIZE
Tajikistan is located in central Asia. It shares borders with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, and Afghanistan. With a total area of about 143,100 square kilometers (55,251 square miles), the country is slightly smaller than the state of Wisconsin. Tajikistan is administratively divided into two oblasts and one autonomous oblast.
2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES
Tajikistan has no outside territories or dependencies.
Average temperatures vary significantly by region in Tajikistan. A continental climate predominates in the lowlands, with hot summers and cold winters. Khudzhand in the Fergana Valley has an average July temperature of 27°C (81°F) and a January average of -1°C (34°F). Extreme temperatures in summer can reach 48°C (118°F), with strong dust storms in the semiarid areas. By contrast, the eastern mountains have average July temperatures below 10°C (50°F) and January temperatures of -20°C (-4°F). Winter temperatures in the eastern Pamirs have dropped to -60°C (-76°F).
For most of Tajikistan, the average annual precipitation ranges between 70 centimeters (28 inches) and 160 centimeters (63 inches). Although generally meager in the lowlands and mountains, sudden, substantial amounts of precipitation have caused devastating landslides. Winter and spring are the chief snowfall/rainfall seasons. Summer and fall can be drought-stricken. The heaviest precipitation rates occur at the Fedchenko Glacier, where yearly totals of 223 centimeters (88 inches) have been recorded. The lowest annual averages are in the eastern Pamirs, with annual rainfall of less than 10 centimeters (4 inches).
4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS
Tajikistan is the smallest nation in Central Asia. Mountains dominate its landscape, with the Pamirs in the south (including some of the world's highest peaks) and the Trans Alai range in the north. Tajikistan's mountainous terrain is also notable for its many glacier-fed rivers. The massive Fedchenko Glacier, covering more than 700 square kilometers (270 square miles), is the largest glacier in the world outside of the polar regions.
Elevations in northwest and southwest Tajikistan are generally lower than in the rest of the country. The most notable lowland feature is the fertile Fergana Valley in the far north, whose soils of rich river deposits make the valley ideal for agriculture.
Tajikistan is on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate, not far to the north of its border with the Indian Tectonic Plate. It lies on a seismic belt that is active throughout southeastern Central Asia. Earthquakes are common and can be devastating.
5 OCEANS AND SEAS
Tajikistan is a landlocked country.
6 INLAND LAKES
Most of Tajikistan's lakes were formed by glaciers and are found in the eastern Pamirs. Lake Karakul (Ozero Karakul) is the largest lake with an area of about 380 square kilometers (147 square miles). It is located in the northeast at an elevation of 4,000 meters (13,000 feet). A salt lake, Karakul is essentially lifeless.
7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS
Tajikistan's mountainous terrain has created an extensive network of rivers, but several large central Asian rivers that originate elsewhere also cross the country, most notably the Syr' Darya (Sirdaryo or Syr River) and the Amu' Darya (Amu River).
The Amu' Darya is central Asia's largest river, at 2,539 kilometers (1,578 miles). It originates in the form of its upper tributary, the Panj, which runs along the Tajikistan-Afghan border. In Tajikistan, the Amu' Darya runs for 921 kilometers (571 miles). The Vakhsh (Surkohb) River and the Kafirnigan River are two large tributaries of the Amu' Darya that run northeast to southwest in great valleys across western Tajikistan. Of these, the Vakhsh is the second-longest waterway in Tajikistan.
After the Amu' Darya, the Syr' Darya in northern Tajikistan is the second-longest river in central Asia, with a total length of 2,400 kilometers (1,488 miles). The Syr' Darya flows through the country only for a short distance, traversing the Fergana Valley in northern Tajikistan for 195 kilometers (121 miles). Another major northern river, the Zeravshan, crosses Tajikistan from east to west for 316 kilometers (196 miles). Its total length is 781 kilometers (484 miles).
Melting snow and melting glaciers cause Tajikistan's rivers to run high in the spring and summer. In summer, the glacial runoff is a critical aid to irrigation in Tajikistan's northern and western valleys.
There are no desert regions in Tajikistan.
9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN
Western Tajikistan has some scattered areas of steppe that rise into the foothills of its mountains. The steppe vegetation features not only low-growing shrubs and drought-resistant grasses, but also broad fields of wild poppies and even tulips.
In the west, about a third of Tajikistan is comprised of foothills and steppes. The nation's lowest elevations are found in the southwestern river valleys and in the northern spur region that crosses the Fergana Valley.
10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES
Nearly half of Tajikistan has elevations exceeding 3,000 meters (9,800 feet). The Pamirs are the dominant mountain range and are among the highest mountains in the world, with an extraordinary mean elevation of 3,965 meters (13,000 feet). Centered in southern Tajikistan, they branch off in every direction, connecting with other great mountain ranges such as the Tian Shan of neighboring China.
Communism Peak (Qullai Ismoili Somoni), in the Pamirs, is the highest mountain in the country at 7,495 meters (24,590 feet). Lenin Peak (Pik Lenina), in the Trans Alai range of the Pamirs in northeastern Tajikistan, is among the world's highest at 7,134 meters (23,406 feet). Many other peaks exceed 6,096 meters (20,000 feet).
The Fedchenko Glacier is one of many glaciers in the Pamirs. It is considered to be the largest continental glacier (outside of the polar regions) in the world, with a length of about 71 kilometers (44 miles) and a width of 2 kilometers (1.5 miles).
11 CANYONS AND CAVES
The rivers have cut numerous steep and winding canyons throughout the country's mountain region. Many of these canyons attract mountain and rock climbers.
12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS
A portion of Tajikistan lies on the high Godesberg Plateau, which also stretches into China and Afghanistan. This great plateau is considered to be part of the Pamirs system.
13 MAN-MADE FEATURES
The Rogun Dam on the Vakhsh River, at 335 meters (1,099 feet) high, is the highest dam in the world. This earth and rock fill dam was built primarily for irrigation and hydroelectric power. The Nurek (Norak) Dam, at 300 meters (984 feet) high, is the second-highest dam in the world. It is also located on the Vakhsh River and provides water and power for the surrounding area, which is a major manufacturing center. Construction and maintenance of the Nurek Dam and its reservoir have been an ongoing concern for engineers, because the stress of the contained water further destabilizes the earth's crust nearby. Seismic activity is closely monitored in the area.
14 FURTHER READING
Thomas, Paul. The Central Asian States: Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan (Former Soviet States). Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 1992.
Gleason, Gregory. "The Struggle for Control over Water in Central Asia: Republican Sovereignty and Collective Action." RFE/RL Report on the USSR (Munich), 3, no. 25 (June 1991): 11-19.
Rubin, Barry M. "The Fragmentation of Tajikistan." Survival 35 (winter 1993-1994): 71-91.