Open Democracy article -- Tajikistan Has a Special Relationship with Russia. Could War Change That? -- describes public sentiments in Tajikistan regarding Russia’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine.   

The author, Karolina Kluczewska, points out that Dushanbe’s official position on Russia’s aggression has been silent – the state sources did not mention the war at all.

According to her, this can be explained by Tajikistan’s dependence on the Russian market, where more than a million Tajik labor migrants live and send back money that composes around 30% of Tajikistan’s gross domestic product (GDP).

However, in stark opposition to the government’s silence, the Tajikistan’s public has been very active in discussing the topic, Ms. Kluczewska said, noting that for the first time in her nearly decade-long experience in the country, she witnessed animated and open public discussions on burning political issues.

“All of a sudden, everyone around me was talking about why the war happened and what the implications for Tajikistan would be,” Kluczewska says.

According to the author, local perceptions of the war could be divided into three main groups: 1) there are pro-Russian citizens who support Kremlin’s actions: what unites them is the fact that they are active consumers of Russian news outlets; 2) the opposite view is shared by a group of people in their 20s and 30s from the urban upper-middle class, who studied in Europe or the United States, are fluent in English, and often work for international organizations in Dushanbe; and 3) the category, which comprises the majority of the people, who take a balanced stance on the issue and empathize with Ukrainian people, perhaps due to Tajikistan’s own experience of the 1990s civil war.

Regardless of the diversity of people’s opinions about the war, however, there is a general understanding on the ground that sanctions against Russia will have a massive economic impact on Tajikistan, Kluczewska says, noting that “within the first weeks after Russia’s invasion, the prices of basic food items in the country rose by between 10 and 20%.”

With the collapse of the Russian ruble within 10 days of the start of the war, remittances sent from Russia by Tajik labor migrants reportedly depreciated by 35%, and the World Bank foresees an overall decline in remittances by 22% in 2022.  Migrants are already losing jobs in Russia and salaries are decreasing, but many do not want to return to Tajikistan knowing that no jobs are waiting for them at home, the author added.