Many parents in Tajikistan view the start of the school year with a bit of trepidation: while students wrestle with their lessons, adults must reach for their wallets. An increasing number are willing to spend sizable sums to get their kids into Russian-language classes.
Compared with all his other problems, Dmytro Firtash is probably not spending a lot of time worrying about his Tajik fertilizer factory. After all, the Ukrainian gas, chemicals and media magnate is now out on $172-million-bail in Vienna as he awaits a ruling on his potential extradition to the United States to face graft and organized-crime charges.
Twenty-seven-year-old Manucher has spent every day for the past six years cleaning out manure and, in winter, snow from his cattle barn. In his impoverished village not far from Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s capital, he counts himself lucky to have the work.
Back when it was called Stalinabad, former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin reportedly took a personal interest in the greening of his namesake city, now known as Dushanbe. A massive tree-planting initiative accordingly created a green canopy to shade the capital from Tajikistan’s scorching summers.
Tajikistan has one significant industrial asset, an aluminum smelter that dates back to the Soviet era. The state-owned plant, Talco, uses so much electricity it is responsible for regular, rolling blackouts around the country. Many Tajiks would like to know where Talco’s substantial profits go; the company keeps a tight lid on earnings information.
Anyone following Tajikistan’s presidential election cycle knows that Imomali Rahmon is a cinch to win another seven-year term on November 6. But the lack of genuine electoral options is a source of frustration for an important constituency – the million-strong community of Tajik labor migrants in Russia.
When Charles Hornung lost his finance job in London three years ago, he’d never heard of Tajikistan. Now, the CEO of Silverhill Resources is one of a handful of Western mining magnates who call this impoverished Central Asian country home.
“The prospects here are great,” Hornung said at a Dushanbe café this month. “But so are the hurdles.”