The 1996 IFES survey of public opinion in Tajikistan investigated attitudes, perceptions, knowledge, values, and behavior on wide array of topics concerning the life of the state. This analysis begins where it will end: with a summary picture of the disposition of the Tajikistani population with regard to what their country is today and where it is going. There emerge from the totality of this data five distinct constituencies, as follows.

Pro-Government Democrats (20% of the adult population)

Liberal Dissidents (16% of the adult population)

Anti-Democrats (14% of the population)

Hopeful Pragmatists (17% of the adult population)

The Bewildered (33% of the adult population)

The summary profile of the Tajikistani population was derived from these nine measures, each of which is discussed in turn in following pages:

Note that the summary profile was not composed of demographic characteristics. For the issues with which this survey was most concerned, the demographic characteristics of the respondent — sex, age, ethnicity, education, income, family structure, and so forth — were shown to be rather poor "explainers" or predictors of responses. This generalization includes the tragically unique feature of life in Tajikistan, exposure to civil war.

This survey was conducted during a period of relative quiescence, in the closing months of 1996. Our questions concerning civil strife focused on whether respondents had been personally touched by the violence of the early 1990’s. We found 54 percent of respondents had not been touched by the war (see question 95 in the appendix). Nine percent (9%) saw a relative killed or wounded, 18 percent moved or fled to avoid the fighting; the balance suffered an economic affect or a less serious incident. But to have been the victim of these events does not seem to have a significant impact on the respondent’s disposition toward economic or political reforms.

The foregoing description of the Tajikistani populations holds several important implications for the country’s future.

First, there is currently just one constituency with a pro government disposition. But this constituency is distinctly pro-democratic. So the base of support for the government is found to be politically and economically liberal. This means fidelity to a reform program is encouraged upon the government, lest it risk alienating its base.

Second, there are constituencies attitudinally opposed to the government pulling in opposite directions. In any society, there will be some degree of polarization over the direction and extent of development or evolution. But generally a government is able to enlist the support of most of either half of the political spectrum. In Tajikistan, the government faces both liberal critics who would move the country more aggressively toward democracy and market economy, and "reversionists" who oppose these reforms. The liberal critics outnumber the anti-democrats, 32 percent to 11 percent.

Third, support for the government is strongly related to the perception of societal change. Tajikistanis want change, yet 63 percent perceive none. The only expressions of satisfaction with the government come from those who perceive change to be occurring. Authorities need not worry about offending a constituency of folks who want to keep things as they are.

Fourth, there is a strikingly broad pro-democracy consensus in Tajikistan. Seventy-nine percent (79%) are pro-democratic in principle, and 72 percent believe democracy is beneficial in a practical sense. Fully 45 percent are "hard-core" democrats on both dimensions. What is most interesting about this observation is that pro-democratic sentiments exist without a high degree of satisfaction with the government. This demonstrates it is not necessary in Central Asia for a popular government to lead the people to a pro-democracy disposition. But support for the government probably is necessary to sustain the perception Tajikistan is a democracy.

Fifth and finally, that a plurality of the adult population (31%, the Bewildereds) does not know what to make of their country’s situation and lacks a clear orientation on matters of future development represents a significant "wild card" in Tajikistani politics. Such a constituency is identifiable in any country, but it is rarely so numerically dominant. The members of this constituency, under the right circumstances, could potentially swell the ranks either of pro-democrats or of anti-democrats.



This report is based on public opinion data obtained in a nationwide personal interview survey with a sample which is nationally-representative of the adult population in Tajikistan. 1500 interviews were conducted between November 25 and December 13, 1996; the margin of sampling error associated with a survey sample of this size is 2.5%.

This project began with an in-country assessment of the capabilities of potential contractor to conduct the interviews. The Sharq Sociological Center of Dushanbe was selected in a competitive bid process. The questionnaire was designed by Steven Wagner, president of QEV Analytics, and IFES regional staff, drawing heavily on questions used in previous IFES surveys in Central Asia. The questionnaire was translated by the contractor into Tajik, Russian, and Uzbek. These translations were reviewed for accuracy and fidelity to the original questionnaire intent by IFES staff and consultants in Washington. In the end, 68 percent of surveys were administered in Tajik, 16 percent in Uzbek, and 15 percent in Russian.

The sample design was of a stratified probability type. Tajikistan is comprised of 6 regions: the Dushanbe metropolitan area, the "Regions of Republican Subordination" (subject to the national government), Leninabad Oblast (the largest region by population), the Kulyab portion of the Khatlon Oblast, the Kurgan-Tyube portion of Khatlon, and Gorno-Badakhshan (which is largely inaccessible due to geography and insecurity). Our objective was to conduct interviews in every region, and in the end, we excluded less than 10 percent of the national population, mostly along the Surkhob river valley (in and around the cities of Dzhirgatal, Todzikobad, Tavil Dara, Komsomolobad, and Garm). These areas are inaccessible areas due to the activities of anti-government rebels.

For each of these 6 regions, a quota for the number of interviews proportional to their share of the national population was established. Districts within regions were selected randomly, yielding 30 primary sampling units (places of interview).

Settlements were selected randomly within districts, with a quota dictating the number of rural and urban interview sites; overall, 67 percent of interviews were conducted in rural settlements. Households were selected within settlements randomly from the village council household register. In all cases, the individual interviewee within a household was selected by reference to the Kish grid.

Supervisors were responsible for confirming the performance of the interviewers by reinterviewing 10 percent of households. Data entry was accomplished by the contractor; all data analysis was performed in Washington by QEV Analytics.

Interviews by Region

Dushanbe City 11%
Gorno-Badakhshan 3%
Khatlon: Kulyab 12%
Khatlon: Kurgan-Tyube 21%
Leninabad Oblast 31%
Regions of Republican Subordination 22%



Democracy and Political Liberalism

A narrow plurality of 37 percent are of the opinion Tajikistan is a democracy (question 56 and 57). This perception is strongly related to satisfaction with the government: those who are satisfied with government performance (a modest 22%) are much more likely to say Tajikistan is a democracy. Nearly as many (30%) give the polar opposite response that Tajikistan is not a democracy and is not becoming one.

In analyzing the numerous survey questions dealing with an aspect of attitudes toward or perceptions of democracy, it became clear that there are two distinct dimensions of opinion: one, the extent of support for democracy in principle; two, the perception of democracy as beneficial.

To be sure, the embrace of democracy in principle was not exhaustively probed, since substantial portions of publics do not handle abstract questions well. The proposition that by standing for election public officials will be more responsive to the desires of the people was affirmed by 73 percent, opposed by 20 percent (just 7% gave no opinion, question 68). Similarly, 72 percent agree that by having to be elected, public officials will have more respect for the rights of the people (question 69). Finally, 64 percent agree that voting gives the individual the opportunity to influence decisions made by the state (question 67).

Combining responses to these three questions (using the statistical technique of factor analysis), 40 percent emerge as strong democrats, 39 percent as tepid democrats, and 21 percent as anti-democrats.

In terms of the practical impacts of democracy, 57 percent believe democracy will promote solutions to Tajikistan’s economic problems, rather than create obstacles (the response of 8%, question 59). The benefits of democracy are perceived to extend "to most people" rather than to "just a few at the top" by the margin of 60 - 26 percent (question 60).

But a plurality of 47 percent say the ideal number of political parties is one. Twenty-eight percent (28%) prefer a multi-party system, 11 percent want no parties (question 78).

Interviewees were asked about the appropriateness of political figures openly criticizing the government, a question which can arguably be part of either dimension (although factor analysis indicates it belongs here). Just half (53%) consider such behavior appropriate, 38 percent consider it inappropriate (question 84).

Finally, on a question regarding the appropriateness of non-governmental organizations (NGOs, "groups to solve problems in the community without government involvement," question 99), half (49%) say such activities are not appropriate while 35 percent say NGOs are appropriate.

Taken together, these questions reveal that 39 percent have a very positive conception of democracy’s benefits, 33 percent are more tepid, and 28 percent are generally negative on this dimension.

Overall, there is quite an impressive extent of pro-democratic sentiment in Tajikistan. Taken together, 58 percent are pro-democratic on both dimensions, 21 percent are pro-democratic in principle but negative on its impact. Twenty-one percent (21%) are opposed to democracy in principle. This finding is unique: usually support for democracy is only as extensive as in Tajikistan in countries where the government is both popular and identified with the promotion of democracy. Yet in Tajikistan, popular support for democracy appears to be spontaneous.

When asked in an open-ended format what it means to live in a democracy, 80 percent were able to give a substantive response. Virtually all responses were positive, save the 4 percent who said it means nothing and 2 percent who said democracy is not needed. The most common responses were that democracy implies guarantees of human rights (26%), freedom of choice, thought or action (12%), security or legal defenses (12%, question 58).

Satisfaction with Government Performance

IFES inaugurated its socio-political barometer, a battery of questions concerning satisfaction with various aspects of government and social performance, in previous Central Asian surveys. In Tajikistan, the results are lopsidedly negative, but this is not without precedence. Of the 12 questions in this battery, none topped 44 percent satisfaction, and that was with the quality of water provided by authorities (questions 31 - 42). Receiving the lowest scores were "the quality of education" (with which 13% were satisfied) and "the social welfare protections of the people" (16% satisfied).

Satisfaction with the situation in Tajikistan is strongly related and proportional to satisfaction with the government’s performance, which is a typical relationship.

The IFES Socio-Political Barometer (questions 31 - 42)

"Please tell me whether you are completely satisfied, fairly satisfied, fairly dissatisfied, or completely dissatisfied with each of the following:"

Many Tajikistanis are conscious of the increased opportunities which exist for citizens as the result of independence. Opportunities to participate in religious activities are judged to have increased since independence in the opinion of 60 percent. Greater possibilities for economic activity are perceived by 58 percent. However, the extent of respect for individual rights is perceived to have increased by a very modest 16 percent (questions 14, 15, 16). In fact, a substantial majority of 59 percent report there is today in Tajikistan less respect for individual rights.

In additional to the socio-political barometer questions which measure the government’s delivery of services, two additional questions in this survey tapped opinions of the government. One question concerns the efficacy of the national government (question 22), to which half (48%) responded "it is possible for the national government in Dushanbe to improve significantly the lives of the citizens of Tajikistan." Thirty-eight percent (38%) say it is not possible.

Another question concerns the extent to which "government authorities respect the rights of individuals in Tajikistan" (question 24). Only 20 percent responded "a great deal," or "a fair amount," while 47 percent said "a little" and 27 percent said "not at all."

Examining the pattern of responses to the "barometric" and these two additional questions on government can yield a composite measure of professed attitudes toward the government. Statistical procedures (factor analysis) are available to indicate the extent to which these various questions belong together; that is, the extent to which these seem to measure a common, underlying sentiment. There was found to be a substantial degree of homogeneity of responses.

Only 8 percent expressed consistent and frequently intense satisfaction with the performance of the government in Dushanbe. Another 14 percent expressed consistent but more tepid satisfaction -- in other words, one-in-five (22%) expressed more satisfaction with the government than dissatisfaction, while 78 percent expressed more dissatisfaction than satisfaction. Nearly half (46%) score as highly dissatisfied.

Plumbing the Depth of Economic Liberalism

Just as this survey sought to assess the extent of political liberalism, it separately measured several dimensions of economic liberalism. Notwithstanding the very high degree of political liberalism found in Tajikistan, a solid majority prefer a kind of economic reversion, with 60 percent saying, "when thinking about our economic future, we (should) return to an economy basically controlled by the state" (question 44). One-quarter (26%) prefer an economy with little state control.

When asked in an open-ended format what it means to live in a "free or market economy," 67 percent were able to give a substantive response (question 47). Just 25 percent of these responses were negative, principally that is means "high and unstable prices" (7%) or "speculation" (6%). Nearly half (42%) gave positive or descriptive responses, principally that a free market economy implies entrepreneurial freedom (the response of 14%).

While democracy is seen to be broadly beneficial (by 60%, question 60), the free market economic system is not: 28 percent regard the free market economy to benefit "most people," but 62 percent report it benefits just a select few "at the top" (question 48).

Taken together, these three questions constitute our basis for assessing the extent of popular economic liberalism. The statistical technique of factor analysis confirms that these three variables can legitimately be combined into a single composite measure of economic liberalism, and provides a case-by-case liberalism score.

In summary, 12 percent are scored as highly liberal, 29 percent are moderately liberal, 44 percent are moderately illiberal, 16 percent are highly illiberal. The end points are more easily described than the middle categories. None of the highly liberal want a state controlled economy; 79 percent of the highly liberal have positive things to say about a free market economy (none have negative things to say); virtually all (99%) say a market economy benefits everyone. The highly illiberal are the exact mirror image, exclusively preferring a state controlled economy, criticizing the market economy in the open-ended question, saying it benefits a select few.

The two moderate categories consist of people who gave less consistent responses. A plurality of 48 percent of moderate liberals say a market economy benefits everyone; 57 percent said positive things about the market economy, while 37 percent gave no opinion; but 40 percent wanted state control of the economy, versus 38 percent for little or no state involvement in the economy -- a virtual dead heat.

The moderately illiberal prefer state control by 75 percent versus 9 percent for little or no state involvement in the economy. One-third of the moderately illiberal gave negative descriptions of a free market system but a plurality said they "didn’t know." And most (84%) say the market economy will benefit just a select few.

Dealing with Societal and Economic Change

One thing most Tajikistanis agree upon is that life has gotten worse since Independence, the opinion of 85 percent (question 11). But curiously, a plurality is of the opinion that "significant changes are not occurring in Tajikistan today" (question 19A).

Of the 37 percent who believe changes are occurring, most say that these changes are not occurring fast enough (question 19B). So taken together, 22 percent say changes are occurring, but not fast enough; 9 percent say changes are occurring and at the correct pace; and a mere 6 percent say the changes which are occurring are too fast. Given the extent of dissatisfaction in Tajikistan today, it is consistent that so few feel overwhelmed by the pace of change. Finally, 63 percent say change is not occurring or don’t know.

Questions concerning perceptions of economic reform in Tajikistan (as opposed to generic change in society) yield similar results, in that there is very little apprehension expressed about an excessive rate of change. A majority (56%) prefer an incremental approach to economic reform (small but steady reforms) to a more abrupt, "get to a free market as quickly as possible" (question 45). But again, a solid majority (61%) regard the current pace of economic reform as being too slow (question 46).

Combining these responses, a plurality of 36 percent of Tajikistani adults are impatient incrementalists, wanting steady reforms but also wanting to get on with it. Another 16 percent are impatient and prefer a more abrupt approach to reform. These constituencies outweigh the 16 percent who think too much reform is occurring or don’t want reforms in the first place.

Scoring Intellectual Engagement

We have discussed elsewhere the insufficiency of using demographic characteristics of the respondent to explain positions on key issues of reform, the direction of society, political and economic liberalism (see above). But there is one very significant characteristic of the respondent which can be linked back to a demographic: the extent of awareness of the processes going on around them is significantly related to the respondent’s level of education.

The extent of information and awareness is a very significant factor in how a respondent perceives the condition and dynamics of Tajikistani society today. As discussed above, the "Bewildered" constituency — partially defined by its "no opinion" response on key questions — is numerically important, and a principal source of apprehension regarding the liberalization, economic and political, of Tajikistan. The conversion of some portion of this constituency into reform enthusiasts is potentially possible by making information more accessible. But many of the least intellectually engaged assume that status by choice.

The information score, shown here, was calculated simply by counting the instances of "don’t know" responses (or expressions of disinterest where available) on the following questions: 22, 24, 26, 27, 28, 33 - 40, 44, 54, 55, 56, 59, 60, 64, 78, 90. These questions are the most substantive — or perhaps the most abstract — concerning the state. Of these 22 questions, 9 percent responded "don’t know" to none or just one of the questions. Thirty-eight percent (36%) responded "don’t know" on 2 or 3 questions, 37 percent on 4 - 7 questions, 15 percent on 8 or more questions.

While the information score is related to education level and somewhat to SES (socio-economic status) and gender, it is not a function of settlement size: the rural population is as opinionated about events in Tajikistan as are residents of Dushanbe.

National and Ethnic Identification

Nationalist sentiment -- by which is meant enthusiasm for the Tajik nation building exercise -- is profoundly important to the explanation of certain attitudinal positions, such as whether Tajikistan is truly independent (question 12) and whether the declaration of independence of Tajikistan is seen as a good thing or a bad thing. The difficulty is that the relevant form of "nationalism" is actually ethnic-nationalism; that is, the assertion of Tajiki autonomy — so perhaps this isn’t nationalism at all. The strongest "nationalists" — those who have the greatest enthusiasm for the enterprise of Tajikistani state-building — value their ethnicity above their citizenship. Ethnic Russians in Tajikistan, on the other hand, evidence greater nationalism in the sense of holding their citizenship in the state above their ethnicity, but in other areas are less supportive of the state-building project.

There are five questions in this survey which tap various dimensions of ethnic nationalism, albeit not exhaustively to be sure. These five questions were demonstrated by statistical analysis to derive in part from a common underlying attitudinal construct, which we have labeled, with the above caveats, "nationalism."

Sixty-four percent (64%) of the population are ethnic Tajiks; 22 percent are Uzbek, 5 percent are Russian (question 107). Asked which is of greater importance, 43 percent cite their ethnicity, 27 percent their nationality, and 10 percent their regional origin, while 12 percent say these allegiances are equally important (question 109). Half (54%) profess to be proud of their citizenship, 23 percent are "content," 9 percent are indifferent, and 12 percent are malcontented or ashamed (question 110).

Ethnic Tajiks value their ethnicity more than their national citizenship by 52 percent to 24 percent. Ethnic Russians have the opposite priority, 15 percent to 46 percent. Ethnic Uzbeks value region as much as nationality.





















An analysis of these questions finds a very strong common thread in the pattern of responses, yielding our composite measure of Tajik ethnic identity. Two-thirds (65%) score highly on this scale -- and they are exclusively ethnic Tajiks, 23 percent are weak "ethnic nationalists", and just 12 percent receive negative scores. The temptation is strong to call this a measure of nationalism, since the correlation is so high between this scale and other measures of enthusiasm for the nation-building project. The nationalism scale also correlates positively with support or the government: those with negative nationalism scores are less satisfied with the government’s performance than those with positive scores.

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