Also spelled TADZHIK, the original Iranian population of Afghanistan
and Turkistan. The Tajiks constitute almost two-thirds of the population
of Tajikistan. In the late 20th century there were more than
3,600,000 Tajiks in Tajikistan and more than 1,000,000 in Uzbekistan.
There were about 3,700,000 in Afghanistan, where they constituted
about one-fourth of the population. Another 40,000 lived in the Sinkiang
Uygur autonomous ch'ü (region) in China.
The name Tajik refers to the traditionally sedentary Caucasoid
people who speak a form of Persian called Tajik in Tajikistan and
Uzbekistan and who speak the modern Persian language in Afghanistan.
The Tajiks were the heirs and transmitters of the Central Asian
sedentary culture that diffused in prehistoric times from the Iranian
plateau into an area extending roughly from the Caspian Sea to the
borders of China. They built villages of flat-roofed mud or stone
houses and cultivated irrigated fields of wheat, barley, and millet.
Their gardens were famous for melons and a variety of fruits. Their
crafts were highly developed, and their towns along the caravan
routes linking Persia, China, and India were centres of trade. Turks
subsequently migrated westward into the area inhabited by the Tajiks.
The latter became Turkicized in their culture, though many retained
their Iranian language.
Most of the Tajiks are Sunnite Muslims, but a few in remote mountain
areas are Shi'ite Muslims.
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