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Tajikistan: The Life of the smallest Orthodox community in Central Asia

According to the report of the international organization “Open Doors“, there are 61.7 thousand Christians in Tajikistan, who account to 0.7% of the total population of the country. Most of them, 72.1%, are Orthodox. While this number includes all of those who consider themselves to belong to this confession, there are only about 500 permanent church parishioners.


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На русском Тоҷикӣ

The Orthodox community in Tajikistan is considered to be the smallest in Central Asia. There are 6 churches within Dushanbe and the Tajik eparchy today. The very first appeared in the XIX century in Khujand — the Church of Saint Equal-to-the-Apostles Mary Magdalene.

This church was built in 1866. According to the hegumen hieromonch Mardary, back then it was only a tent on the banks of the Syr Darya river; it was later rebuilt as a church.

It was closed in the 1920s, and in the 1960s, the building was demolished and a hotel was built in its place. During the Soviet years, the Orthodox Church in Khujand operated in another building, which was later expanded.

There was a fire in this building in 2005. The church and its extension burned down completely, all the icons, church vestments and worship objects were destroyed.

The church was rebuilt again in the same place. Now it is regularly visited by about 20-30, mostly elderly, people.

In 1943, during the thaw in relation to religion, Orthodox Christians in Dushanbe were given a garage of “Tajikfilm”, which was tranformed by believers into a Church.

Over the past few years, the territory of the Dushanbe St. Nicholas Cathedral has changed dramatically. A greenhouse for growing lemons was built in the backyard, a shop was given a new look, and colorful mosaic images of saints were placed on the facade of the church.

 

The spiritual and educational center is also almost completed; this center will host courses on Russian language and literature, recitation, theatrical skills and much more.

 

According to the representative of the press-center of the Dushanbe Cathedral father Vladimir, the number of Russian-speaking parishioners is becoming smaller. But at the same time, there are more young people and a growing number of men attending the services.

 

Also in Dushanbe, there is a Chapel of the Iveron Icon of the Holy Mother at the 201 Russian military base, which is regularly visited by about 50 people. The room of the chapel is very small and does not allow accommodation of more parishioners.

The church was opened in 2008 and built on donations from the military personnel. In total, there are more than 2,000 Orthodox Christians in the deployed Russian military contingent.

Another church honoring the Iveron Icon of the Holy Mother is located in the city of Buston (former Chkalovsk). It appeared in 1992 on the premises of the small funeral services enterprise “Help”.  The construction of a new church building began on the allocated land began a year later; it was completed in 1994.

According to senior priest Vladimir Slepov, the Church is visited by about 30 parishioners, and up to 50 people come to the holiday services.

In the Khatlon region of Tajikistan, the Orthodox Church appeared in 1945 in the city of Bokhtar — the Church of Saint Archistratigus Michael. The construction of a new church began in 2008 and is now nearly over.

Around the same time as the Church of Saint Archistratigus Michael, an Orthodox church started operating in the city of Tursunzade. According to some reports, the Church of the Intercession of Hoy Mother was opened in 1945, according to other – in 1944.

In 1961, during Khrushchev’s persecution of the Church, this church was closed and a shop was opened on its territory. The church was reopened in 1990.

A chapel in honor of the Holy Prince Alexander Nevsky was opened in 2004 in the city of Nurek on the basis of the Russian Space Forces’ military unit 52168. The services are rarely held here because of the absence of a priest.

There are two more temples on the territory of Tajikistan not yet transferred to the Church. They are located in Khorog and Istaravshan.


This publication was produced under IWPR project “Stability in Central Asia via Open Dialogue”.

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