Tajikistan country profile
Battered by a five-year civil war at the onset of its independence, Tajikistan has struggled with poverty and instability in the two decades since it became its own state.
The country remains strongly dependent on Russia, both for its economy and to help counter security problems. In particular, Tajikistan depends on Moscow to help fight drug smuggling from neighbouring Afghanistan and an emerging radical Islam movement.
Tajikistan is also expanding its ties with China: Beijing has extended credits and has helped to build roads, tunnels and power infrastructure. Chinese firms are investing in oil and gas exploration and in gold mining.
President: Emomali Sharipovich Rakhmon (Rakhmonov)
Emomali Rakhmon, a former cotton farm boss, was elected to president in 1994. He was re-elected in 1999 for a seven-year term - and won a third term in 2006, in an election international observers decried as neither free nor fair. He secured a fourth term in 2013.
Rakhmon played a vital role in Tajikistan's civil war, helping the pro-Communist effort to remove Islamist rebels from Dushanbe in the early 1990s.
After years of civil war and violence, some stability returned to Tajikistan. The president has a firm grip on power, however. But he enjoys popular support and citizens appear thankful for the end of the civil war.
The US-based human rights watchdog Freedom House rated Tajikistan as "not free" in its 2014 Freedom of the Press report. The report accused President Rakhmon's government of maintaining "intense pressure" on Tajik independent media.
The authorities also routinely block websites and social media platforms, including Russia's Odnoklassniki, Facebook and YouTube. But users are adept at using proxies to get around this. Opposition websites operate mainly from abroad.
Some key dates in Tajikistan's history:
13th century - Genghis Khan conquers Tajikistan and the rest of Central Asia, which becomes part of the Mongol Empire.
1860-1900 - Tajikistan is divided, with the north coming under Tsarist Russian rule while the south is annexed by the Emirate of Bukhara.
1921 - Northern Tajikistan becomes part of the Bolshevik-designated Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR), which also included Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, part of northern Turkmenistan and southern Kazakhstan. In 1929, Tajik ASSR becomes a Soviet Socialist Republic, separate from Uzbekistan.
1991- Supreme Soviet declares Tajikistan independent from the Soviet Union; Rahmon Nabiyev, a Communist leader, wins Tajikistan's first direct presidential election with 57% of the vote. But in 1992 anti-government demonstrations in the country escalate to a civil war that lasts for five years.
2013 - President Rakhmon wins another seven-year term in elections several months after the government blocks major foreign websites like Facebook and Radio Free Europe. Zayd Saidov, a businessman arrested for setting up an opposition party before the elections, is jailed for 26 years on a number of charges, including fraud, corruption and having sexual relations with a minor.