Reviews

By two genuine connoisseurs of the anthropology of Tajikistan, this short panoramic article deals with the demographic and the economic and religious life of the peoples of the Higher Badakhshan Autonomous Region of Tajikistan.  The complex ethno-linguistic of the Western Pamir is briefly evoked, notably through the numerous approximations in the censuses of the Soviet period (data summarised in three clear tables), and through the assimilation processes of the 1950s onwards.  The degradation of the economic situation in the aftermath of the dissolution of the USSR is attributed for a large part to the massive return of migrants to Badakhshan.  The authors stress than despite the massive humanitarian assistance provided since 1993 by the Agha Khan Foundation, and the successive implementation of development programmes, Badakhshan does not yet manage to provide for its population—partly for demographic reasons, partly because of the extreme division of arable land.  The longer last chapter deals with the confessional peculiarities of the Isma‘iliyya in the Pamir, insisting on the consequences of the closure by the Soviet power, in 1936, of the boundary with Afghanistan, which brought about the breaking off of relations with the remaining part of the Isma‘ili world.  The authors shed light on the role of the khalifas in the preservation of ritual activity during the Soviet period, and on the practice of maddah-khwani as a unique means of transmission of spiritual and religious values through the twentieth century.  The article ends with an evocation of the role played by the Agha Khan since 1995 in the reactivation of the links with the international Isma‘ili community.  As usually in ethnographical studies, little interest is shown in the intellectual content of religion.  As to the current tensions between concurrent branches of the Isma‘iliyya in Tajikistani Badakhshan—most particularly between the “Agha-khani” and “Khuja” trends—, they are carefully eluded.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-2.4-133