Tajikistan's mountainous terrain is ideally suited to the adventurous trekker, while the ancient Silk Road routes, incorporating some of the country's most stunning landscapes, offer a glimpse into a more prosperous era.
The Tajiks come from an ancient stock - the inhabitants of the Pamir Mountains claim to be the only pure descendants of the Aryan tribes who invaded India over 4,000 years ago, and that the Saxon tribes of western Europe also originated there. Tajikistan's inaccessibility has protected it from most invaders, although Alexander the Great founded a city on the site of modern-day Khojand, calling it Alexandria Eskate (Alexandria the Furthest).
Tajikistan was established as a sovereign state in 1991, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The ensuing power struggle led to civil war in late 1992, resulting in about 30,000 deaths. In 1994, Russian troops were brought in at the request of the beleaguered regime. Moscow also brokered negotiations between the government and the United Tajik Opposition (UTO).
It is now some time since the opposing parties signed a 1997 peace agreement that brought the Tajik civil war to an end, and the political situation is currently stable. Tajikistan was never well-equipped with a comprehensive infrastructure for tourists, and some sites were destroyed in the civil war, but there is still much to see.