Letter: A civil war that is often ignored

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The Independent Online
Sir: I was very glad at last to see a serious report on the Tajik civil war, which has been raging for several months now while the British press has almost ignored it ('Russia takes sides in Tajikistan war', 17 February). At the same time, in my view, your correspondent did not reflect the gravity of the situation.

Your Russian namesake (Nezavisimaia gazeta) reported on 6 February that in the fighting, an estimated 20,000-60,000 people (according to different reports) have been killed, 150,000 have disappeared and half a million have been made homeless.

Furthermore, it seems that the so-called Popular Front, which recently seized power, has been conducting a reign of terror against Muslims, democrats and people from regions that supported the overthrown government.

We are often told that the situation in the former Soviet Union is much less serious than in former Yugoslavia, and for the most part that is true. The recent history of Tajikistan shows, however, that fighting of Bosnian proportions is, in fact, taking place in one area of former Soviet territory, and that the Russians may be tempted to intervene in a quasi-imperial role. Is the West watching? Let us have more reports from Tajikistan.

Yours sincerely,


Professor of Russian History

School of Slavonic and

East European Studies

University of London

London, WC1

18 February