Tajikistan

The Rise of a Narco-State

Published In: Journal of Drug Issues, v. 37, no. 4, Oct. 2007, p. 951-979

Posted on RAND.org on October 01, 2007

by Letizia Paoli, Irina Rabkov, Victoria A. Greenfield, Peter Reuter

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Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Tajikistan has experienced an extraordinary and devastating expansion of opiate trafficking and consumption. While heroin was virtually unknown in the country up to the mid-1990s and opium was produced and consumed locally only to a modest degree, in less than a decade Tajikistan has become a key transit country for Afghan opiates bound north- and westwards, at the same time as it has witnessed a rapid growth of domestic heroin use. Tajikistan now rivals Afghanistan for the unenviable title of the country most dependent on the illicit drug industry, with the opiate industry adding at least 30% to the recorded gross domestic product. The opiate trade is so important economically that it corrupts the whole political system. This article therefore argues that since the mid-1990s Tajikistan has become a narco-state, in which leaders of the most powerful trafficking groups occupy high-ranking government positions and misuse state structures for their own illicit businesses.

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