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Tajikistan is a small country with a total surface area of 55,251 sq mi (143,100 km²). Tajiikistan shares international borders with China (east), Uzbekistan (west), Afghanistan (south), and Kyrgyzstan (north). With a population that reached 7,320,000 in 2006, Tajikistan has one of the lowest population densities in the world. Dushanbe became the city capital in 1929, although there were no major developments in the area until the last thirty years. Even now, Dushanbe looks more like a mountain village than a capital city, with buildings that rarely reach more than three floors.
The Republic of Tajikistan, formerly the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic, has existed as an independent country only since 1991. Before that, Tajikistan was part of the Soviet Union. However, the area that is now Tajikistan has been inhabited for at least 6000 years, first by the Persians, then by the Arabs, and finally by the Mongols. All three empires had at some point total control over the region, and used it as a secondary commerce route and an expansion for their overcrowded cities.
Under the power of the Soviet Union, Tajikistan remained one of the poorer and less developed of all Soviet Republics. Even after their independence in 1991, Tajikistan did not get a real opportunity to develop, as the country suffered through a civil war that lasted for almost eight years. Tajikistan is now a unitary state, with a citizen-elected central government that has complete power over all political offices.
Tajiks are the main ethnic group in Tajikistan, with most of the population adhering to Sunni Islam beliefs. About ten percent of the total population is of Russian or Uzbek heritage, a percentage much lower than it was just ten years ago, as more and more people are returning to their countries of origin in search of a better economic outlook for their families. As of 2006, the per capita income in Tajikistan was just $1,388 US Dollars, which puts the country in the 156th place in the world, behind many African countries. To compare, Russia is on 60th place and Belarus in the 72nd place. Major industries include aluminum and cotton, but the private sector is still poorly developed, and Tajikistan has depended mainly on foreign aid to sustain the local industry.