After the Soviet census of 1989, a wave of emigration occurred. In the absence of a more recent census, the scale of that movement has not been determined reliably. It is known that non-Central Asians, especially Russians, were a large component of the émigré group. According to one estimate, about 200,000 Tajikistani citizens had left by early 1992. Among the causes of emigration in the late Soviet and early independence eras were opposition to the 1989 law that made Tajik the official language of the republic, resentment of the growing national assertiveness of Tajiks, dissatisfaction with the standard of living in the republic, fear of violence directed against non-Central Asians (a fear based partly on the Dushanbe riots of 1990 but intensified by rumor and the propaganda of communist hard-liners looking for support against a rising opposition), and, in 1992, the escalation of political violence into outright civil war. Some of the people who left Tajikistan were Germans and Jews who emigrated not just from the republic but from the Soviet Union altogether.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 50,000 to 70,000 Tajiks fled from southern Tajikistan to northern Afghanistan to escape the carnage of the civil war that began in 1992. The total number of people who fled their homes during the troubles of 1992 and 1993, either for other parts of Tajikistan or for other countries, is estimated to be at least 500,000. Most of these people probably returned to their home districts in 1993 or 1994, with help from foreign governments and international aid organizations. The return entailed hardships for many. Some were harmed or threatened by armed bands from the victorious side in the civil war. For others the difficulty lay in the devastation of homes and the collapse of the economy in districts battered by the war.
Regardless of motive, the increased emigration in the late 1980s and early 1990s deprived the republic of needed skilled workers and professionals. The number of doctors and teachers declined, and industries lost trained workers who could not be replaced.
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