Industrial development in Tajikistan has proceeded slowly and inefficiently, both in the Soviet era and afterward. The civil war and ensuing political turmoil kept production levels low in the mid-1990s.
Tajikistan's industrial development began in earnest in the late 1930s. The early emphasis was on processing cotton and manufacturing construction materials. World War II was a major stimulus to industrial expansion. The output of existing factories was increased to meet wartime demands, and some factories were moved to the republic from the European part of the Soviet Union to safeguard them from the advancing German army.
Skilled workers who relocated to Tajikistan from points west received preferential treatment, including substantially higher wages than those paid to Tajiks; this practice continued long after the war. Such migrants provided the bulk of the labor force in many of the republic's industries through the end of the Soviet era. Cotton textile mills and metallurgy, machine construction, the aluminum smelting plant, and the chemical industry all had disproportionately small percentages of Tajik workers, or none at all.
The Vakhsh River valley in southern Tajikistan became a center of extensive industrial development (see Topography and Drainage, this ch.). The river was dammed at several points to provide water for agriculture and cheap hydroelectric power, which stimulated construction of factories in the area. Many of the plants in the valley process agricultural products or provide agricultural materials such as fertilizer. A large chemical plant also uses power from the Vakhsh.
Industry in the 1990s
In the early 1990s, the configuration of industry continued to reflect the specialized roles assigned to Tajikistan within the Soviet system, hindering advancement of enterprises that utilized the republic's natural resources most effectively. The civil war also made industrial reorganization problematic.
In 1991 industry and construction contributed 43.5 percent of the country's NMP, of which industry's share was 30.6 percent--but those sectors employed only 20.4 percent of the work force. Tajikistan's only heavy manufacturing industries are aluminum and chemical production and a very small machinery and metalworking industry. The most important light industries are food processing and fabric and carpet weaving. After declining an estimated 40 percent between 1990 and 1993, industrial production dropped another 31 percent in 1994. Declines in the Dushanbe and Khujand regions exceeded that figure. The output of only five industrial products increased in 1994: high-voltage electrical equipment, textile equipment, winding machines, processed cereals, and salt. The most serious declines were in chemicals, engineering, metal processing, building materials, light industry, and food processing. According to government reports, production declines generally were greater in privately owned industries than in state enterprises.
Tajikistan's overall industrial production capacity was underutilized in the first half of the 1990s. The steadily rising cost of raw materials, fuel, and energy combined with the obsolescence of production equipment and the lack of qualified industrial workers to place Tajikistani industrial products, which never had been of especially high quality, at a great disadvantage in foreign markets.
Tajikistan's major industrial enterprise is the aluminum processing plant at Regar in the western part of the republic. When the plant opened in 1975, it included the world's largest aluminum smelter, with a capacity of 500,000 tons per year. But difficulties arose in the early 1990s because of the civil war and unreliable raw material supply. Aluminum production and quality began to decline in 1992 because Azerbaijan and Russia cut the supply of semiprocessed alumina upon which the plant depended. By 1995 the plant's management was predicting a yearly output of 240,000 tons, still less than half the maximum capacity. The prolonged decline was caused by outmoded equipment, low world prices for aluminum, the emigration of much of the plant's skilled labor force, difficulties in obtaining raw materials, and continued disruption resulting from the civil war.
In the Soviet period, several minerals, including antimony, mercury, molybdenum, and tungsten, were mined in Tajikistan; the Soviet system assigned Tajikistan to supply specific raw or partially processed goods to other parts of the Soviet Union. For example, nearly all of Tajikistan's gold went to Uzbekistan for processing. However, in the 1990s the presence in Tajikistan of a hitherto-secret uranium-mining and preliminary-processing operation became public for the first time. The operation, whose labor force included political prisoners and members of nationalities deported by Stalin from certain autonomous republics of the Russian Republic, may have accounted for almost one-third of total mining in the Soviet Union. According to official Tajikistani reports, the mines were exhausted by 1990.
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