The Rural Majority
In the last decade of the Soviet era, the rural population of Tajikistan grew in both absolute and relative terms. By 1989 the rural population had risen to 3,437,498, or 68 percent of the total population, an increase of nearly 1 million people over the 1979 figure. By the 1980s, the republic had more than 3,000 inhabited villages, of which about one-quarter had 200 inhabitants or fewer. Observers have estimated that 75 to 89 percent of all Tajikistantis were villagers in 1990.
The rural standard of living is considerably below that of urban areas. Sanitation often is poor, and in many cases no safe source of drinking water is available. By the late 1980s, fewer than half of rural inhabitants and only 14 percent of collective farm residents had a piped-in water supply. In the same period, hundreds of villages lacked electricity, and some had no access to telephones or radio or television broadcasts (see Transportation and Telecommunications, this ch.). Many rural areas experienced shortages of doctors and teachers. The ratio of hospital beds to inhabitants is much lower in rural Tajikistan than in urban areas and far worse than the average for the former Soviet Union as a whole (see Health Care System, this ch.). Even large villages are unlikely to have libraries or other cultural facilities.
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