Middle Corridor, 'Aryan Arc' or Arc of Instability? The situation in Tajikistan and the South Caucasus

08.04.24 13:20

The global competition between India and China for the title of 'world's workshop' may become a reality in the coming years. While China currently has a better starting position, India is catching up and overtaking in many indicators. The most significant resource is demographics, with India already surpassing China, which is experiencing a decline.  India, on the other hand, continues to grow.


The rivalry between China and India will inevitably focus on transport and transit communications, which are crucial for accessing the world's leading markets. Both India and China are interested in Europe, where China is successfully establishing the Middle Corridor through Central Asia and the South Caucasus. India also aims to create its own corridors to Europe, including one via Iran-Armenia-Georgia-Black Sea. This corridor is actively promoted by the Armenian lobby and France. The US is lobbying for another corridor, referred to as the 'Indian' corridor, which would pass through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel.


Meanwhile, unstable 'state' formations in the form of 'time mines' have been strategically placed along the trans-Eurasian corridors. One such example is the Republic of Armenia, which has an aggressive nationalist ideology and territorial claims against its neighbours. Another significant state project is located in the pivotal point of Eurasia - Tajikistan.


It is noteworthy that Tajikistan did not exist before 1924 and is not recognized in historical science. The administrative entity under this name first appeared in October 1924 as an autonomous republic within the Uzbek SSR. It is not even 100 years old, and its status was upgraded to a union republic in 1929.


The creation of Persian-speaking Tajikistan apparently occurred simultaneously with the British campaign of 'Aryanisation' in their possessions and dependent countries. Almost half of the population of Tajikistan were originally Turkic-speaking Uzbeks. This campaign was based on a historical myth of confrontation between the 'ancient and cultural' Aryans, which included Persian-speaking peoples and Khayyas, and the 'wild nomads' - Turks. When Tajikistan was being established in the USSR, the Turkic Qajar dynasty was removed in Iran with the assistance of the British in 1925, and the Pahlavi dynasty was installed. The Pahlavi dynasty pursued a policy of Persianisation and suppressed all things Turkic.


In the USSR, where there were five Turkic union republics and many Turkic autonomies, such a policy was feared. However, the term 'Aryans' (referring to Indo-European peoples such as the Khayyas and Tajiks) began to be contrasted with the Turks, with an emphasis on the former's antiquity and culture.


A speech given by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin during a reception at the Kremlin for participants of the Tajik art decade on April 22, 1941, sheds light on this matter. Prior to the invasion of the so-called 'true Aryans', the Nazis had only two months left. It is worth noting that Stalin's speech, with its theses, bears a striking resemblance to the theses about the 'antiquity and culture of Aryans' that were popular in Europe at that time, including Nazi Germany.


I would like to discuss Tajiks briefly. Tajiks are a distinct people, separate from Uzbeks, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz. They are the oldest people in Central Asia and the name Tajik means 'bearer of the crown', a title given to them by the Iranians which they have lived up to. Among the non-Russian Muslim peoples in the USSR, Tajiks are the only non-Turkic, Iranian people. Tajiks are a people whose intelligentsia gave birth to the great poet Ferdowsi. They trace their cultural traditions back to him. During the decade, Joseph Stalin noted that Tajiks have a finer artistic sense, with their ancient culture and special artistic taste manifested in music, song, and dance.


In general, if we were to replace the word 'Tajik' with the word 'Armenian', Stalin's speech would resemble standard Armenian nationalist propaganda. The creators of 'Aryan' historical falsifications figuratively 'crowned themselves' and introduced myths about their 'special high culture'. Although the culture of Tajiks is intertwined with that of Turkic-Uzbeks, it is inseparable from it.


Following the alleged 'deadly confrontation' between the USSR and the 'bourgeois world', a unique 'Aryan arc' of artificial formations, supposedly representing 'ancient peoples', was established across Eurasia. This was later supplemented by Kurdish separatism.


However, after the collapse of the USSR, this 'Aryan arc' transformed into an 'arc of instability'. The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is well known, but Tajikistan also experienced a civil war in the early 1990s. Russia was able to maintain its influence over Tajikistan at that time, but there is now a possibility that Russia may lose its grip on the country. Armenia is also facing challenges as a nation.


The Pashinyan regime is actively inviting France, Iran, and India to Armenia, rather than Russia. Iran has interests in Tajikistan, but its expansion in this country may face opposition from unexpected sources.


China is aware that India, its rival, also emphasises the 'Aryan past' in its state ideology and may use 'Aryan projects' to intercept or cut transit routes to Europe. Therefore, the geopolitical situation may force China to expand towards Tajikistan. This expansion is not just economic, but also military, which is a recent development for China.


It is believed by some experts that due to Russia's 'withdrawal' from Central Asia, China may need to increase its military cooperation with Central Asian countries and establish Chinese military bases in the region to safeguard the transit routes of the Middle Corridor from potential disruptions.


Chinese military bases in Central Asia can ensure the uninterrupted functioning of the 'One Belt, One Road' initiative and promote stability in the region. Additionally, these bases could facilitate the creation of a land route connecting China to Iran and the Arab countries, allowing for the transportation of various goods, including Middle Eastern energy.  It is unlikely that the United States would be able to disrupt this route.


Intensive military cooperation between China and Tajikistan has led to discussions about the possibility of Chinese military bases being established in Central Asia. Tajikistan, the weakest country in the region both militarily and economically, is the furthest from Russia and has the longest border with Afghanistan.


While the deployment of Chinese military bases in other countries in the region is theoretically possible, it remains to be seen if this will happen. The deployment pace and order of Chinese military facilities in Central Asian countries will depend on the general geopolitical situation and the degree of economic dependence of each country on China.


The higher the dependence, the easier it will be for Beijing to place its military bases. Tajikistan is likely to be followed by Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan is the last country that could potentially agree to the placement of a Chinese base, but it is unlikely to happen.   This is because Kazakhstan is not interested in allowing its territory to be used for geopolitical confrontation.


Additionally, the U.S. and India are likely to oppose any expansion of China. As the geopolitical forces lack direct access to the region following the US expulsion from Afghanistan, it is possible to use Iran as a proxy without detection.


Despite its formal hostility towards the United States, Iran may also oppose Chinese expansion into the Central Asian region. This is particularly relevant since the enmity between Tehran and Washington does not prevent Armenia, under Pashinyan's leadership, from falling under US control. Despite its new aspirations towards the EU and NATO, Armenia does not intend to sever ties with Tehran.


Therefore, Iran could potentially intervene in Tajikistan with the tacit consent of the US in order to balance China's influence in the region. The US did not object to Iran using the benefits of its victory over Saddam Hussein, nor did it object to the outcome of the civil war in Syria, which was also initiated with US participation. In Central Asia, Iran's military expansion through northern Afghanistan into Tajikistan is also highly probable, with tacit support from the US and India. In the end, a potential confrontation between China and India may involve pre-created 'Aryan projects'.  These projects could become time mines on transit communications in the future, with 'Western curatorship' over them, which, judging by recent trends, has been transferred to France.


Such complex geopolitical combinations could lead to new wars and conflicts along the entire 'Aryan arc'. Tajikistan is facing a serious struggle, which is further complicated by the presence of extremist organizations within the country.



Alexandre Zakariadze

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