TAJIKS BUYING UP KYRGYZ HOMES NEAR BORDER  As Kyrgyz move out in search of a 
better life abroad, their neighbours from Tajikistan are buying up homes.  By 
Elmurad Jusupaliev and Gulnara Mambetalieva in Kyrgyzstan, and Alisher Akhunov 
and Akmal Kadamov in Tajikistan


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As Kyrgyz move out in search of a better life abroad, their neighbours from 
Tajikistan are buying up homes.

By Elmurad Jusupaliev and Gulnara Mambetalieva in Kyrgyzstan, and Alisher 
Akhunov and Akmal Kadamov in Tajikistan

The authorities in Kyrgyzstan are concerned that people from neighbouring 
Tajikistan are buying up homes as residents move away from the south of the 
country to escape a life of poverty.

Officials have expressed fears that if Tajiks become the dominant population 
along some parts of Kyrgyzstan’s southern border, it could lead to a form of de 
facto annexation on a frontier where many stretches have yet to be demarcated. 

Tajik officials refused to confirm or deny rumours that people were being given 
loans to buy homes across the border.

The issue gained national prominence earlier this month when State Secretary 
Adakhan Madumarov said, “Tajik and Uzbek expansion in the south of the republic 
is taking on threatening dimensions.” 

In remarks quoted by the AKIpress news agency on June 20, he said, 
“All the young people in Kyrgyzstan are leaving the border areas, and there is 
creeping expansion from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan… This is because we are 
unable to provide them with a decent life. So they’re going off to make money 
in Russia and Kazakstan.” 


Batken region is the poorest part of Kyrgyzstan, and unemployment is high. With 
no industry to speak of, agriculture is the main source of income, although 
water shortages make it impossible to grow the more profitable crops – cotton, 
tobacco and grains. 

Many people choose to move to the richer north of Kyrgyzstan or further afield 
to Russia and Kazakstan in search of work. Most migrate seasonally, while a 
proportion eventually settle permanently in their new place of work. 

As Kyrgyz member of parliament Murat Juraev explained, “We calculate that 
around 40 per cent of people in the Batken and Lailak districts [both part of 
Batken region], close to Tajikistan, have gone off to Kazakstan or Russia. 
About ten per cent of the population here has moved permanently to those 

Anarbek, a 40-year-old farmer in the village of Dostuk in the Batken region, 
said that some settlement are now populated only by children and the elderly 
because so many people have left for Bishkek, Russia or Kazakstan.

“There’s no work in the village, there’s permanent unemployment, and there’s a 
serious problem with irrigation water, so many villagers are leaving,” he said.

Batken forms a sort of peninsula in the southwestern corner of Kyrgyzstan, and 
is sandwiched between Uzbekistan to the north and Tajikistan to the south. 

Although the Kyrgyz are leaving because they find economic conditions 
unsustainable, the area is still attractive to Tajiks, squeezed by poverty at 
home. Many buy or rent homes from the Kyrgyz migrants.

“When they leave, people in these border areas sell their houses, but their 
fellow villagers don’t have the money to buy them and instead they are 
purchased mainly by Tajik nationals,” said Juraev, adding, “A parliamentary 
group has found that in one village alone, Tajik nationals had bought up 95 
houses, and if you were to go around all the border villages, that figure would 
be multiplied dozens of times over.”

Tahmina, 35, was among those seeking a better life when she moved to Kyrgyzstan 
with her husband Omirjon and their three children to a few months ago. They 
left their home in the Tajik border town of Kistokus and bought a small house 
in the village of Tash Tumshuk.

“Kistokus is a very densely populated town with 50,000 residents. We had no 
jobs, and no land on which to grow vegetables or keep animals,” explained 
Tahmina. “It’s easier for us to feed the family and give our children a future 
if we’re living in Kyrgyzstan. The locals treat us well and we haven’t fallen 
out with any of them.” 


The sense that the de facto occupation of Kyrgyz lands has greater political 
implications – including possible territorial claims by Tajikistan down the 
line – is a common theme among officials. 

“We’re very worried about this as the border areas are emptying,” Dosmir 
Uzbekov, deputy head of Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee for Migration, told IWPR. 
“As people leave, these areas are naturally resettled by people from adjacent 
parts of neighbouring states. And that is not good news – it could mean we 
could lose our territory, because a state consists principally of people, 
rather than just land.”

A former regional official from Batken, who did not want to be named, added the 
warning that “if the settlement of Kyrgyz villages by Tajiks continues at the 
present pace, they will become the majority population in border areas in ten 
years’ time. So one can therefore predict that in 40 years, Lailak and Batken 
districts will become part of Tajikistan.” 

While Kyrgyz residents of Batken region interviewed by IWPR said they get on 
well with Tajiks, some echoed the concerns about loss of sovereignty.

“We don’t have problems with Tajik nationals. If ever there are any problems, 
it’s over mundane issues,” said Nurbek, another resident of Dostuk. “But all 
the same, this is our land. More and more Tajiks are coming here, so what will 
happen in 100 years’ time? Will it only be Tajiks living on our land?” 

The Tajik foreign ministry refused to comment on Madumarov’s comments, telling 
IWPR it possessed no information on the matters he raised.

A source at the Soghd regional department of the State Committee for National 
Security dismissed the allegations out of hand. 

“There’s no expansion taking place; it is all just rumour,” said the source, 
adding that such issues would be resolved once and for all when the two 
governments finally establish where the border lies. 

Work to map the frontier and demarcate it on the ground – on a route which cuts 
through farmland and inaccessible mountain terrain – has being going on for 
four years. As the security source pointed out, the process is both difficult 
and costly.

In the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh, human rights activist Sadikjan Mahmudov 
accused politicians of exaggerating the level of immigration to boost their 
patriotic credentials.

He pointed out that official government statistics show that ethnic Kyrgyz 
still account for 95 per cent of Batken region’s population.

“The politicians are saying the Tajiks are expanding in Batken while the number 
of Kyrgyz is dropping day by day, but the statistics tell a completely 
different story,” he said. “Who should we believe - members of parliament, the 
State Secretary or the statistics?”


Kyrgyz laws prohibit the sale of property to foreigners, but practice is 
thought to be common. The transaction is conducted without formal documentation 
and the authorities are not informed. 

Rumours are also circulating that the Tajik authorities are actively helping 
their citizens buy up Kyrgyz houses by granting them loans for this purpose.

“I’ve heard that the Tajikistan authorities are deliberately giving their 
citizens small loans so that they can buy houses in Kyrgyzstan,” said Nurbek.

He added that the loans meant Tajiks were able to price Kyrgyz buyers out of 
the market. “It’s to an owner’s advantage to sell to whichever person offers 
the highest prices,” he said. 

Taalay Ibraimov, head of the village council in Aksy, also in Batken region, 
said there have been cases where Tajik buyers had paid two or three times the 
going rate for homes.

Tashtemir Eshaliev of the Batken regional administration said that even through 
it was definitely illegal for Tajik nationals to buy real estate, it was hard 
to identify offenders as local officials could be bribed into supplying 
documentation to make such sales look legal. 

“It’s also impossible to prove that this purchase was illegal, because the 
legal documents for the property are drawn up correctly.”

Ilhom Jamalov, a spokesman for the Soghd regional government in northern 
Tajikistan, was unable to confirm or deny allegations that the authorities were 
lending people money to buy Kyrgyz homes.


In the face of what they see as government inaction, some villagers in have 
taken matters into their own hands and banned residents from selling to foreign 

“We’ve observed an increasing number of Tajiks on our lands, and if things go 
on like that, everyone will soon forget these lands belong to Kyrgyzstan. So we 
decided to take control ourseves,” Kanibek Ibrahimov, the community leader in 
the village of Mingbulak, told IWPR. “Our community prohibits the sale of 
houses and land to citizens of other countries, and we supervise each purchase 
and sale ourselves.” 

He added that no attempt would be made to reverse purchases that have already 
been made. “We can’t drive Tajiks out of homes they purchased illegally, 
because they have registered these houses [ostensibly] according to the correct 
legal procedure, although circumventing the law,” he said.

Some people are unhappy with such arrangements. Murat Ajibekov left the village 
of Isfana ten years ago to settle in Russia, and became a citizen of that 
country. He returned home recently to sell his house and take his family away 
with him – “from poor Isfana to rich Yekaterinburg”.

But the locals are preventing him from selling to Tajik buyers.

“There’s no one in the village who’s in a position to buy the house. I’d sell 
it to my fellow villagers for half the price, but they don’t even have that 
much money. And the Tajiks are offering me good money. Why shouldn’t I sell? At 
the end of the day it’s my house… I think I’ll sell it to Tajiks anyway despite 
the ban.”


Central and local government are concerned about the exodus of Kyrgyz from the 
south and are attempting to improve conditions so that people will choose to 

“The state has started to deal with this problem,” said local government 
official Ibraimov, “The Batken regional administration and our own [Aksy] 
village council have recently been…. Explaining things to people and asking 
them not to sell, but rather to remain and live on their land.” 

He noted that some practical steps had been taken, for example a project to 
supply the village of Tam Tumshuk with electricity from the end of August, and 
a new primary school for the same settlement. 

President Kurmanbek Bakiev visited the region in March, and according to 
Ibraimov, house sales subsequently showed a dip. 

“At a public meeting, he told them they shouldn’t sell their houses. If they do 
decide to leave and sell up, [he said] they should sell it to the state. It 
will buy their house,” said Ibraimov. 

Uzbekov of Kyrgyzstan’s migration committee said the fundamental problems 
facing people in Batken should be addressed by economic measures rather than 
government edicts.

He called for special programmes designed to correct the vast imbalance between 
living standards in rural and urban areas, including better schooling and 
healthcare and improvements to agriculture.

“These programmes must finance an increase in the living standard of village 
residents, raise the level of teaching and education at village schools, and 
improve medical services,” he said.

That is the sort of help Oygul Turgunova, 35, might welcome. She is a resident 
of Oksoi, a village which belongs to Batken region but is physically an enclave 
in Tajikistan, and complains that the Kyrgyz government is doing nothing to 
address the problems of unemployment and poverty there.

“The young people here go off to Russia to work. Our lives here are very hard, 
and the Kyrgyz government doesn’t care about us. We have very good relations 
with the Tajiks, but what good is that friendship on an empty stomach?”

Elmurad Jusupaliev and Gulnara Mambetalieva are IWPR contributors in 
Kyrgyzstan, and Alisher Akhunov and Akmal Kadamov are contributors based in 

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