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The Tajik ethnic minority (4)

(People's Daily)

09:50, August 11, 2011

Social System Before 1949

The Tajik people were mainly engaged in animal husbandry and farming, but productivity was very low, unable to provide enough animal by-products in exchange for grain, tea, cloth and other necessities. The economic polarization resulting from heavy feudal oppression was best illustrated by the distribution of the means of production. The majority of the Tajik herdsmen owned very small herds, so that they were unable to maintain even the lowest standard of living, and still others had none at all. A small number of rich herdsmen not only owned numerous yaks, camels, horses and sheep, but held by force vast tracts of pasturage and fertile farmland.

In the Tajik areas, the chief means of exploitation used by rich herd owners was hiring laborers, who received only one sheep and one lamb as pay for tending 100 sheep over a period of six months. The pay for tending 200 sheep for the herd owner for one year was just the wool and milk from 20 ewes. Herd owners also extorted free service from poor herdsmen through the tradition of "mutual assistance within the clan."

Tajik peasants in Shache, Zepu, Yecheng and other farming areas were cruelly exploited by the landlords. In those areas, "gang farming" was a major way of exploitation. Besides paying rent in kind that took up two-thirds of their total output, tenants had to work without pay on plots managed by the landlords themselves every year, and even the peasants' wives and daughters had to work for the landlords. There was practically no difference between tenants and serfs except that the former had a bit of personal freedom.

There were all kinds of taxes and levies in both pastoral and rural areas. Especially during the 1947-1949 period, the Tajik herdsmen in Taxkorgan were forced to hand in more than 3,000 sheep and 500 tons of forage and firewood a year to the reactionary government. Poverty-stricken under heavy exploitation, the Tajik people were unable to make a decent living, and widespread diseases reduced their population to just about 7,000 when Xinjiang was liberated in December 1949.

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