For five years following its independence in 1991 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Tajikistan was embroiled in civil war; as Central Asia's poorest economy, it continues to rely heavily on Russia. Culturally, however, Tajikistan boasts of a rich history dating back thousands of years to times when the Eurasian Steppes were criss-crossed with the silk road and other trade routes. Whilst Sunni Islam is now the official religion of Tajikistan,Zoroastrianism once predominated.
Under successive Persian empires, Samarkand and Bukhara (now in Uzbekistan) were the literary centres of Tajik culture, which is closely linked to Persian literature and arts. Rumi, the 13th century Muslim poet, theologian, and Sufi mystic, was born in present-day Tajikistan.Colin Thubron's The Lost Heart of Asia is a helpful introduction to the political climate of contemporary Tajikistan and documents the changes that have occurred in the country since the break up of the Soviet Union. Notable modern Tajik writers include the Persian poet Abolqasem Lahouti, Sadriddin Aini, Loiq Sher-Ali, and Mirzo Tursunzoda.
Tajik film-making began in the 1930s, making it the oldest film industry in Central Asia. In his film Luna Papa, Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov tells the poignant story of a village girl who dreams of becoming an actress. Djamshed Usmanov, a critically acclaimed director, is the creator of the masterpiece To Get To Heaven First You Have To Die, a beautiful story of a young Tajik man and his quest for sexual liberation.