KHATLON (Ḵatlān), one of the three provinces of Tajikistan, located in the southwestern part of the country. 

Khatlon Province was created in 1988, and, after a short period of suspension, was reestablished in 1992. Khatlon consolidates the former provinces of Kulāb and Kurgan Tepe, which remain topographically separated by a mountain ridge. Accordingly, the new province is also referred to as eastern and western Khatlon, corresponding, respectively, to its constituent parts, Kulāb and Kurgan Tepe. Occupying an area of 24,800 km2 or 9,600 square miles (constituting 17 percent of Tajikistan’s territory), Khatlon is bounded by Afghanistan on the south and southeast, Uzbekistan on the west, the Districts of Republican Subordination (centered at Dushanbe) on the north, and Badaḵšān Province on the northeast. The latter two plus Sughd Province and Khatlon Province constitute the four first-level administrative units of Tajikistan Republic.

The population of Khatlon Province, according to an estimate, was 2.6 million in 2008, or 36 percent of Tajikistan’s total. The province’s major urban centers were Kulab with 97,000 and Kurgan Tepe with 72,000 inhabitants. As Khatlon’s administrative center, the city of Kurgan Tepe (Qūrḡonteppa in Tajik, Kurgan-Tyube in Russian) is strategically and economically important owing to its location at the crossroads of highways and railroads that connect it to Dushanbe, Kabul, and Termez (in Uzbekistan). Khatlon plays a vital role in nation’s economy through its cotton plantations and hydropower stations on the Vaḵš River (see more in ECONOMY vii. IN TAJIKISTAN; KULĀB; KURGAN TEPE).

Unlike the more stable position of Sughd (former Khujand and Leninabad) and Badaḵšān Provinces, southern-central Tajikistan has been subject to several administrative changes ever since Tajikistan was founded. The province of Khatlon has no antecedence in the history of Tajikistan as a single territorial unit embracing both Kulāb and Kurgan Tepe. Newfangled is the very toponym “Khatlon” as well: it alludes to the medieval province known variously as Ḵatlān, Ḵotlān, Ḵottal or Ḵottalān, which corresponds geographically to modern Kulab, lying between the Vaḵš and Panj Rivers; on the other hand, modern Kurgan Tepe corresponds to medieval Vaḵš and Čaḡāniān Provinces.

Within the province Khatlon, internal administrative divisions (Figure 1) have been growing to a finer mosaic of districts (nohiyas, nāḥias), up to 24 districts in 2013, each divided into smaller units called jamoats (jamāʿats), which correspond roughly to the “counties” in the United States, although the role that the Tajik administrative units play in budgetary and electoral politics is probably not as prominent as of those in the West. Even so, district name changes do reflect the government’s efforts in nation building and in enhancing Tajik national identity since the independence of Tajikistan from the Soviet Union in 1991. Thus, in Khatlon Province, the former district of Moskva (Moscow) was renamed after Sayyed ʿAli Hamadāni, the patron saint of the independent republic, and Sovet (Soviet) was renamed Timurmalek, that is Timur Malek Ḵojandi, who is venerated for having led the people of Ḵojand in their struggle against the invading Mongols in 1220. Similarly, the district of Kuĭbyshev, having been renamed Ḵˇājamastān for a brief time period after the independence, was named after ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Jāmi, one of the major figures in Persian classical poetry. In the choice of new names, Jalāl-al-Din Rumi was won by the former Kolḵozābād, a humble Soviet Tajik toponym for communal cotton farms (kolkhoz). The urge for the splendid early days did not even spare such an authentic toponym as Bēškand, which was renamed after the celebrated Persian poet Nāṣer Ḵosrow Qobādiāni, owing to a local tradition that lay claim to his birthplace. The new designation Bāḵtar (for former Oktyabr district) is a modern reconstruction of the Old Persian form Bāxtriš or Greek Bactria, which otherwise survives in New Persian as Balḵ. Likewise, Qāżi-Malek was deemed expendable in favor of Ḵorāsān, the medieval super-province, which has gained considerable weight in modern Tajik historiography. 

For geography, economy, and history of Khatlon, see KULĀB and KURGAN TEPE. See also ECONOMY vii. IN TAJIKISTAN; EDUCATION xxviii. IN TAJIKISTAN

Bibliography (online resources accessed 30 June 2015): 

Ḥabib Borjiān, “Tājikestān,” in Kāżem Musawi Bojnurdi, ed., Dāʾerat-al-maʿāref-e bozorg-e eslāmi XIV, Tehran, 2007, pp. 247-60.

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Jalol Ikromī, Ḵatlon. Roman, Dushanbe, 1985.

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Sayrakhmon Nazriyev, “Kolkhozabadskiĭ raĭon Tadzhikistana pereimenovan v raiĭon Dzhaloliddina Rumi,” Tsentr Aziya, 25 June 2007, at

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(Habib Borjian)

Cite this article:

Habib Borjian, "KHATLON," Encyclopædia Iranicaonline edition, 2015, available at (accessed on 01 July 2015).