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The Tajik people are an ethnic group of Central Asia. They are the largest ethnic group in Tajikistan, a former Soviet Republic, and the second largest in Afghanistan (next to the Pashtun) and Uzbekistan (next to the Uzbeks). The term Tajik also refers to the language spoken by Tajiks. Originally a dialect of Farsi, the Tajik spoken in Tajikistan is now often considered a separate language (забони тоҷикӣ or زبان تاجیکی), due to the influence of Russian and the cyrillic alphabet and, to a lesser extent, neighbouring Turkic languages. Tajiks are almost exclusively Muslim, mostly Sunni but with some Shia.