Fwd: Ethnic minorities in Azerbaijan - Khinaliq example

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Date: Tue, 5 Jun 2001 16:39:00 +0300 (EEST)
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Subject: Fwd: Ethnic minorities in Azerbaijan - Khinaliq example

From: MINELRES moderator <minelres@mailbox.riga.lv>

Original sender: Azer Hasret <hasret@azeurotel.com>

Fwd: Ethnic minorities in Azerbaijan - Khinaliq example

Hi Azer,
I am not currently subscribed to Minelres, but perhaps this story
might represent interest to the subscribers on the freedom ethnic
minorities enjoy in Azerbaijan. Of course the fact that some 20,000
Armenians live in Baku and northern parts of the country is the best
proof to that, as well as the fact that some 70 ethnic minorities live
in Azerbaijan - the highest such number in all of South Caucasus.

Broadcast on Thursday 4th November 1999


My name is Anver Hajib Mohammed Mamedov. I am the headmaster of the
school here in the village of Khinalig. I am a Khinaligian. About
2,500 people live in the village. And we speak our own language:
Khinalig, which we call Ketsh. Everyone speaks it. The first words a
child learns are in Khinalig. Our language is a matter of life and
death for us. And this village is the only place in the world where it
is spoken.
Khinalig is a completely different language from any other. It used to
be just a spoken language. But it was written down by linguists from
Moscow in the 1960s. This is important, because it means that we can
teach the language in school. Yet it wasn't possible to do this in the
days of the Soviet Union, because they didn't take ethnic minority
rights seriously then. It was when Azerbaijan became independent that
the President issued a decree giving ethnic minorities the right to
teach their own languages and to publish books. And we are taking
advantage of this decree.

The trouble is: the times are changing. One of the things the teachers
talk about is the old words of Khinalig that are disappearing. They
tell the children: "These words exist, and must not be lost". But
parts of our old way of life have disappeared. And so have the words
that described them. For example, there are words for clothes that
used to exist, but no longer do. So far, we don't have any books for
teaching Khinalig. But this year, the Ministry of Education is going
to publish a book for children learning the alphabet. And we have one
book that has already been printed - which is a book of poetry by a
Khinalig writer: Rahi Malkhaz. It has his own poems and translations
of Azeri classic poets.

We use our own language all the time to talk among ourselves. But for
official business we use the Azeri language. We use Azeri in school
and in any government business. If it could be possible, I would like
to start teaching subjects such as history in Khinalig. But first we
need another scholar to develop and produce the books. This is
something that only a Khinaligian can do. I've never written poems or
stories in Khinalig. But when I was doing military service in the
army, I wrote to my parents in the language. It meant I was able to
use strong words to describe our poor living conditions. Normally this
wouldn't have got past the Soviet censors. But I did my military
service in the far east. And where would you find a Khinalig speaker
in the far east? 

Our language has been able to survive because up to now the Khinalig
people have lived all together in one small area. No-one ever even
thought about leaving. But now everyone wants convenience and comfort.
They all have television. They can see how people live elsewhere. And
their sons go to work in Russia and other foreign countries. When they
come back, they say to us: "How can you live here? There is not even a
road so that people can come to our weddings!" And this is our main
problem. With no road, it makes it very difficult to get here, or to
travel to the nearest town. And over the last five or six years,
people have been moving away from the village. If there was a road, I
don't think the Khinalig people would leave. Because everything a
person needs for life is here: nature, the river, and everything.

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