RCNM Newsletter: Minorities in Azerbaijan # 2


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Subject: RCNM Newsletter: Minorities in Azerbaijan # 2

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Original sender: Nadir Kamaldinov <rcnm@azeri.com>

RCNM Newsletter: Minorities in Azerbaijan # 2


RCNM Newsletter
 
Minorities in Azerbaijan # 2
 
My colleagues and I are engaged with questions of interethnic
relations at various levels, including that of minority languages. One
of the most difficult issues is the determination of state policy on
nationality and provisions for minority languages. Certainly language
is one of the most important parameters in determining one's ethnic
affiliation. Various countries of the world offer bilingual systems of
education, others a monolingual system of which the United States is
an example. The accommodation of different linguistic communities is
an important issue. Some months ago, for example, research was
conducted on how non-English speaking organizations in Texas could
organize their work in their native language.
 
Let me refer now to the situation in Azerbaijan. The use of the
Azerbaijani language as the state language certainly does not mean
that the use of other languages is prohibited. On the contrary the
secure position of the Azerbaijani language gives greater scope for
the development of other languages. Over the past few years together
with my colleagues from the Azerbaijani Academy of Sciences and the
Institute of Linguistics, we have conducted research on minority
languages in 9 regions of Azerbaijan. In each region we spoke with the
representatives of national minority communities, including Avars,
Lezgins and Talysh, with national executive bodies, school authorities
and we also observed social occasions such as weddings. Our research
had 3 basic objectives. We wished to gain insight into the following:
 
1. The representation of the various national minorities in Azerbaijan
 
2. If the national minorities are using their own language.
 
3. Determining attitudes towards the Azerbaijani language as well as
to minority languages
 
Our results were rather unexpected, in the locations which we visited,
respondents held a positive view of their status as citizens of
Azerbaijan, regardless of their ethnic nationality as Talysh, Lezgin,
Tatar and so on. Generally a positive view was held towards the
education of their children in the Azerbaijani language. The
Azerbaijani language was seen as necessary in order to participate in
society as an integrated citizen. But this did not mean a denial of
minority national languages, which have been preserved. These are
spoken in informal spheres, while Azerbaijani is used in the work
place. In some schools the syllabus is divided equally between
Azerbaijani and the minority national language as the language of
instruction. In some villages we visited, lessons were conducted only
in the Georgian language. In the Gusar region we were interested to
note that the Lezgin language has been taught for 11 years.  In the
locations we visited we generally encountered positive attitudes
towards membership of the Azerbaijani State. But problems nevertheless
exist. Minority languages should be developed further, for example
through the translation of literary works, the establishment of
minority languages media channels and the issuing of governmental
decrees in minority languages. This development should therefore take
a variety of forms.
 
The difficulties presented by the development of a multinational
society are quite surmountable where state, non-governmental and
national minority organizations co­operate with one another. Amongst
the regions I have visited I have found that minorities living in
Azerbaijan wish to develop their own distinctive cultures, while
participating in society as citizens of Azerbaijan. They wish for the
Azerbaijani people to develop as a multinational one. Thank you for
your attention, and I am open to questions.
 
Question: Mr. Clifton, you have touched on some very interesting
issues. I would like to ask if you conducted research on this problem
only outside of Baku, or did you include Baku too?
 
Answer: We conducted our research in both Baku and the regions, but
since our concern is with the preservation of minority languages
amongst communities, we concentrated on those areas densely populated
by national minority communities.
 
Question: I would like to ask about the status of Russian in
Azerbaijan.
 
Answer: We did not deal specifically with Russian. But there are two
issues here, which I would like to deal with separately. Firstly we
must be clear about who we mean by Russian-speakers. As well as the
Russians living in this country, we have a Russian-speaking
Azerbaijani minority. Many Azerbaijanis who were educated in a
Russian-speaking milieu prefer to use Russian as their first language.
Secondly there is the issue of Russian as a lingua franca, a language
of interethnic communication. As the first language for part of
Azerbaijan's national minority population, Russian provides a medium
for interethnic dialogue. Our research on the use of Russian as a
non-native but second language is only at its initial stages; but more
thorough research is planned for the next two years. We are also
interested in the use of Russian by Azerbaijanis. In some areas that
we visited Azerbaijani was the only language in use - it was almost
impossible to hear Russian. Now that Azerbaijani is the state language
many people are turning to it rather than Russian. Parents see
Azerbaijani as the more useful language for their children to study.

Question: I hope that after you have completed your research you will
come to the conclusion that those who speak both Azerbaijani and
Russian feel themselves to be citizens of Azerbaijan.
 
Answer: Yes, I think that this is the case. Multilingualism is after
all a benefit, is it not?
 
H. Orujov: You mentioned that in one region you visited, schooling is
conducted in Georgian as the language of the local national minority.
Where was that?
 
Answer: That in the Gakh and Zakatala regions, where the local
population is Georgians, or Ingiloys. They know both the Georgian and
Azerbaijani languages. Their first is Georgian, although Azerbaijani
is also taught there.
 
H. Orujov: I would like to clarify for information purposes that they
are not Georgians but Ingiloys. There is a trilingual school in the
region, using Azerbaijani, Georgian and Russian. The Ingiloys are one
of the last surviving groups of the Caucasian Albanians. There are
researchers working on this group. According to some research that I
recently read by our scientists R. Husseynov and G. Javadov, their
colloquial language is a dialect of Georgian. According to the state
policy of Azerbaijan citizens of Azerbaijan have the right to study in
the language they desire. There are therefore schools providing
tuition in local languages.
 
Question: Have you come across cases where people do come across
difficulties because of their ethnic affiliation? For example, facing
discrimination because of being an ethnic Talysh?
 
Answer: This is a very difficult question to answer. I have come
across people who said that they know some people who had encountered
difficulties because of their nationality. But I have not come across
any cases of this myself. Also different nationalities face different
situations. Of course one would prefer to have seen direct evidence
before coming to any conclusions on this issue, and also one has to
differentiate between difficulties directly related to nationality and
those associated with living in remote regions. Some of the regions I
visited were extremely difficult to get to, so this is a factor too.
It's difficult to answer this question, but I think that there are
problems for some people because of their nationality or place of
residence.
 
Mr. John Clifton, 
Institute of National Relations of the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences.
 

--------------
Nadir Kamaldinov,
 
Director of Resource Center on National Minorities
Address: 90/2, B. Safaroglu St., Baku City, 370009,
Azerbaijan Republic
Tel/Fax: (994 12) 973 457; Mobile: (994 50) 328 83 26
E-mail: rcnm@azeri.com; nadir_kamaldinov@hotmail.com

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