RCNM Newsletter: Minorities in Azerbaijan # 4

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Subject: RCNM Newsletter: Minorities in Azerbaijan # 4

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

RCNM Newsletter: Minorities in Azerbaijan # 4

RCNM Newsletter

Minorities in Azerbaijan # 4
My analysis will be based on a comparative perspective of the past and
present, i.e. what was the situation historically and what is it now?
Many ethnic groups live in Azerbaijan and make up, together with the
Azerbaijanis, the Azerbaijani people. We have Ukrainians, Budugs,
Khinalugh, Talysh, Ingiloys, Germans, Meskhetians, Aysors, and so on -
all peoples who have preserved their national characteristics. They
are protected in the form of various legal provisions. Article 5 of
the Constitution of Azerbaijan for example declares Azerbaijan to be a
multinational state, while in Article 24 it is stated that the State
guarantees the rights of all citizens regardless of racial origin,
gender and religious affiliation. All are equal before the law, and it
is illegal to limit these rights in any way. The expression and
development of the cultures of all of the peoples of Azerbaijan are
provided for, that is to say both print and broadcast media in their
languages, and the participation of their representatives in the Milli
Mejiis (parliament) and other state structures. The flourishing of
minority cultures, for example the State Lezgian theatre and the
teaching of Russian of Russian faculties in higher education, allows
for minorities to contribute to Azerbaijani culture and a process of
mutual enrichment.
Against this picture we have the incidence of separatism, often
connected to the interests of larger states around us and the
preservation of their spheres of influence. Lezgian terrorist acts,
for example, are related to the dissemination of false information by
Armenian propagandists. Then there are reports about forces acting in
Georgia who refer to the Ingiloys as Georgians, and send Christian
missionaries to work amongst them. There is also the problem of the
Mesxians, deported from their homeland and still not rehabilitated.
And of course Karabakh is the main example of separatism.
I would like to note that the basic rights and duties of nationa and
ethnic minorities are precisely specified in the Constitution. The
State Program for National Minorities expands on these rights, while
ensuring the security of both the majority and minorities. Azerbaijan
approaches these issues so that it can comply with the conditions set
down in the Framework Convention of the Council of Europe. The
preservation of national traditions, religion and language are further
catered for in presidential decrees dating from 1992.
Mr Rauf Huseynov, 
Doctor of History, Institute of Ethnology and Archaeology of the
Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences - 'National Minorities and their
Identity within the Modern State; the Relationship between Citizenship
and Culture'

The question of national and ethnic minorities in a polyethnic
republic such as Azerbaijan is vast. The official policy of the
Azerbaijani State is aimed at the protection and preservation of
minority languages, cultures and ethnic psychology through a wide
range of measures. In the 1920s and 1930s the first ethnographer of
Azerbaijan, Bahariy, described Azerbaijan as an ethnographic museum.
Bahariy saw the ethnic composition of Azerbaijan as the living
embodiment of this museum. This idea has remained central to the
approach today of the President of Azerbaijan towards Azerbaijan's
multiethnicity. As we have heard, Azerbaijan's principal resource is
this tradition of the peaceful coexistence over centuries of the
various peoples of Azerbaijan. The continued existence of very small
nationalities, some of which do not appear on any ethnographic maps of
the world, is a source of pride for the Azerbaijani people. There are
groups in Azerbaijan which live in only one settlement, which do not
live anywhere else in the world and which have lived here for over a
thousand years. For example the Khinalugh, Ingiloy, Haput, Dzhek and
Kiriz nationalities live only in Azerbaijan, and their populations do
not exceed 3,000-5,000 people. State resources are allocated for these
peoples, for example, for cultural centres of the Khinalugh and Udi
peoples. Moreover, the Department for Research into National
Minorities of the Institute of National Relations, of which I am the
director, carries out extensive research into the ethnography of these
peoples. We have published monographs on the Azerbaijani Udis, the
Ingiloys, Talysh and Highland Jews, which make information about these
groups and their beliefs available to the world community.
Unfortunately in the past research on these ethnic minorities has been
carried out outside of Azerbaijan and was directed against
Azerbaijanism and Azerbaijan as a whole. Our research today provides a
useful corrective against past distortions.
Our research is also directed at practical issues of the preservation
of these communities. We have plans for the transformation of some of
these communities into resources of national ethnographic interest,
ensuring that they will not be lost through dispersion. For example if
a Khinalugh settlement is moved, its inhabitants can lose their
identity within 40-50 years. For this reason we see the creation of
open-air museums as a positive step towards community preservation. By
contrast I would like to note that according to joint resolutions of
the Communist parties of Azerbaijan and Georgia the Oguz Orthodox
community of Udis was moved into the Octomberie region of Georgia.
Today no traces of this community remain: in other words they were
completely assimilated over the subsequent 70 years. The preservation
of these minorities is central to Azerbaijanism, and we welcome the
measures implemented by Mr. Orujov and his colleagues.

Mr. Gamarshah Javadov, 
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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