RCNM Newsletter: Minorities in Azerbaijan # 5

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Subject: RCNM Newsletter: Minorities in Azerbaijan # 5

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

RCNM Newsletter: Minorities in Azerbaijan # 5

RCNM Newsletter

Minorities in Azerbaijan # 5
I would to begin by stating unequivocally on the basis of my research
on the history, language and culture of the Tat people that there is
no basis for conflicts on national or ethnic grounds in Azerbaijan.
There are many examples of national tolerance in the history of
Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan for example offered refuge to Jews during the
Nazi Holocaust. More than 14 centuries of the Islamic consolidation of
the peoples of Azerbaijani has not prevented a high incidence of
interethnic marriages. In 1993-1994 when the organization Sadval was
operating in northern Azerbaijan, I met a militia major from Dagestan
in Shemakha. He told me that his sons- and daughters-in-law were
Azerbaijanis and lived in Azerbaijan. His own wife was from Shemakha.
Who could this war have been against?
I would to say a little about the actions of the Azerbaijani
Government over the past few years in the field of Azerbaijani-Tat
relations. Although some small publications in the Jewish Tat language
were published in Moscow in the 1920s, in the last 5-6 years the
Azerbaijani government has sponsored publications on the history,
ethnography, language, poetry and literature of the Azerbaijani Tats.
In addition we have published editions of Azerbaijani Tat poets so
that our children could read them in schools in their native language.
For the first time we published editions of Tat national folklore. We
now have alphabet and native language primers for our children's
education in their own language, for which 200 million manat were
issued. I want to emphasise that in a country of one million refugees
our President has found the means to publish textbooks for a small
people such as ours. According to the 1989 census, the Tat population
of Azerbaijan constituted 11,000 people. Similar examples would not be
observed in Russia, Turkey, Iran or any other country. This is
evidence of the Azerbaijani's commitment to the development of
minority peoples. I have also been witness many times to the fact that
interpreters are provided in court for people with a poor knowledge of
the Azerbaijani language.
I would also like to note the suggestion amongst some circles of the
Tat community that a Tat political party should be formed. I am not in
favour of such a move, as I see it as possibly encouraging ethnic
particularism. Unfortunately, I wanted to note, Mr Orujov, that the
Ministry of Justice has registered a National Turkic Party, a Turkic
National Youth Organization and a National Turkic Women's
Organization. I do not see that making nationality the basis for the
creation of such organizations or political parties as bringing
beneficial consequences to interethnic relations in Azerbaijan.
On the subject of assimilation, I would like to note that this has
been a natural process in Azerbaijan, and that violence has never been
used. If 30-40 years ago entire village communities spoke Tat, today
only old men use it. Even at home the younger generation uses the
Azerbaijani language in its daily life.
Mister Chairman, it is a source of pride for us that we are a
multinational country, in which each nationality has a role to play in
the construction of the state.
Mr. Magsud Hajev, 
Chairman of the Centre for Tat Culture

I would like to touch on a number of issues have been raised during
discussion, in particular in connection with religious minorities. In
this area, as you know, there is a Law on the Freedom of Religion,
adopted in Azerbaijan in 1992 and implemented in 1996. According to
this law, each individual decides their own religious affiliation; all
religious confessions are equal in Azerbaijan and have equal rights.
Thus before the law all religions and believers are equal.
A previous speaker noted that Russia was known as the 'prison of
peoples'. On the basis of my experience I can confirm that this was
true so far as the management of religion was concerned. In the Soviet
period only 18 mosques were registered in Azerbaijan, in a country
where 85-90% of the population were Moslem Azerbaijanis. The opening
of new mosques was out of the question. Conditions for other
religions, especially Christianity, were comparatively good. Religious
communities of other confessions could be registered here,
independently by Moscow if necessary. After independence there were
major upheavals in this area. There are over 1,000 religious
communities in Azerbaijan, over 300 of them officially registered.
Many confessions are represented, Islamic, Christian, Catholic, the
otherwise extinct Bahayee community, and even some without historical
roots in Azerbaijan such as Buddhist. The rights of all religious
minorities are observed, no matter how small. Different Judaic
communities are registered in Azerbaijan - there is a European
(Ashkenazi) community, a Highland Jew community, the chairman of which
sits here next to me, and approximately 300 Georgian Jews. We also
have the recently registered the so-called community of Greater Grace
(Zhivotvoryashaya Blagodat'), the German Lutheran Church and the New
Apostolic Church. On the ingiloys I would like to say that I have
worked on the question of their historical religious affiliation. The
ingiloys are an autochthonous population of Azerbaijan, of either
Turkic or Caucasian Albanian origin, from ancient times belonging to
the Islamic faith. Their adoption of Islam is a historical fact, but
in more recent times they turned to Christianity. As you know in the
last century Azerbaijan was conquered by the Russians, who sought to
establish their language and faith in these peripheral regions, in
some areas, including the Gakh and Zakataly regions inhabited by the
Ingiloys, the local population was forced to adopt the Georgian
Orthodox faith. Research on this issue has been carried out, which I
can show to anyone who is interested. Various forms of coercion,
including the threat of deportation, were used to force these people
to become 'Georgians' of the Orthodox religion. Thus these people,
descended from the indigenous population, became Christians.
Subsequently in the 1880s-890s some of the Ingiloys reverted to Islam,
while others remained Christians. After independence the Georgian
Orthodox Church was registered in our country, and the Georgian
patriarch, Dia, visited the Ingiloys. Thus we find both Christians and
Moslems amongst the Ingiloys. Similarly the Udi community is split
between Christian and Moslem elements. The needs of the Christian Udi
community are fully met too.
Mr. Mustafa Ibrahlmov, 
Deputy Chairman on Religious Affairs, Cabinet of Ministers
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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