Minority rights in Azebaijan: letter to the UN HR Commission

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Subject: Minority rights in Azebaijan: letter to the UN HR Commission 

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Original sender: Eldar Zeynalov <eldar@azeurotel.com>

Minority rights in Azebaijan: letter to the UN HR Commission 

2 February 1999


Fifty-fifth session
Item 14 (b) of the provisional agenda

Letter dated 28 December 1998 from the Permanent Representative
of Azerbaijan to the United Nations Office at Geneva addressed
to the secretariat of the fifty-fifth session of the Commission
                         on Human Rights
I have the honour to transmit to you herewith the information on the
State policy in the Republic of Azerbaijan on the protection of the
rights and freedoms of persons belonging to minorities.
I would be grateful if you could circulate the present letter and the
above-mentioned information as an official document of the fifty-fifth
session of the Commission on Human Rights under item 14 (b) of the
provisional agenda.
Information on State policy in the Republic of Azerbaijan on the
protection of the rights and freedoms of persons belonging to
1. According to the 1989 census, 82.7 per cent of the Azerbaijani
Republic's population are Azerbaijanis; 17.3 per cent is accounted for
by various ethnic minorities, such as Lezgins, Avars, Talysh,
Tsakhurs, Kurds, Udis, Russians, Ukrainians, Armenians, Tatars,
Georgians and Belarusians.
2. From a historical point of view Azerbaijan has always been a
variegated ethnic palette, and never at any time in the course of its
history have any cases of religious or ethnic discord or of
discrimination against minorities been recorded.
3. The Constitution of the Azerbaijani Republic, adopted in 1995,
guarantees respect for human rights and freedoms regardless of ethnic
origin, race, religion, language or other factors.
4. Minorities are widely represented in Azerbaijan's State organs,
Parliament and the Government. In the towns, districts, villages and
hamlets, where members of various minorities live cheek by jowl,
representatives of the local population occupy leading positions in
State organs.
5. Notwithstanding the difficulties being experienced by the country,
attributable mainly to the 11-year-old armed aggression against
Azerbaijan by neighbouring Armenia, which occupies 20 per cent of the
territory of the Azerbaijani Republic, the presence of about 1 million
refugees and displaced persons in the country, forcibly evicted from
the areas where they have always lived as a result of the aggression,
and also problems connected with the transitional period, the
Government of Azerbaijan continues to pursue a consistent national
6. One of the main features of this policy is that it supports the
national languages and cultures of all minorities living in
Azerbaijani territory.
7. In Azerbaijan, radio and television programmes are broadcast and
books, newspapers and periodicals are published in the languages of
the various minorities living in the Republic. For example, regular
programmes financed from the State budget are broadcast by the State
radio in Kurdish, Lezgin, Talysh, Georgian, Russian and Armenian.
Local radio programmes are broadcast in Arabic in the Belokan district
and in Lezgin and in Tati in the Khachmaz district. The Gusar and
Khachmaz districts have a local television station whose programmes
are in Lezgin. In the town of Baku over 20 newspapers and magazines
are published in Russian, which is also the language used in daily
radio and television broadcasts. The Russian ORT, RTR and NTV
programmes are broadcast in full. There are also a number of private
radio and television companies in Azerbaijan, and one of the State's
television channels broadcasts a programme in English. Newspapers are
published in Kurdish, Lezgin, Talysh and Georgian. These publications
are subsidized by the State. Specifically, the newspaper "Talyshi
syado" and the magazine "Soz" are published in Talysh, the newspapers
"Samur" in Lezgin and "Dengi Kurd" in Kurdish, and the newspaper
"Gusar" is published in Lezgin in the Gusar district. The newspaper
"Aziz" is published by the Azerbaijan-Israel Association, the
newspaper "Vestnik" by the Azerbaijan Russian Association and the
newspaper "Sodruzhestvo" by the "Sodruzhestvo Association".
8. A council was created within the Ministry of Education to prepare
and publish curricula, manuals and textbooks for the teaching of
minority languages. The State has financed the publication of
alphabets and textbooks in Russian, Talysh, Kurdish, Lezgin, Tsakhur
and Tati.
9. Areas with a high concentration of ethnic Georgians have two
schools in which instruction is in three languages, namely,
Azerbaijani, Georgian and Russian. The teaching of the mother tongue
and of national history and culture for two hours every week has been
introduced in schools situated in areas where there is a high
proportion of persons belonging to various nationalities. This
instruction is provided in Lezgin, Tati, Talysh and other languages.
10. An example worthy of mention is the State's approach to the
language spoken by the inhabitants of the mountain village of
Khynalyg. Although this language does not fall into any specific
language group and that it is spoken by the people of only one
village, books are published in Khynalyg and there is a "Khynalyg"
cultural centre in the country. In 1997 the State financed the
publication of alphabets and textbooks in Russian, Talysh, Kurdish,
Lezgin, Tsakhur and Tatar.
11. Azerbaijan has cultural centres, charitable associations and other
communal organizations that preserve and develop the distinctive
national and cultural characteristics of persons belonging to
minorities. These organizations have repeatedly received State
assistance and are provided with premises free of charge. Azerbaijan's
organizations and national cultural centres for minorities are as

The "Mada" (Talysh) International Association
The "Avesta" (Talysh) Association
The Talysh Cultural Centre
The "Ronai" Kurdish Cultural Centre
The "Samur" Lezgin Centre
The Association of Dagestan-speaking mountain peoples of Azerbaijan
The "Dagestan" cultural centre
The Tsakhur Cultural Centre
The "Orian" Udi Cultural Centre
The Imam Shamilya Arab Association
The Lagych Charitable Association
The "Azeri" Tati Cultural Centre
The Russian Association of Azerbaijan
The Slav Cultural Centre of Azerbaijan
The "Sodruzhestvo" Association
The Tatar Association of Azerbaijan
The "Tugan Tel" Tatar Cultural Centre
The "Veten" Meskhetian Turk Association

The "Akhyska" Meskhetian Turk Cultural Centre
The "Budug" Cultural Centre
The "Shakhdag" Cultural Centre
The European Jewish Community
The Mountain Jewish Community
The Georgian Jewish Community
The "Azerbaijan-Israel" Association
The "Iudaika" International Association
The German National Cultural Association
The "Hynalyg" Cultural Centre
12. Azerbaijan has a large variety of State, departmental, trade
union, private and commercial cultural establishments - about 14,000
in all. These include theatres, concert organizations and halls,
museums, picture galleries and showrooms, recreation parks, clubs and
leisure centres, libraries, music and art schools and fine arts
13. It has 25 State theatres, over 140 museums and branches, 27
picture galleries and also 10,000 libraries with a stock of 100
million books. Over 140,000 persons are employed in 4,000 clubs
comprising over 10,000 amateur theatrical, creative and fancier
groups. Some 75,000 children and adolescents receive instruction in
and familiarization with various aspects of culture in 270 music and
art schools, as well as in fine arts schools.
14. In areas with large concentrations of persons belonging to various
minorities amateur artistic groups are active in clubs, national and
State theatres, fancier associations and clubs catering to specific
interests. For example, the Gusar district boasts a Lezgin theatre,
the Gakh district a Georgian national theatre and a national puppet
theatre, the Astarin and Masallin districts have Talysh folklore
groups, the Saatly district has the "Adygyun" Turkish folklore group,
and the town of Baku has its Russian State dramatic theatre, the
"Tugan Tel" Tatar song and dance ensemble and the "Sudarushka" Russian
15. Article 48 of the Republic's Constitution guarantees the right of
all persons to freedom of conscience, in other words, the right freely
to express their attitude to religion and individually or collectively
to profess any religion or not to profess any religion, and to express
and disseminate their religious convictions.
16. The Azerbaijani Republic's law on religious freedom states
specifically that no advantages may be granted to or restrictions
imposed on one religion or religious teaching in comparison to others.
17. Over 200 Muslim mosques, more than 50 Christian churches and
communities and 5 synagogues are registered in the Republic at the
present time. Religious communities, establishments and centres of the
Caucasian Muslims, the Russian Orthodox church, the evangelical
Christian baptist and adventist communities, the international
community of Christian protestants ("Life-giving abundance") and
branches of the international Krishna and Baha'i communities are also
present in Azerbaijan. In addition, there are hundreds of unofficial
religious groups, of which about 60 are communities belonging to the
Christian religion.
18. There are five Russian Orthodox churches, of which three are in
the town of Baku, one in the town of Gyandzhe and one in the Khachmaz
district of Azerbaijan. The Gakh district has four Georgian Orthodox
churches and the Gabala district has two Christian churches; moreover,
over 30 traditional Protestant communities (Malochites, Baptists,
Fiftieth Day Protestants, Seventh-Day Adventists, Lutherans, the New
Apostolic Church and others) are active in various parts of
Azerbaijan. A number of these communities were registered in the first
few years following the restoration of Azerbaijan's independence.
Certain non-traditional Christian-Protestant communities, as well as a
number of other religious groups formed by foreign missionaries, were
registered a little later. These include "Living Grace" the New
Apostolic Church, the German Lutheran Church, the Baku branch of the
International Krishna Community, the Religious Baha'i Community and
many others. A number of other Protestant and Catholic communities
that arrived from America and Europe are also active in Azerbaijan.
19. Of the five synagogues in Azerbaijan, three are in the town of
Baku, one in the "Krasnaya Sloboda" village in Guba district and one
in the centre of Oguz district. A considerable proportion of the
Jewish diaspora in Azerbaijan consists of mountain Jews whose
synagogue is one of the most important in the country in terms of
activities and congregation. The Jewish communities of the Guba
district, European Jews, Georgian Jews and the Jews of the Oguz
district are the next most important.
20. A large number of Muslim, Christian and Jewish religious
educational establishments are active in Azerbaijan. These include the
Baku Islamic University, a few Midrash schools, Sunday schools
attached to Christian Orthodox churches, Bible courses given by
Seventh-Day Adventists and the Bible School of the International
Christian Protestant Community ("Living Grace"). Moreover, in the town
of Baku courses in modern Hebrew and the Jewish religion, culture and
history have been introduced in secondary school No. 46.
21. The religious denominations and non-traditional religious groups
in Azerbaijan engage in charitable activities, assist a wide variety
of communities, provide humanitarian assistance and visit boarding
schools, homes for the disabled, hospitals and places of detention,
providing material and moral support.
22. The national and religious holidays of all denominations are
widely observed in Azerbaijan and each year the President delivers an
appropriate address on each occasion. The synagogue and Orthodox
Church receive financial assistance regularly from the President's
23. Despite the affirmations of the Armenian propaganda machine which,
by spreading disinformation about alleged violations of the rights of
persons belonging to the Armenian minority in Azerbaijan, tries to
justify Armenia's armed aggression against Azerbaijan and its
perpetration during that aggression of massive human rights
violations, the former Nagorny Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAR) of
Azerbaijan - the majority of whose population consisted of Armenians
who resettled in the territory of Azerbaijan in the first half of the
nineteenth century - has acquired all the basic elements of
self-government and achieved considerable progress through its social,
economic and cultural development.
24. Under the Constitution of the Azerbaijani SSR, the legal status of
NKAR was governed by the Law on the Nagorny Karabakh Autonomous Region
which was adopted following its submission to the Council of People's
Deputies of NKAR by the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan. NKAR, as a
national territorial unit, enjoyed a form of administrative autonomy
and therefore possessed a number of rights which in practice ensured
that the specific requirements of its population were satisfied. In
accordance with the Constitution of the former USSR, NKAR was
represented by five deputies in the Council of Nationalities of the
Supreme Soviet of the USSR. It was also represented in the Supreme
Soviet of the Azerbaijani SSR by 12 deputies.
25. The NKAR Council of National Deputies, which was the State
authority in the region, enjoyed a broad range of powers. It decided
all matters of a local nature based on the interests of citizens
living in the region and in the light of their national and other
characteristics. The NKAR Council of People's Deputies participated in
the discussion of matters relating to the Republic as a whole,
presented proposals on them, implemented the decisions of higher State
bodies and directed the activities of lower councils. Armenian was
used in the day-to-day work of all State executive and administrative
bodies, the court system and the Office of the Public Prosecutor, as
well as in education, reflecting the language requirements of the
26. A total of 483 million roubles was earmarked for the development
of NKAR during the 1971-1985 period; this was 2.8 times greater than
the corresponding amount during the previous 15 years. During the past
20 years average per capita investment in NKAR has increased almost
fourfold (226 roubles in 1981-1985 as against 59 roubles in
1961-1965). In the past 15 years per capita housing construction in
Azerbaijan as a whole amounted to 3.64 m2 and 4.76 m2 in NKAR. The
number of hospital beds in NKAR per 10,000 inhabitants was 15 per cent
greater than in the Republic.
27. Although NKAR was already among the foremost regions of the
Republic as regards the number of pre-school establishments for
children, the number of additional places in such establishments made
available per 10,000 inhabitants in the region in 1971-1985 was 1.4
times the Republican average. The same is true of the number of
additional places per 10,000 inhabitants made available in schools
providing a general education, the figure for NKAR being 1.6 times
greater than the average.
28. Prior to the Armenian Republic's aggression against the
Azerbaijani Republic, during the 1988-1989 school year there were 136
secondary schools in which instruction was in Armenian (16,120
students) and 13 international schools (7,045 students) in the former
Nagorny Karabakh Autonomous Region of Azerbaijan. During the same
period there were a total of 181 Armenian secondary schools (20,712
students) and 29 international schools (12,766 students) in
29. In the town of Hankendi (formerly Stepanakert) over 2,130
students, for the most part Armenian, studied each year in the
Armenian, Azerbaijani and Russian branches of the State Pedagogical
Institute. In addition, NKAR had dozens of technical secondary schools
and vocational training schools offering instruction in Armenian and
30. A characteristic feature of the social and cultural development of
the Nagorny Karabakh region was the fact that the average amount of
housing, goods and services available to the population was greater
than that for the Republic as a whole. Per capita living space in the
region was almost one-third greater than the Republic average and on
average the NKAR peasant had 1.5 times more living space than a
peasant in the Republic as a whole. The population of the region also
had access to greater numbers of medical personnel (1.3 times more)
and hospital beds (3 per cent more). Its system of cultural and
educational establishments was larger (over three times more cinemas
and clubs, twice as many libraries) and it had 1.6 times more books
and magazines per 100,000 readers. In the schools, 7.7 per cent of the
region's children studied in the second and third shifts whereas for
the Republic as a whole the corresponding figure was 25 per cent; 37
per cent of children (as against 20 per cent in the Republic as a
whole) were cared for in permanent pre-school establishments.
31. In point of fact NKAR was developing more rapidly than Azerbaijan
as a whole. For example, during the 1970-1986 period, industrial
production in the Republic increased threefold whereas in NKAR it rose
3.3 times (reflecting growth of over 8.3 per cent). In 1986 3.1 times
more fixed capital assets were brought into use in NKAR than in 1970;
the corresponding figure for the Republic as a whole was 2.5 times.
NKAR's basic social development indicators outstripped average
Republican standard of living indicators in the Azerbaijani SSR and
the Armenian SSR. The development of cultural establishments in the
region as well as throughout the Republic as a whole was considerable.
As has been seen above, and as is confirmed by NKAR's existence and
development as part of Azerbaijan, it built up a form of autonomy that
fully reflected the economic, social, cultural, national and everyday
needs of the population of this autonomous region.
32. At the last OSCE Summit of Heads of State held at Lisbon, the
following principles, recommended by the Co-Chairmen of the Minsk
Group, were drawn up for the settlement of the armed conflict between
Armenia and Azerbaijan and were supported by all States members of
OSCE with the exception of Armenia:
The territorial integrity of the Republic of Armenia and the
Azerbaijani Republic;
The legal status of Nagorny Karabakh as defined in the agreement,
based on self-determination, and the granting to Nagorny Karabakh of
the maximum degree of self-government as part of Azerbaijan; and
The guaranteed security of Nagorny Karabakh and its entire population
and the mutual obligation of all parties to implement the provisions
of the settlement.
33. Despite similar demands by the United Nations Security Council and
other international organizations, Armenia continues to this day to
retain occupied Azerbaijani territory and to build up its military
potential there.

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