CHAPTER 24 THE FATE OF ISLAMIC ETHNIC MINORITIES IN AZERBAIJAN

“The sociological polls showed that from the 10 Talishes living side by side with Azerbaijanis in the capital or in other large settlements, 6-7 people reject their being Talish, while from 10 Lezgiz only 1 considers himself Azerbaijani”.

Then the author asked;

“What is it that makes people leading a settled life since prehistoric times and famous for their contribution in the world’s cultural inheritance be ashamed of their ethnical origin? The Turkic and Mongol tribes, penetrating into the Kur-Araxes valley were especially violent towards the natives, hurt their ethnic dignity, demolished or lay claims to their ethno-cultural values, created during the centuries”.25

If the Talishes were estimated to be 100 thousand and the Tats 300 thousand in late nineteenth century, then their number was “forced” to be 10 thousand for Tats and 21 thousand for Talishis in 1989. The census of 1939 gave evidence of 87 thousand 510 Talishes, while the 1970 census witnessed the ellimination of the ethnicity “Talish”.26

The Russian traveller and researcher A. Zavodski wrote in 1902;

“The names of Talish villages are being changed in accordance with the Tatar language and pronounciation. The influence of the Turks is great. It’s a pity that the areas inhabited by Tatars are losing their geographical names, which are being substituted by the Tatar ones…”27

G. Mamedov counted that more than 400 names had undergone such changes during the last two centuries. He wrote that the Pan-Turkic and Musavat policy of assimilation was later successfully carried out by not only Bagirov but the Popular Front and H. Aliev as well.

It won’t be just to say that the Talish people didn’t do anything to resist assimilation. In 1989 a rising broke out in Lenkoran, led by physician Bayramov. The crowd took the Regional Party buildings. They protested against racial discrimination and social unjustice. The USSR and Azerbaijani Interior troops suppressed the rising. The Talish youth groups were violently persecuted and done away with in the mountains. Bairamov, who was dreaming of the establishment of Talish Republic was arrested. But the process of national revival was set in motion. The movement was led by the organization “Group of Talish National Revival”. As to the Kurds, since 1930 Azerbaijan and Turkey were competing in innihilating them as soon as possible. This aim was hard to achieve in Turkey as the Kurdish populous settlements being located in the eastern part of the country, could hinder the way of the Turks to their Motherland and their dream of establishing a mighty empire wouldn’t be fated to come true. At first the Turkish propaganda seemed to have solved the problem, by calling the Kurds “highland Turks”, of course previously closing their schools and preventing them from developing the national culture. It must be noted that it became possible for the Kurds to spread all over eastern Turkey after the 1915 Armenian massacres, to which the Kurdish armed groups participated actively.

The split in the Kurdish movement encouraged the Turks. The Turkish authorities tried to transfer the struggle against the Kurdish Workers Party to Armenia, thus supporting through “lawful” and “just” means the fraternal Azerbaijan.

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