CHAPTER 24 THE FATE OF ISLAMIC ETHNIC MINORITIES IN AZERBAIJAN

In many cases the researchers of Kurdish problem point to the Armenian and Azerbaijani attitudes toward the Kurds. The Kurdish scientist Shakro Mgoie in his “Historical Record”, writing about the “disapearance” of the Kurds inhabiting Azerbaijan, asked; “Why didn’t they disappear in Armenia and Georgia, though these republics too were positioned in the same socio-economical unit? The author was aware of the existence of the Kurdish Centre in Armenia, of its Kurdish schools, publishing houses, newspapers, the branch of Writers Union. Azerbaijan didn’t need all these institutions, as there were no Kurds there.29 S. Mgoie mentioned that the Kurds being Muslim was used advantageously by the Baku authorities on the way of forcible assimilation of the Kurds. The factor of national identity was deliberately replaced with that of the faith, enabling them to assimilate a whole nation. Without having the sighn “Azerbaijan” in the passport, a Kurd wasn’t accepted to work, wasn’t able to promote a career, to achieve anything in life. The Kurd intellectuals of the past were also being laid claims to, like the 17 century Kurdish poet Ahmad Khani, who had written his poems exceptionally in Kurdish. The Karabakh movement made the Azerbaijani government change their policy towards the Kurds in a way. The 1989 census mentioned the “appearance” of 12 thousand 226 Kurds. Unofficial sources bring the figure of 250 thousand.

The Kurd writer “Alikhane Mame” wrote in his article “Prisonhouse of Nations”;

“My compatriots live between Karabakh and Armenia. I’ve been there and seen in what conditions they have appeared. Forcible assimilation, rejection of any idea of Kurdish sovereignty, increase of Azerbaijanis between Karabakh and Armenia – this is the policy of Azerbaijani cheauvinists. The strategy of setting the Kurds against the Armenians has suffered a defeat”.

In Lachin the “Kurdish Liberation Movement” was active, led by Vakil Mustafaev and Alikhane Mame. This movement, as well as many other Kurdish intellectuals addressed letters to the USSR Foreign Minister A. Bessmartnikh and the US State Secretary James Baker.

Soon the movement was silent, probably, due to Azerbaijani military activity and the policy of Popular Front.

Kurdish armed groups, which had apeared in the course of Azerbaijan’s war against Karabakh, organized some military operations against the Azerbaijani radio and the newspaper announced the “rising was suppressed”. The portion of people, still preserving the sense of national self-awareness left for Russia.

The fate of the people called Tat was also bitter and unhumane. The Baku historian Guliev wrote;30

“The process of voluntery assimilation into the Azerbaijani Socialist nation is going on intensively”.

The Tats are an Iranian people, their langiuage belongs to the Iranian branch of Indo-European languages, representing a new Iranian dialect.31 They inhabit the six Caspian areas of Azerbaijan, including the Apsheron peninsula, the Ghuba region and Daghestan. According to the 1926 census their number was 28443, in 1955 – 5900, in 1970 -14200, in 1979 – 8800.32

Such fluctuations of figures prove that the estimations are false.The “Great Soviet Encyclopedia” testifies that;

“The Tat language is spoken by 150 thousand people in Caucasus.33 This ethnicity is devided into three groups according to cultural and religious characteristics – Muslim Tats (100 thousand), Armenian Tats(20 thousand) and Jew Tats (or Mountainous Tats – 30 thousand)”34

G. Guliev continued to explain the wonder of “disappearance” of the Tat nation;

“As I mentioned, the process of the assimilation of Tats is an intensive one. Most of the people, whose father called themselves Tats 50-100 years ago, proclaim themseles Azerbaijanis inthe census.”35

But the reality is that the Tats exist and live on the lands of their ancestors. They’ve preserved their traditions, customs, are quite different from the Turkic peoples and have never forgotten their native Persian language.36

Thus, the Turk-Tatar population of the Azerbaijani Republic established in 1919, grew from 1 million 250 thousand to 7 million in late 2–ieth century, also at the expense of Caucasian natives, who were absorbed their cultures were demolished and some of their races were innihilated.

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