CHAPTER 24 THE FATE OF ISLAMIC ETHNIC MINORITIES IN AZERBAIJAN

“I, obtaining the citizenship of Azerbaijan SSR, solemnly swear to respect the traditions and customs of the Azerbaijani (Turk) nation”.

Though its a fact that more “native” nations inhabit the territory of Azerbaijan, as the Lezgis, Tats, Avars, Talishes, Kurds, the Karabakh Armenians and so on. Maybe their customs and traditions don’t deserve due respect? Many other legislative deads adopted in Azerbaijan in the course of rebuilding (1985-92) also have the same descriminative direction”.5

The authors conclude that the “Lezgian peoples under the 1809, 1812 and 1813 Russo-Persian Treaties had joined the Russian Empire and not Azerbaijani Republic, which didn’t exist then. The de jure dissolution of the USSR led to the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States and according to its Agreement on Restoration of Borders, the entry of the Lezgian people into the Russian Federation (Daghestan) is natural. Thus, since the day of the declaration of state independence of Azerbaijan, its Lezgian inhabitants are no longer under its jurisdiction”.6

The Lezgis of Azerbaijan never ceased to fight for its rights. In 1959 they founded the “kotals”(unions) which undertook to defend the constitutional rights of the Lezgis and demanded autonomy. The “kotals” were based on the literary union “Rikin Jaf” (Heart to heart talk) founded in Kussari. The leaders of the movement were the Lezgi writers Zabit Rizvanov, Izzet Sharifov, Lezgi Numet, Yadullah Shaidaev, Bairam Salimov and others. As a result of the tough attitude of the Azerbaijani government towards the Lezgi intellectuals, their number decreased soon.7 The writer Iskander Kaziev became the successor of “Rikin Jaf” in 1970ies. On March 26, 1981 he addressed an open letter to L. Brezhnev from Sumgait, protesting against the discriminative policy of H. Aliev. He mentioned the Azerbaijanis, Russians, Armenians and Lezgiz as the four major nationalities of Azerbaijan from which the first three possessed autonomies, while the Lezgis were deprived of that status. There was “no much similar case in the whole USSR”. I. Kaziev asked for a permission to form branch of Lezgi writers. Some time later the writer directed another letter to H. Aliev, demanding autonomy for the Lezgis inhabiting Azerbaijan. Letters were addressed to the first Secretary of the Daghestan Communist Party A. Danilov and to the Secretary of the USSR Communist Party Ideological Department.

As a result of this activity Kaziev was omitted from the ranks of the Communist Party as well as of the Writers’ Union.

Since the day of its establishment the Republic of Azerbaijan, against the strivings of the Lezgi people, was trying to join Daghestan to itself. In 1919 the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister A. Shepotev wrote;

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