CHAPTER 24 THE FATE OF ISLAMIC ETHNIC MINORITIES IN AZERBAIJAN

The Lezgian movement was split into three parties. The radicals were the first with their leaders Tamur Khanov.They founded the party “Alpan” in Makhachkala. For a long time they were seeking the patronage of the Moscow ruling circles, but the visit of the Russian prime minister S. Shakhrai disappointed them greatly. The centrifugal forces represented the second Lezgian party. The chairman of National Council Nariman Ramazanov was an adherent of this party, which included not only Lezgian businessmen but also representatives of the Lezgian mafia. They were looking forward to the destruction of Azerbaijan and their achieving an autonomy. They had established close ties not only with the Popular Front but also with Aiaz Mutalibov and Etibar Mamedov, who had asked for the Lezgian support in case of Popular Front rising. The pro-Azerbaijani forces represented the third party, under the leadership of the former chairman of “Sadval”. Haji Abdurahmanov. They were expecting to achieve a cultural autonomy. The party of the “radicals”, as they called themselves, organized a coup in Makhachkala on November 5, 1992 and appointed new people in the leading posts.The 50-year old Major-General M. Kahrimanov was rising. The party hoped that people would follow him. The representatives of the Caucasian Federation took part in the 4th conference of this party and declared that they would support the Lezgiz with 30 thousand soldiers in case they decide to war with Azerbaijan.It was the first time that was declared from high rostrums that the Lezgiz were going to lay territorial claims. Derbent was announced as a Lezgian capital despite the Azerbaijani encroachment.

The same days of November found the First Conference of Azerbaijanis open in Derbent (104 thousand Azerbaijanis lived in Daghestan). It aimed at countering the Lezgian movement and activising the local Azerbaijanis and even open a new front against Lezgis to take them away from the interest in Azerbaijan. There already existed a group of 400 Azerbaijanis armed with machine guns in Derbent, new units of “grey wolves” (Iskender Hamidov) were being formed. The railway, militia, the executive and financial institutions were in the hands of Azerbaijanis in Derbent, where 80 thousand Azerbaijanis, 30 thousand Lezgiz and 3 thousand Armenians lived. The Jews were already leaving.

The Daghestan minorities of Naghais, Kumiks as well as the Terek Cossacks supported the Lezgiz. The Avarians (800 thousand) lay claims to the Belokan and Zakatala regions of Azerbaijan. They also lay claims to the lands of Turkish speaking Kumiks (250 thousand), Naghais (60 thousand), and also Chechens.

During the Second World War the Chechens, backing the German Army, were exiled to Siberia. Now they wanted to take back the regions of Navalak and Khassaviurt, which were predominantly Avarian. But the Chechen attacks were prevented by the Russian army deployed in its eastern borderlands. The Avarians were lead by the Popular Front named after Imam Shamil. The chairman of its Executive Committee was Haji Makhachaev. The Avarians were well-armed and well more militant. Even the Chechens avoided direct conflicts with them. The Avars whose settlements were formerly in the mountainous regions, were gradually spreading to the valley, pressuring the Turkish speaking Kumiks. Azerbaijan hoped, that as a Tatar tribe the Kumiks would join the Derbent Azerbaijanis against the Lezgiz of Derbent.

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