CHAPTER 24 THE FATE OF ISLAMIC ETHNIC MINORITIES IN AZERBAIJAN

The Lezgi soldiers were continuously leaving the Karabakh front. They even managed to carry arms to their compatriots. New armed Lezgian groups were emerging and attacking the Azerbaijani transport on the roads. General Kahrimanov met with the Armenian and Azerbaijani representatives in Moscow. J. Dudaev refused to accept him in Grozni, calling him “puppet of Moscow”.

Elchibei didn’t accept him either. Kahrimanov failed to become a national leader. Gradually he was left behind. Following the Lezgian movement, Azerbaijan was trying to avoid a second front, as it would surely be destructive for the republic. Such a future for Azerbaijan was foreseen by Azerbaijani reporter Askef Askeroghli who noted that the international community was ready to witness the collapse of Azerbaijan.21

The Lezgian radicals were preparing for a war against Azerbaijan after the seizure of Shushi by the Armenians. But most of the Lezgian leaders were postponing the armed interference for better times. Probably the corresponding agencies of Turkey and Azerbaijan did their best to prevent them from undertaking military operations.

Numerous hardships was suffering the other ethnic minority of Azerbaijan – the Talish. Still in 1870 N. Zeidlits wrote;

“The Turkic population of the Baku District is easily coping with the problem of assimilating the representatives of the Iranian people into themselves. But the Kurinians (Lezgiz) are resistant to such an influence. Probably the highland environment has given the same opportunity of preserving their national nature to the Tats, as well as to their relative Talishes, who live in the mountains of Lencaran region”.22

In his studies of 1894 L.Lopatinski wrote about the Talishes;

“According to the “Caucasian Calendar” their number is 88 thousand 449. I think that this figure is not true as the local administrative bodies have not distinguished between the Iranian Muslims and the Tatar Muslims. The latter call their language “Muslim”, and representing themselves as adherents of the Muslim faith, have left behind the natives of that territory. The Iranians (Talish and Tat) suffered hardships everywhere due to their origin and sometimes concealed their nationality, so it’s now difficult to collect statistical data about themselves.”23

Boris Miller (1877-1956) who carried out research on the Talish language, wrote in 1926;

“According to the census of 1921 the Talishes are estimated to be 66 thousand 683. But I have been assured for several times that the results of the census are not reliable. The village Boradigyakh is mentioned as a Turkish village, while the children there speak in Talish language. The villages located near the roads seem to be Turkish, but are not. The Turkish language has gained the upper hand in markets, as the tradesmen are Turks. The majority of the Talishes working around them, call themselves Turks too, but in their families only the Talish language is being spoken”.24

The Talish historian G. Mamedov wrote in the newspaper “Talishstan”;

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