CHAPTER 24 THE FATE OF ISLAMIC ETHNIC MINORITIES IN AZERBAIJAN

“From the point of view of each nation, which is striving to get rid of any foreign yoke and cure its mental wounds, the return to the original name “Turk” means the victory of justice. In this aspect the name “Azerbaijani” was stuck to us to hurt our dignity. From a political, historical, logical and juridical point are we Azerbaijanis? No.

This renaming was initiated by Stalin in 1937 and was carried out by Bagirov. In 1937 thousands of Lezgis, Kurds, Talishes, Tats, Avarians and Tsakhurs were forcibly turned into “Azerbaijanis”, but a majority of these minorities have their ethnic names. The term “Azerbaijani” hasn’t been formed politically and juridically. We can’t say “an Azerbaijani language”, “an Azerbaijani nation”, we must only say “nation of Azerbaijan”, “language of Azerbaijan”, “peoples of Azerbaijan”.

But to my mind we mustn’t forget the term “Azerbaijani” which has united us for a century. We can use it not officially, as a term denoting the nationalities of Azerbaijan and not as a name corresponding to the “Turks”, thing that can hurt their ethnic feelings”.13

The article ended with an editorial, reading;

“Azerbaijan is such a multi-national republic as Russia or the former USSR, where the nations live in their ancient lands. In comparison with Azerbaijan, Turkey is a country where no national rights are being violated. All the ethnicities of Turkey, the Turks, Kurds, Arabs, Cherkeses, Chechens, Avars, Lezgis, Ajars, the English are citizens of Turkey…”14

Surprising though, the newspaper failed to mention the natives of Turkey – the Greeks and the Armenians.

It’s interesting to note that the interests of the natives living in the administrative areas of Azerbaijan were being defended by historians Aliev and Buniatov, who had devoted their lives to creating the “Azerbaijani history”, laying claims to the cultural heritages of the native inhabitants of the territory. Probably they were indignant at the sudden “Turkicization” of the “Azerbaijanis”.

The Vice Chairman of the Azerbaijani Academy of Sciences Zia Buniatov was irritated by the article of a historian Zamani in the newspaper “Azerbaijan, where the author represented the Turkic element as the most original and ancient and as such the only representative of the cultural and historical heritage in the region.15

Buniatov’s response was published in the newspaper “Elm”;

“Zaman hasn’t any knowledge of the ancient history in general and of the history od Azerbaijan in particular. To his mind, Aliev’s idea about the Udis forming a majority among the 26 Albanian tribes, is erreneous. Zaman is ignorant enough to persist in the theory of Turks being a majority. This announcement is groundless. The practice of misleading people has become common recently…. No serious scientist has ever confirmed and can never confirm the supposition that the Turks were present among the 26 Albanian tribes. The political and not scientific orientation of the Turk historians led them to declare that the Central Asian, Oriental,European and even American civilizations are originally Turkish. This ideology has never been considered as serious and has not so far been accepted by anybody.

Fortunately the Turks have given it up this policy of speculation. Yes, the Turks have given it up but we havn’t given up that ideology which is fifty years old. It has penetrated into the spheres of Azerbaijani science and during the last decades has even flourished. There has been not one Turk present in ancient Albania, that’s why it’s not honest to condemn Aliev for not mentioning the Turkic tribes. He couldn’t have created Turks himself”.16

In fact Z. Buniatov and I. Aliev were trying to defend the interests of the system which had been already dissolved. And even in this attempt they avoided to mention the Lezgis, Talishes,Tats and Avarians, which had already developed into a strong political opposition. But even this weak attempt of Buniatov was enough to make the “fellows” of Popular Front invade his house and give a good beating to the “non-Turk” scientist.The revival of the Lezgian national movement aroused the indignation of the chairman of the “Yurdsash” society of the Azerbaijanis inhabiting the territory of the former USSR. In an interview to the newspaper “Yurdash” he stated;

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