“Today & Tomorrow. Azerbaijan in Focus”.-2007.-¹6.-P.53-59

 

KEY PROBLEMS OF THE MODERN ETHNOPOLITICAL SITUATION IN AZERBAIJAN

 

Aliagha Mamedli, candidate of Historical Sciences,

 

For the last decades the growth of national and ethnic awareness has become one of the leading factors of sociopolitical processes in the world. At that, very frequently both politicians, and social scientists experience difficulties with an all-round explanation of these processes and revealing of mechanisms of their course. In this connection national and interethnic problems are at times conditioned by the rea­sons having an extremely subjective charac­ter. In particular, the specified problems are explained by such factors as "awakening of dignity", feeling of the national pride, etc. The key to  the  sanction  of national and interethnic problems is seen not in the solv­ing complex problems, including economic, social, political, demographic, migratory and cultural components. In most cases the reso­lution of these problems is offered only in the legal aspect, namely in adopting of corresponding legislative acts in which prohibi­tive  articles  rather  often prevail.  Besides, quite recently many politicians and resear­chers searched for the reasons of national and interethnic problems not in objectively existing contradictions and mistakes at attempts of their solution, but only in foreign propagation or carriers of nationalism, chau­vinism, etc. [1].

In the course of entire history of the USSR, at all variety of forms of display of national and interethnic problems, their contents basi­cally reflected the permanent character of a crisis state of all party-bureaucratic system and rigidly centralized economy [2, 14]. Deprived of freedom and personal choice, the peoples of the Soviet Union were placed in the mad circulation of communistic deper­sonalization and historical unconsciousness. One of displays of these processes became the introduction in political and scientific practice of the "Soviet people" concept, behind which denationalization of peoples was hidden [3]. Full discrepancy of the declared political-legal system and the real political situation found the bright reflection in the national - state building, violation of the economic, political and cultural rights of all without exception peoples of the USSR, irrespective of their number and status.

The struggle for political authority, the collision of economic interests, the revival of ethnic consciousness and the aspiration of peoples to freedom and independence got mixed up in a bloody show as a result of the Soviet empire crash. The collapse brought about growth in ethnicity on huge open ter­ritories of the Eurasian continent in the end of 20th century. One of the distinctive fea­tures of that period became an increase of a political component of ethnic processes that by all means conditioned a wide circulation of ideology of nationalism [4, 55].

In Azerbaijan as well as in many republics of the former Soviet Union, strug­gle for independence has been accompanied with the revival of the ethnic consciousness of peoples inhabiting that country. Under these conditions the independent Azerbai­jani state, with multi-ethnic structure of the population faces by all means problems of revealing and solving various ethnic prob­lems. The strategy of the county's political development and its place in the world community will depend in many respects on ability to perceive these problems and solve them.

All ethnic and national groups living in Azerbaijan, has passed a long historical way of formation and consolidation in this terri­tory. Numerous Turkic, Caucasian, Iranian tribes, despite of all distinctions among them, at various stages of the historical coexistence became participants of the com­mon social- economic and political process­es that was a basis of the interethnic integra­tion on this territory. The strengthening of integration processes was promoted by some following factors:

- the Islamic creed widely distributed among the majority of ethnic groups of Azerbaijan, since 7th century. During the epoch of domination of the religious ideology and the permanently changing political borders, the principle of a generality on belief in many respects was determining.

- similarity of types of economic activi­ties. Living in identical natural-climatic con­ditions, various ethnic groups in Azerbaijan's territory were engaged in iden­tical type of economy that determined the contact intensity between them.

- the Azerbaijani (Turkic) language. It as become so that exactly this language during a long historical process has become the basic means of the dialogue between ethnic communities of the country. There were objective and subjective reasons for that, among which a paramount place was occu­pied by the numerical majority of carriers of this language, its availability in the master­ing, the certain kind of economic activities of a part of the Azerbaijanis acted at period­ic re-roaming in the role of various informa­tion carriers. Thus, hundreds years ago the Azerbaijani traditional culture by virtue of the specified reasons was a communicative-sign field on which numerous interethnic contacts were carried out.

For peoples inhabiting the country one of the definite problems in the context of mod­ern ethno-political situation is the problem of the ethnic identity restoration.

In Azerbaijan of the beginning of 20th century by virtue of the certain historical and ethno-cultural conditions national con­sciousness had a feature characteristic for traditional, pre-industrial societies. The eth­nic belonging was covered with a whole system of more actual, mainly local social connections: family (which stability was determined by preservation of a large fami­ly), communal, regional and so on. Besides, a low degree of geographical mobility in many regions of the country practically excluded an opportunity of interethnic con­tacts without which comprehension of own ethnic difference (the antithesis "we - they") either does not arise at all, or is formed extremely slowly under the influence of irrelevant and the obscure information and propagation. As a rule, the local group which resides on a compact territory and frequent­ly did not realize its belonging to the ethno-social community remained a limit of self-identification under conditions of the weak social mobilization, the undeveloped intra-ethnic information connections. Islamic creed of Azerbaijanis, in the absence of the national statehood, took a dominating place in national consciousness system. It corre­sponded to traditions of Islam not recogniz­ing ethnic distinctions of the uniform Muslim umma.

The formation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) in 1918 gave a powerful impulse to national consciousness of Azerbaijanis. During that period the par­adigm of the national statehood, which went back to ideology of nationalism in a broad sense of this word was accepted for the basis of a new state building. Its essence consists in recognizing a nationality as a basis of the public organization and an ide­ological basis of culture, ethics and policy. It is necessary to note that the period of ADR falls on the time of further strengthening of ethnicity phenomenon and is characterized by big sociopolitical and technological changes in the world.

During the Soviet period the Russian colonial tradition with some autonomy of Azerbaijan people's cultural life was actual­ly renewed. The national consciousness, during 70 years subjected to the intensive intervention of ethnically alien ideas, became, to a certain degree, deformed. This occurred because channels of influence on the nation­al consciousness subdivided into secondary and primary groups. The secondary groups distributing system of values, indirectly, with the help of various social institutes -school, other educational institutions, polit­ical and public organizations, mass media influenced consciousness proceeding from communistic ideology. The primary groups introducing system of values informally, directly through personal interaction - fam­ily, relatives, friends, were based on nation­al values and ethno-cultural traditions.

For Azerbaijanis the aggression on the part of Armenia and the struggle for the lib­eration of the occupied territories have become a powerful factor of the national mobilization as a basis for a new stage of the national consolidation. However, numerous problems connected both with the Karabakh conflict solution, and the forming of the statehood, bear enough negative potential for Azerbaijanis' national con­sciousness. The military defeats and the loss of a part of the territory increase the nation­al inferiority complex. A dominating struc­tural element in the national consciousness continues to remain "Azerbaijanship", as a concept passed a way of the historical forma­tion and incorporated both the ethnic begin­ning, and a civil belonging. In this situation the independent Azerbaijani state, with multi-ethnic structure of the population, faced, and in the future will face different ethnic problems. The strategy of the coun­try's political development and her place in the world community in many respects will depend on ability to perceive these prob­lems and solve them.

It is necessary to note that the right on freedom of ethnic identification, being every person's natural right, was in rigid dependence on the set of ideological instructions in the course of the Soviet total­itarian system, domination of [5, 54]. With the purpose of creation of an illusion of a dynamical character of the Soviet system and, hence, advancing to a homogeneous, in the social - ethnic relation, society, various measures on restriction of the nominal list of Soviet peoples were undertaken on the part of the Kremlin leadership. It is enough to recall that before every all-union popula­tion census, in Moscow, in the supreme spheres of the party-bureaucratic hierarchy lists of peoples subject to the account were made [6, 25]. Besides, all social-economic and cultural policy of the Soviet state stimu­lated the renunciation of identification with own ethnos for the benefit of title (given the name to union republics) ethnos, and even better of the Russian ethnos.

In these conditions also in Azerbaijan some discrepancy between the number of persons identifying themselves with ethnic community and the number of real carriers of the given ethnic culture and conscious­ness was observed. For this reason during the last 80 years some ethnic minorities have been gradually losing in their number, and some in general disappeared from the ethnic map of the country. The given phenomenon was rather precisely fixed with the last All-Union population census of 1989 and the first national census of 1999 carried out under independence and, in a certain degree, corresponded to the international standards.  According to the 1989-census results, the Talyshes, who had not been mentioned in censuses more than 50 years, re-occupied their place among the ethnic groups  of Azerbaijan.  The  1999  census  showed the 3.6 times growth in the Talyshes'  number. Besides, the restoration of a real ethnic self-identification can explain a big, more than twice, growth of the number of  Kurds, and also 50% increase in the number of Tsakhur during the period between the censuses of 1979-1989 [7, 8].

Taking into account a number of factors, namely the general growth of the popula­tion of Azerbaijan for the period of 1979-1999 by 30%, the absence of excessive repro­duction of the specified ethnic groups, and also the absence during this period of large migratory streams of Talyshes, Tsakhurs, Kurds in the country, (thus it is necessary to take into account that the Kurds expelled from Armenia, have appeared after carrying out of the 1989 census), it is possible to draw a conclusion that partially these peoples' representatives went through a natural process of the ethnic identity restoration. The process of the ethnic identity restoration displayed itself not only in the change of the number of the ethnic groups, but also in their representatives' political intensifica­tion. From the end of the 80-s of 20th centu­ry national - cultural societies of different ethnic and religious communities began to function in Azerbaijan. Practically represen­tatives of all ethnic minorities living in the country, founded organizations, which basic program tasks were preservation, studying and development of the history, the native language and the traditional cul­ture. Thus, there were established the Lezgin center "Samur", the Avar society and named after Imam Shamil, the Kurdish soci­ety "Ronai", the Tat society "Azeri", etc. Originally these centers, being created in Baku, had a sufficiently elite character, i.e. united, basically, intellectuals originating from this or that ethnic community. Namely in this environment the generation of ideas about the ethnic identity restoration was developing. Moreover, an elite character of the national-cultural societies in many respects conditioned rather weak links with the places of compact settlement of the com­munities. Under these conditions an inade­quate reflection by the specified national-cultural societies of real social and cultural needs of the ethnic group represented by them, was observed. So, for example, origi­nally there were raised demands about tran­sition of education on the native language in places of settlements of ethnic minorities that was not possible to fulfill in the absence of textbooks, various manuals. However, taking into account specific features of some districts of the country with Lezgins, Talyshes, Avars, compactly settled in them, the elementary education in languages of these peoples has been entered. It is quite probable that the problem of education in national languages still experiences its orga­nizational period and its full solution is a case of the remote future.

Among the ethnic minorities settled in Azerbaijan, there are also minorities, which in the process of integration ended up with a final ethnic identity change, and merger with the Azerbaijani ethnos has taken place. So, for example, a long historical coexis­tence of Tats and Azerbaijanis has devel­oped in these peoples the common features in economy, culture and every-day-life. Azerbaijani language, becoming since 19th century the native language of the Tats, has played a considerable role in it. It is neces­sary to note that the wide circulation of Azerbaijani language has considerably nar­rowed the sphere of functioning of Tat lan­guage, having limited to every-day-life in the countryside. Significant changes have taken place in ethnic consciousness of Tats, many of whom realize themselves Azerbai­janis and in many respects have lost Tat lan­guage. Similar processes have taken place also with Shakhdaghi peoples (Khynalygh, Kryzys, Budughis). Ethnocultural contacts between Shakhdaghi and Azerbaijanis around them have an old history, for this rea­son Azerbaijan language is actively func­tioning in the environment of Khynaligh, Kryzy, and Budughi ethnic groups. Besides, the education system in Azerbaijan lan­guage has conditioned significant expan­sion of the sphere of its functioning. Besides the language, integration processes of the culture of the Shakhdaghi group have cov­ered also other aspects of a life-support sys­tem of the peoples. Thus, in every-day-life, economy and in social-normative culture of these ethnic groups significant influence of the Azerbaijan cultural tradition is obser­ved. The ethnic consciousness changes also have taken place among the majority of rep­resentatives of these peoples. Absence in the Azerbaijani ethnos of any serious political and economic pressures towards these groups undermines false assumptions on assimilation policy having been carried out in Azerbaijan.

A partial ethnic identity change among representatives of the ethnic minorities has been conditioned by an objective, natural historical course of integration processes in Azerbaijan during hundreds of years. Arising of significant layer marginals genetically connected with the ethnic roots and, at the same time, realizing themselves a part of uniform Azerbaijani ethnos, was a conse­quence of these processes. Later the realized change of their ethnic belonging occurred basically in this layer of inhabitants of the country namely [8, 4]. Thus, it is necessary to take into consideration that it has been happening during a long historical time and, hence, depend on a socio-political state of affairs of the epoch. Though both till 19th century, and during the colonial period (1828 -1991) there were own features mak­ing influence on ethnic processes in Azerbaijan.

Problem of preservation of cultural orig­inality. The majority of the newly independ­ent states face the problem of provision of conditions for a free expression of cultural originality for all without exception. The rich traditional culture of the ethnic groups living on Azerbaijan's territory, with all its affinity and similarity conditioned by the centuries-old coexistence, has also unique specific features. It concerns both the folk­lore heritage, and the elements of socio-normative culture, and subjects of national-applied art. The preservation and increase of all this can be carried out by both efforts of carriers of the given culture, and efforts and means of the state. Being a component of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan experienced identical differences in providing the rights of ethnic minorities in the field of expres­sion of cultural originality. So, in the 20-s the national policy was directed at all-round support of national languages and cultures, irrespective of the number of speakers and thereof, a wide network of schools in vari­ous languages functioned and alphabets for unwritten peoples were created in Azerbai­jan. However, from the beginning of the30-s the purposeful policy carried out by the Soviet leadership on liquidation of schools-in languages of small peoples led to the loss by them of an opportunity of training in the native language. This circumstances created big difficulties also for the development of the national culture. The long-term absence of school education in languages of ethnic minorities creates, now, certain problems

for the functioning of the similar schools. It is necessary to take into account also the majority of ethnic groups have no tradition of school teaching on the native language. Probably, the preference in this case should be given to evolutionary way of forming of national schools. This way provides for ini­tial teaching a language as a subject in pri­mary classes, and also practicing Sunday schools with the further escalating educa­tional system in the process of accumulation of experience, a professional training and creation of curriculums. The major condi­tion is thought to be an account of real needs of carriers of certain languages. This is especially important, as the possibilities of local languages while getting a specialty and higher education are rather limited. And in this case the right of a free choice is essential.

Problem of freedom on contacts between parts of a "divided" ethnos. An important place in the system of the political rights of ethnic and national minorities occupies the right on free contacts with parts of their eth­nos settled on the other side of the frontier. In Azerbaijan as well as in other newly inde­pendent states, the given problem gets a special urgency.  During many decades, within the frameworks of the uniform state ethnic groups contacted freely with their congeners in other republics. The collapse of the USSR and gained independence of the republics is resulted in registration of all attributes of a sovereign state, including of frontier, customs, independent transport system, etc. All this, in a certain extent, decreased contacts between ethnic groups closely resided in different states. In Azerbai­jan this problem in many respects is connected with Avars and Lezgins. They mostly live in the Republic of Dagestan under Russia. The initial declarations of the Russian government on establishment of a strict frontier regime between the two states have provoked a certain tension among Lezgins, Avars and Azerbaijanis settled on both sides of the frontier. The problem has been in partly solved by creating "transparent" frontiers between Azerbaijan and Russia that has allowed to keep the historically developed system, of communication between ethic groups.

Freedom on contacts of various parts of the ethnos settled in different states, under certain conditions, as a factor of external impact, can influence on the character of interethnic relations inside the states. The basic mass of ethnos settled outside the country serves as an additional not only moral, but also a material support for the related population at upholding by it of demands of a political, social-economic or cultural character.

Especially, a similar sort of an impact becomes more active at the limited attention of the state to problems of ethnic minorities. Under the condition of a rigid political and economic struggle of various social groups and interested states, these contacts can stimulate the growth of tension between ethnic groups. In this case channels of infor­mation exchange between various parts of the ethnos, settled on the different sides of the frontier, can be used for the translation of negative information promoting occur­rence of false stereotypes and deformed images and, finally, to alienation from the ethnic majority of the country [9, 26]. All this process promotes the accumulation of interethnic disputed potential and creates a significant threat to the country's interests.

The problem of a parity of the country's administrative-territorial structure and a compact settlement of ethnic minorities became especially critical during the wreck of the Soviet empire [10, 9]. It is necessary to emphasize that search for optimal forms of a combination of the territorial and ethnic structure of the country has been continuing for many decades already. One of such forms is offered to be a cultural autonomy and its main principles still remaining the subject of the discussions. In our opinion, the opportunity of a free choice in the satis­faction of spiritual needs creates necessary preconditions for a cultural autonomy, as of a separate individual, as well as a communi­ty in a whole. And the concurrence of administrative frontiers to the settlement of ethnic communities is not obligatory in this case at all. It is obvious that the specified principles can operate both in a quarter, and in a certain part of a city or rural area, and more often on the basis of these principles people with the common interests and cul­tural needs can be united. Thus, a cultural autonomy, to a certain extent, is a personal category and least of all is connected to political-administrative parameters. We can't exclude at all that frontiers of adminis­trative areas, and ethnos settlement can coincide. However in this case it is neces­sary to speak about a ratio of the adminis­trative-territorial units singled out accord­ing to an ethnic sign with other elements of the territorial structure of the state. The solution of the given problem should be built on exception of basic distinctions between these two forms. The development of a local and regional self-management, democratic forms of the organization of local administrative structures, independ­ent budgetary provision and other meas­ures should be related to all administrative-territorial units of the state. The necessity of such approach is also explained by that few ethnic and national minorities possess a compact natural habitat of settlement. But singling out those or other ethnic groups and their ranging comes into contradiction with the basic democratic principles. The observance of the specified conditions, most likely, would allow achieving an optimum ratio of such principles as the general eco­nomic space, a uniform political system, ideological pluralism and multiculturalism. The frameworks of the given article do not limit the submitted analysis of the prob­lems connected to ethno-political processes in Azerbaijan. We have given a fragmentary review of complex and not-up-to-the-end-studied processes. Certainly, ethnic prob­lems have come now on the foreground and in many respects determine a present pic­ture of socio-political processes in different parts of the world.

 

NOTES

1.   Discussion " Ethnic Issue and Interethnic Relations in the USSR: History and Modernity" -Problems of History, 1989, N° 5.

2.   Kopylov I.Y. Problem of Development of Interethnic Relations under Perestroyka. -Scientific communism, 1990, Nq 2.

3.  Meissner B. The Soviet Concept of Nation and the Right of National self-determination -International journal. Canadian Institute of International Relations. 1976-1977 vol. XXXII, Nq 1

4.  Helner E. Nationalism Comes Back - New and Newest History, 1989, Nq 5.

5.  Guboglo M.N. National Groups in the USSR -Communist, 1989, N° 10, p 54

6.    Bromlei Y.V. National Problems under Perestroyka. - Problems of History, 1989, Nq 1. p. 25

7.     Population Census of the Azerbaijan Republic.1999. Part IV. Baku, 2000. P.8

8.  To Studying Modern Ethno-Political situation in the USSR. - History of the USSR, 1990, Nq 6. P.4

9.  Ethnic Issue and interethnic Relations in the USSR. History and Modernity. - Problems of History, 1989, Nq 5. P.26

10.  Pain E.A., Popov A.A. Interethnic conflicts in the USSR. - "Soviet ethnography", 1990, Nq 1. With. 9.