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strong>At the Brussels forum devoted to the conflicts in South Caucasus (See “Hay Zinvor ” # 7 , page 15),Talysh political figures raised the question of full independence of Talyshstan, considering that the requirement of autonomy within the Republic of Azerbaijan is no longer relevant… Discussion organized by the European Parliament reiterated that Talysh movement can play the role of a “locomotive” for other indigenous peoples living in Azerbaijan.

Part of Azerbaijan’s multiethnic population consists of indigenous peoples – Talyshs having Iranian origins, Caucasian Persians ( Tats ), Kurds and Caucasian peoples – Lezghins, Avars , Tabasarans, Rutuls, Tsakhurs, Aguls and others. In this group, the majority are Lezghins – about 364,000, followed by the Avars – 60-65.000, Tsakhurs – 55-60.000, Rutuls – ab.50.000, etc. In general, the Talyshs – 2.5 million people – are the largest, the most politically mature and active of the indigenous minorities living in Azerbaijan.

Evidences that Lezghins lived in the area since the earliest times, could be found in the Armenian and Georgian sources of the yet 5th century, which called them leks. Information about them is also found in the Arab-Persian sources, where they are referred to as the people of al-Lakzi .

In the second half of the 18th century, after the collapse of a grand empire established by Nadir Shah, several semi-independent principalities appeared in Eastern Transcaucasia, khanates and sultanates, and among them – Khanates of Derbent and of Ghuba, with a predominant Lezghin population there. Russian traveler, naturalist and ethnographer of the 19th century Nikolai Seidlitz gives interesting data on this . “… They ( Lezghins – A.V. ) lived on the right bank of the Samur River , at large areas adjacent to the Caucasus Range and reaching up to the Caspian Sea.” Subsequently Khanate of Ghuba joined the Baku Province as the same name county which in 1918, along with other areas such as Armenian Nakhichevan and Artsakh ( Nagorno-Karabakh), was simply presented by the Soviet regime to a newly formed republic under the name “Azerbaijan ” that had never existed before.

From the first day of its establishment, Republic of Azerbaijan attempted to “compensate” lack of national identity through assimilation of indigenous peoples living at its territory – through decades of pressure and repressions, falsification of demographic data and such forgeries .

A striking example of this are the results of census conducted in various years in the Baku Khanate and Azerbaijan when, in parallel with the formation of the ” Azerbaijani society “, we see data on the number of Lezghin population which seem absolutely incredible.

So, in 1897, according to official data, the number of Lezghin people was 63,670, and in 1926 surprisingly becomes 37,270 , i.e. reduced by almost half.

And after next census Lezghin population ” miraculously ” grows twice and then it goes in the same spirit permanently. Such figures, devoid of any logic, indicate the formal nature of the census in Azerbaijan and the apparent trend of assimilation of indigenous peoples living at its territory.

More or less clear idea on the size of Lezghins in Azerbaijan can be found in the Russian

” Ethnologist ” Encyclopedia – about 364,000 . According to Lezghin sources themselves, their number ranges 600-800.000. Evidently, the data of the Russian Empire and the current data by Lezghin sources seem more plausible. And here we must note a pretty high fertility level among Lezghins .

If in Daghestan (an autonomous republic within Russia) Lezghins speak their native language, have preserved their national identity, culture, writing and literature, not being persecuted on ethnic grounds, their situation in Azerbaijan is quite different , where, in addition to the pressure on ethnic grounds by official Baku, dismissive attitude towards Lezghins reigns, they do not have even minimal chance to preserve their national identity, and can not do business even.
In other words, to be a Lezghin in Azerbaijan is a ” sin.” And the world is turning a blind eye to these problems.

Consequently, Lezghins have nothing to do than to concentrate its own forces to defend their ethnicity, language, writing and literature…

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of Azerbaijan policy of assimilation of indigenous peoples in this country have began to gain momentum, in response to which “Samur” National Lezghin Center and the “Movement of Liberation of Lezgistan” Organization were established in 1992, etc. And although these organizations have some ideological differences, however, they all share the ultimate goal – to throw off the Azerbaijani yoke and establish independent Lezgistan.

Lezghins who traditionally have been living more compactly in Gusar, Ghuba , Khachmaz, Ismayili, Sheki , Baku and Sumgait areas and constitute the majority there, organize rallies and marches of civil disobedience against the policy of the Azerbaijani authorities more and more often.

Thus, in March 2012 huge rallies were held by Lezghins in Ghuba that became known to the world as ” Ghuba Crisis.”
However, it should be noted that despite the fact Lezghins have national organizations, they, nevertheless, in contrast to Talyshs, were more prone to the policy of assimilation by Azeris and do not yet have that degree of maturity of the ideological and political struggle that features the Talysh . That’s why we felt it was necessary to emphasize at the beginning of this article that the Talyshs may play a role of a “locomotive ” for national and political claims of other indigenous peoples of Azerbaijan.

Today the Talyshs are waving flag of independence over such mini- empires like Azerbaijan, and the day when the banner of independence will be raised also by other ethnic minorities, – Tats, Lezghins …

YSU graduate student of Iranian Studies

Category: #10 (1028) 20.03.2014 – 26.03.2014, News, Spotlight, Region