Ethnic Identity in Azerbaijan Republic

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Author: Elias Vahedi

Publisher: Tehran International Studies & Research Institute (TISRI)
Language: Persian
Publication Date: February 2008
Pages: 130

Ethnicity, as a major determinant of a nation’s identity, plays a great role in determining fate of countries. Following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, political geography of that region and areas around it have radically changed and new political entities have come into being on the basis of nation-state concept. The most pivotal factor in all new countries was ethnicities inhabiting them. Therefore, more than twenty new countries have been born in the Central Asia, Caucasus, and Balkans whose common denominator is sovereignty of a dominant ethnic group.

The newly independent states are still prone to further disintegration into smaller units or assimilation into bigger ones on the basis of ethnic identities. The result of such changes will not be limited to domestic issues of those countries and changes in political borders, but will destabilize regional arrangements by introducing new arrangements and power equations which can cause basic changes in relations among countries.

Azerbaijan Republic is a newly independent country with high diversity in ethnicities, which are not limited to languages, but also extend to racial and religious features.

The present book focuses on political and social conditions in Azerbaijan from an ethnic standpoint and discusses impact of those factors on the Islamic Republic of Iran. It first casts a look at the situation of various ethnic groups as well as the government’s structural and functional approaches to ethnic issues before explaining relevant sections of the country’s constitution.

The first chapter is entitled “Racial-Ethnic Grouping” where seven out of 38 ethnic groups living in Azerbaijan whose specifications have been given in appendices, that is, Azeri, Lezgi, Armenian, Taleshi, Kurd, and Jewish, have been studied. The chapter assesses their social and cultural origins and population as well as their economic and political status. In chapter two, which discusses religious groupings, religious identities of various ethnicities have been expounded. Since Shia Islam is the dominant religion there, it has been discussed in more detail and its role has been compared to the roles played by other religions and faiths. In addition to explaining how Shia has progressed through Azerbaijan, the chapter also discusses opportunities and capabilities, religious centers as well as challenges and threats facing Azeri Shias. Religious activities by followers of other faiths, including missionaries, sophists, Sunnis, and unconventional Islamic cults in addition to non-religious currents such as secularism and political restrictions have been also considered in this chapter.

The last part of the book, which contains conclusions, is mostly focused on the external interactions of various ethnic groups living in Azerbaijan, especially in relation to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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