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Azerbaijan: Ethnicity and the Struggle for Power in Iran

Book Review by Kaveh Farrokh

 

Greetings to All,

 

I highly recommend the following book written about Azerbaijan:

 

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TITLE: Azerbaijan: Ethnicity and the Struggle for Power in Iran

AUTHOR: Touraj Atabaki

PUBLISHER: London & New York - I.B Taurus Publishers

ISBN: 1 86064 554 2

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Currently political motivations are leading to a "re-writing" of history, mainly by Pan-Turanian revisionists. There are many misconceptions at present, including the following:

 

(1) The Republic of Azerbaijan is the same as Iranian Azerbaijan. The Republic of Azerbaijan was a term invented on May 27, 1918 in Tiflis, Georgia. The inventor of this term, Amin Rasulzadeh, later attempted to retract this by noting that "Alban (former Soviet Azerbaijan distinct from Albania in Europe) is different from Azerbaijan (in Iran)" (seeAkcoroglu (1928), Turk Yili, Istanbul, page 483). Later in a letter to Iranian authorities he stated that he wished to do "whatever is in his power to avoid any further discontent among Iranians" (see Ayandeh (1988), vol 4, no.s 1-2, p. 57-59). The communist party of Joseph Stalin in the 1920s however saw the political advantages of retaining this terminology and advocated the creation of a "Greater Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan". The terms "north" and south" Azerbaijan were invented in Moscow in the 1920s. Note that the Alban region of Persia was forcibly ceded to Russia after Russian military conquests in 1813 and 1828.

 

(2) Azerbaijanis are Turks. This is an over-simplification. It is truethat a large number of Azerbaijanis speak a variant of Oghuzz Turkish,however this was not always the native language of Azerbaijan. Turksarrived as invaders in 3 general waves in the years 1029, 1054 (Seljuks)and 1221 (Ghengiz Khan). The local languages of Azerbaijan and Alban were Iranian dialects as attested in primary historical sources.It is important to note that modern Farsi owes a great deal to Azerbaijanipatronage. Turkish was spoken as a means of popular communication andPersian (or Farsi specifically) is also widely used. The blurred linesbetween language and ethnicity are not always easy to define, even for experts.The Tats of the Caucasus speak Farsi, but they are definitely Turks, sincethey are direct descendents of Turkic Khazars who were of Jewish faith asthey are today. The Khazars adopted Farsi and abandoned Turkish as theircommon language. The reverse of this applies to Azerbaijanis and Albanians - they are Iranians who adopted a Turkic language. This is similar to Hungary - a native European population (Pannonians) adopted the language of a Turkic conquering minority group - the Huns of Attila.

 

(3) All Azerbaijanis speak Turkish. This is not true. Up to 1/4 of the people of the Republic of Azerbaijan speak different languages, especially Iranian dialects (e.g. Talysh). Also, there are many villages in Iranian Eastern Azerbaijan where dialects of old Pahlavi and other Iranian languages resembling Kurdish are spoken. This is distinct from Western Iranian Azerbaijan that has a majority Kurdish speaking population. The Pan-Turanian parties of Turkey and the Republic of Azerbaijan have called for the disintegration of Iran in favor of a Turkic super state. This was made "official" in the congress of the Azerbaijan Khalq Jebhesi (The People's Front of Azerbaijan-PFA) held in Baku, Republic of Azerbaijan in June 1989.

 

Atabaki discuss these issues concisely and clearly and is an excellent academic (his resources are well researched). For example, he makes mention of the Russian sponsored 6-volume Vatan Dili (Language of the Motherland) published in 1946 which makes no reference to Azerbaijan's social and cultural ties to Iran or Persia. The Vatan Dili was acknowledged by the wider academic community as being a baseless fabrication produced by the former Soviet Union and has never been taken seriously by western academics - this may be changing due to extensive lobbying by Pan-Turanian parties and their supporters in the west today. This is not the first time history and academia are being manipulated to serve short-term political interests.

 

It's impossible to discuss all the facts here, so please feel free to communicate with me directly, especially if you seek primary historical sources for reference or further reading.

 

My Thanks to All

Dr. Kaveh Farrokh (Ph.D.)

manuvera@aol.com