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The FAR CENTRE, Baku, Azerbaijan
Centre for Economic and Political Research

Monitoring Group


On the order of FREEDOM HOUSE, New York, N.Y.

 

AZERBAIJAN: IN SEARCH FOR A NATIONAL IDEA

Under the leadership of
Nacaf Nacafov (Rest in Peace)

 

C O N T E N T S

Foreword...................................................................................................2
Concepts of National Idea and Their Coverage in Print Media:..............4
-Azerbaijanism.........................................................................................4
-Unified Azerbaijan..................................................................................6
-Islamism..................................................................................................9
-Liberalism...............................................................................................12
-Authoritarianism -Consolidation around the leader...............................14
-Nationalism.............................................................................................17
-Socialism-Communism...........................................................................19
Liberalism or Nationalism........................................................................21
1996:  The  Search  Intensifies.................................................................38
-Figures and Diagrams.............................................................................38
-Commentary...........................................................................................40
List of Newspapers Referred To in the Monitoring................................43

 

AZERBAIJAN:  IN SEARCH FOR NATIONAL IDEA

Foreword

 On October 18, 1991 Azerbaijan proclaimed restoration of its independence.  It is natural that this set off the intellectual process of self-identification, self-determination and choosing the path for future development.
 Seceding from a superpower with a population of 250 million, and becoming a nation of their own with a population of 7-million, Azerbaijanis found themselves surrounded by neighbors whose attitudes were often far from being friendly.  Moreover, the nation eaten from within by ethnic and clan antagonism, faced a crossroads with two alternatives:  totalitarianism or democracy, a Stalin-type socialism or wild capitalism.
 The nation started looking for answers to basic questions:   Who are we?  What new values should we acquire?  What shall we do afterwards?  The searches which often took a form of ardent discussions, were reflected in print media.  Those publications are the object of our monitoring "AZERBAIJAN IN SEARCH FOR NATIONAL IDEA.."
 The monitoring of Azerbaijan's newspapers on this subject covers the period of the year 1995 and January - February of 1996.  The main NATIONAL IDEAs covered, propagated and criticized in the print media are the following:   AUTHORITARIANISM, AZERBAIJANISM, UNIFIED AZERBAIJAN, PATRIOTISM, ISLAMISM, COMMUNISM, CONSERVATISM, STRONG PERSONALITY, LIBERALISM, CONSOLIDATION AROUND THE LEADER, NATIONALISM, MUSAVATISM, SOCIALISM, TURANISM, and TURKISM.  There is also a number of other  concepts FOR NATIONAL IDEA, but as they occupied a small space in the newspapers, we did not include them in our survey.  Despite their diversity, NATIONAL IDEAs have some common or related features.  On that basis we divided NATIONAL IDEAs into seven groups:- - AZERBAIJANISM
 - UNIFIED AZERBAIJAN
 - ISLAMISM
 - LIBERALISM
 - CONSOLIDATION AROUND THE LEADER
 - NATIONALISM
 - SOCIALISM-COMMUNISM
 The analysts admit the certain conditional character and relativeness of the proposed grouping of the NATIONAL IDEAs.
 The monitoring focuses on the articles directly related to the SEARCH FOR   the national idea.  There are also hundreds of publications where the subject of  national idea was mentioned only briefly.  We come across that in interviews with politicians and in various political articles. Such publications are not included in our monitoring.
 21 newspapers were selected for monitoring.  Different subjective and objective factors were taken into account (circulation, periodicity, publishers, political  orientation, party affiliation, connections, language, degree to which the subject is covered, percentage of sale, etc.).  When the list of newspapers was prepared, their political orientations were taken into account in order to maintain the principle of a balanced approach.  The list of newspapers is enclosed.  Conditionally, newspapers were divided into three groups:  independent and conditionally independent (for simplicity, we will use further the term "independent"), government, and opposition.
 The main criterion was the publisher of the newspaper and its political orientation.


The work on the theme "AZERBAIJAN: IN SEARCH FOR NATIONAL IDEA" was carried out by the Monitoring Group of FAR CENTRE on the order of FREEDOM HOUSE.
Monitoring Group:  Nacaf Nacafov, Coordinator;  Samad Mirzayev, Senior Analyst; 
Mustafa Hacili, Azer Qasimov, Asif Nasibov - Analysts
Adress: Rashid Behbudov Street 3, Baku 370 000, Azerbaijan, tel 930964.
E-mail: far@monitor.baku.az

 

CONCEPTS OF NATIONAL IDEA AND THEIR COVERAGE IN PRINT MEDIA

AZERBAIJANISM

 As a national idea, AZERBAIJANISM has formed in the history of Azerbaijan's social thinking over the past five years.
 Unlike other national idea concepts, the idea of AZERBAIJANISM does not have an extensively worked out theoretical or philosophical basis.  Each separate individual interprets it in his of her own way.  The inter-ethnic tensions that arose in Azerbaijan after the collapse of the Soviet Union called for certain changes in the ideas of NATIONALISM AND TURKISM, and, in conformity with the challenges of the time, to their certain "internationalization" and extension.
 The principle:   "AZERBAIJAN IS THE HOMELAND FOR ALL NATIONS LIVING HERE (including small ethnic groups)" lays the groundwork for the idea of AZERBAIJANISM.  S. Aliyev writes in his article entitled "Is There a National Idea in Azerbaijan ?":   "This principle was already perceived by various nations and ethnic groups, and that destroyed, both ideologically and practically, the initiators of  the 'Talis Mugan Republic,' and the 'Lacin  Kurdish  Republic,' and the instigators of conflicts in Qusar.
 "At the present stage, the problem of our occupied lands and the fact that thousands of our compatriots are still held hostages must be propagated as an issue which is of similar significance to all nations of Azerbaijan.  Be it Turk, or Talis, or Lezgi, or Kurd, or Lak, or Avar, or a representative of any of our nationality, everybody must know that enemy is everybody's enemy.
 From that viewpoint, unanimity of all ethnic groups and peoples of Azerbaijan in defending the statehood of the unified Azerbaijan  must be held as a primary principle" ("Millet," N47(395), September 9, 1995, p. 7).
 Faiq Mustafa writes in the article "From the Psychology of Masses to a Civil Society:"  "...laying down the basis for abolishment of negative phenomena like a group, clan psychology, the proposed ideology of AZERBAIJANISM paves the way for national interests" ("Millet," N73(421), November 23, 1995, p. 8).
 One should note that, at a broader approach, the idea of AZERBAIJANISM can be viewed as a version of  the idea of a "UNIFIED AZERBAIJAN," which is characteristic, for the time being, only to North Azerbaijan.
 This idea is now espoused by political parties (Azerbaijan National Independence Party, Unified Azerbaijan and others), various societies (Society of Struggle for Azerbaijan's Integrity) and various individuals.
 Among independent newspapers, "Avrasiya" frequently addresses that issue.  For example, in January - February 1996 five articles on AZERBAIJANISM were published in the independent press, and all of them were in "Avrasiya".
 One should note that "Avrasiya" views AZERBAIJANISM as  part and parcel of the ideas of NATIONALISM and TURKISM.
 In 1995, among official newspapers, AZERBAIJANISM was covered mainly by "Xalq Qazeti" (five articles).  In January - February 1996, government devoted only two articles to the idea of AZERBAIJANISM ("Xalq Qazeti" and "Yeni Azarbaycan").  In these articles AZERBAIJANISM was propagated as an integral part of the doctrine of CONSOLIDATION AROUND THE LEADER (President Heydar Aliyev).
 In 1995, opposition press published about 25 articles and in January - February 1996, three articles, both small and big.  Such articles are mostly to be found in "Millet."  In 1995 the newspaper published 16 articles related to the issue.  "Millet" continued this topic in January - February 1996 and published three big purely ideological articles.
 "Millet," too, approaches the idea of AZERBAIJANISM within the context of NATIONALISM and TURKISM.  Azer Rasidoglu writes in the article entitled "Happy Is Someone Who Calls Himself a Turk" (a saying by Kamal Ataturk):   "The reawakening of the idea of Turkism in Azerbaijan will give an impetus to the process of self-identity of other nationalities s living in Azerbaijan and ... the idea of AZERBAIJANISM will develop.  At certain moments, AZERBAIJANISM unites all strata, all ethnic groups and political forces in the name of the development of our unified fatherland, and NATIONALISM (AZERBAIJAN TURKISH NATIONALISM), turning into a leading ideology, causes reinforcement of moral values and economic rebirth of the nation" ("Millet," N12(443), February 1,1996, p.4).
 With regard to this issue, "Millet" and "Avrasiya" stand on similar positions.
 At the same time, some writers claim that this idea is of an artificial character.  Such stance is reflected in the article "The State of the Nation:   Where Are We Heading On?" by Nazif Alakbarli.  He argues:   "Searches for national ideology focus primarily on a notion termed AZERBAIJANISM and cling to it as if it were a life-buoy.
 "Put forth in 1990's, AZERBAIJANISM  was initially meant as an alternative to TURKISM.  Later that notion was reflected in the programs of centrists as well as many other parties in general.  Now this idea again acquires a special meaning and significance and is interpreted differently by government and opposition.  Taking into account the historical and contemporary aspects of AZERBAIJANISM, its being 'a won battle' is undoubted from the viewpoint of statehood and ethnic unity.  But it does not make sense to accept it as a slogan or invent new ideological principles for it" ("Millet," N38(396), December 16,1995, p.4).

 

UNIFIED AZERBAIJAN

 In the early 19th century the wars between Iran and czarist Russia ended up with "Gulistan" (October 12, 1813) and "Turkmenchay" (February 10, 1828) treaties.  The victorious Russia gained new territories in the Caucasus.  According to these treaties, Azerbaijan's lands to the North of Araz river (North Azerbaijan) became part of Russia.  South Azerbaijan ( to the South of Araz) remained under the Iranian state.  Thus, the groundwork was laid in the new history for division of inherently Azerbaijani lands.  Unfortunately, that process continued in the later periods and, as a result, Azerbaijan's lands became controlled by neighboring countries (Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Iran).  The fate of our compatriots living there, the nostalgia for lost lands shaped the idea of UNIFIED AZERBAIJAN.
 Until 1925 the borders between North and South Azerbaijan were open.  But the closure of the border and dramatic reduction of political, economic, cultural and humanitarian relations with Iran spurred the development of the idea of UNIFIED AZERBAIJAN and creation of "nostalgic" literature.  During this period national liberation movements evolved both in South and North Azerbaijan.  The unification of Azerbaijani lands and creation of the Unified Azerbaijan state was proclaimed as the supreme goal.
 In North Azerbaiijan this idea is espoused by political parties (Azerbaijan Popular Front, Unified Azerbaijan, Musavat, Xalq Azadliq, Cagdas Turan etc.), societies (Society for Struggle for Azerbaijan's Integrity, Qurtulus), unions (Yurd and others), and  separate individuals.
 In North Azerbaijan, wide propaganda in the press of the idea of UNIFIED AZERBAIJAN began in late 1980's.
 The government newspapers cover the problem from the historical perspective and in the light of arising human problems.  In 1995 "Xalq Qazeti" devoted two articles to that problem.
 In January - February 1996 the government newspapers did not publish any articles on the issue.
 The independent newspapers frequently addressed the issue.  They focused, mainly, on the history and present state of the idea.  In 1995, these newspapers published more than 20 articles, and in January - February 1996 three articles on that issue.  Most of them (12) were published in 1995 in "Ayna-Zerkalo."
 In 1995 the opposition newspapers published more than 100 articles of various sizes.  Among them there were both purely ideological articles and brief news reports.
 One of the major propagators of the idea of UNIFIED AZERBAIJAN was "Muxalifat."  In 1995 the newspaper published series of articles, and in January - February 1996 three articles.  As an example one can show the article "Has the National Liberation Movement Come to an End in Azerbaijan?" by Elcin Arifoglu.  He argues:   "The national liberation movement which has gained momentum in North Azerbaijan since 1988, aimed at four major goals.  One of them... was reunification of historically Azerbaijani lands with Azerbaijan and realization of the idea of UNIFIED AZERBAIJAN, which the nation has cherished for centuries.  This remains a dream yet.  The historically Azerbaijani lands that were joined to neighboring states in various periods of history, are still yearning.  The  majority of Azeri Turks are still under Iranian regime.
 Under the circumstances, can we consider the national liberation movement as finished?... There is no doubt that  the movement will resume" (Muxalifat, N39(397), December 20, 1995, p.4.).
 Yasaman Maharramova has a more basic approach to the problem.  In her article "The Time Calls On Us To Unite" she writes:   "We have never relinquished the idea of UNIFIED AZERBAIJAN... Thank god, with the romantic period coming to an end, the national ideal is turning into political reality.  Now this reality, this political ideology should make up the basis of our propaganda".
 In the writer's opinion, there are two attitudes to the South Azerbaijan problem among politicians and intellectuals.  The proponents of the first, pointing on Karabakh problem, and reckon that "we should not spoil the relations with Iran. That can create problems for our young state.  Like before, participants of resistance movement in the South would again suffer heavy losses."


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