Dear Mr. President,
The existing tensed situation in the Azerbaijani Republic makes us address you applying for assistance in resolving a whole complex of problems that face the indigenous ethnic groups of that country, e.g. the Lezgi peoples – Udis, Tsakhurs, Lezgins, Rutuls, Aguls, Tabasarans, Qriz, Budukhs, and Archibs.
It is generally known that after the Soviet power had been established on the Caucasus, our peoples appeared to be divided, almost exactly in two, by the Republican borders between the Dagestan Autonomous Republic within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (R.S.F.S.R.) and the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic. At the Soviet era, the situation had been somewhat uncomfortable, namely by furthering the ethnic split of the Lezgi peoples; however, the borders inside the Soviet Union had been transparent, which partially eased the tension of that issue.
After the USSR had collapsed, the Azerbaijani Republic having obtained independence, the state boundary between that country and Dagestan (in Russian Federation) has resembled an Iron Curtain. We can present a long list of artificial obstacles put by the Azerbaijani state bodies for persons of the divided people who are willing to cross the border.
Since the first day of its independence, the Azerbaijani leaders have declared themselves the second state of the single Turkish nation completely ignoring the presence of many other ethnic groups in the republic and, in fact, implementing the Turkish model of comprehensive all-out suppression and assimilation of ethnic groups appeared under their control. At that, unlike Azeri, who had obtained their ethnic name in 1936 basing on an artificially drawn geographic principle, our peoples are indigenous inhabitants of these lands who had had their statehood before. The History knows that the today’s Azerbaijan was created at the point of bayonet of the Turkish general Nuri-paşa who had blooded the whole region; on these lands there had existed states such as the Caucasian Albania, Arran, Shirvan, etc.
The Azerbaijani leaders do not limit themselves to methods of the extermination of indigenous peoples of this region: Lezgins, Avars, Talysh, Tats, Persians, etc. These methods vary from assassination of active community leaders and intellectuals to forgery and doctoring of the Lezgi peoples’ historical heritage to the alien Turkic ethnic element. Since the beginning of the Karabakh conflict up till present days, Azerbaijan has been using a Jesuitical method of destroying our youth by sending them to the front line in a number disproportionally bigger in comparison with the whole number of these peoples in Azerbaijan.
As known, borders between the republics on the Caucasus were drawn without any consultations with the ethnic groups inhabiting the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic: Lezgins, Avars, Talysh and other indigenous peoples of the region who had been living in their native lands from everlasting. Those borders had been fixed not by agreements or treaties with our peoples and with the neighboring republics but by the rule-of-thumb of the Communist party bodies. The given borders made sense only within a unite state as long as Russia had been providing comprehensive security and interethnic peace. But even despite the Russian influence, our people were the only one in the USSR that had had to pay for studying his native language. In 1991, Azerbaijan withdrew from the Soviet Union having arbitrarily invaded the international law and the Soviet legislation. Understanding that the repeated incorporation of our peoples to an alien state would evoke a negative response amid the indigenous inhabitants, Azerbaijan gave up the idea of taking into account the peoples’ will via a referendum.
Since early 90s, the official Baku, used by Turkey as a springboard for breaking the Northern Caucasus off Russia, has been pursuing an active information policy in the Russian media space trying to present the Lezgis’ movement for vindication of their legal rights as an extremist phenomenon. In Dagestan, Turkish emissaries have been carrying out an active work for instructing autonomous underground forces through which the local population is being persuaded about breaking the peoples of Caucasus off Russia.
In the north of Azerbaijan, in the regions of Kusary, Khachmas, Kuba, Gabala, Kakh, Ismaili, Divichi, and Oguz, as well as in Baku, according to non-official data, the number of Lezgis is up to 800 thousand.
The official Azeri statistics however forgers true data and indicates a ridiculous figure of ‘157 thousand’. The Lezgis in Northern Azerbaijan are deprived of fundamental rights. Our people do not have an opportunity to study our native language in national schools, there are no TV channels in our mother tongue, there is no national radiobroadcast, no newspapers, no online editions.
The Lezgis have virtually no access to power holding structures. Displeasure with the Baku ruling regime is great so the Lezgis from the north of Azerbaijan are hopefully looking at Russia. Year after year, pro-Russian moods have been growing; the idea of joining the South Lezgistan to Russia enjoys wide popularity since in Russia each of ethnic groups have almost all the opportunities for reproduction and saving identity unlike conditions in Azerbaijan.
In early February 2010, the Azeri leaders have launched a new series of repressions against the Avars, the Lezgis, the Talysh, etc. An Avar activist, who had been opposing the ethnocide organized by the Azeris and Turks, was murdered in a torture chamber of the Azeri National Security Ministry. Those days, from the wall of an ancient mosque in the center of Baku there was removed a plate who had been indicating the date of its construction and its ethnic belonging to our people. In 2009, our several mosques were either closed or barbarously destroyed before the eyes of believers. The discrimination of religious feeling takes place not only with respect to Lezgi-speaking Muslims but also the Lezgi-speaking Christians – the Udins whose churches had been built as far as in apostolic times are being destroyed or misappropriated as ‘Azeri heritage’. In late January the Azeri leaders started debating actively the issue of changing Russified family name endings “-ov”, “-ev” into Turkish-like “-li”, “-lu”. If this bill is adopted, our family names will differ from those of our brothers who live in Dagestan. At the same time, in the Azerbaijani Republic undergoes eradication of the Russian language – a common language of interethnic communication for the Lezgis. The same policy is being pursued with respect to schools with Russian classes.
All the above-mentioned actions of terror against the Azerbaijani citizens who have safeguarded their identity and who are not willing to become Turks, surely lead to a new armed conflict in the region but now with participation of several ethnic groups. The possible way-out might be accordance of a vast autonomy to our people within the Azerbaijani Republic. But in case of Azerbaijan it may probably lead to a failure in solving the Lezgis’ problems if we mind the unfortunate experience in Nakhichevan; it may eventually bring to creating of one more senseless autonomous entity without the ethnic group for which it is supposed for. We have a firm intention to fight for justice, be it with the support of Russia or without it; anyway our people will find the way-out of this situation in conformity with our traditions.
Association of Indigenous Ethnic Groups of Azerbaijan
The "Alpan" National Revelation Movement