Azerbaijanis in Russia
- This article is about Azerbaijanis in Russia. For Azerbaijanis in general, see the respective article.
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Aside from the large Azeri community native to Russia's Dagestan Republic, the majority of Azeris in Russia are fairly recent immigrants. Azeris started settling in Russia (with the exception of Dagestan) around the late 19th century, but their migration became intensive after World War II. It rapidly increased with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. According to the 2002 All-Russian Population Census, there are 621,840 Azeris residing in Russia, however the actual numbers are a lot higher due to recent migrations of guest workers from Azerbaijan. The estimated total Azeri population of Russia might be reaching as many as 3,000,000 people, with more than one and half million of them living in Moscow. The majority of them have come to Russia since 1991 from rural Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. Today most provinces of Russia have more or less significant Azeri communities, the biggest ones, according to official numbers, residing in Dagestan, Moscow, Khanty–Mansi, Krasnoyarsk, Rostov-on-the-Don, Saratov, Sverdlovsk, Samara, Stavropol, etc.
130,919 Azeris lived in the Dagestan Republic as of 2010, which makes them the region's sixth largest ethnic group and 4.5% of its total population. Most of them are natives of the city of Derbent living in the historical quarter Mahal and making up about ⅓ of the city's population. Azeris constitute 55% of the population of the Derbent rayon (over twenty towns and villages), 18% of that of the Tabasaran rayon 4% in the Rutul rayon and 3% in the Kizlyar rayon (villages of Bolshoy Bredikhin and Persidskoye). The rest live in the cities of Makhachkala, Khasavyurt, Buynaksk and Kizlyar.
Among cultural benefits, available to Dagestani Azeris, there are newspapers and magazines printed in the Azeri language, 72 public schools where Azeri is taught as a second language, and the Azeri Folk Theater in Derbent, founded in 1904. Historically Azeris of Dagestan were engaged in carpet weaving, currying, jewellery- and copper utensils making. Rural Azeris were occupied in farming. Most Azeris of Dagestan are Shia Muslim, although Hanafi and Shafi'i Sunnis are found among the rural population. There is a small number of Naqshbandi Sufism adherents.
In 2000, in a presidential decree, Azeris along with 13 other ethnic groups of Dagestan received the status of a native community of Dagestan. As of 2011, there are four Azeri members of the Dagestan State Council.
Azerbaijanis in Derbent
After the disintegration of the Caliphate, the city of Derbent and the surrounding area (currently the Derbent rayon) became an independent emirate closely allied with the neighbouring state of Shirvan (present day northeastern Azerbaijan). During this period, the emirate became destination for the migration of numerous Turkic tribes. This factor, as well as the influence of the Seljuq Empire, ensured the spread of an Oghuz Turkic idiom in Derbent already in the eleventh century. The Mongol invasion put an end to the emirate's independence for the next two centuries. In the fifteenth century, Ibrahim I, who hailed from Derbent, became the new ruler of Shirvan and incorporated Derbent into Shirvan.
The ethnic make-up of Derbent remained unchanged until the city became part of the Safavid Empire in the early sixteenth century. The Safavid rule was characterised with active resettlement policies, aimed at securing Shia Muslim dominance in the conquered lands. In 1509, 500 Karamanli Turkic families from Tabriz settled in Derbent. An unknown number of Turkic-speakers from the Kurchi tribe were resettled her in 1540. Half a century later, 400 more families of the Turkic-speaking Bayat clan were relocated to Derbent on the orders of Abbas I. Finally, in 1741, Nadir Shah relocated Turkic-speakers from the Mikri clan to Derbent. It is noteworthy that by 1870 the settlers were all regarded as speaking a common language, Azeri. Due to their Shia adherence, the new migrants were referred to by contemporary historians as 'Persians' (Russian: персияне), a term that was erroneously applied to Shia Azeris of Dagestan way into the twentieth century. Adam Olearius who visited the region around 1635 described Shirvan as a state of many peoples, all of whom, however, besides their own language, also spoke Turkic. At the time of Peter the Great's conquest of the Caspian coastline in 1722, the city of Derbent was predominantly inhabited by Azeris.
The northern part of the Derbent rayon was historically populated by the Tarakama, a Turkic-speaking people akin to the Karapapak, who were sometimes classified as a separate ethnic group until the twentieth century. In Dagestan, they are also sometimes referred to as Padars. The Tarakama originated in various parts of Shirvan and were resettled by Khan Muhammad of Kaitag to the north of the city of Derbent around 1600. From then on, the area inhabited by them has been referred to as the Tarakama mahal (district) and constituted an administrative unit until the early twentieth century. The district included 10 villages. In 1736, around 300 Tarakama families from Kaitag advanced further across the Sulak River and settled on the Terek Valley in three villages, where they later mixed with the Kumyks. The rest gradually assimilated among Azerbaijanis and today for the most part consider themselves Azerbaijani. They are mainly Sunni and speak a variety of Azeri, close to the dialect of Shamakhy.
Such assimilation notably affected not only Turkic-speaking peoples of Dagestan. In the past, southern Dagestan had a large Tat population which originally spoke an Iranian language. In 1866, they numbered 2,500 people and by 1929 lived in seven villages, including Zidyan, Bilgadi, Verkhny Chalgan, and Rukel. However by the beginning of the twentieth century most of them had become Azeri-speaking and assumed Azeri identity in the later decades. Today, 16 out of 40 settlements in Derbent are majority-Azeri populated, and in nine more, Azeris constitute either a relative majority or a significant minority: Berikei, Delichoban, Velikent, Verkhny Chalgan, Nizhny Chalgan, Sabnova, Dzhemikent, Zidyan, Zidyan-Kazmalyar, Mitagi, Mitagi-Kazmalyar, Kala, Mugarty, Muzaim, Padar, Kommuna, Rukel, Tatlyar, Karadagly, Bilgadi, Belidzhi, Arablinsky, Arablyar, Gedzhukh, Chinar, Nyugdi, Rubas, Salik, Ullu Terekeme, Khazar, the town of Mamedkala.
Derbent was still a predominantly Azeri town in 1897, with 9,767 persons constituting 66.7% of its population. Decades later, even though their numbers continued to grow, due to heavy immigration in the town, as of 2002, Azeris constituted just 31.7% of its total population with 32,064 persons.
Azerbaijanis in Tabasaran
In the historical region of Tabasaran, ethnic Azeris populate the left bank of the Rubas river. The growth and establishment of ethnic Azeris in this region has heavily depended on assimilation processes. In 1876, many Tabasarans were already in the process of switching from Tabasaran to Azeri as their first language. In addition, from the Middle Ages, the population of a number of villages in Tabasaran, namely Arablyar, Gimeidi, Darvag, Yersi, and Kemakh consisted of ethnic Arabs who were gradually being absobed by the neighbouring population, mainly Azeri, such as in Yersi. In 1929, Kemakh was listed among Tat-populated villages, whereas Gimeidi (abandoned in 1976) was described as mixed Tat and Azeri. Tats, in turn, were assimilated by Azeris in the following decades. Arablyar, which is now part of the Kurakh rayon, currently has mixed Lezgian and Azeri population. Residents of Darvag retained the knowledge of Arabic as a first language until the 1930s, after which they also integrated linguistically and ethnically into the Azeri surrounding.
Currently ethnic Azeris constitute majority in the villages of Maraga, Hili-Pendzhik (including the settlement of Yekrag), Tsanak, Arak, Yersi, Darvag, and Zil. The villages of Arkit and Khurvek, as well the district capital Khuchni are mixed Azeri and Tabasaran. Azeris of Tsanak, Arak, Yersi, and Khuchni are normally bilingual in Azeri and Tabasaran, showing preference of Tabasaran when talking to their Tabasaran neighbours even if the latter know Azeri.
Azerbaijanis in Rutul
Nizhny Katrukh is the only Azeri village in the Rutul rayon. Azeris of Nizhny Katrukh consider themselves descendants of the people of Shirvan who were captured by the mountaineers during one of their raids into the plains around 1700, taken to the Shamkhalate of Kazi-Kumukh (a Lak state of the time) and made subjects of the Shamkhal. According to a local legend, only two of the original seven settlers were Azeri, though it was the Azeri identity that came to dominate. The village today consists of seven quarters, populated by people of various waves of pre-Czarist immigration. Azeris of Rutul speak a distinct dialect of Azeri, which displays a heavy Lak substratum (despite general ethnic Rutul dominance in the district). The first newspaper in Rutul, Gizil Choban, established in 1932, was printed in Azeri.
Role of the Azerbaijani language and culture
For centuries Azeri has been the lingua franca of Southern Dagestan, used both to communicate with Azeris and with mountaineers whose languages were unrelated or considered unintelligible. In the sixteenth century, it became widespread in the Samur Valley and by the nineteenth century, the Azeri language spread across all of the foothill and lowland regions of Dagestan, and was one of the languages of trade and interethnic communcation, along with Kumyk and Avar.
Historically the peoples of Southern Dagestan were oriented toward the cultural and behavioural norms of Azerbaijan, as well as depended on its economy. In the course of history, they found themselves almost fully immersed in the Azeri linguistic and cultural milieu. According to Dagestani anthropologist Magomedkhan Magomedkhanov, through the Azeri language, the people of this region "achieved material benefits, satisfaction of cultural needs, as well as creative and spiritual inspiration." Lezgian, Tabasaran, Rutul, and Aghul poets were creating poetry in Azeri already in the seventeenth century. Beginning in 1917, the works of Kumyk authors have displayed influences of Azeri literature. First plays in the amateur Lezgian theatre established in 1907 were performed in the Azeri language. Azeri music and singing traditions played a major role in the cultural integration of the peoples of Southern Dagestan. Music was performed through Azeri folk instruments, such as tar and kamancha and the Azeri mugham became a well-celebrated genre of music among the peoples of Dagestan. Lezgian music in particular shares many similar features with Azeri music. Azeri songs were played and performed at Tabasaran weddings as late as in the 1980s. According to Byelorussian Jewish traveller Joseph Cherny, who visited the region in 1870, Mountain Jews of Dagestan had largely adopted Azeri cultural values and lifestyles, and even read liturgical prayers with a Tat translation and an Azeri tune. As for the Lezgi, Rutul, Tsakhur and other Nakh-Dagestani-speaking population, the Azeri language affected their cultural sphere and was a primary source for many loanwords, leaving their everyday speech behaviour mostly intact. The Tabasaran language is considered the most influenced by Azeri, which has contributed many nouns, adjectives, adverbs, verb forms and even auxiliary words and morphemes.
In 1861, the first secular school in Southern Dagestan opened in the Lezgi village of Akhty, and Azeri was taught there along with Russian. The learned masses preferred to use Arabic in formal communication, which is why in 1920, Arabic was chosen over the largely unwritten indigenous languages of Dagestan as a means of public education. The atheist policies of the Soviet government, however, attempted to eliminate religion from everyday life. Arabic became seen as a link between the Dagestanis and their Islamic heritage. Thus in 1923, Azeri became the language of education in all of Dagestan. According to Alibek Takho-Godi, local Nakh-Dagestani languages were "not held serious as a means of nation-building due to their excessive number." Azeri retained its status until 1928, when education in other local languages, as well as in Russian, was introduced.
Azeri remained as the most popular second language in Southern Dagestan at least until the 1950s, spoken with various degree of popularity as far north as in the Tindi villages of Tsumada. It is noteworthy that historically among Tindis and especially Aghuls, who lived relatively far from the Azeri settlements, usually only males spoke Azeri or any second language; and only those who visited the lowlands for seasonal labour. Beginning in the 1950s, the use of Azeri as a common second language and lingua franca has been in decline, as it could no longer compete with Russian.
According to the Dagestani constitution, the official languages of Dagestan are Russian and "all local languages", though only 14 of the republic's numerous languages have writing systems, one of them being Azeri.
Rest of Russia
For the past decade, Azeris have played significant roles in developing the Russian economy. With many of them being involved in entrepreneurship, they have been employed in major economical areas, such as trade and oil industry. Among Russia's 100 richest people ranked by the Forbes in 2004, 3 ethnic Azeris were ranked 10, 66 and 74.
Azeris have established numerous cultural communities, the largest one being the All-Russian Azeri Congress, which controls smaller communities throughout Russia. In addition, the Moscow Public Secondary School #157 is set up for students with keen interest in the Azeri language and culture.
Among ethnic Caucasus diasporas in Moscow, Azeris stand out as the least integrated into Russian society and constitute about 1% of the city's population. They have been described as the strongest adherents to their traditions and marriages within their own ethnic community compared to local Armenians, Georgians, Ukrainians, and Tatars. According to a 2006 survey, 71% of Moscow Azeris described themselves as being religious. A great number of them has retained Azerbaijani citizenship and is willing to relocate back to Azerbaijan at some point.
A 2005 study indicated noticeable social differences between the Azeris who are native to or lived considerable parts of their lives in Moscow and the Azeris who are recent immigrants. About half of the people in the first group have a post-secondary degree, whereas among immigrant Azeris only 25% do. Fluency in the Russian language is characteristic of virtually all of those in the first group (moreover, 24% of Azeris from this group showed it as their first language), while almost one-third of those in the second group speak very limited Russian. About half of Azeri newcomers are engaged in commerce and service sector, compared to the native and earlier immigrant Azeris who tend to pursue careers in sciences, health care, education and the arts.
Famous Azerbaijanis of Russia
- Pyotr Babayev, 1917 revolutionary after whom the Babayevski confectionery factory was named
- Karim Mammadbeyov, revolutionary and early Soviet politician
- Geydar Dzhemal, philosopher
- Alla Akhundova, poet
- Tofig Zulfugarov, former Azerbaijani foreign minister
- Tamilla Abassova, 2004 Olympic silver medalist
- Elmira Mirzoyeva, International Chess Grandmaster
- Aleksandr Samedov, football player
- Ramiz Mamedov, retired football player
- Emin Garibov, artistic gymnast
- Georgiy Mamedov, diplomat, currently ambassador to Canada, until 2004 Deputy Foreign Minister of Russian Federation in charge of nuclear disarmament
Azerbaijanis born elsewhere:
- Avraamy Aslanbegov, Russian admiral
- Alexander Kazembek, 19th century Russian linguist and scholar
- Huseyn Khan Nakhchivanski, Cavalry General and General-Adjutant of the Emperor of Russia
- Vagit Alekperov, President of the leading Russian oil company LUKOIL
- Rustam Ibragimbekov, screenwriter, Academy Award winner
- Isgandar Khalilov, businessman, founder of ISR Holding
- Farman Salmanov, geologist who first discovered oil fields in Siberia
- Kerim Kerimov, head of Soviet space program
- Tahir Salahov, artist
- Ilgar Mammadov, fencer, olympics winner 1988 and 1996
- Muslim Magomayev, singer
- Geidar Mamedaliyev, 2004 Olympic champion (silver)
- Emin Agalarov, businessman, singer and songwriter
- Aras Agalarov, businessman, billionaire, founder of Crocus International
- Farkhad Akhmedov, politician, businessman,founder of Northgas
- Igor Ashurbeyli, general director of Anti-Almaz, businessman
- Enver Mamedov, Soviet diplomat, a mass media manager
- Musa Manarov, astronaut, flight engineer on Soyuz TM-4
- Murad Ibragimbekov, actor, producer, cinematographer
- Eduard Baghirov, writer
- Chingiz Huseynov, writer
- Emin Makhmudov, soccer player of Spartak FC
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