Georgians in Azerbaijan and National Tolerance

Azerbaijan, known for its tolerance, is one of the few countries with a large number of minority populations. For many years, diverse ethnic groups have set a good example of coexistence. Religion, language, culture, and ethnography are regarded as national assets. These aspects are naturally influenced by the locals when a group is absorbed. The situation in Azerbaijan is entirely different. All conditions have been made to ensure the preservation and development of minority peoples' languages, customs, and cultures. Representatives of ethnic groups in our country regard themselves as free-thinking, equal citizens of this country. However, each group retains components of its own distinct cultures, which has become one of Azerbaijan's national policy priorities, with a consistent emphasis on multicultural values. Of course, this cultural blending is evident in domestic life, crafts, cuisine, and numerous ceremonies.[1]

According to the most recent population census in 2019, 8442 Georgians (Azerbaijani citizens) live in Azerbaijan.[2] The majority of Georgians settled in the country's northwest areas, specifically Gakh and Zagatala. The name of Gakh district, one of our places where diverse peoples and ethnic groups dwell together, appears for the first time in Moisey Kalankatli's "History of Albania". The historian, who recounts events from the fourth century, gives the name of the settlement, Haku (Gakh). There are 59 settlements in Gakh. These communities are home to Azerbaijanis, Englishmen, Georgians, Sakhurians, Lezgis, Meskhetian Turks, Russians, Avars, and other nationalities.

Heydar Aliyev, the national leader of the Republic of Azerbaijan, stated during his talks with leaders of ethnic minorities: "When we say Azerbaijan, we mean its wealth and beautiful nature. Aside from that, the republic's most valuable asset is its people, who have lived in this land for generations and have connected their fate and lives to it; they are people of various nations and religions. The more people the country unites, the wealthier it will become. I'd like not to refer to my meetings as gatherings with representatives of national minorities. This is a gathering with Azerbaijani representatives and people..."[3]

When we look back in history, we can discover several examples of Azerbaijan's positive approach toward delegates from other countries. Representatives of the Georgian minority played a prominent role in social and political life during the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (1918-1920), which was one of the most brilliant periods in Azerbaijan's history.

The republic's liberal national policy supplied the necessary conditions. According to reports from ADR parliament meetings, deputies included representatives from the German, Czech, Georgian, and Jewish national councils. The Georgian National Council, which was created in Baku in April 1918 under the head of Konstantin Mikeladze, was involved in cultural and educational activity among the city's Georgian population, including the establishment of Georgian schools. The National Council of Georgia has always remained loyal to the state of Azerbaijan and has never engaged in anti-state activities. According to the law passed by the National Council of Azerbaijan on November 19, 1918, Grigory Ivanovich Tskhakaya of the Georgian population was expected to be among the deputies. G. Tskhakaya actively participated in the discussion on a variety of topics. On June 2, 1919, at the 44th session, the National Council of Georgia's Parliament changed representation, and Vladimir Bregadze was approved as a new member. The actions of G. Tshakaya and V. Bagradze do not limit the significance of Azerbaijani Georgians in the history of the ADR. Representatives from the Georgian community worked hard to enhance education and health care, as well as other aspects of public life, including military building. Furthermore, in the international arena, Azerbaijan and Georgia have frequently collaborated for diplomatic recognition and protection against external threats.[4]

Traditionally, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan signs congratulatory letters on national religious holidays and minority festivities. "In the modern Republic of Azerbaijan, which is known as one of the addresses of multiculturalism in the world, all ethnic and religious minorities, including the Christian community, should benefit from their national and spiritual values, preserve their traditions, language, and wide opportunities have been created”.[5] In a 2019 meeting with Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, President Ilham Aliyev stated that "Georgians living in Azerbaijan and Azerbaijanis living in Georgia play a very important role in the development of our relations" and that national minorities living in Azerbaijan, regardless of their number, are under the state's attention.[6]

Currently, only Georgian is taught in our republic's six schools, which have a total of 1205 students.[7] Children of ethnic groups living in 13 areas of the republic have been allowed to learn their national customs and traditions. The Ministry of Education, governed by the criteria of the Republic of Azerbaijan's Constitution, the Law on Education, and the values of the European Charter, takes advantage of all available chances to study minority languages, history, and culture.

Dozens of newspapers and periodicals are printed in ethnic minority languages. Every day, radio and television shows are broadcast in their respective languages. State radio provides regular radio programs in Kurdish, Lezgi, Talish, Georgian, Russian, and Armenian, all funded by the state budget. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, ethnic minorities established their cultural centers to preserve their history, culture, and traditions. As a result, dozens of national cultural centers are now operating throughout Azerbaijan.[8] We are referring to organizations such as the Georgian Community of Azerbaijan and the Religious Community of Georgian Jews.

Nasiba Mirzayeva

[1] აზერბაიჯანის რესპუბლიკაში მცხოვრები ქართველების სოციალურ-კულტურული ინტეგრაცია არსებულ საზოგადოებაში და მათი თვითიდენტობა. ახალგაზრდა მკვლევართა ჟურნალი № 9 ოქტომბერი 2020.

[2] Əhalinin siyahıyaalınması 2019, CİLD B. Azərbaycan Respublikası Dövlət Statistika Komitəsi.

[3] Ş.Adıgözəlov. Azərbaycanda multikulturalizm siyasəti. Dövlət idarəçiliyi, nəzəriyyə və təcrübə jurnalı, 3(55)2016.

[4] Эльнур Калбизаде, Грузины в парламенте АДР. Каспiй.-2018.-2 июня.-№99.-С.14-15.

[5] İlham Əliyev Azərbaycan Respublikasının Prezidenti Bakı şəhəri, 14 aprel 2023-cü il

[6] Dövlət başçısı: "Azərbaycanda yaşayan gürcülər və Gürcüstanda yaşayan azərbaycanlılar əlaqələrimizin inkişafı üçün çox önəmli rol oynayırlar"

[7] Azsaylı Xalqlarin Folkloru, Bakı 2014, s. 181.

[8] Azərbaycanda etnik-dini siyasət: tarixdən bu günə. Sosial Tədqiqatlar Mərkəzi

Steven Blockmans: If Georgia misses the opportunity to get closer to the EU, it will take a long time to repair the damage caused by the autocratic regime