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The Hajizde family: Adnan and with his father Hikmet and his mother Bahar. Photo: Private
The Hajizade family: Adnan and with his father Hikmet and his mother Bahar. Photo: Private

After declaring its independence from the Soviet Union in August 1991, Azerbaijan was faced with the difficult task of nation-building. With the exception of a brief period from 1918 to 1920, Azerbaijan had never been an independent state before. Unsurprisingly for a country emerging from centuries of foreign dominance and engaged in a war with a breakaway province, issues of identity, language, religion and culture came to dominate the public consciousness and public debate. It was understood that the way in which Azerbaijan chose to respond to these questions would have serious implications for its future development and orientation for years to come. Far from being a remote academic concept, identity had a direct and immediate impact on policy-making, be it language or education policy or external relations. In the words of Hikmet Hajizade, a leading Azeri political scientist and intellectual (and the father of the "donkey blogger" Adnan):

"[t]he nation started looking for answers to basic questions: Who are we? What new values should we acquire? What shall we do afterwards?"[1]

With the official Soviet ideology gone and the vacuum that resulted, Azerbaijan became the battleground of competing ideas and worldviews. Shireen Hunter, a scholar writing on Azerbaijan, identified three distinct periods in Azerbaijan's political history of the late 1980's


[1] Hikmet Hajizade/ FAR Centre, "Azerbaijan: In Search of a National Idea", FAR Centre, 1996.

[2] Shireen Hunter, cited in Ceylan Tokluoglu, "Definitions of national identity, nationalism and ethnicity in post-Soviet Azerbaijan in the 1990s", Ethnic and Racial Studies, vol. 28, no. 4 July 2005, p. 728.

[3] Ceylan Tokluoglu, "Definitions of national identity, nationalism and ethnicity in post-Soviet Azerbaijan in the 1990s", Ethnic and Racial Studies, vol. 28, no. 4 July 2005, p. 728.

[5]  Isa Gambar, "The west doesn't know", Uncaptive Minds 8, no. 1 (1995): pp. 45-49.

[6] Svante E. Cornell, Azerbaijan since Independence (London: M:E. Sharpe, 2011), p. 79.

[7] Hikmet Hajizade, "Russia in the Transcaucasus, or Democracy in a state of emergency" (Transition Journal, vol. 3, no. 4, Prague, 7 March 1997).

[8] Hikmet Hadjy-zadeh, "The Afterword from the The Year of 2006: On the Real Balance of Forces", Report to the conference "Security and Cooperation in the Caucasus and Central Asia", University of Georgia, 24 May 1998, p. 5.

[9] Interview with Isa Gambar, "The West's Double Standard" (Uncaptive Minds, vol. 9, nos. 1-2, 1997, p. 121.

[10] Interview with Isa Gambar, "The West's Double Standard" (Uncaptive Minds, vol. 9, nos. 1-2, 1997, p. 121.

[11] Hikmet Hajizade/ FAR Centre, "Azerbaijan: In Search of a National Idea", FAR Centre, 1996.

[12] Hikmet Hajizade/ FAR Centre, "Azerbaijan: In Search of a National Idea", FAR Centre, 1996.

[13] OSCE/UN Report of the OSCE/UN Joint Electoral Observation Mission in Azerbaijan on Azerbaijan's 12 November 1995 Parliamentary Election and Constitutional Referendum (January 1996), p. 16.

[14] Ceylan Tokluoglu, "Definitions of national identity, nationalism and ethnicity in post-Soviet Azerbaijan in the 1990s", Ethnic and Racial Studies, vol. 28, no. 4 July 2005, p. 728.

March 2011

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