Azerbaijani Turks: Power and Identity under Russian Rule

Overview

This is the first comprehensive account of Azerbaijan's rich and tumultuous history up to the present time. The Azerbaijan Republic is situated where ancient Media once stood, a territory invaded and influenced by Persian king Cyrus the Great, Alexander of Macedonia, and Pompey's Roman legions. Since the early nineteenth century its Muslim Turkish people have been ruled by Russia, first by the imperial tsars and then by the Soviet regime. In 1990, two centuries of harsh domination culminated in Black January when...
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The Azerbaijani Turks: Power and Identity under Russian Rule

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Overview

This is the first comprehensive account of Azerbaijan's rich and tumultuous history up to the present time. The Azerbaijan Republic is situated where ancient Media once stood, a territory invaded and influenced by Persian king Cyrus the Great, Alexander of Macedonia, and Pompey's Roman legions. Since the early nineteenth century its Muslim Turkish people have been ruled by Russia, first by the imperial tsars and then by the Soviet regime. In 1990, two centuries of harsh domination culminated in Black January when Soviet troops opened fire on the civilian population of Baku. The following year, Azerbaijan declared its independence and began rebuilding its political and economic system. Former Communists and opposition leaders continue to struggle for dominance. Audrey L. Altstadt makes use of both Russian-language and Azerbaijani Turkish-language newspapers, journals, and scholarly publications. Much of this material has never been used in any other Western studies. Altstadt's original research adds the Azerbaijani perspective on the two-century relationship between Russia and Azerbaijan. She identifies key issues and actors and documents a pattern of continual struggle against colonial rule from the initial conquest to the political movements of the late twentieth century. Russian domination has encompassed more than the military, political, and economic spheres. There have also been harsh restrictions on cultural expression, including killing leading intellectuals and falsifying historical facts. However, Azerbaijani Turks continue to thwart Russian control by protecting their rich and ancient heritage through native-language education and the arts. As Altstadt writes, "the Azerbaijani Turks use the antiquity of their history, language, and literature as a weapon of self-defense, as proof they need no tutelage in self-government, economic management, education, or literature."
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What People Are Saying

Devon Conlet
In her comprehensive account of Azerbaijan's rich and diverse history, Dr. Audrey Altstadt frames Azerbaijani national identity as a story of empires and the political nature of culture. From the early state of Caucasian Albania to the Soviet Empire, Azerbaijan has been subject to a diverse array of cultures, languages, and political systems. Tracing the evolution of the Azerbaijani Turkic cultural identity to a national consciousness, Dr. Altstadt documents the emergence of modern Azerbaijani national cultural awaking in the early 20th century under Russian, and later Soviet, rule. She demonstrates how the development of a modern, secular Azerbaijani Turkic identity led to the emergence of a united religious and cultural front. Politicized to form Azerbaijani identity in contrast to the russification and colonialism of the Russian and Soviet Empires, this identity was designed to form a cultural bulwark in a country increasingly independent of outside influences. Please listen to the 6 November 2011 interview with Dr. Altstadt on the Azerbaijani Radio Hour as she elaborates on her research and future projects.

An excellent account of Azerbaijan under Soviet rule, Dr. Altstadt meticulously compiles names, dates, and locations in her seminal work on Azerbaijan. The revival of Turkic culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries played a vital role in establishing a legitimate Azerbaijani national identity to contend with colonial Russian/Soviet influences. Control over Azerbaijani culture and language further highlight the powerful nature of culture, as it posed a threat to the legitimacy of the Soviet Union and its communist doctrine. Language, ever a political topic, was subject to russification with the imposition of the Cyrillic alphabet on the formerly Arabic and Latin script language. However, after independence, Azerbaijani reverted back to a Latin-based script, which it had adopted briefly from 1929-1938. The imposition of communist-style collective farms and governing councils as well as the deportation, repression, and even execution of Azerbaijani intelligentsia further undermined traditional Azerbaijani culture.

Using both original research and official histories, Dr. Altstadt leads readers through the complex history that formed today's Azerbaijan. One interesting note is Dr. Altstadt's research regarding Azerbaijan's national cultural revival in the 1980s. In contrast to other authors' claims that the Soviet policy of glasnost (openness) re-opened and ignited long-repressed national identities, Altstadt points to former President Heydar Aliyev as the force behind Azerbaijan's national revival. Whether or not this directly led to the downfall of the Soviet Union remains a source of contention; however, the celebration of Azerbaijani culture provided a much-needed infusion of national pride into the national political consciousness, vital for the formation of an independent Azerbaijan.

Despite a rich collection of literature and cultural information, Dr. Altstadt glosses over the development and importance of the khanates that made up the territory of Azerbaijan before the Russian Empire.
While this simplifies the story, the omission fails to highlight the political structure of the Azerbaijani Turks before the Russian Empire. Moreover, Dr. Altstadt's book would benefit from an update to her authoritative compilation Azerbaijani history. Written immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union, her story conveniently ends in 1990 and omits key challenges in Azerbaijan's post-Soviet history.

For readers unfamiliar with Azerbaijani history, this book can be overwhelmingly detailed, and difficult to read. Readers must keep in mind that history in this region has been subject to various waves of revisionism, and that different accounts and opinions of events in the book exist. Dr. Altstadt presents her rendition of history from an Azerbaijani point of view, using extensive research of historical archives to substantiate her point and understanding of Azerbaijani history. Despite these challenges, Azerbaijani Turks: Power and Identity under Russian Rule remains a must-read for anyone interested in the region.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780817991821
  • Publisher: Hoover Institution Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1992
  • Series: Publication Series
  • Pages: 331
  • Sales rank: 524,087
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Meet the Author

Audrey L. Altstadt received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and has received postdoctoral fellowships from the Russian Research Center at Harvard University and the George F. Kennan Institute of Advanced Russian Studies. She conducted research in Baku, Azerbaijan, during the 1980–81 and 1984–85 and was the first American to gain access to the Azerbaijan State Historical Archives. She is currently a member of the history department at the University of Masschusetts at Amherst.
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Table of Contents

List of Maps
Foreword
Acknowledgments
Terms and Transliteration
Physical Description
Introduction
1 Origins of the Azerbaijani Turks 1
2 Russian Colonial Rule 15
3 Industrialization, Conflict, and Social Change 27
4 The Turkish Cultural Renaissance in Azerbaijan 50
5 War, Revolution, and Independence 74
6 The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (1918-1920) 89
7 The Sovietization of Azerbaijan 108
8 Azerbaijan's "Great Terror" (1920-1941) 131
9 World War II and Recovery in Azerbaijan 151
10 Recovery and Resurgence after Baghirov (1954-1969) 161
11 The Era of Heydar Aliyev (July 1969-October 1987) 177
12 "Restructuring" Azerbaijan in the Gorbachev Era 192
Epilogue: Azerbaijan after "Black January" 220
Appendix: Unofficial and Opposition Publications, 1988-1991 227
Notes 231
Bibliography 305
Index 325
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2012

    Meticulous details and documentation

    In her comprehensive account of Azerbaijan’s rich and diverse history, Dr. Audrey Altstadt frames Azerbaijani national identity as a story of empires and the political nature of culture. From the early state of Caucasian Albania to the Soviet Empire, Azerbaijan has been subject to a diverse array of cultures, languages, and political systems. Tracing the evolution of Azerbaijani Turkic cultural identity to a national consciousness, Dr. Altstadt documents the emergence of modern Azerbaijani national cultural awaking in the early 20th century under Russian, and later Soviet, rule. She demonstrates how the development of a modern, secular Turkic identity led to the emergence of a united religious and cultural front. Politicized to form Azerbaijani identity in contrast to the russification and colonialism of the Russian and Soviet Empires, this identity was designed to form a cultural bulwark in a country increasingly independent.

    An excellent account of Azerbaijan under Soviet rule, Dr. Altstadt meticulously compiles names, dates, and locations in her seminal work on Azerbaijan. The revival of Turkic culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries played a vital role in establishing a legitimate Azerbaijani national identity to contrast with colonial Russian/Soviet influences. Soviet control over Azerbaijani culture and language further highlight the powerful nature of culture, as it posed a threat to the legitimacy of the Soviet Union and its communist doctrine.

    Using both original research and official histories, Dr. Altstadt leads readers through the complex history of Azerbaijan’s trials and tribulations that formed today’s Azerbaijan. One interesting note is Dr. Altstadt’s research regarding Azerbaijan’s national cultural revival in the 1980s. In contrast to other authors’ claims that the Soviet policy of Glasnost (openness) re-opened and ignited long-repressed national identities, Altstadt points to former President Heydar Aliyev as the force behind Azerbaijan’s national revival. Whether or not this directly led to the downfall of the Soviet Union remains a source of contention; however, Azerbaijani culture certainly provided a much-needed infusion of national pride into the national political consciousness, vital for the formation of an independent Azerbaijan.

    Written immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union, Dr. Altstadt’s book would benefit from an update to her authoritative compilation and research of Azerbaijani history. Despite this, Azerbaijani Turks: Power and Identity under Russian Rule remains a must-read for anyone interested in the region.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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