Russians in Azerbaijan: History and modern times

Russians in Azerbaijan: History and modern times

Expert says that today in Azerbaijan situation with preservation of Russian language and conditions created for Russian diaspora are among the best in the post-Soviet space. Russians are the third largest (after Azerbaijanis and Lezgins) ethnic group in Azerbaijan and one of the largest Russian diasporas outside of modern Russia. Since arriving to the territory of Azerbaijan in the XIX century, Russians played an important role in all spheres of the country's life, especially during the Soviet period.

First Russian settlements appeared on the territory of Azerbaijan in 1830s-1850s, after signing of the Turkmenchay Treaty. In 1832, first decree on resettlement of Russians from Russia to the Transcaucasian region was issued. Among the first Russian settlements include Vel, Privolnoye, Prishib, Nikolayevka, Ivanovka, the latter is considered one of the largest Russian settlements in Azerbaijan. From the middle of 1833, resettlement of Russians to Shemakha and Shusha began. Then to the Lenkoran district, where settlers were forbidden to live in cities for some time. They were allowed to settle in Baku only in 1859. A huge wave of migration of Russian population in the late XIX - early XX centuries was associated with development of industry, especially oil, as well as growth of cities. "Number of Russian migrants in Baku increased from 38,975 to 76,288 from 1897 to 1912. Russian workers mainly lived in an industrial belt, located at the north-eastern outskirts of Baku. Number of Russians in the oil industry of Baku in 1902 reached 29.4%. Russians dominated administrative apparatus. According to the data from 1910, 107 lawyers and their assistants worked in Baku, 38 of them were Russians.

In the 1920s, Russians actively participated in governance of Azerbaijan. During summer of 1923, there were 13 Russians and 16 Azerbaijanis in the Central Committee of the Azerbaijani Communist Party. In 1925, Russians accounted for 38% of the Azerbaijani party apparatus. As of 1927, Russians dominated the Baku party organization, accounting for 43% of the party apparatus. They were gradually replaced by locals. Nevertheless, Unlike in Armenia and Georgia, in Azerbaijan, percentage of Russians in bureaucratic system remained much higher.

In the middle of the 20th century, number of villages inhabited by Russians reached more than 120. However, in the late 1950s, outflow of Russians from rural areas began, which intensified in the early 1980s due to more rapid urbanization of Russian population. 

Collapse of the Soviet Union and escalation of territorial conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh between two Caucasian republics - Azerbaijan and Armenia - triggered massive ethnic migration. According to the State Statistics Committee of Azerbaijan, by early February of 1990, 3,500 Russians left Armenia and Azerbaijan, most of them later moved to Russia. Economic crisis, the Black January events, internal political instability - all of this caused a significant outflow of Russian population and led to the fact that Russians weren't represented in political life of the country in the first years of Azerbaijan's independence. 

However, today they play a huge role in the life of Azerbaijan. Russian community of Azerbaijan has been officially registeres in the country since May 5 of 1993. It has around 120 thousand members. Chairman of the community, Mikhail Zabelin, is a member of the Milli Majlis of Azerbaijan since 2000. Russian community of Azerbaijan remains the largest in the South Caucasus. Azerbaijan has the Russian Culture Center, the Russian University, one of the founders of which is the Russian Community of Azerbaijan, children's sports camp as well as newspaper. Creation of Russian-language schools is supported at the state level. Number of people who want to study in these schools grows every year. 

At the same time, friendly relations between Moscow and Baku are also supported by representatives of Azerbaijani diaspora in Russia. Natives of Azerbaijan have prominent place in the life of Russia. Russian and Azerbaijani communities have common goals - preservation and development of their cultural values. They try to actively participate in political and public life of their respective countries. Their main goal is to preserve long-term friendship between the peoples of Russia and Azerbaijan and to strengthen it both at government and civil levels by building multicultural policy and forming positive sentiments among representatives of different ethnic groups and cultures. 

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