Mikhail Zabelin: "Russian youth doesn't leave Azerbaijan"
Azerbaijan has the largest Russian community in the South Caucasus. Russians are third largest ethnic group in the country after Azerbaijanis and Lezgins. One of the largest Russian diasporas outside the Russian Federation also lives therer. Member of the Milli Majlis, head of the Russian community of Azerbaijan Mikhail Zabelin discussed present problems of Russians in Azerbaijan in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.
- What problems concern the Russian community in Azerbaijan today?
- Poor knowledge of Azerbaijani language. During the Soviet perion all documents were in Azerbaijani only in the regions, and Azerbaijani language wasn't particularly popularized in major cities of the republic. Now Azerbaijani is a state language, and in order to work in any government bodies, in administrative bodies, courts, you have to learn Azerbaijani language. Unfortunately, at present middle-aged and older people don't know Azerbaijani language. They have some difficulties because of that.
However, the fact that Russian youth knows Azerbaijani language pretty well is encouraging. The Association of Russian Youth of Azerbaijan has been created in our community. We're currently discussing the issue of promoting young people to state bodies, presidential administration, parliament.
Other problems stem from problems of the entire country and the entire population. If there are social issues, they concern all citizens.
Meanwhile, some enterprises and companies hire citizens with knowledge of Russian language. Recently I was approached by a major businessman, who needed five people who speak Russian.
Love for Russian language, for Russian culture in Azerbaijan is pretty high. We don't even have enough teachers of Russian language, because influx into schools, into Russian classes has increased. Schools are overcrowded. Queue to enroll in Russian classes is huge. So we need to increase the number of teachers. Although we have the Baku Slavic University, the Baku State University, the Azerbaijan State Pedagogical University, teachers that graduate from those universities are not enough.
- Did candidates publish programs in Russian during presidential campaign?
- Unfortunately, there were no programs in Russian. Some candidates have financed and published their themselves. We distributed them or read them. At the same time, when it comes to newspapers, all of them published these things in Russian. We have a lot of Russian-language newspapers - "Bakinsky Rabochy", "Vyshka". You could also read programs on various websites. It's easily accessible.
- How did Russian community's life changed in recent years? Has situation improved or everything is just stable?
- I receive letters from Russia, from former Baku residents who would like to return. Recently, a family from Krasnoyarsk that came to Azerbaijan as tourists asked to stay here. But there's a problem - accommodation. Rent is pretty expensive everywhere. If this problem will be resolved, many people would come here.
We have interesting population growth. There are many Russian families who have 10-11 children. A member of the Republican Council of the Russian community Vladimir Ilyich Zverev has four children - two boys and two girls. They all married to Russians. There are now 18-19 people - children and grandchildren. That's a great growth! There's a family with 12 children in the Xətai district. Head of the family earns enough money to raise everyone. There are a lot of families like that.
I'm glad that youth doesn't leave Baku. We held a special conference of Russian youth, where we discussed issues of integration in the current environment. Delegates from all corners of Azerbaijan participated in it, and before that they called us and asked to hold forum on the weekends, because they can't leave work. In other words, they integrated.
Program on voluntary resettlement of Russian compatriots, which was approved by Russia, doesn't really work here. It doesn't work for two reasons. The first is that people really don't want to leave Azerbaijan. The second is that those who want to leave say that Russia doesn't have necessary conditions, like in Germany or in Israel, where arrivals are provided with housing and social benefits. If other countries instantly grant citizenship, then Russia gives it only in three months, or even more. Some of those who left Azerbaijan because of this program want to return now. Sometimes its Azerbaijanis who want to move to Russia, not Russians.