Statement by The Talysh Public Council of Azerbaijan in the Republic of Azerbaijan on current status of the Talysh language and requesting urgent measures in this direction
1. Brief information about the Talysh language
2. Talysh speakers’ coverage area in the Republic of Azerbaijan
3. The Talysh language is the mother tongue of many Azerbaijani citizens
4. The Talysh language during the Soviet time
5. The Talysh language in the period of independence
6. The mother language and the legislation of the Republic of Azerbaijan
7. International standards and practices
8. The current status of the Talysh language and how it is used against the Republic of Azerbaijan
9. Proposed urgent state measures related to the current status of the Talysh language
Brief information about the Public Council of Talyshs of Azerbaijan and the contacts
This document is an appeal of the Public Council of the Azerbaijani Talysh people to the Azerbaijani society and the Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan regarding its native language.
The document provides a brief overview of the current state of the Talysh language, one of the indigenous peoples of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and proposes urgent measures necessary for the teaching, learning and development of the Talysh language.
The Talysh language belongs to the northwestern subgroup of the Indo-European language family of Iran and has rich history and extensive vocabulary. This language is at the root of the Indo-European language family and has unique features. The Talysh people, the speakers of this language, are one of the oldest and indigenous peoples of the region.
The Talysh language is the successor of the ancient Mada (Median) and Atropatena languages. Richness of the language allows to write in all styles, including literary literature, scientific and publicist articles in the Talysh language.
Talysh is the native language of Talyshes who are one of the indigenous peoples of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Historically, Talyshes have been densely inhabited in southeastern Azerbaijan: Lankaran, Astara, Lerik, and Masalli. Talyshes also live in Baku and Sumgait, Yardimli, Jalilabad, Bilasuvar, Salyan, Absheron and Neftchala regions, as well as in other settlements of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The Talysh language is the first and main language for communication among Talyshes besides the official state language. There are no exact and verified data on the number of Talyshes in the Republic of Azerbaijan. The inaccuracy of statistic data regarding the number Talyshes arises from the policy of uniting people imposed by Stalin communist regime that existed till the end of 30s and resulted in forced relocation of the Talysh people from official censuses as a nation.
This is confirmed by the following official figures. The latest Stalin census in 1939 shows that there are 87,510 Talyshes in Azerbaijan. The official census of 1959 lists only 85 people.
In subsequent censuses, the Talyshes are not mentioned at all, and they are exposed to passive repression. As a result of Gorbachev’s reformation process, the tensions are back on the official list now. However, the exact number Talysh people living in Azerbaijan is not accurate. In the census of 1989, there were 21,169 people in Azerbaijan. At the time of the census of 1999, 76,841 people were registered in the Republic of Azerbaijan, and 111.996 Talyshes were registered according to the 2009 census.
Recent studies by foreign experts indicate that there are about one million Talyshes in Azerbaijan. A number of Talysh researchers say that the number of Talyshes in the Republic of Azerbaijan is twice as high.
The early Soviet period can be characterized as the renaissance of Talysh language. Newspapers and books in Talysh language had been published under the guidance of public figures and politicians Zulfugar Ahmadzadeh, Boyukaga Mirsalaev, Muzaffar Nasirli and others. Today, the National Library of Russia has over 800 books published in the Talysh language during the early Soviet period.
The Talysh Pedagogical College, a Talysh high school, was established in Lenkoran city and functioned in the Talysh language throughout the years of 1929-1934. A newspaper called "Red Talysh" was published in the region during that period.
During that period, many books in Talysh language were published by Muzaffar Nasirli and Zulfugar Ahmadzade and hundreds of books were translated from Russian into Talysh. Latin-based orthography was devised for Talysh with 29 letters, of which 9 were vowels. Starting from 1937 onwards, as a result of Stalin's policy of national slaughter or Stalin’s Great Purge, a wave of repression conducted by Azerbaijani Communist (Bolshevik) Party and Mirjafar Bagirov had also inflicted on Talysh intellectuals. Talysh identity was prohibited.
Teaching of the Talysh language during the independence period began in 1992-1993 school year in accordance with the Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan dated September 16, 1992. At that time, the teaching of the Talysh lesson was intended to be compulsory for 2 hours per week in schools, of namely in primary education (Grade 0-4) in the regions densely populated by Talyshes. Later, the compulsory lessons were replaced with facultative lessons, it was decided to conduct the training on a voluntary basis, one hour per week under the relevant instruction of the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The principle of voluntariness has allowed the authorities to be partial against the teaching of Talysh and as a result, the number of schools where The Talysh language were taught has been reduced in the areas densely populated by Talyshes.
At present, there are 347 schools functioning in Astara, Lerik, Lankaran and Masalli districts. According to 2009 data, teaching the Talysh language are expected to be implemented in 248 schools with 1716 classes as per curriculum. A total number of students attend these schools are 29,120.
In one of the Ministry of Education guidelines, it is stated that the teaching of the Talysh language should be conducted in schools where the absolute majority of parents and students have given their consent and upon availability of material and technical resources.
The expression "material and technical resources" should firstly consider provision of textbooks, teaching aids and human resources training.
Relevant bodies concluded their activities by just printing an alphabet book in 1990 and the Talysh language textbook only in the fourth grade.
The Talysh language textbook for grades 1-4 was last published for elementary school students in 2006. The textbooks for the new curriculum have not been published so far. The relevant inspectors of the district education departments have no any control over the level of teaching the Talysh language in schools.
Azerbaijani law provides not more than two hour lessons per week in the Talysh language. There is also a big shortage of proficient Talysh language teachers and teaching materials.
There are no faculties, language departments or institutions in the country to train Talysh language teaching staff. Therefore, there are no qualified specialist or teacher to teach the Talysh language. In reality, lessons in the Talysh language are distributed among teachers to balance their workload. In most cases, the teaching of these lessons is entrusted to teachers who do not speak Talysh or with poor linguistic skills. In this case, teachers take the opportunity teach other subjects to fill the gaps during the hours allocated for teaching Talysh language.
The government does not take any action to address these issues. This issue has always been fully neglected since the Republic of Azerbaijan gained independence. In the past period, many scholars of Talysh origin have researched the Talysh language at their own initiative, prepared and published the grammar and dictionary of the Talysh language. No any support has been provided to these people by the government, but on the contrary, they were subjected to harassment and persecution over the years, and some were even accused of ethnic separatism. Such political and administrative pressures have prevented the integration of Talyshes into the society as an ethnos and the Talysh people faces the threat of assimilation.
In spite of pressure and persecution, representatives of the Talysh people during the years of independence have done much to create the Talysh literary language without any support from the state and the government. There are many poems and prose works written in Talysh language, hundreds of musical compositions have been created, short video clips have been produced and even dubbed some cartoons for children in social media. All these pieces of art were broadcast by the social media and gained a wide readership and audience. Despite all of this pressure and repression, the Talysh people withstand to resist this process as much as they can.
The Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan contains several legal norms regarding the mother tongue. Part 2 of Article 21 of the Constitution states that "the Republic of Azerbaijan guarantees free use and development of other languages spoken by the population. “Article 45 of the Constitution guarantees the right to use the native language.
It says: “I. Everyone has the right to use his/her native language. Everyone has the right to upbringing, education, carry out creative activity in any language, as desired. II. Nobody may be deprived of the right to use his/her mother tongue”. At the same time, Article 127 (10) of the Constitution guarantees "the right to speak in the mother tongue in court”. The latter norm is also reflected in the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the state language.
Although the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan guarantees the right to use its mother tongue, the Law on Education of the Republic of Azerbaijan does not contain any provisions regarding its mother language. But the mentioned Law 7.2. The article says: "In accordance with international treaties ratified by the Republic of Azerbaijan, upon agreement with the relevant executive authority and at the request of citizens and founders of educational institutions, training in educational institutions can be delivered in other languages under respective state standards."
Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan “On state support for the protection of the rights and freedoms of minorities, ethnic minorities and ethnic groups living in the Republic of Azerbaijan, development of language and culture”, issued in the first years of independence (September 16, 1992) still remains unimplemented. Despite the fact that the decree is still valid today, none of the provisions have been enforced.
In this area, more than two documents are mainstreamed in the Council of Europe area, of which the Republic of Azerbaijan is member; the Framework Agreement for the Protection of National Minorities, and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
The Framework Agreement for the Protection of National Minorities was ratified by the Parliament of the Republic of Azerbaijan on June 16, 2000, which means that this Agreement entered into force on the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan as of that date.
Under the agreement, the member states undertake obligation to guarantee right to education in mother tongue. “The Parties shall, where appropriate, take measures in the fields of education and research to foster knowledge of the culture, history, language and religion of their national minorities and of the majority”. “In this context the Parties shall provide adequate opportunities for teacher training and access to textbooks, and facilitate contacts among students and teachers of different communities” (Article 12 of the Agreement).
“Persons belonging to a national minority have the right to set up and to manage their own private educational and training establishments (article. 13).”
“The Parties undertake to recognize that every person belonging to a national minority has the right to learn his or her minority language”. The Parties undertake to recognize that every person belonging to a national minority has the right to learn his or her minority language. In areas inhabited by persons belonging to national minorities traditionally or in substantial numbers, have adequate opportunities for being taught the minority language or for receiving instruction in this language. (Article 14).
The agreement also regulates the right of national minorities to use their language (Article 10).
The Parties undertake to recognize that every person belonging to a national minority has the right to use freely and without interference with his or her minority language, in private and in public, orally and in writing.
In areas inhabited by persons belonging to national minorities traditionally, if those persons so request and where such a request corresponds to a real need, the Parties shall endeavor to ensure, as far as possible, the conditions which would make it possible to use the minority language in relations between those persons and the administrative authorities.
Within the framework, every person belonging to a national minority to be informed promptly, in a language which he or she understands, of the reasons for his or her arrest, and of the nature and cause of any accusation against him or her, and to defend himself or herself in this language, if necessary with the free assistance of an interpreter.
The European Charter on regional for minority languages is one of the main documents of the Council of Europe in this field. Just a reminding that in 2001, when Azerbaijan became a member of the Council of Europe, it pledged to join the Charter within the next three years. But, unfortunately, this international commitment remains unfulfilled.
Here are two examples of international experiences; Frisian language in the Netherlands, and the other one is the Gagauz language in the Republic of Moldova. Both countries are unitary states and they have a simple governing structure, like the Republic of Azerbaijan. Friesland (Friesland) is one of the 12 provinces of the Netherlands, with more than half a million inhabitants. Two official languages are in use: Dutch- the state language , and the local regional language - Frisian. Provincial media, radio, and television are also broadcasted in this language. Frisian is compulsory in all schools in the state and is taught at the university level. One can see all the topographic names in two languages in the province. The province has adopted a special law about Frisian language.
The Gagauz language is officially used in the southern region of the Republic of Moldova called the Gagauz Place along with the official language. This language is the mother tongue of about 150,000 Gagauzians living in Moldova. All press, mass-media area published in Gagauz language, including TV & radio broadcasting.
During the past 30 years since the independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the national self-sufficiency of the Talysh people, one of the native ethnic groups of the country, has been completely out of state support. Such a situation implies a gross violation of the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens of Talysh origin. Also, during these years, the relevant law enforcement bodies of the state of Azerbaijan have created serious barriers against activists who wanted to take positive actions towards the development of the language and culture of their people through their own initiative and efforts, and they were so-called/ stigmatized "separatist" by the Azerbaijani law enforcement bodies. This has led to the non-constructive precedents in the context of regulation of national relations in the country in a civil partnership.
Such attitude to the national self-sufficiency of the Talyshes constituting an important part of the citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan, has caused serious impact to the principles and statehood of Azerbaijan in the following three directions: 1) Most Talysh origin citizens are not proud of their country and consider it as a humiliation. Such negative cases have stirred up resentment against the authorities and against the state. They have created uncertainty in regards to the future and loss of spirit. Weakened their love, hope and confidence in their motherland and country; 2) As a logical consequence of the unhealthy, incompetent national policies being pursued in the country, the cunning neighbor-adverse country, waiting in ambush, immediately takes advantage of these shortcomings. In some cases, the enemy was able to achieve his wish as a result of these missed voids; 3) Most importantly, the prohibitions and obstacles imposed on the language, culture, history, traditions, folklore and other system of national and moral values of Talyshes, one of the indigenous peoples of the country have seriously damaged the international image of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Implementation of one-sided, anti-national policy remains one of the main obstacles in our country to align with civil and democratic states of the world
We consider the following urgent measures necessary to address the existing problems in the development, study and teaching of the Talysh language.
9.1. To put an end to the inaction of the Government of Azerbaijan on the implementation of the norms on the right to use the native language as stipulated in the Framework Agreement on the Protection of National Minorities by the Council of Europe supported by Azerbaijan Government and The Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
9.2. To ratify the European Charter on regional and minority languages that Azerbaijan had undertaken an obligation on its ratification within three years while joining the Council of Europe in 2001.
9.3. To grant Talysh language official status of "regional language" in area densely inhabited by the Talysh people in south-east region of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
9.4. To carry out the following specific reforms in the Republic of Azerbaijan regarding the Talysh language:
a) Compulsory teaching of "Talysh language" as a subject in all secondary schools in the areas densely inhabited by Talysh people;
b) to update the curriculum for teaching the subject of "Talysh language" for the grades from 1 to 4 with 2 hours per week and the subject of "Talysh Language and Literature" for grades from 5 to 9 with 2 hours per week as per the new curriculum in the relevant secondary schools;
c) to Fully update textbooks, manuals and teaching materials, and the Ministry of Education is to employ personnels as experts who have perfect written language, literature and experiences in preparing textbooks while addressing the shortage of staff in the Talysh language study;
d) scientific works written by scholars studying the Talysh language, grammar of Talysh language, vocabulary etc. to be used for preparation of textbooks, manuals and teaching materials for grades 1-9 and higher and secondary special schools;
e) to accurately determine the number of students in schools where the Talysh language is taught and to prepare textbooks, manuals and teaching materials in accordance with that number;
f) to give a wide range of topics in textbooks, textbooks and teaching materials reflecting the history, culture and traditions of the Talysh people;
g) Starting from 2020-2021 academic year, establish a specialized department of Talysh language and literature at the Azerbaijan State Pedagogical University, Baku State University, Lankaran State University, Azerbaijan State Pedagogical College, Lankaran State Humanitarian College, Masalli State Regional College, Astara Pedagogical College and other related educational institutions and teaching the Talysh language and literature as a subject. To start writing scientific works on the study and research of the Talysh language at the undergraduate, master's, doctoral and other levels. To open the Faculty of Talysh Language and Literature at Azerbaijan State Pedagogical University, Baku State University, Lankaran State University, Azerbaijan State Pedagogical College, Astara Pedagogical College and other related educational institutions from the next academic year;
h) To establish the Talysh language department at the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences;
i) To set up libraries fully complemented with books in Talysh language in the areas compactly inhabited by the Talysh people as well as in other regions, to provide support for translation of examples of world literature into Talysh language;
j) In order to develop the Talysh language, launch broadcasting television and radio broadcasts in the Talysh language, organize the work of the press agencies in the Talysh language and financially support their activities.
“The current status of the Talysh language in the Republic of Azerbaijan and the statement by the Talysh Public Council of Azerbaijan Republic on urgent action in this direction” As a loyal citizen of the country hereby the Talysh people living in Azerbaijan made request of government on ensuring their legal rights regarding the mother tongue.
Even though the Talysh people have faced great challenges throughout history and they were able to preserve their native language.
The Talysh people living in large cities such as Baku, Sumgait and other areas of the southeast of the country are deeply concerned of the incorrect figure of the number of Talysh people in Azerbaijan recorded during the official censuses and negligence by the government regarding their mother tongue.
The justification for these concerns is the threat of assimilation of the Talysh people and the gradual disappearance of the Talysh language.
Taking this into account, the Public Council of Talysh of Azerbaijan offers ways out of the current situation and wish the government of Azerbaijan to ensure the civil rights of the Talysh people are respected and have all cultural heritage in Azerbaijan equally respected with the same standard in relation to other minority or majority.
Co-chair persons of the Public Council of Talyshs of Azerbaijan:
Brief information about the Public Council of Talyshs of Azerbaijan and the contacts
The Talysh Public Council of Azerbaijani established in 2019 by a group of Azerbaijani citizens. The main purpose of the Council is to impede the process of assimilation or isolation of Talyshes from the society and achieve their civil integration into Azerbaijani society. For this purpose, the Council will function in accordance with the possibilities provided by the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Azerbaijan and set a priority to contribute to the establishment of a legal state and civil society in the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Adress: Rashid Bagırov street 75,
AZ 1074, Bakı, Azerbayjan
Tel.: 00994 50 306 30 70
00994 50 455 27 68