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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Azerbaidzhanlylar), a nation. Azerbaijanis constitute the basic population of the Azerbaijan SSR in the Soviet Union—67.5 percent according to the 1959 census (73.8 percent according to the 1970 census). There are Azerbaijanis in the Georgian SSR, Armenian SSR, and Dagestan ASSR and also in the Uzbek SSR, Turkmen SSR, Kazakh SSR, and Ukrainian SSR. The total Azerbaijan population in the USSR in 1959 was 2.94 million; a population of 3.6 million is estimated for early 1965 (4.38 million in 1970). More than 4 million Azerbaijanis live in Iran, principally in the north, and in Iraq; they all speak Azerbaijani. Believing Azerbaijanis are Moslems.

Azerbaijanis were reported as Turks or Tatars in historical literature and in official documents of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The ancient indigenous population of Atropatene and of Caucasian Albania participated in the ethnogenesis of the Azerbaijanis, mixing with the Iranian-speaking and Turkic-speaking tribes—the Cimmerians, Scythians, Huns, Bulgars, Khazars, Oguz, and Pechenegj—who invaded that area in the first millennium B.C. and in the first millennium A.D. The formation of the Azerbaijani people was basically completed in the 11th to 13th centuries, as a result of invasions and the settlement of a new wave of Turkic-speaking peoples, particularly the Seljuk, in Azerbaijan.

The annexation of northern Azerbaijan to Russia, by the treaties of 1813 and 1828, freed that area from the incursion of Turkish and Iranian aggressors and contributed to bringing Azerbaijan into the mainstream of capitalist development and further consolidation of the Azerbaijan nation. After the establishment of Soviet power in Azerbaijan in April 1920, the Azerbaijanis, in the course of the construction of socialism, formed definitively into a socialist nation with a highly developed economy and culture within the USSR.

Ethnographically distinct groups of Azerbaijanis formed, differing in some features in their economy, culture, and mode of life. These groups include the Airumy, Karapapakhi, Padary, Shakhseveny, Karadagi, and Afshary. Some of these groups lived within the borders of the USSR and others in Iran and Turkey. Those groups living within the USSR have become part of the socialist economy and culture of the Azerbaijanis. The Airumy settled in the western Azerbaijan SSR—in the districts of Kirovabad, Dashkesan, and Kedabek—and in the mountain areas of the Lesser Caucasus. They are mountain stock breeders and farmers. Some archaic features have been preserved in their life and economy—for example, the use of underground dwellings and poor road conditions which prevent the development of wheeled transportation.

The Karapapakhi (“black papakhi,” or black sheepskin hats) are the best known ethnographic group of Azerbaijanis. They inhabit the western portion of the Azerbaijan SSR, and also some of the Georgian SSR and Armenian SSR. Most of them live outside Azerbaijan, in Turkey and partially in Iran, where they constitute a national minority; they are farmers and, to some extent, stock breeders. The Padar live in the eastern portion of the Azerbaijan SSR. Old traits were retained for a longer time in the economy and mode of life of these people than in other ethnographic groups of Azerbaijanis, in particular the seminomadic pastoral mode of economy and related features of daily life. The Shakhseveny live principally in Iran, but some of them live in the southern Azerbaijan SSR (Mugan Steppe). Their main occupation is cattle husbandry and agriculture. Their material and intellectual culture shows some characteristic features. The Karadagi are scattered over the mountainous plateau known as the Karadag (or Black Mountains) in northwestern Iran. They lead a seminomadic mode of life, which is mainly pastoral. In their traits they are closely akin to the neighboring Shakhseveny. The Afshary are scattered throughout all of Iran. They lead a seminomadic pastoral life.

Among the Azerbaijanis living in the USSR, new elements of material culture—the socialist way of social and family life—have formed during the years of Soviet power; and vestiges of partriarchal relations, the inequality of women, and so on have vanished. The old types of dwelling—traditional stone houses, raw brick and burnt brick dwellings, and wood and earth dwellings known as karadam—are being replaced by modern dwellings. The old forms of national clothing, displaced almost completely by modern dress, are only partially retained by women living in rural areas, who wear short shifts or jackets and long skirts, bright wool socks, high boots, and silk handcrafted kerchiefs.

The Azerbaijanis have created a remarkable indigenous culture: folklore, literature, graphic art, sculpture, and music. From ancient times the wares produced by local masters who were developing traditional crafts—rug-making, working in gold, woodworking, stonework—have been famous.


Narody Kavkaza, vol. 2. Moscow, 1962.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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