Azerbaijan International

Spring 2002 (10.1)
Pages 36-39

Expert Analysis
Recent Dissertations About Azerbaijan

Above: Azerbaijani refugees fleeing the Kalbajar area in April 1993.

As we developed articles for this issue on "Azerbaijan As Seen From Abroad," we became curious about the types of dissertations that were being written about Azerbaijan. We soon discovered more than a dozen works - much more than we had expected - exploring a wide range of topics, from folklore to political science to education. The following dissertations are listed in alphabetical order by author's name. Most were researched and written by non-Azerbaijanis and completed between 1999 and 2001. These were the ones that we found that had been written in English.

Below: Trucks full of people scramble to get out safely after Armenian forces invade Kalbajar.



M.Phil./Ph.D., University of Cambridge (UK), International Studies, work in progress
"The Relationship between the European Union and the Caucasus"

Rashad Abbasov's dissertation examines the historical, current and prospective relations between the Caucasus and the European Union (EU), using empirical data and theoretical analysis. Part of his dissertation will be based on research that was conducted for his master's thesis at the London School of Economics and Political Science (2000) entitled "The Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union: Can Institutional Reforms Overcome National Interests?" After earning his master's degree in European Studies, Abbasov joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Baku (January 2001) to deal with issues related to Azerbaijan's relations with the EU. His dissertation research constitutes the first attempt to set a theoretical framework for the relatively anarchic nature of relations between these two regions. It also represents a unique opportunity to establish a theoretical framework to promote understanding of the complexity of current relations between the two regions. In turn, this may pave the way for drafting possible scenarios related to how extensive and how intense these relations may be expected to become in the future. Contact:

Left: With children in their arms, a group of refugees from Kalbajar climbs a treacherous mountain pass after being forced out of their homes by Armenian occupying forces in April 1993.


Ph.D., Stanford University, 2000
"Clans, Pacts and Politics: Understanding Regime Transition in Post-Soviet Central Asia"

Kathleen Ann Collins' dissertation is a study of political transition in Central Asia from Soviet republic to post-Soviet state. By analyzing three specific cases of political transition - Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan - she places post-Soviet Central Asia at the center of the classic comparative politics debate about regime change and democratization. Her study, which also included research of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, is one of the only works of post-Soviet scholarship to address the complexity of the transition as a whole, and to analyze the big question of regime change in Central Asia.

Her central argument brings to the fore the current and historical role of clans, the informal institutions that pervade Central Asian society. Why do these three very similar cases undergo such divergent transitions from 1991 to 1995: democratization in Kyrgyzstan, neo-authoritarianism in Uzbekistan and regime disintegration in Tajikistan? And then why, after establishing new regimes, do they increasingly converge to a similar informal pattern of politics over the longer term (from 1995 to 2000)? She argues that the formal institutions of these new regimes are largely a facade, and that all three Central Asian states are moving toward government by informal, personalistic and weakly institutionalized "clan-hegemonic regimes."

Kathleen Ann Collins is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Governmental and International Studies at the University of Notre Dame and a faculty fellow of the Kellogg Institute for International Studies and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. She is finishing a book based on her dissertation, which received the S.M. Lipset Prize for the Best Comparative Politics Dissertation from the Society of Comparative Research in 1999-2000. Contact:

Ph.D., Uppsala University (Sweden), 2002
"Autonomous Separatists: Ethnoterritoriality and Conflict in the South Caucasus"

Svante E. Cornell's research suggests that providing minority populations with autonomy is gaining appreciation as a method of solving, managing and even pre-empting ethnic conflict. However, despite the enthusiasm for ethno-federalism among academics and practitioners alike, there is reason to argue that the provision of autonomy for a minority may increase rather than decrease the likelihood of conflict. In certain political conditions, autonomy positively influences both the separate identity of the minority, its incentives, and most of all its capacity to seek separation from the central state. Cornell's dissertation presents a theoretical framework that explains the qualities of autonomy solutions that increase the likelihood of conflict.

It then examines how autonomy relates to other factors conducive to conflict in a study of minorities in the South Caucasus. His study shows how the institution of autonomy, by promoting an ethnic elite in control of state-like institutions, and by enhancing factors such as leadership, economic viability and external support, played a crucial role in the escalation to conflict in Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia, whereas the absence of autonomy mitigated conflict in Georgia among Javakheti's Armenian and Kverno Kartli's Azerbaijani populations, as well as the Talysh and Lezgians in Azerbaijan.

Svante E. Cornell is currently Editor of The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst (, based in Johns Hopkins University, and a lecturer for Uppsala University's Peace and Conflict Research and East European Studies Departments. Contact:

Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1996
"The Anatolian Cycle of Koroghlu Stories"

Metin Ekichi's dissertation looks at the widely disseminated Turkic epic of Koroghlu (Blind Man's Son), a 17th-century hero who fights with his band of warriors against local rulers. Ekichi's research is based on his fieldwork and examination of more than 100 variants of Koroghlu episodes collected in Turkey. He discusses the complex, often contradictory and controversial character of Koroghlu as hero, examining the aspects of the story that remain the same from version to version. He also covers genre, stylistic and structural features, and the role of storytellers in the recreation, transmission and diffusion of Koroghlu episodes.

Metin Ekichi is a faculty member of Ege University in Bronova-Izmir, Turkey. Contact:

Ph.D., University of California-Berkeley, 2001
"Oil and State-Building in Post-Soviet Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan"

David Isao Hoffman's dissertation investigates the state-building trajectories of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan against a backdrop of oil-led development. Specifically, it seeks to document and explain the counterintuitive divergence in the development of state capacity in these two cases. The fact that both countries have a wide range of historical and structural similarities would seem to favor convergence in their economic and political evolutions. Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan not only share the political, social and economic legacies of Soviet rule, but also large hydrocarbon reserves.
However, in-country interviews and an analysis of relevant macroeconomic indicators reveal a gap in the two countries' developmental potential - defined as state capacity across a set of important state and market institutions that are necessary for long-term economic development. Ultimately, Azerbaijan has a lot in common with Kazakhstan but is further along in its long-term development.

David Hoffman works for USAID's Office of Democratic Transition. Contact: To order this dissertation, visit:

Ph.D., University of Hull (UK), 1999
"The Geopolitics of Oil Transportation in the Caucasus Region"

Emmanuel Karagiannis' dissertation examines the connection between oil transportation and security in the Caucasus; the role of Russia, Turkey and Iran in the region; ethnic conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkey, Georgia and the North Caucasus; inter-state relations; and risk-management strategies and scenarios for oil companies.

Emmanuel Karagiannis is currently a Senior Consultant for London-based Middle East Consultants. Contact:

Ph.D., Manchester University (UK), 2000
"Turkey's Foreign Policy Towards the Turkic Republics of the Caucasus and Central Asia in the Post-Cold War Era"

Kamer Kasim's dissertation focuses on Turkey's post-Cold War foreign policy toward the Turkic republics of the Caucasus and Central Asia. Due to changes in its external and domestic environment, especially the independence of the Turkic republics of the Caucasus and Central Asia, Turkey has had to change its foreign policy to reflect a new post-Cold War era. Specific chapters cover Turkey's relations with Azerbaijan and the competition for Caspian resources.

Kamer Kasim is currently an Assistant Professor at Abant Izzet Baysal University in Bolu, Turkey. Contact:

Ph.D., Oxford University (UK), 2001
"A Small State's Struggle for Independence in the Post-Soviet Period: Azerbaijan-Russian Relations, 1991-99"

Laura LeCornu's dissertation focuses on the foreign policy of Azerbaijan, in terms of its strategic location between Russia, Iran and Turkey and its substantial oil and gas reserves. She examines the evolution of Azerbaijan's energy and security policy and identifies the key internal and external factors shaping the country's foreign policy orientation. She provides an analysis of the interaction between the political, commercial and security priorities of an important former Soviet state, and the competing strategic and economic interests of Russia, Turkey, Iran and the United States.

Laura LeCornu is currently Caspian Coordinator for Government & Public Affairs at ExxonMobil in Houston. Contact:

Ph.D., UCLA, 1997
"Organizational Culture in Private Higher Education: A Look at a New Private University in Post-Soviet Azerbaijan"

Raymond McGhee Jr.'s dissertation examines organizational culture - its mission, practices, rituals, stories, identity and self-belief - in a newly established private university in Azerbaijan. Following an overview of the conditions leading up to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the parallel pre- and post-independence events in Azerbaijan, McGhee describes the Soviet system of higher education and discusses the reasons for the emergence of private higher education during and after the major reforms of the Perestroika period. He also discusses the impact of private alternatives on higher education in Azerbaijan and the plausible reasons for this sector's explosive growth in the years following independence.

Raymond McGhee, Jr. is currently a research social scientist in education policy at SRI International's Washington, DC office. Contact: mcghee See

Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1999
"The Dynamics of Azerbaijani Mugham in the 20th Century"

Inna Naroditskaya's dissertation examines the coexistence and interplay of mugham and Western-based composed music. The dichotomy between these two types of music reflects the social, political and cultural complexity of 20th-century Azerbaijan. Her dissertation contains the notation of a traditional improvised mugham performance as well as an analysis of hybrid genres such as mugham operas and symphonic mughams. Describing mugham as a social agent, she covers the entrance of women into the Azerbaijani musical scene in the 20th century and analyzes the genealogy of the musicians who preserved and transformed mugham traditions.

Inna Naroditskaya is currently an Assistant Professor of Music at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She is developing her dissertation into a book for Routledge. Contact:

Ph.D., Yale, 2000
"Stalin, Bagirov and Soviet Policies in Iran, 1939-1946"

Fernande Beatrice Scheid Raine discovered that when looking for a time and place to pin down when and where the Cold War began, historians have often selected the Iran Crisis of 1945-1946. Seen from the point of view of Washington, the Iran Crisis was a good starting point from which to trace patterns of Soviet expansion and interference in other countries' domestic affairs. It was not known, however, what the Crisis looked like from Moscow, or how Soviet policies in Iran developed during the preceding years.

This dissertation is the first study of Soviet policy in Iran to be based on extensive research in the archives of Moscow and Baku and to cover the entire period of World War II. Not only does it present the development of Stalin's policies in Iran in new depth and detail, it also uncovers new aspects of these policies and proposes broader conclusions on Stalin and the beginning of the Cold War.

While the new documents confirm that Stalin did not intend to annex northern Iran, they reveal his long-standing interest in increasing Soviet influence in Iranian Azerbaijan. Mir Bagirov, head of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan, played an important role in fostering Stalin's interest and in helping to define Soviet policies toward Iran. Bagirov dreamed of creating an independent Iranian Azerbaijan.

Each chapter covers a phase in the development of Soviet policy in Iran, showing how it fit into Stalin's overall foreign policy and how the vague concept of influence-seeking mutated into the concrete project of creating the Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan. Stalin was not following a master plan of world expansion. His bid for northern Iran in 1945-46 was a trial balloon, a testing of limits, much like what other historians have found in the newly accessible archival resources regarding Soviet policy in Europe and Asia. A unique feature of Stalin's policy is his recognition of the potential of national liberation movements in a world of crumbling empires.

Fernande Beatrice Scheid Raine currently works as consultant for McKinsey & Company. She is writing a book based on her dissertation. Contact: To order her dissertation, visit:; a free 24-page preview is available.

Ph.D., Columbia, 2000
"Displaced Populations: Re-shaping International Planning"

(Ms.) Kakoli Ray's dissertation questions repatriation policy, usually considered the optimal solution for refugees. Repatriation remains problematic, she explains, due to issues of economic, social and political integration, yet the rhetoric and policy of the international refugee regime remains focused on return. This disjuncture has implications for planning within the international aid regime, which is responsible for assisted repatriation and organizing humanitarian assistance. International planning has yet to develop an adequate systematic framework, theoretically and practically, to cope with refugee needs.

Ray's research included fieldwork among the Meskheti Turk refugees, a twice-displaced people now living in Azerbaijan. She has also developed NGO management, education, micro-enterprise, agriculture and livestock projects for urban and rural populations in Azerbaijan, especially for those who were displaced by the Karabakh war.

Kakoli Ray is currently Chief of Mission for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic. Contact: or More at:

Ph.D., Tel-Aviv University, 2000
"The Formation of Azerbaijani Collective Identity in Light of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the Soviet Breakup"

Brenda Shaffer's dissertation examines the mutual connections and influences between the Azerbaijanis in Iran and in Soviet Azerbaijan and its successor, the Republic of Azerbaijan. It asks if the Azerbaijanis consider themselves a collective, despite the political separation under different regimes.

It also attempts to gain insight into Iran as a multi-ethnic state and the role that ethnic politics plays there. Shaffer claims that Azerbaijanis have retained an Azerbaijani identity in both Soviet Azerbaijan and in Iran. In Soviet Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani identity was the primary collective identity of most of the members of this group, including Russian speakers. In Iran, Azerbaijani identity has been retained by vast numbers of Azerbaijanis, despite the attempts of the regime to assimilate them and restrict Azerbaijani culture and language. Nevertheless, most Azerbaijanis in Iran also maintain Iranian identity and see no conflict in retaining both identities.

The establishment of the Republic of Azerbaijan in 1991 served as a catalyst for the exploration of identity among the Azerbaijanis in Iran. For some, this has led to heightened articulation of Azerbaijani identity and increased political action to attain language and cultural rights in Iran. Direct ties between the Azerbaijanis in Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan have increased dramatically since independence, especially in trade, education and science. These direct ties are increasing the economic power and status of the Azerbaijani-populated provinces in Iran and creating a challenge for Tehran in the sphere of center-periphery relations.

Brenda Shaffer is currently Project Director at Harvard University's Caspian Program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government. Contact: Brenda_; more information: http://


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