Azerbaijan International

Spring 2003 (11.1)
Page 9

Readers' Forum
The Real Caucasians

I know this may sound like a strange question, but what do you tell people when they ask: "What is Azeri?" I know my recently-adopted children are Azeri, but is this a race, or are the people living there Russian, since Azerbaijan was once part of Russia? And is an Azeri person a Caucasian or something else? I only ask because people have been asking me this question lately. When they wonder where Azerbaijan is and I tell them that it's located along the southern border of Russia, they reply, "Well, then the children must be Russian." Can anyone explain this to me: are these children considered to be of Russian descent or not?

A parent of a newly adopted child from Azerbaijan,
AzerbaijanAdopt Listserv at

Editor: We print the reply of Sanan Nasibli, another Listserv member, with his permission:

Azeri is a nationality, just like "American" is a nationality of all naturalized citizens in the US. Today's Azerbaijan was part of the Russian Empire from 1828 to 1918. In 1828, at the end of the Russo-Iranian War, these leaders of these countries agreed to split Azerbaijan along the Araz River. Russia took the northern lands [which has become an independent country - the Azerbaijan Republic - which today has a population of about 8 million] and Iran got the southern part [which now has a population three times greater, estimated at 25-30 million]. Ever since, we have gone separate routes but have kept our language, traditions, customs and folklore.

In May 1918, after the collapse of the Russian Empire, Azerbaijan broke free and declared independence as the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. The country existed only two years and could not resist Communist Russia's aggression. It fell in April 1920 becoming the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, a part of the future USSR.

In December 1991, after the collapse of the USSR, we regained our independence and are now called the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Despite a lot of changes that Russia brought to our development (mainly modernization), we have succeeded in keeping our Azerbaijani heritage. We speak Azeri, a Turkic language. I would define our culture as Caucasian (meaning the Caucasian people who are unique to the region of the Caucasus). We have deep influences from Turkic, Iranian and other Middle Eastern cultures. [In the Republic], Russia has also influenced our development a lot, bringing modernization into the language, educational system, culture and other aspects of life.

I want to thank all of the families who have adopted Azerbaijani children for being ambassadors of my Homeland. The more your family and friends know the world, the more informed U.S. foreign policy will be.

Sanan Nasibli
Boston, Massachusetts

Editor: We also reprint Kimi Abernathy's answer. Again with her permission.

Actually your children are the true "Caucasians". Azerbaijanis are a Turkic people. Azeri is a Turkic language. Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union (not by choice) but the people have more in common with Iran, Turkey, Georgia and even Armenia, than with Russia. The largest population of Azerbaijanis live in Iran (an estimated 25-30 million). The language, customs, food, religion, heritage and DNA imprint is Middle Eastern. Just listen to the traditional Azerbaijan music-that says it all!

Kimi Abernathy of Bell Buckle, Tennessee

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