What’s in a Name?
Azerbaijanis have already changed their script three times in the last century. Most recently, they kicked out the Russian alphabet at the end of the Soviet Union, opting for the more western Latin script. Adding more upheaval to the system, it looks like they are trying to do away with the Russian endings to their names. The cascade of -ev/eva’s and ov/ova’s that accompany Azerbaijani surnames is at risk of losing a nation when the Azerbaijani parliament brings up this issue in session:
Parliament is expected soon to discuss a bill that would replace Russian last name endings such as “-ov/-ova” with Azeri-style endings such as “-lie,” “-oglu,” “-gil,” or “-soy.” Upwards of 80 percent of Azerbaijani last names end with “-ov/-ova,” “-ev/eva,” according to the National Academy of Sciences.
Nizami Jafarov, head of the parliamentary committee on cultural affairs, told Zerkalo newspaper that ethnic minorities would be exempt from this requirement. Jafarov said that those who do not wish to change their last names will have to take their case to court.
The idea was originally posited last year. And apparently there was a voluntary movement at the fall of the Soviet Union to break free of the shackles of Russian-ending surnames. An interesting question, however, would be whether a government can actually force its people to change all of their last names. That strikes me as a tough sell.
Just as a few examples, though, I have heard quite a few people tell me they would change their name soon. A friend who’s last name is Əliyev (Aliyev) has thought of changing his so something like Əlisoy or Əlizadə. The -zadə ending is one that is though to be of Persian ancestry, which doesn’t seem like it would appeal to the Azerbaijani authorities, either, with their fear of a religious revolution from their southern neighbors.
This issue also makes me glad that I, as an American, have the right to whatever name I want, really. I love my name, but it’s even nicer because I choose what identity comes out of it.