Aaron in Azerbaijan

Just another blog about Azerbaijan.

Where Does Azerbaijan Belong?

with 4 comments

The CRRC has a new report out detailing gender attitude differences in the Caucasus and comparing those attitudes to the wider set of data from the Pew Center’s Global Attitudes Project. What you get is a picture that lifts up the differences in Caucasus countries in contrast to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The takeaway:

Armenia and Azerbaijan tend to emphasize more traditional gender roles, and in global terms are often closer in attitude to Middle Eastern and Asian countries. Georgia, meanwhile, is more inclined to aspire to gender equality, and in this sense is closer to countries in Western Europe and the Americas. However, the picture is complicated and, using other data from the Caucasus Barometer, the report shows that gender perceptions in the South Caucasus are deeply nuanced, and do not fit into a conventional picture of equality versus tradition.

The report (pdf) is a quick and informative read. What I’m interested in here, though, is what is not in this report. One of the glaring absences in the Pew report is data from Central Asia. For obvious reasons, countries like Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan are rather inaccessible. And from what I can tell, it looks like Uzbekistan last participated in the Global Attitudes Survey in 2002. Not exactly a recipe for a reliable data set from Central Asia. Kyrgystan and Tajikistan aren’t represent at all, nor are Iran and Afghanistan. Without the work of the CRRC, we wouldn’t have comparable information for Georgia, Armenia, or Azerbaijan, either.

I’m willing to posit, though, that if we had that information, we would see vast similarities between Azerbaijan and the Central Asian countries. I’d even go so far as to say that in addition to the geographical grouping we give Azerbaijan, with the other Caucasus countries, it’d be appropriate to say that Azerbaijan fits right in in Central Asia. Websites such as NewEurasia, a recent find that I’m really enjoying, leave their reporting to only the countries on the other side of the Caspian (not sure if that’s just because they don’t have an Azerbaijan source or not). It’s fairly obvious why I think that Azerbaijan shares so much with those countries: Muslim populations, former Soviet states, natural resource wealth, strong Russian leadership legacies, and more. If you’ve read Chasing the Sea, an account from a former PCV in Uzbekistan, the similarities, all the way from food and clothing choices to government apparatuses, are striking. Reading Hooman Majd’s The Ayatollah Begs to Differ offers more similarities that can extend throughout countries of the former Persian Empire, which would includes a significant chunk of the Middle East and Central Asia, as well as the Caucasus. The influences from the Russians, Iranians, and the myriad of other conquerors of the region have left impressions that mark the entire region.

This post doesn’t really have a larger point to make. What I’m trying to say is that I think it’s completely legitimate to include Azerbaijan in the region of “Central Asia”, even though it’s geographically separated from the typical list of countries because it’s on the wrong side of the Caspian. Whether it’s a fruitful comparison to make, I’m not sure, but I’d be interested in seeing information like that gleaned from the CRRC and the Pew surveys produced to compare the typical Central Asian countries and Azerbaijan.


Written by Aaron

October 19, 2011 at 5:54 am

4 Responses

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  1. Yes, Azerbaijan has many similarities to the Central Asia. Except Tajikistan, majority of Azeris and Central Asians share common linguistic heritage. Azeris, Turkmens, and Uzbeks are notably closer. In addition to common root language (so called proto-turkic), Azeris and Uzbeks are more influenced by Islam and Middle East than Kazakh and Kyrgyz people.

    Alef Jim

    October 19, 2011 at 11:52 pm

  2. What Islam and language has to do with it? According to the report Armenia ( and to the lesser degree Georgia) has the same result.
    Btw, Influence of religion in Uzbekistan is overwhelming. It is major issue for them. For Azerbaijan it is not so(yet).


    October 20, 2011 at 6:02 am

    • All I’m saying is that Azerbaijan and the countries that we call ‘Central Asia’ may have similar preferences and similar responses to questions. I’m basing that on an understanding that religion and language and many other factors play a strong role in cultural preferences and will likely lead to similar responses to questions from the Pew survey and the CRRC survey.

      I’m less concerned with the CRRC report results (though they are interesting and thought-provoking, themselves) than thinking about what we could do with information from the republics across the Caspian.


      October 20, 2011 at 6:16 am

      • My comment was directed to Alef Jim. I just forgot to push the reply button.


        October 20, 2011 at 10:19 am

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