Saturday, August 27, 2016

Caucasus Report

Local Azerbaijanis Rally in Support of Embattled Daghestani Official

A Daghestani man pickets against the renaming of a street in Derbent after former Azeri President Heydar Aliyev in 2013.
A Daghestani man pickets against the renaming of a street in Derbent after former Azeri President Heydar Aliyev in 2013.

A new standoff is underway between the Azerbaijanis, one of the largest ethnic groups in south-eastern Daghestan, and the republican leadership.

As part of an ongoing systematic purge of local administrators regarded as inefficient and/or corrupt, Republic head Ramazan Abdulatipov announced last week the imminent dismissal as head of Derbent Raion of Kurban Kurbanov, an Azerbaijani who had held that post since 1998. 

On July 30, however, supporters of Kurbanov (their numbers were variously estimated at 300 and 1,000 people), congregated outside the district administration building to protest that decision.

One participant argued that Abdulatipov had no right to sack Kurbanov, who was elected by a popular ballot and whose term does not expire until next year. 

A second, smaller protest against Kurbanov's planned dismissal took place on August 1 in the village of Mamedkala.

Kurbanov, who is 58, told his supporters on July 30 that he will not step down voluntarily. He was hospitalized later that day after a meeting with unidentified government officials who pressured him without success to sign a letter of resignation. 

According to unconfirmed reports, Abdulatipov intends to appoint as Kurbanov's successor Azadi Ragimov, also an Azerbaijani, who was dismissed last week after serving for 12 years as minister of justice.
Azerbaijanis are the sixth largest of Daghestan's 14 titular ethnic groups, accounting for 4.5 percent of the total population, but the largest in Derbent Raion, where -- according to the 2010 All-Russian census -- they make up 58 percent of the total population of 99,500. The second largest group (18 percent) are the Lezgins. In the city of Derbent, which is celebrating its 2000th anniversary next year, Azerbaijanis and Lezgins each account for 35-36 percent of the total population of 120,000.

The Kurbanov family has long played a prominent role in local politics. Kurbanov's father, Said, served as first secretary of the Derbent Raion committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1962 to 1991, and then until 2006 as the Azerbaijani representative on the 14-person collective republican presidency. His brother Magomed was Daghestan's representative in the Azerbaijan Republic until last year, when Abdulatipov dismissed him. 

Even though Derbent Raion is not contiguous with Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan has long played a prominent role in the region and seeks to expand it.  


In 2010, two Russian analysts went so far as to argue that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev is one of the most influential political figures in southern Daghestan.  In the run-up to the October 2013 Azerbaijani presidential ballot in which Aliyev ran for a third term, Abdulatipov officially appealed to Azerbaijani voters who belong to one of Daghestan's ethnic groups (primarily Avars, Tsakhurs and Lezgins) to cast their ballots for Aliyev. 

Some Daghestani observers cite Azerbaijani claims that Derbent is historically an Azerbaijani town as evidence that Baku harbors irredentist aspirations. 

In particular, the Lezgin population of the town of Derbent appears to resent what it perceives as unwarranted and inappropriate concessions by the municipal council to the leadership of the Azerbaijan Republic, as epitomized by the decision in the spring of 2013 to rename one of the town's streets in honor of Ilham Aliyev's late father, Heydar Aliyev. Many Lezgins similarly regard Kurbanov as too eager to please Baku.

Azerbaijan's expanding economic presence in the region may indeed be intended as a vehicle for political influence.  

In the run-up to the Derbent-2000 celebrations, Azerbaijan plans to build in Derbent Raion an Olympic sports complex comprising a soccer stadium, a swimming pool, tennis courts, and hotels. 

In addition, Kurbanov informed Republic of Daghestan Prime Minister Abdusamad Gamidov in March that Azerbaijani investors plan to build a canning factory, a factory to manufacture ceramic tiles, a cement plant, and a logistical center. Abdulatipov had criticized Kurbanov in July 2013 for his failure to attract investment in a predominantly agricultural district. 

-- Liz Fuller

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: art from: Holland
August 02, 2014 16:13
Azeries seems to claime every thing to be historical Azerie. Isn't there anyone except the Armenians to put them straight.

They claim Karabach and entire Armenia, half of Iran, parts of Georgia and even Turkey and now Russia.
In Response

by: sara from: baku
August 02, 2014 17:52
Look who is talking about claiming other's lands. Armenians who have occupied Azerbaijan's Karabakh and surrounding seven regions, ethnicly cleansing Azeris and dispellinng them from their lands, leaving 1 million of them as IDPs and refugees, committing Khojaly massacre. You claim Turkey's south-east, Georgia's Javakheti, Azerbaijan's Naxcivan and God knows what else. Recently Facebook had to deactivate an Armenian page abt Naxcivan because of all hate speech it contained.
In Response

by: FI264 from: Baku
August 02, 2014 22:51
Only an Armenian can see everything through a lens of "history" and "claim". Article is about the active presence and the role of Azerbaijanis in Daghestan's social and political life. Due to your greedy nature you ended up with nothing in the beginning of the last century and 100 years later you didn't draw any lesson from the past. You have already wasted 24 years to occupy Azerbaijani lands and mired in nationalism and hatred, you will unavoidably leave those lands with empty hands.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.