Thursday, September 18, 2014


Caucasus Report

Fresh Irritant Emerges in Azerbaijani-Armenian Relations

A YouTube screen grab from the newly launched Talysh-language radio station which broadcasts from Shusha.
A YouTube screen grab from the newly launched Talysh-language radio station which broadcasts from Shusha.
A new Armenian initiative has the potential to exacerbate even further the already hostile relationship between Yerevan and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, on the one hand, and Azerbaijan on the other.

Last month, an Armenian-sponsored radio station began broadcasting from Shusha (known as Shushi in Armenian), the second-largest town in the disputed enclave, to Azerbaijan’s Talysh minority. 

The radio station in question is named Tolyshistoni Sado (Voice of the Talysh) and broadcasts three hours daily in both Talysh (an Iranian language) and Azeri.

Fifty-percent of the broadcast content is Talysh popular music and the remainder devoted to Talysh culture, according to former Armenian diplomat Ara Papyan, who now heads the Modus Vivendi center, which co-initiated the project jointly with the Iranian Studies Faculty of Yerevan State University.

Papyan told the Caucasus Knot news agency that the broadcaster’s aims are entirely peaceful, devoid of any political content, and aimed at strengthening peace and stability in the region. But he also said one of the messages the station wants to convey to Talysh listeners is that the Karabakh conflict “is not their war, and that they are not obliged to support Azerbaijan.”

The Talysh are an Iranian people who live in the southeastern regions of Azerbaijan bordering on Iran.  The official results of the 2009 Azerbaijani national census give the number of Talysh as 112,000, or less than 1 percent of the country’s total population, compared with 76,800 in 1999.
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Nonetheless, some Talysh claim the true figure is 500,000, and that a further  600,000 Talysh live in Iran. Papayan gave the total number of Talysh in Azerbajan alone as 2 million. Azerbaijan’s state-controlled media do not provide either TV or radio broadcasts in the Talysh language.

The Azerbaijani authorities reportedly initially assumed that the Iranian government was behind the new broadcaster; some Azerbaijani linguists quickly concluded that the station’s journalists were Iranian Talysh. But the Iranian Embassy in Baku issued a statement on March 27, one week after the broadcasts began, denying any connection with the initiative and affirming support for the territorial integrity of the Azerbaijan Republic.

Azerbaijani officials have not commented publicly on the new radio station, but Bayram Safarov, a leading member of the former Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh, denounced it as a "provocation" instigated by "Armenian separatists" and called for international condemnation.
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by: Bill from: UK
April 16, 2013 15:49
This is exactly what the region needs, more irritants! As if we they don’t have enough conflicts already.

Armenia is like a little brat kid, breaking the rules (UN) and hiding behind her big brother Russia’s back. I really don’t see what they aim to achieve though this, their only ally in the region is Iran, stoking more ethnic fires is not the solutions. They should abide by the UN resolutions, withdraw from occupied territories, then normalise relations with its neighbours which will open the borders and bring the very much needed investment and trade opportunities that Armenia needs. The collapsed Armenian economy and the impoverished and shrinking population can ill afford to play these sorts of games while precariously balancing on a knife edge.

How far does the Armenian regime think Russia will carry it? And how long will the current Iranian government be able to hold on to its power? If either one of these supports goes, Armenia will be in an even greater mess than it is now.

In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
April 16, 2013 21:08
Yea yea yea,Chenghiz Billy Bully,what the region needs is more western sponsored azeri national socialism.Ali Baba Ilhan akbar!!!
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by: 4 peace from: edic002@yahoo.com
April 16, 2013 21:43
@Bill Abudlayev:There is no need to cry and to sing the same old song again and again and finaly blam Russia or Iran, since the same Russia and Iran did help in many different ways Azerbaijan during Karbakh war (do not forget the regime in Baku is nothing without Turkey and terrorist groups from Afghanistan or elsewhere), even Karbakh Army can reach Baku without help of Armenia.
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by: Gharapaghtsi Hrair from: Shushi, Nagorno Karabakh
April 16, 2013 22:02
We Armenians withdrawing from our liberated territories? Dream on... Who cares about the UN resolutions?

Iran is our only ally in the region? That's our business, not yours or anyone else's.

Normalizing relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan? To be slaughtered like lambs? That will never happen again.
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by: Weingart Robert from: Switzerland
April 18, 2013 14:12
People like you Gharapsi are definitely not the key to a conflict solution. How many Armenians in Shusha are living in former Azerbaijanian houses and apartments? I think its better to find a compromize now before Azerbaijans patience comes to an end.
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by: Anon from: US
April 19, 2013 20:54
"Weingart" (next time please use your Azeri name), what do you mean by 'compromise'? Giving up to the acts of terror by the Azerbaijani government? Are you threatening the Karabakh Armenians to leave their ancestral land "or else"? That was counts as 'compromise' in your dictionary? Dream on, as Gharapaghtsi already said.
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by: Hagop
April 17, 2013 11:08
When the people of Nagorno-Karabagh vote to secede, they are little brat kids.

When the Kosovars want to do it (and were helped in cleansing the region of minorities by U.S. and NATO forces), they are welcomed with open arms.

That cooperation with Russia and Iran makes the West so anxious means Armenia must be doing something right.

by: Talysh
April 16, 2013 16:31
The report forgot to mention that the same fascist officials in Baku have created different kinds of fake and misleading news web pages for "Armenians" - including abusing the country name "Armenia" and so on

by: Kerim
April 16, 2013 21:16
If I were a Talish, I would really detest the cynicism of this Armenian gambit. Clearly Armenia does not care about Talish any more than they do about Azeris. The whole thing smacks of “divide and conquer” mentality. Azerbaijan has so many minorities. How many does Armenians have? Theirs is a country 99% ethnic Armenian. True, Azerbaijan does not have a state radio channel in Talish language. But how many state-sponsored USA radio stations are there broadcasting in Korean although there are tons of Korean Americans too?

And to our Talish friends and neighbors, it is understandable that you want to be independent, as a reflective desire. But just think about it. Could an economically-feasible country be set up with only 200,000 people? Armenia itself, with ten times of your population, is essentially a failed economy, subsisting on diaspora handouts and Russian subsidies. Or, Talish friends, do you want to join Iran? Do they really have Talish radios in Iran? How many such stations are there in Iran for their own Azeri minority numbering 20 million (100 times your number)? Answer: 0. Or do you want to be ruled with Armenians next time they aim to take over the whole of Azerbaijan versus just the current 20%? Well, do you know what has happened to the 1 million Azeri refugees they have created? And see above on Armenia's record on minorities. Caucasus is a very unique place in terms of diverse group of numerous minorities, and yet there are essentially none in Armenia. I guess it makes sense why they would broadcast ethnic music to our minorities? After all, they themselves have none left, and clearly feel the urge to play Talish music.
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by: minas
April 17, 2013 01:01
Your comment is a good example of how brainwashed are people in Azerbaijan. The same twisted Azerbaijani mentality fed by garbage news from APA and Trend.az. There is a 50000 Yezidi Community in Armenia, in fact, There are villages in Armenia which are entirely populated with Yezidis, There is an active Assyrian community as well and small number of Jews and Greeks. Unlike some other countries where the rights granted to ethnic and religious communities are connected to politics e.g. Jews in Azerbaijan enjoy more rights than the rest of minorities since Israel supplies them with weapon, in Armenia all minorities have equal rights and they have there radio stations and publications.
And a few words to RFE/RL, supposedly the beacon of independent ethical journalism in the region:
Would you please tell us why is the word "irritant" used in the headline referring to the launch of the new radio station?! In English, "irritant" means "something which causes irritation" with negative connotation. While there is no doubt that this radio station is perceived by Azerbaijan as being "irritant." In Armenia and in the rest of the civilized world the launch of an apolitical radio station is as normal as drinking a cup of tea or playing ping-pong! This only creates the delusion that as opposed to Azerbaijans uncivilized behavior e.g. rewarding and glorifying those who kill Armenians by axe, Armenians are equally responsible for the aggravation of the situation in the region which is absolutely wrong.
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by: John from: Chicago, USA
April 21, 2013 04:06
There is a TV station that broadcasts Korean tv shows in the Chicago area.
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by: Gharapaghtsi Hrair from: Shushi, Nagorno Karabakh
April 17, 2013 01:33
Shame on you, Turk, how do you dare call the Talish your friends if you don't let them speak in their language, educate their children in Talish and develop their own culture? For your information, there are Greek, Kurd, Russian, Persian and other minorities in Armenia living very happy lives among Armenians. There's a Talish radio in the Armenian city of Shushi, where I live. Stop worring about the Talish, we Armenians are going to liberate Nakhichevan and the Armenian city of Baku very soon.
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by: greg from: virginia
April 17, 2013 18:31
let's not go off the deep end Hrair. Let the Azeri's play the game of threatening to take over everything. it only reinforces the sense among international diplomats that there is no practical, secure mechanism by which NKR could remain under Baku's jurisdication, not with Aliyev declaring all Armenians on the planet as his enemy, not with Abiyev (their minister of defense) claiming readiness to roll across NKR, then Armenia, and joining up with their turkish "brothers" on the Arax river near Khor virap. Let Azeri officials swim in that fantasy of filth. We should sleep well at night knowing we don't think like they do.
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by: James from: Nagorno Karabakh Republic
April 17, 2013 04:31
There are over 600,000 Talysh in southeast Azerbaijan. They need to be afforded political autonomy separate from Baku to govern themselves and preserve their ancient Iranian culture. They are a majority in a significantly large swath of territory that is currently under Azeri control.
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by: Weingart Robert from: Switzerland
April 18, 2013 14:17
What about minorities in Armenia? Armenia is a one-ethnic nation. There are maybe a few thousands of other people than Armenians. What about the Muslim Kurds? Did you not forced them to flee during the war??? Armenia is not a trie democraty.
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by: greg from: virginia
April 18, 2013 16:55
no Weingart. Armenia did not force muslim kurds in Armenia to flee during the conflict in NKR. and the breakdown in ethicity between the majority and minority ethnic groups in armenia is not all that different than in Azerbaijan, which i suppose by your comments you consider a shining beacon of democracy compared to armenia. right? The Baku government is being lauded around the world as a landmark of civil democratic society, that's your contention, right Weingart?
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by: Hagop
April 17, 2013 11:02
If things in Azerbaijan are so rosy, why do around 3 million Azeris migrate to Russia (Rasizade) in order to work?

The radio station is obviously meant to provide a service to a minority that Azerbaijan seems to wish it could absorb and assimilate.
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by: VTiger
April 17, 2013 13:07
Spilled sour milk Kerim.Tell your bosses that past is past & there will never ever be going back to AXEbeijani slavery.You stay behind your borders we stay behind ours.If you want to become good neighbors then we'll do the same but we will never ever accept to live with you AXEbeijanis.

by: LG from: USA
April 17, 2013 01:12
What a wonderful cultural initiative by Armenians! Thank you!

by: Billa from: UK
April 17, 2013 14:51
Camel, always nice to hear from you, your fact less yet provocative and highly entertain writing style never ceases to amaze me.

I am going to ignore the majority of the comments here as they are clearly written by immigrant Armenian teenagers with no sense of reality, history or perspective. I will however ask, how many of our dear Armenian teenager propagandists have actually been to Armenia (rhetorical question)? I know the answer is 0.5.

To those saying that the UN resolutions are irrelevant. Am I right in assuming that you would prefer the UN to also stop all aid to Armenia? And in case of all out conflict and its implications (war crimes, genocide, etc), just to ignore Armenia the way it ignores international law and UN resolutions?
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by: Camel Anazer from: Northern Persia
April 18, 2013 15:46
Dear Belly,thanx to you for showing us the true meaning of the phrase talking turkey being in a cold turkey state of mind-azeri mind that is.We all hope you are having the time of your life in your UK turkish bath with your child bride harem.We also hope your get out of your mongol union and join the EU,spreading your millenia old azeri demockracy/est.1918/ all over the world and making Baki the one and only true center of Europe,instead of Brussels.Many greetings to all Arshin-mal-alans in the UK and long live Adolf Alievitch!!!And ,Belly as great as you are,can you remember your name and write it twice without changing it my dear Chenghiz Ali Babadjan???
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by: Billy from: UK
April 18, 2013 16:29
Your the only one that really understands me my bactrian brother!

In Response

by: Hagop
April 19, 2013 03:15
Bill, not only have I been to Armenia, I've been to Karabagh as well.

I didn't speak out against the UN, I pointed to double standards in the recognition and support of self-determination of Kosovars vs. the support for territorial integrity in Azerbaijan and Georgia. And is there a single country on this planet that completely adheres to international law and UN resolutions (rhetorical question).

I don't know why I bother, though, you'll just condescendingly dismiss my comment. I am "Armenian immigrant," after all.
In Response

by: Bill from: UK
April 19, 2013 10:27
My apologies. I’m used to getting abuse from teenage Armenian extremists on here. Nice to hear a well worded response for once and without the bizarre accusations of me being a Turk or even a Mongol (which really makes no sense to anyone with any hint of an education).

In response to your comments regarding the UN, the UN asses each case on its own merits, there is no generalisation or one rule fits all approach. For the time being, Armenian is ignoring UN resolutions which have been in place for 20 odd years, so any talk, at least in the UN, of the right to self determination, can only be brought forward after UN resolutions are complied with or the scenario changes significantly.

Also, for the most part, countries which flout UN resolutions generally get sanctioned in the long run.

by: Gharapaghtsi Hrair from: Shushi, Nagorno Karabakh
April 17, 2013 14:56
To RFE/RL: Could you please stop using that wrong map? My country, the Armenian Republic of Nagorno Karabakh is not inside Azerbaijan. Saying or implying that the Armenian Republic of Nagorno Karabakh is situated inside Azerbaijan is an insult and a disrespect to all freedom and democracy loving people in the world.

by: Elnur from: Baku
April 17, 2013 15:21
What is Iranian? Does it mean - Persian, Azerbaijani, Talysh indeed, Taluchi, Arab, Turkmeni,etc, i.e. people populating a state called Iran?
You could do some advance research and find out that there are at least dozens of languages spoken in Iran. It is a multicultural country, where ethnic minorities coun in tens of millions.
Talish are Azerbaijani as much as they are an Iranian people. They are not Persians.
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by: parvenu from: US
April 18, 2013 00:16
It probably refers to Talish language which belongs to the Indo-Iranian family of languages. Azerbaijani does not belong to this linguistic family as you might now.
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by: Elnur from: Baku
April 18, 2013 08:13
You might also know that Azerbaijani is a dialect of Turkish language.
Azerbaijani people have been formed from a mixture of Turkish, Caucasian and Persian speaking people. Our language has been enriched immensely with words of Arabic and Persian origin. S much so, that often we understand people speaking Persian and Arabic.
The process that is happening in the US now, i.e. forming of the American multicultural identity has happened ceturies ago in Azerbaijan.
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by: parvenu from: US
April 18, 2013 23:00
One more time: azerbaijani language does not belong to the Indo-Iranian family of languages. And the US is significantly older than your country. (And it is also ridiculous to compare the two on any level.)

by: Ulrika
April 18, 2013 05:08
This radio station is another propaganda "voice" of Armenia. Nothing surprising here. Despite the deplorable state of the Armenian economy, the government does not spare money on conducting anti-Azerbaijani propaganda.

by: Weingart Robert from: Switzerland
April 18, 2013 14:19
What is the problem of the Armenians? Why starting a radio serving an other ethnie which does not exists in Armenia? To destabalize Azerbaijan? You may better start to be a true democratie than destabalize others.
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by: Hagop
April 19, 2013 02:48
It is an open challenge to Azerbaijan's assimilationist policies, which can only be a good thing. Azerbaijanis can't pretend that these minorities can't exist. Isolating the Armenians of Karabagh (and Azerifying the region) was what started the conflict in the first place.

What is a true democracy? I haven't really seen one. There are some states that are more democratic than others, though let's not kid ourselves about Azerbaijan being anywhere near the top of that list.

by: Weingart Robert from: Switzerland
April 18, 2013 14:46
By the way: Why launch this radio in Shusha, the heart of Azerbaijanian culture? I think because to provoke, thats all.
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by: Gharapaghtsi Hrair from: Shushi, Nagorno Karabakh
April 18, 2013 19:58
There's no city called like that, what heart of what azerbaijani (whatever it means) culture are you talking about? Shushi (with "i", not "a"), my native city, where I was born and where I live, is the heart of the Armenian culture, not anyone else's.
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by: Hagop
April 19, 2013 03:04
This idea about Shusha/i being the "heart" or "pearl" of Azerbaijanian culture was very much fostered and developed during the Soviet period. Every Soviet republic "indigenized" or "nationalized" their republics (often at the expense of minorities), producing mythologized national histories and downplaying or outright dismissing elements of history that didn't fit how they wanted to present themselves. Nobody really talked about the reason why Shusha/i had become a majority Azeri city by the Soviet period (the Armenian population had been massacred during the 1920s) and any reference to the violence of the 1920s was blamed on "imperialists" and bourgeois provocateurs -- so there was never any accountability. But the history in Soviet textbooks was very different from the memory of the Armenians of Karabagh (who had unsuccessfully attempted to split from the Azerbaijan SSR several times before the 1980s/90s) and when they noticed that the Azerbaijani discourse was all about how Armenians were "occupying" a "heart of Azerbaijan," they realized that they were never going to be part of that country.
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by: Nika
April 23, 2013 10:37
Plenty of words and few facts. However in your situation the choice is not great. Talking about "the Armenian Shusha" somehow you forget to mention that this city was established by the Azerbaijani governor Panakh Ali; earlier the city was called in honor of its founder Panakhabad.
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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.