Saturday, August 27, 2016


Iran Claims To Thwart Azerbaijani Cultural Imperialism At UNESCO

An image from the Azerbaijani Culture Ministry showing riders in a typical "chovqan" match
An image from the Azerbaijani Culture Ministry showing riders in a typical "chovqan" match
Host Azerbaijan walks away a winner from this week's UNESCO conference on "intangible cultural heritage," successfully enlisting "urgent" help to preserve an archaic form of polo played on short-legged Karabakh horses.

The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization committee's listing of "chovqan" recognizes that the sport's continuity is "at risk" from a dwindling number of practitioners, precious little interest among young people, and urbanization.

It also recognizes the Azerbaijani state's role in safeguarding chovqan.

As it turns out, that doesn't sit so well with neighboring Iran, which claims the game -- rendered "chogan" -- as Persian.

Here's a video report on Iranian efforts to "revive an ancient Persian sport...that dates back to thousands of years ago:"

It's not the money that's at issue here, since there's no direct funding attached to the "List of Intangible Cultural Heritage In Need Of Urgent Safeguarding."

It's the principle.

So, as Baku was winning the battle for headlines, Tehran's envoys were busy wringing backroom concessions out of Azerbaijan and the committee on behalf of Iran's Western Azerbaijan and Eastern Azerbaijan provinces, as well as a silent coterie of purported chogan practitioners in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.

While the UNESCO press release on December 3 referred only to "a traditional horse-riding game in the Republic of Azerbaijan," the "Tehran Times" the next day quoted an Iranian official as claiming victory.

"The efforts made by the Iranian delegation at the meeting convinced Azerbaijan to officially acknowledge verbally and in writing the fact that chogan is not an Azeri game," the director of the Department for Registration of Natural, Historical, and Intangible Heritage at Iran's Culture Ministry, Farhad Nazari, said.

He added that the two heavily ethnic Azeri provinces in northwestern Iran -- West Azerbaijan and East Azerbaijan -- had been described by Baku as "south Azerbaijan."

"It is through a trick that they presented South Azerbaijan as part of the Republic of Azerbaijan's territory and they even presented some historical evidence to this effect," Iran's semiofficial Fars News Agency reported.

On the eve of the UN vote, Fars had come right out and accused Baku of having tried "various means of international deception to register the Iranian game 'chogan' with UNESCO as Azerbaijani heritage," concluding that "Their methods demonstrate the greed of that country."

Fars went on:

Their action is against the UN fundamental principles of territorial integrity. It is not the first time that Iran's neighbouring countries claimed the possession of Iran's cultural heritage; for example their claims for Molana [Jalal-e-Din Mohammad Molavi Rumi, 13th-century poet] and Nezami [Ganjavi (Azeri: Nizami Gancavi), 12th-century poet] and now their claim over the Persian game of Chogan. They even use our territories as their evidence.

But cooler heads appear to have prevailed at the UNESCO meeting, and documents were amended after Iranian protests, Nazari said.

A further compromise was reportedly reached.

Iran "can also apply for registration of Iranian chogan on the list," Nazari said. "In addition, UNESCO experts in the meeting agreed that chogan would be registered as a multinational element on the UNESCO list."

Still, for now, it's "chovqan" that gets the UN's urgent assistance.

The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage meets annually to examine requests for inclusion on the UNESCO lists and steer efforts to protect such cultural activities.

We described the process in greater detail recently here.

-- Andy Heil
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
December 05, 2013 22:45
The only sport azeri allahtans may claim as their own are running away from armenians and killing sleeping people with axes as a mark of true azeri bravery.The UN people seem to be great fans of free caviar and next they may erect a statue of Huidurak Alevich at the UN entrance,or maybe just an iron cast of an ordinary donkey will do!!!
In Response

by: Cemal Ataturk from: Kurdistan
December 06, 2013 21:59
I am wondering why a persian game got Turkish name!

by: Aftab Kazi from: Washington, DC
December 06, 2013 05:14
Culture should not be made controversial. All states in Eurasia, in fact, commonly share each other's cultures, not only in sports, but also in terms of personalities, socials, etc. etc.

by: Warwari
December 06, 2013 06:52
Avar language "Chou" = horse.
Chouwadarukhan = chevalier
Chougan = With horse, by horse

But Avars not claim anything on this game. Azeri and Persians can play together, without fight, but with brotherhood, Azeri and Persians are believe Shia religion, and same antropologic roots.

(A noble caaucasian Avar tribe : Abarnak was rule İran - Turan - Azerbaijan, but todays Avars not claim anything on that lands. Live with together and peace, but stay away from Avars, they say.)

by: Zal from: Texas
December 06, 2013 14:30
Persians and Azeri people are milk and water, which can never be seperated.
There will always be few who try to put wedge between them but it will never succeed .
I am a proud iranian with Azeri blood. Iran is part of my Azeri blood, and I will gladly sacrifice it for IRAN.
In Response

by: Alex from: LA
December 07, 2013 08:30
Why are you in Texas then? Iranians that speak Turkic language...
In Response

by: Peter from: Planet Earth
December 07, 2013 14:45
Because Zal is a free man and he can live where ever he is legally allowed. And it is non of Alex's business.
In Response

by: parvenu from: US
December 07, 2013 16:53
Are your papers in order?

by: Rick from: US
December 07, 2013 18:11
I think this sport a fore-bearer of Polo, which has its roots in Gilgit, Pakistan, first made popular by the British when they saw them playing on short legged horses, I do believe UNESCO needs to correct that, Iran has claim to many things it is not an inheritor of.

by: minas
December 10, 2013 04:41
Azerbaijan is just a BP gas station, once they run out of oil BP will shut it down and leave. though the article is trying to show it is neutral, the language used is apparently anti-Iranian. So what if there is no direct funding attached to the list? It is a well known fact that many UN officials are modestly paid former diplomats from third world countries and Azerbaijan is eager to pay. A few years ago videos appeared online showing their agents trying to bribe people in Eastern Europe to vote for the Azeri Eurovision participant. Then there was the scandal around their Olympic boxing team. Not to mention the ridiculous story about the giant statue in Mexico City. It is a "nation" which suffers from inferiority complex, so much so, that they claim anything they see from Armenian churches which they claim belongs to their Albanian ancestors to Persian poets who are supposedly Azeri but they never wrote even one verse in the Azeri language! wouldn't surprise me if in a few years they claim that violin is their national instrument.
In Response

by: Shir
December 10, 2013 14:16
How uninformed. How could one judge on a nation is beyond me. Azeris are not Albanians ... how illiterate! Nizami Ganjavi, is from Genja an Azeri City. Even though he said Persian verses does not make him non-Azeri. Persian language was promoted by Turkish dynasties for 1000 years, otherwise nothing will be left of it. Even now, Azeri Poets (Shahriyar) have Persian Poems. You seem to be disconnected from reality. Stop insulting other nations based on dreams...

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