BAKU -- Azerbaijan has called groundless Tajikistan's challenge of UNESCO's decision last week to add an archaic form of Azerbaijani polo to its list of "intangible heritage" in need of preservation.
Vasif Eyvazzade of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism told Azerbaijan's APA news agency on December 11 that any country claiming that chovqan -- played, as he said, on short-legged Karabakh horses -- is its national game can simply refer to UNESCO, which recognized it as part of Azerbaijan's cultural heritage earlier this month.
Tajik intellectuals sent a protest letter to UNESCO on December 9, saying that chovqan is the cultural heritage not only of Azerbaijan but also of Afghanistan, Armenia, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Media reports in Iran last week also criticized UNESCO's decision, saying that the game is, in fact, Persian and is called chogan.
Based on reporting by apa.az and RFE/RL's Tajik Service