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UNESCO Adds Azerbaijani Horse Game To 'Intangible Heritage' List

BAKU -- The UN's cultural agency has named a traditional Azerbaijani horse-riding game a practice in need of urgent protection.

UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, decided to include the game of "chovqan" on its Intangible Cultural Heritage list at a meeting in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, on December 3.

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The list comprises events from around the globe and is designed to "help demonstrate the diversity of this heritage and raise awareness about its importance."

Chovqan is a form of polo once popular among Azerbaijani nomads riding short-legged Karabakh horses.

The game is played by two competing teams of five riders and is accompanied by instrumental folk music called ''janghi.''

UNESCO said the practice and transmission of chovqan have weakened due to "socio-economic factors leading to a shortage of players, trainers, and Karabakh horses."

In 2003, UNESCO passed a special convention offering protections for living, non-physical elements of culture, what it calls "intangible cultural heritage."

Based on reporting by AFP and RFE/RL