Reviews

The book deals with Azerbaijani identity over a long historical period from the Turkmanchay Treaty in 1828 till the present.  Despite the partition, the author argues that the preservation of ties between Azerbaijanis from Iran and from Transcaucasia is a driving force in fostering common ethnic identity in both countries.  So doing, she skilfully challenges national integration theories and assumes increasing interactions with the centre can foster national identity, but can also contribute to emphasise the differences between the two communities.  About Soviet Azerbaijan, she has a conventional stance, explaining the institutionalisation of Azerbaijani identity via Soviet policies.  About Iran her view is rather ground-breaking:  Pro-Persian nationalist policies have traditionally roused growing grievances among the Azerbaijani population.  These grievances culminated during wwii with Pishevari’s autonomous government, and with the Islamic Revolution of 1979, during which Azerbaijanis, among other demands, asked for a better acknowledgement of their ethnic specificities.  The book provides interesting elements about the Revolutionary process in Tabriz and about Ayatollah Shari‘at-Madari’s opposition to Ayatollah Khomeini’s velayat-e faqih in the first years of the Islamic Republic.  The longest chapter deals with the situation in both Iran and Azerbaijan after the independence of the former Soviet Republic.  It analyses its impact on Iranian Azerbaijan, and with the renewal of ethnic identity taking place there.  A cultural revival through literary reviews, books or associations has instigated a growing interest in ethnic culture among the population, and a lessening forbearance to recurring sneering stereotypes about Iranian Turks.  These were the first steps before a more political activity asking for a better acknowledgement of Azerbaijani specificities by the central government.  In the end, the author assumes a renewal of Azerbaijani identity in Iran and in the Republic of Azerbaijan, despite secular centralising policies, and a regeneration of links between both countries.  Her book is a useful contribution in the study of both the Republic of Azerbaijan and Iran.  It has the great advantage of casting light on new ethnic mobilisations taking place in Iran.  However, the main sources used in the book have been gathered in the Republic of Azerbaijan, not in Iran.  Therefore, Br. Shaffer’s argument is biased by relying too much on Soviet Azerbaijani academic circles, taking not into account the huge social and cultural transformations that have been taking place in Iran during the past thirty years.  Besides, the book’s chronological presentation has the disadvantage to over emphasise synchronic tendencies between Russian and Iranian Azerbaijan.

Gilles Riaux, French Institute of Research in Iran, Tehran
CER: I-3.3.D-246