Reviews

It is well known that Azerbaijani social scientists, especially historians, philologists and Orientalists were champions in raising and promoting controversial national identity issues during the Soviet period, and have had significant influence on society.  In spite of the weight of Soviet rule, native scholars have used every possibility to embed their own agenda in their historiography of the twentieth century.  For example the revolt of Babak, once used by the official ideologists in their anti-Islamic agenda, soon became the symbol of resistance against a foreign invasion.  The ‘Southern Azerbaijan issue’ raised by Stalin’s rule in order to legitimate a possible annexation of northern Iran has been used by Azerbaijani historians in favour of their own national cause.  In the wake of the weakening of the Communist regime, under Gorbachev’s rule “revived” historical memory easily became a rallying point for the whole Azerbaijani society.  It was broadly regarded as an alternative to the official Communist ideology.  On the first hand circumstances added attractiveness to the popularity of social science scholars, making them the front runners of the socio-political transformation after the proclamation of independence.  On the other hand “reviving” an identity “damaged during Russian rule” through the teaching of “dignified history” was commonly accepted as the most natural way for achieving the desired goals in the ongoing nation-building process.  The reviewed article aims to address this mainly political process from a scholarly point of view.  Through interviews of state officials and well-known scholars, and a deep examination of textbooks, the author describes history teaching in Azerbaijan, denouncing a failure that feeds ethnic nationalism.  Y. Kilit Aklar questions many claims formulated Azerbaijani historical textbooks, explicitly pointing out their unreliability, and their dangerous potential impact in the political field.

Altay Göyüshov, Baku State University
CER: I-7.3.B-624