The author analyses the emergence of an Azerbaijani nationalist movement in the Islamic Republic of Iran between the revolution of 1979 and the first election of President Muhammad Khatami in 1997. He successively examines the roles played by Soviet-educated intellectuals, by former leftist militants, and by disillusioned Islamists in the rapid politicisation of Azerbaijani identity and in the formation of a structured nationalist movement. The biographic approach has been favoured, with portraits of prominent leaders like Muhammad Zahtabi and Husayn Sadiq ― through whose activity the author captivatingly reconstructs the diffusion towards Iran of the Soviet models and schemes of national construction, with its characteristic cult of national / social heroes. The author also evokes the rapid adaptation of the former activist networks of leftist organisations after their disillusioned leaders’ reconversion to Azerbaijani nationalism. Several turning points of this period of time are also depicted, notably the fiercest repression campaigns of 1981-2 and the parliamentary elections of 1996 ― which was a first, short-lived attempt to bring ideas developed earlier to the political arena. This survey is concluded on the observation of the permanent hesitation of the Azerbaijani national movement between being culturally or politically active. Some words could perhaps have been said of the management of Azerbaijani identity outside of the movement, notably by millions of Azerbaijani citizens settled and employed in Iran outside Iranian Azerbaijan, or still of the contribution by Azerbaijani intellectuals, from the 1930s to our days, to the permanent re-elaboration of the Aryanist ideology as a vector of national integration.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-3.3.D-230