Chapter 3. Armenians in Baku
One of the main propaganda tricks employed by the official Baku in disseminating the
myth of its tolerance and commitment to multiculturalism - the one that becomes a fertile ground for cultivation and indoctrination of armenophobia - rests upon the assumption
that 30 thousand Armenians live in Azerbaijan.
This myth of 30 thousands Armenians in Baku is quite actively exploited by the Azerbaijani
propaganda. The late national leader Heydar Aliyev was the first to come up with this
statement. Later, this figure fluctuated depending on the situation at hand and the needs
of the day. For example, in 2008 Ziyafat Asgarov, the vice-speaker of the parliament stated:
"Presently, there are approximately 50,000 Armenians living in Azerbaijan, and they face
no problems". In his turn, Araz Alizadeh, the chairman of the Social Democratic Party of
Azerbaijan, curtails the number of Armenians by 10 thousands and brings up a figure of
40,000 Armenians living in the country. In the meantime, Elnur Aslanov, the head of the
Division of Political Analysis and Information Support of the President's Administration
of Azerbaijan speaks about some 20,000 Armenians. Ganira Pashayeva, member of the
Azerbaijani parliament, confined herself to invoking "thousands of Armenians" without
specifying their precise number.
Meantime, according to the official census of 1999, there were about 645 Armenians living
on the territories controlled by Azerbaijan, while the census of 2009 placed the number
of Armenians at 163. In this reference, the Azerbaijani side brandishes the argument that
the Armenians who live in Azerbaijan do so in a stateless capacity and, therefore, are not
covered in the census.
It must be noted that this refusal to issue documents on the ground of ethnicity, which
dates back some 20 years, is in itself indicative of an ongoing apartheid and segregation
policy against Armenians.
In the study Ethnicity as a social status and stigma: Armenians in the post-soviet Azerbaijan,
published by Heinrich Böll Foundation, Sevil Huseinova notes that after the dissolution
of the Soviet Union, ethnic Armenians who had lived in Baku were stripped of their status
of equal members of the local urban community. This was determined not only by ethnic
demarcation of the population. Their status of equal community members was lost during
the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as Armenian ethnicity virtually became synonymous with
the concepts of enemy and alien. This occurred as the ongoing conflict came to stigmatize
the ethnic identity of Armenians. Being Armenian and living in Azerbaijan represented a
contradiction and no longer met the standard of a 'good citizen'. The self-perception of
Armenians living in Baku crystallized in this context.
In addition, the ideology stating that the stigmatized Armenian residents of Baku constitute
a threat or provoke negative emotions permeates the information space of Baku and
Azerbaijan, as a whole. The borderline between stigmatized and correct persons is clearly
marked. "The media and the daily life swarm with concepts of stigma: "historical enemies",
"a small Armenian bastard", the derogatory term "Khachik" and so forth. You can say that
ethnicity becomes the quality which sets apart the Armenians of Baku and distinguishes
them from the other residents of the city and other citizens of Azerbaijan".
Following a spate of pogroms on the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan and attempts
to completely purge the country of ethnic Armenians, some of them had to remain in
Azerbaijan for various reasons.
They can be conventionally divided into several categories since they often migrate from
one category into another.
1. Elderly, sick and lonely people are those who were not in position to leave the country
and did not envisage their lives elsewhere, as Azerbaijan was the place where they had
been born and raised; they had no other place to go and no one to host them.
There are no data on the number and later fates of those who had been stranded on the
territory of Azerbaijan. However, it can be reasonably assumed that by now most of them
have already passed away due to their health condition, age and lack of proper care and
2. Persons bound by intermarriage: those included under this category can be ranked as
the most 'problem-free' as they enjoy protection from their husbands and children. As
Sevil Huseinova notes in her research, these were Armenian women who had married the
Azerbaijanis, and whose husbands and children could warrant their safety. As a rule, their
lives were less endangered during the pogroms, their houses were not seized, and many of
them could keep their jobs and property.
However, as evidenced by scarce publications and reports by international organizations,
these women, too, had to face manifestations of extreme, moderate or latent xenophobia.
For personal safety reasons, they had to alter their appearance[a], last and first names, place
of residence and work; they also concealed their origin to fully accommodate the realities
of the modern Azerbaijan, but on the whole they had no regrets about the choice they
Liana - Leïla:[b]
"By then, I had already formally changed my name to Leïla. But shortly
after, our new neighbors, who were Azerbaijanis banished from Armenia, learned about my Armenian descent. At first, they shot angry glances at me. When they saw
me passing in the street, they used to hurl abuse at my back so that I could hear
it. Their resentment was understandable as they had lost their homes and shelter,
just like the Armenians, who had been forced to leave the city, in which they had
lived for decades. I understood why they did not treat me well. But this lasted only
a short time. Time heals all, as I learned first-hand. Our neighbors accepted me, and
we have had very good relations," tells Leïla. <
> Nobody in Lankaran, except her
husband's family, knows of Leïla's Armenian descent.
However, this relatively unscathed category of women includes those who found themselves
marooned in the Azerbaijani society and had to go through their share of trials and
tribulations reserved for Armenians. Manush Khujoyan, the representative of the Saved
Relics organization, told the story of the sister of one of their organization members who
had remained in Baku.
"During the Sumgait pogroms, as everybody was fleeing, the husband of that
woman had convinced her to stay behind, vouching for her safety; however, with the
advent of the Karabakh war, he immediately divorced her. This woman shares the
lot of many other Armenians in Azerbaijan and lives in very poor conditions, without
any documents. To this day, she holds a soviet passport". The 'Saved Relics' wanted
to help this woman come to Armenia with the mediation of the Red Cross; however,
she refused to contact the Red Cross as she seriously feared for her life.
3.The term «Homo soveticus» refers to those who had hoped that the "tide" would subside,
and the things would resume their ordinary course. Account must be taken of the fact,
that the pogroms were perpetrated as the Soviet Union was still alive and kicking, and it
could not possibly occur to a number of people that the soviet government would not find
a way to remedy the situation. A year later, as the Soviet Union disintegrated, the ensuing
economic collapse and the war against Nagorno-Karabakh Republic made travel impossible
as crossing the border meant disclosing one's ethnic origin and therefore was unsafe.
Kamalya Yesina, Karina Sargsyan:[c]
She wanted to leave, but stayed. At first, she
thought that things would get to normal, and it was only a nightmare. But with every
new day, the situation spiraled. Neighbors and relatives left the country. Memories
of past conversations rushed back. "Didn't I foretell this situation," said her uncle
in one of those 'kitchen conversations', and he was right. < …> The decade of the
1980s drew to its end... Sitting in an empty kitchen, she answered the questions of
her own monologue. And they were so numerous. There could be but one answer:
pack up things and leave. But where and why? < … > "Good that my parents didn't
live to see these dreadful days. At the turn of the 1990s, the neighbors left. For
good. Tears poured profusely. Hopelessness, fear and bitterness", recalls Karina. Her
relatives who lived next door left back in January 1990. < …> As they left, she knew
for sure that she would stay in Baku. < …> Her last name is Russian, her children are considered Russians, and Russians are spared in Azerbaijan," and they will spare me
too," she reasoned. < …> Today, Kamalya Yesina has no regrets about her staying.
She simply could not leave. But she confides that these years have claimed a heavy
toll on her looks... prematurely.
Baku. Two women of Armenian descent will receive
identity documents from the Republic of Azerbaijan. <…> Earlier the applicant Zh.
Shahmuradyan filed a court petition asking to issue an identity document for her
daughter. The applicant motivated her claim with the fact that she was born in Baku
in 1966 and had lived there ever since. In 1983, she was issued a soviet passport for
the last time. She never left the territory of Azerbaijan, but the police turned down her
request for evident reasons. In 1992, she met an Azerbaijani man and lived with him
for a while in a common-law marriage. They had a daughter named Ayla. However,
as the girl's mother had no documents, the child was not issued a birth certificate.
In the meanwhile, Zh. Shahmuradyan submitted evidence to the Administrative-
Economic Court № 1 of Baku attesting the fact that she and her daughter indeed
had lived in Azerbaijan for many years. As a result, the court instructed the Main
Passport, Registration and Migration Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs
to issue documents to these women. "After we receive the documents, I will first of
all travel to Russia to meet my mother whom I haven't seen for long. But I will have
to return to my daughter", says the woman.
Nora Vartanesovna Varagyan
After the ruling of the Court of Appeals of Baku in
respect of the Police Department of Nasimi district, the applicant Nora Vartanesovna
Varagyan filed a cassation appeal to the Supreme Court. Presently, the case is
examined by Asad Mirzoyev, Civil Board member of the Supreme Court. The cassation
will be examined on May 8.
It must be noted that in 1991, in the first years of the armed aggression of Armenia
against Azerbaijan, Nora Vartanesovna Varagyan left the place of her residential
registration[d] in Nasimi district. Subsequently, she was not registered at any other
domicile. In 2007, she filed an application with the Passport Office of the Police
Department of Nasimi district to receive an identity document. But the Passport
Office of the Police Department of Nasimi district turned down her application
since her registration as resident had been ended, after which N. Varagyan filed a
complaint in the local court against the actions of the official of the Police Department
of Nasimi district. The Nasimi District Court and the Baku Court of Appeals ruled to
deny her claim.
4. Persons completely integrated into the Azerbaijani society and not wishing to live
elsewhere. They are linked to the Armenian ethnicity in name only, but not in self-awareness.
An example: The father of Elvira Movsesyan who doomed his family and children to decades of trials and tribulations, or Anzhela Oganova.
"I love my city so much. Not for a second did I want to leave the
place," said Anzhela Oganova as we met. < …> In 1992, she was forced to quit her job.
<... > "She came running to the Office of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly and voiced
her complaint: she was tormented and battered by her neighbors," tells Sayad. After
her mother died, Anzhela had to face a problem that proved unsolvable. She had to
register her apartment in her name. It was not even an apartment, but a room in
a communal apartment that she shared with other people. But her neighbors had
already privatized the remaining portion of that apartment, and now they had to
boot and drum out this lonely and helpless woman driving her away from the room
she occupied. < …> The Civil Registry Office refused to accept her documents because
Anzhela was Armenian. Her problems aggravated. Later on, her neighbors burst into
her room and severely brutalized her. The only one she could call was Sayad. "When
I called the ambulance and mentioned her name, they refused to come over. Then I
had to call again and give them my own mother's first and second names", told us
Elvira Vladimirovna Movsesyan is one of such people. < …> For
several years now, she has been trying to leave Azerbaijan, without any success.
Elvira has no documents and therefore, she is next to no one. She was born in
1968 in Sharur District of Nakhichevan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (now:
Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan). She was born to Armenian father
and Azerbaijani mother. < …> In 1990, her father traveled to Armenia to figure out
the situation there. After staying there for about a month, he realized that he was not
welcome in Armenia as his wife was Azerbaijani. In addition, he had no knowledge of
either Russian or Armenian and could speak only Azerbaijani. <…> Shortly after that,
my brothers got a visit from the law-enforcement officers. They told them to leave
immediately threatening to arrest them on false charges and have them sentenced
to lengthy imprisonment <…>. Our neighbors divided in two factions. Some of them
helped us, while others were bellicose and requested that we leave. < …> We could
not leave the house and were stuck indoors. <…> In 1999, Elvira decided to take her
mother's last name. "Our mother, a poor old woman, put together all the necessary
paperwork, but passport department refused to take them. The authorities did not
even examine the documents. Moreover, they took Elvira's Soviet passport along
with the paperwork that her mother had put together.
No one, not even Azerbaijani researchers[g], know the real number of such people and their
subsequent fate. Yet, a small number of publications and reports prepared by international
organizations can give a glimpse of their living conditions.
In Baku, the paramedics of the Ministry of Emergency Situations discovered the
body of an elderly Armenian woman. The paramedics of the Ministry of Emergency
Situations discovered a body of an elderly woman in Surakhany District of Baku. As
1news.az was informed by the press service of the Ministry of Emergency Situations,
their hot-line 112 received an alert that Rosa Baykovna Bagdasarova (born in 1934) had
not answered a knocks on the door and telephone calls for a long time. The rescue team
of the Ministry arrived quickly on site. They penetrated R. Bagdasarova's apartment on
the sixth floor through the balcony of a neighboring apartment. In the apartment, they
found the lifeless body of its owner. A medical team was called in to certify the death.
The Police Department of Surakhany District informed 1news.az that the 79-year-old
woman was an ethnic Armenian and died of natural causes.
After examining the problems of ethnic Armenians living in Azerbaijan, the European
Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) in its report for 2011 states that the
number of people of Armenian descent in Azerbaijan fluctuates between 700 and 30,000[h] persons. These people are divested of the opportunity to exercise their rights as citizens of
Azerbaijan and do not enjoy social protection. They never applied to receive Azerbaijani
passports in exchange for Soviet passports and today can be virtually described as stateless
Considering that the report reflects the official statements, this last point that the persons
in question never applied to receive documents of their own accord is quite contestable.
The cases of Zhanna Shahmuradyan and Elvira Movsesyan attest to the contrary; they duly
applied to receive documents, but were turned down. As a result, one of them filed a court
petition, and the other had to break the law and use the documents of another person.
And these are not isolated cases. The Azerbaijani press reports another 30 court petitions
to obtain a passport.
In Azerbaijan, ethnic Armenians face threats in their daily lives. Born in mixed families
of Armenians and Azerbaijanis, they prefer to take up the last name of the Azerbaijani
parent to avoid bureaucratic hassles, and those who are unable to do so seek to prove their
'Azerbaijani descent' in a court of law to be allowed to integrate into the society. The case of
Firuza Bagirova[i] provides an illustrative example; at an advanced age of 74, she was forced
to repudiate her Armenian father and portray her mother in what the traditional morality
of the Caucasus views as disgrace only to be allowed to leave the country. The name of
her Armenian father appearing in her identification documents keeps 74-year-old Bagirova
stranded in Azerbaijan.
A 74-year-old woman in Baku renounces her Armenian stepfather, and the sum of 6,000 USD paid in legal fees is lost. In 1938, Halima Bagirova, pregnant at the time,
left her Azerbaijani husband Isu Jafar-oghli and eloped with an Armenian named
Khoren Khachaturyan. In the same year, her daughter, Firuza Bagirova was born,
and in the birth certificate, H. Bagirova indicated the name of Isa Jafarov as the
father of her child. However, later as Kh. Khachaturyan received the documents, he
introduced changes in them and indicated his name as the child's father. "Therefore,
some of my documents indicate Isa and some others mention Khoren as the name
of my father, in the remaining documents my father's name is left blank" <... >
Meanwhile, 74-year-old Firuza Bagirova reports that she is not allowed to leave the
territory of Azerbaijan because of the name of her Armenian father appearing in
her identification documents. "I traveled all over Azerbaijan. I want to get back the
name of my Azerbaijani father to be able to travel to Meshed and Karbala"..
The absence of documents bars their access to basic civil rights: social assistance,
employment, health care, pensions and the ability to leave the country.
Here is how an unnamed author describes the situation of Armenians on Day.az:
Citizens of Azerbaijan of Armenian descent often prefer to hush up the problem
rather than bring up the matter on institutional level. Thus, many of our respondents
cannot obtain the payment of their rightfully claimed pensions. As a rule, all their
complaints run up against answers approximately termed as follows: "And you still
have the cheek to ask for a pension? You must be grateful that we allow you to live
here at all"!
The ECRI report notes that as a result of the media policy and official ideology of Azerbaijan,
being Armenian has become an insult, and claims of an Armenian descent can become a
subject of litigation causing the person to lose his/her job. Azerbaijani news outlets teem
with voices exhorting to fire not only Armenians, but also those who have Armenian lineage
(i.e. have an Armenian mother, grandmother or spouse).
The Azerbaijani website Pia.az published an article entitled "A Disgraceful Fact in
the System of Education" revealing that Elsa Tagieva who was the headmaster of the
school №246 in Binagadi district of Baku was Armenian by her maternal side. The
article says that the Minister of Education of Azerbaijan, Misir Mardanov "entrusts
the education of the rising generation of Azerbaijan to the enemies of Turkic peoples".
The author of the article wonders: "How can you entrust the education and patriotic
upbringing of our children who represent our future to a half-breed Armenian?"
Apart from copious adversities and perils of their life in Azerbaijan, ethnic Armenians
become a daily target of abuse and vilification from the representatives of the authorities,
intellectuals and other citizens in the press, official statements, social and political discourse
as well as in the social media. In addition, the disparaging and insulting rhetoric against Armenians as ethnic group is profusely fomented by the authorities of Azerbaijan.
Columnist Chinara Vugar:: The continued presence of Armenian women in Baku
undermines our family life. < …> How could we sink so low? When the Armenian mother
or grandmother of some official, a simple head physician or school headmaster dies,
we shamelessly take part in the funeral because we depend on them, to say nothing
of those who weep and shed tears at the funerals of Armenians. <…> How could we
demean ourselves so much; when we send matchmakers to ask a girl in marriage or
to marry off a girl, we move heaven and earth to find out from the law enforcement
authorities whether or not the bride's or groom's pedigree has any Armenian lines.
We unwittingly besmirch our honor with the blood of these dogs.
Gyunel Mehdi: Today, as our country is going through wartime, over 30 thousand
Armenians lead carefree lives here. It is not enough that they never bother to mask
their origin and have their documents massively restored, many of them hold high
offices. They all raise their children in a spirit of hatred towards the Azerbaijani and
remind them daily that the Azerbaijani are their enemies. We scare our children
with some wild beasts, while Armenians are something much worse. < …> As long
as there are Armenians living in our country, we won't be able to resolve the issue
A few days ago, here in the center of Azerbaijan and its capital city of Baku, the
'freshest' citizens of Azerbaijan came into being. I refer to Zhanna Shahmuradyan
and her daughter. Just look at how insolent they are! As if it were not enough that
they freely live here in tens of thousands using cloaked identities, today, through
the Migration Service and courts, they seek to obtain documents under their true
Here, the reaction of the Azerbaijani community in social networks and forums presents a
greater interest than the process itself. At grass roots level, many Azerbaijanis are genuinely
surprised that "these insolent Armenians" dare to lay down the law, as if it were not enough
that they lived in Azerbaijan. This rush of aggressive rhetoric among the regular Internet
users from Azerbaijan is quite elucidating. Some demanded to have the addresses of the
Armenian women to lynch them, and some others suggested "using these Armenians for
propaganda". It is of interest to examine both factions as they reveal the true attitude
towards Armenians that Azerbaijan is so carefully trying to sweep under the carpet.
It is no secret that Azerbaijan can be hardly described as a country where common European
values thrive, with its increasing incidence of corruption, misrule in the military, spiraling
crime rate and hard-pressed social situation. To make matters worse, the propaganda keeps
shifting the responsibility for everything that happens in Azerbaijan on Armenians who live
"Today, Armenians are represented in virtually all power structures, social and
political organizations, and they enjoy daily elevation in office. Today, they are
capable of plunging us back into the events of 1993 putting our very statehood at
risk. Today, numerous religious groups, movements and sects have been created
and presently thrive in the city; it is Armenians who are behind and at the head of
them. Day after day, they raise difficulties and throw obstacles in the way of the
Azerbaijani citizens by poisoning their existence".
"The former Minister of Economic Development of Azerbaijan Heydar Babayev had
a driver named Gharib, but the Minister himself called him by a fishy name of Garik.
< …> Our investigation conducted as part of the Witch-hunt operation revealed an
outrageous fact; this very Garik had Armenian lineage. < …> Just imagine that the
Minister of Economic Development entrusted the Armenian to steer his vehicle who
had been his driver for many years. A person who dealt with problems related to the
development of our country let an Armenian into these important processes. And we
are all too well aware of their unfortunate outcome. Today, our country's economic
development continues to be in the hands of aliens who have infiltrated the Ministry.
< …> The former minister, instead of getting rid of his driver, had a new passport
concocted for him changing the driver's name to Gharib".
"A group of cadets from the Military Academy of Azerbaijan addressed a letter
to the Azadliq newspaper in which they described the unbearable conditions of
their training. < … > The Head of the Academy, Najaf Gambarov was a friend of
the Defense Minister Safar Abiyev from his student years and was notorious for his
murky dealings during the years of his work in the military enlistment office. In 1993,
N. Gambarov surrendered the military unit in his command to the insurgent colonel
Suret Huseynov and fled. He is also accused of having an Armenian wife".
For the sake of fairness, it must be noted there are opinions which accurately reflect the
bewilderment of ordinary citizens about the discrepancy between the declared values and
calls on the one hand and the true state of affairs on the other.
In fact, no matter how regretful it may sound to be, we must not exhort the Armenians
of Karabakh to accept our conditions on the widest autonomy, on the one hand, and
inter alia refuse to issue documents to Armenian citizens of Azerbaijan, on the other.
We must do the contrary so as to guarantee in practice the viability and security
of the Armenian community of Karabakh, should they agree to autonomy within
With this onslaught of armenophobic policy that Azerbaijan has long sought to conceal, the
surviving Armenians who had not been able to leave the country in time for various reasons found
themselves virtually marginalized and excluded as low-grade citizens who stand as a constant
reminder of a dented dignity and are continuously made to answer for sins they never committed.
"I don't know a single fact when the rights of the Armenians living in Azerbaijan were
infringed", said Heydar Aliyev on July 1, 1999 during the meeting with Georgian and
Armenian journalists taking part in the conference held at the Presidential Palace in
Baku as part of the Media Support Project by the Geneva Institute for Democracy.
previous _____________________________________________________ next
[a] Sevil Huseinova (op. cit.): "Another woman said that she felt ashamed if someone in the street pointed a finger at her and called her Armenian. This
sense of shame resulted in an urge to change one's appearance, which, for example, took the form of dying one's hair in bright colors, to emphasize the
'Russian origin'. Also, they changed their names and middle names, so that these could sound more familiar to the local ear," writes the author.
[b] "Liana, Leila," I do not regret that remained in Azerbaijan "." See Attachment
[c] "I want all to return to Baku!" See Attachment
[d] In plain language, they seized her apartment and kicked her out.
[e] "Anjela Ohanova" See Attachment
[f] "The Man from Nowhere". See Attachment
[g] Researchers but not propagandists. The report of 30,000 remained without confirmation, but for quoting some representatives of the Azerbaijani
authorities with no reference to census data or findings of any specific studies.
[h] According to the census of 1999, there were 120,700 Armenians living in Azerbaijan. According to the Azerbaijani officials, this figure includes the
population of the Nagorno-Karabakh territory, which, they think, amounts to 120,000. According to the official data of Azerbaijan, 700 Armenians actually
live in the republic. However, the ECRI report at the same time argues with reference to Azerbaijani officials that the actual number of Armenians amounts
to 30,000 persons.
[i] "Firuza Bagirova" See Attachment