Chapter 19. Armenophobia in the Azerbaijani literature
Do you know the importance of the childhood impressions?
A mere good habit and inclination in childhood
can become a virtue at mature age.
Fiction and academic literature represent one of the most extensive forms of propaganda
and indoctrination of ideology.
The literature, particularly the children's literature, is at the core of shaping the world
outlook, moral principles and set of values at the very outset of life. It shapes the sense of
morality and appraisal, the code of moral conduct and instills aesthetic perception.
The assessment of the values underlying the future-oriented Azerbaijani society of our day
calls for a scrutiny of the literary works which shape certain attitudes, views and ensuing
line of conduct in respect of Armenians.
The factors of the territorial vicinity and a long history of coexistence secure a central place
in the Azerbaijani literature for the subject of the relationships between Armenians and
Azerbaijanis. A comparison of literary works on the subjects of the relationships between
Georgians and Azerbaijanis, Azerbaijanis and Russians, Azerbaijanis and Iranians as well
as Azerbaijanis and Armenians reveal the salience of the latter in terms of sheer numbers
and representative variety. Over recent years, the number of works containing a negative
appraisal of Armenians has noticeably increased.
The inculcation of armenophobia occurs in 2 ways: direct and indirect methods.
The direct method represents an open and unabashed propaganda and a straightforward
hate speech. Its incidence increased in recent years compared to the rule of Heydar Aliyev,
the father of the current president in office.
The indirect method represents a method that does not explicitly designate the ethnic
origin in its depiction of the image and its distinctive traits, but makes the reader guess to
whom the reference is made based on the events of the narration and the signature style.
Leyla Sayfutdinova who studied specimens of the modern Azerbaijani literature discerned
certain patterns. The author notes that the literature draws a very clear borderline between
Armenians and Azerbaijanis: "I don't recall a single case when the national identity of an
Armenian character remains unknown or is absolutely irrelevant to the story and therefore,
to the relations between Armenians and Azerbaijanis".
The author notes that there is a distinction not only in terms of contrasting Armenians and
Azerbaijanis, but also in terms of tagging them as "good our" and "bad other" Armenians,
which comes to mean those who live in Azerbaijan and visitors, respectively. "Good"
Armenians are those who live in Azerbaijan and are fond of their Azerbaijani friends. "Bad"
Armenians are their opposites. Most frequently, foreign Armenians, i.e. Armenians who
came to Azerbaijan and Caucasus from other places are portrayed as "bad".
The study of 22 latest literary works dated after 2008 made it clear that the image of
"our" Armenians is portrayed as "pretenders", and their sincerity raises doubts or calls for
vigilance. Thus, the children's story entitled Spy by Shabnam Kheyrulla[a] is quite illustrative
in terms of the educational process; the plot contains the character of aunt Aliya, an
Armenian woman portrayed through the prism of the Azerbaijanis characters, through the
eyes of children and the author herself.
Military news! It was with this news that the program started. The news reader
announced that four of our soldiers had been killed.
< …> The children were curious to see how our guest reacted to the news. This
reaction was not long in coming. Upon hearing the news, aunt Aliya looked perplexed
and started cursing her compatriots by calling them ignoble and ungrateful. But the
children were no longer surprised because they were sure that she was a "spy", and
that was exactly what "spies" were supposed to say... Neither Natik, nor Sabina knew
that this "spy" was one of the thousands of Armenians who lived in their country.
Another thing the children did not know was that this Armenian woman had changed
her religion in good time and later she also changed her name. Whether she did so
out of fear or she indeed had renounced her ethnicity was something that even the
adults failed to see through. But one thing this Armenian woman could not do to
change: the vicious blood of her nation that ran in her veins. Powerless to do so,
aunt Aliyah, who was ashamed, had no other choice but to go around abusing and
cursing her compatriots at the first good opportunity. At heart, she was tormented
by agonizing doubts.
At this point, a woman aged 60 and maybe more went into the street, and the
children immediately exclaimed in unison: "Hello, aunt Anya!" and ran up to her.
The woman who was their neighbor returned a friendly smile and asked the children
how they were doing, what they were busy with and patted them on the head. <…>
It would have never occurred to the children that aunt Anya, who they were so fond
of and to whom they had just flocked, was Armenian, and she was merely one of the
thousands of them who lived in Baku. < …> Once again, I was persuaded that we
would never change. Our capacity for enmity would, alas, stay at the level of words
and playground rhymes in some game[b].
Or, heirs to their legacy, they secretly plot against good-natured Azerbaijanis:
Zayka was a nurse who had obtained the job only days ago. Her interest in the surgical
department was nothing but accidental. She had been assigned this mission by her father,
a member of a secret Armenian committee. Her assignment was to get access to this
department of the maternity hospital and poison non-Armenian newborns mostly of
Turkic origin with chemicals. It was beyond doubt that Zayka would handle her
mission well as according to her father, in many years that her mother worked at the
same maternity hospital she had dispatched many Turkic children. Now Zayka was
about to follow her mother's trade. <…> She took up the dozing Suraya and led her
to one of the wards, put her to bed there and hurried up to the surgical department
where a young Azerbaijani doctor named Fazil was awaiting her. Winning his
confidence, Zayka intended to gain access to the medicines. They entered his office
and shut the door[c].
The prevailing stereotypes about Armenians planted in the Azerbaijani society certain
notions about a "typical Armenian" behavior: the Armenian character must necessarily be
envious, feigning and ultimately treacherous (deception and betrayal).
Always abusing our kind-heartedness, friendship, fidelity to neighbors and
generosity, in a word, our love of fellow men, Armenians turned it into a weapon
against us, repaid good with evil by laying bare their treacherous nature. At the
earliest opportunity, they drew their daggers to stab in the back those who had
given them refuge, food, drink, protection extending them a helping hand.
Russian and Armenian joined forces to attack the peaceful nomads' camp for
murder and plunder. The people of the nomads' camp, Azerbaijanis, who had always
considered Armenians as their younger and Russians as their еlder brothers were
astounded by their treachery and perfidy < …> He looked up to see his friends, the
Russian Stepan and the Armenian Valod enter the forge; they had kept saying to
Ilham: "You are my brother"[d].
The plot of Ilham and Fariza told the story of a couple that fell victim to the soviet troops
moved into Baku after a week-long Armenian pogrom, which in Azerbaijan is referred to as the
Black January. It is emblematic in a context where a use of fictional devices and propaganda
makes the modern Azerbaijani youth believe that on January 20th, the Armenians and
Russians "killed the Azerbaijani heroes". This is clearly shown in a video report in which
the schoolchildren answer the reporter's questions, such as: "what happened on January
20, 1990 in Baku?", "who did our shekhids fight against and whom did they protect?", "why
did they kill us?" The children gave the following answers:
- On that day, Armenians killed Azerbaijanis, and our heroes courageously
- Because they didn't like our motherland.
- They fought against Armenians, whose tanks drove over the heads of our people
and they protecting our independence from the Russian imperialism.
Also, Armenians are portrayed as having a characteristic and typical toolbox such as
"underhand killing" and "stabbing in the back".
Leyla Sayfutdinova: The plot of the novel entitled Key to Your House by R. Huseynova
(2008) unfolds in a period running from the early 20th century to 1930s, in which the
Armenians killed the 9-year-old son of an Azerbaijani named Sadiyar Aga during
an incursion into his land. Later, he kills all of the raiders, apart from the instigator
named Levon Sarkisyan who comes from the Ottoman Turkey and carries in his heart
a loathing for all Turks. The work of the Azerbaijani author tells how Sadiyar gives
in to the pleas of his wife not to kill a father in front of his children and spares Levon
who then tracks Sadiyar down and kills him from behind.
The depiction of brutality, bloodshed and violence expectedly perpetrated by Armenians
holds a special place in the Azerbaijani literature:
"In the meanwhile, blood flew like water in the nomads' camp. Pools of blood formed
all over the place. Cries and moans rose to the skies. The survivors were looking for
their kins. Fariza felt an ill foreboding, she ran to the forge and found Ilham there
bleeding to death"[e].
"The Armenians torn out his beard, knocked out his teeth, put out his eyes, cut off
his ears and nose... My grandmother saw it happen. The women and children of
his house were made to watch as they were doing this to him. Next, they started
shooting women... The entire Muslim part of the city was committed to fire".
"My little one, they were chopping our infants to pieces, ripped our pregnant women
open with their bayonets and spoke of the "sweet Turkic blood", all these beasts!"[f].
Samvel Martirosyan, a member of the Xenophobia Prevention Initiative, believes that
Azerbaijan's raising generation is targeted by the state propaganda which foments feelings
of hatred towards Armenians. This means that the state propaganda infiltrates a domain
where it is not supposed to be, and this issue must be raised internationally.
previous _____________________________________________________ next
[a] «Spy». See Attachment
[b] «Hostility in Azerbaijani». See Attachment
in the maternity ward." See Attachment
[d] "The story of
Ilham and Fariza." See Attachment
[f] "Deadly Lesson of grandfather." See Attachment