Kurds in Azerbaijan

Kurds in Azerbaijan
Total population
25,000[2][3] (0,1%[1]))
Kurdish, Azeri
Shia Islam[4]
Related ethnic groups
Iranian people

Kurds settled what is now Azerbaijan in waves at various times beginning in the ninth century. By the tenth century, Ganja and its surroundings were ruled by the Shaddadids, a dynasty of Kurdish origin and the most powerful Kurdish clan of the South Caucasus, that later also extended its control over present-day Republic of Armenia.[5]


According to Russian and later Soviet ethnographer Grigory Chursin, another wave of Kurdish immigration in western parts of modern Azerbaijan may have taken place in 1589, at the time of the Ottoman–Safavid War, when "victorious Safavid soldiers" chose to stay in the conquered lands.[6] Safavids resettled Shi'a Kurds where borders of the historical regions of Karabakh and Zangezur met.[7] In the eighteenth century, many Kurdish tribes had formed tribal unions with Azeris in Karabakh lowlands.[8] Nineteenth-century Russian historian Peter Budkov mentioned that in 1728, groups of Kurds and Shahsevans engaged in semi-nomadic cattle-breeding in the Mughan plain applied for Russian citizenship.[9]

In 1807, amidst the Russo-Persian War over the South Caucasus, a tribe chief by the name of Mehmed Sefi Sultan moved from Persian to the Karabakh khanate followed by 600 Kurdish families. By the second half of the nineteenth century, Kurds were found in large numbers in the uyezds of Zangezur, Javanshir and Jabrayil.[6] In 1886, they constituted 4.68% of the population of the Elisabethpol Governorate.[10] Small populations of Kurds were also found in the uyezds of Nakhchivan, Sharur-Daralagoz and Aresh.[11] Mass migration of Kurds from Persia and to a lesser degree from the Ottoman Empire[12] into mountainous regions of present-day Azerbaijan continued all throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century, until 1920 when Azerbaijan became part of the Soviet Union. The Kurdish population of the South Caucasus was prone to internal immigration. In the 1920s, a number of Kurds from Azerbaijan relocated to Armenia where they settled mainly in the Azeri-populated regions,[6] which led the Kurdish population of Azerbaijan to significantly decrease in numbers.[13]

Common religion (unlike the majority of Kurds, Kurds of Azerbaijan are predominantly Shi'a Muslim like most Azeris)[4] and shared elements of culture led to rapid assimilation of Azerbaijan's Kurdish population already by the end of the nineteenth century. Statistical data from 1886 shows that Kurds of Jabrayil, Arash and partly Javanshir spoke Azeri as a first language. According to the first Soviet census of 1926, only 3,100 (or 8.3%) of Azerbaijan's Kurdish population (which at the time numbered 37,200 people) spoke Kurdish.[11]

A well-integrated community, Kurds were represented in the government of the shortly independent Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan in 1918–1920, among them Nurmammad bey Shahsuvarov who served as Minister of Education and Religious Affairs and Khosrov bey Sultanov, Minister of the Military and Governor General of Karabakh and Zangezur.[14]

After the establishment of the Soviet rule in Azerbaijan, the Central Executive Committee of the Azerbaijan SSR created in 1923 an administrative unit known as Red Kurdistan in the districts of Lachin, Qubadli and Zangilan, with its capital in Lachin.[15] According to the 1926 census, 73% of its population was Kurdish and 26% was Azeri.[16] In 1930 it was abolished and most remaining Kurds were progressively recategorized as Azerbaijani.[17] In the 1930s, a traditional Kurdish puppet theatre kilim arasi in Aghjakand and a Kurdish Pedagogical College in Lachin still functioned.[6] Soviet authorities deported most of the Kurdish population of Azerbaijan and Armenia to Kazakhstan in 1937, and Kurds of Georgia in 1944.[18] Starting from 1961, there were efforts by deportees for the restoration of their rights, spearheaded by Mehmet Babayev who lived in Baku, which proved to be futile.[19]

Kurds continued to assimilate into the dominant culture of the neighbouring Azeris.[20] Historically mixed Azeri-Kurdish marriages were commonplace; however the Kurdish language was rarely passed on to the children in such marriages.[11]

The Nagorno-Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan spilled across the region of Nagorno-Karabakh into the traditionally Kurdish populated areas in both of these countries. In Armenia, Muslim Kurds were often associated with Azeris due to cultural similarities; hence as many as 18,000 Kurds fled from Armenia to Azerbaijan and later to the Russian Caucasus in the late 1980s.[21] In 1992–1993, Armenian troops advanced into Kalbajar, Lachin, Qubadli and Zangilan, forcing all the non-Armenian civilian population out.[22] As much as 80% of the Kurdish population of those regions settled in IDP camps in Aghjabadi.[23]


1926[24]1939[25]1959[26]1970[27]1979[28]1989[29] 1999[30] 2009[31]
41,193 6,005 1,487 5,488 5,676 12,226 13,100 6,100

Notable people


  1. 1 2 "Population of Azerbaijan by ethnic groups". azstat.org. azstat.org. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  2. 'The cultural situation of the Kurds
  3. Ismet Chériff Vanly, “The Kurds in the Soviet Union”, in: Philip G. Kreyenbroek & S. Sperl (eds.), The Kurds: A Contemporary Overview (London: Routledge, 1992). pg 164: Table based on 1990 estimates: Azerbaijan (180,000), Armenia (50,000), Georgia (40,000), Kazakhistan (30,000), Kyrghizistan (20,000), Uzbekistan (10,000), Tajikistan (3,000), Turkmenistan (50,000), Siberia (35,000), Krasnodar (20,000), Other (12,000), Total 450,000
  4. 1 2 Расим Мусабеков. Становление независимого азербайджанского государства и этнические меньшинства. Sakharov Centre.
  5. Б. Д.Греков Очерки истории СССР. Период феодализма, IX-XV вв.. — Академии наук СССР, 1953. — Т. 1. — С. 621.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Аристова Т.Ф. Из истории возникновения современных курдских селений в Закавказье // Советская этнография. — М., 1962. — № № 2.
  7. Шнирельман В.А. Войны памяти: мифы, идентичность и политика в Закавказье. — ИКЦ «Академкнига», 2002. — С. 199. — ISBN 5-94628-118-6
  8. И.П. Петрушевский. Очерки по истории феодальных отношений в Азербайджане и Армении в XVI — начале XIX вв // Восточный Научно-Исследовательский Институт. — Ленинград: ЛГУ им. Жданова, 1949. — С. 135-136.
  9. В.Н. Левиатов Очерки из истории Азербайджана в XVIII веке. — Баку: Изд-во АН Азербайджанской ССР, 1948. — С. 91.
  10. Елизаветпольская губерния // Энциклопедический словарь Брокгауза и Ефрона: В 86 томах (82 т. и 4 доп.). — СПб., 1890—1907.
  11. 1 2 3 Н. Г. Волкова, Этнические процессы в Закавказье в XIX-XX вв., "Кавказский этнографический сборник", IV, М., 1969.
  12. Дмитрий Пирбари. Курды – исконные обитатели Ближнего и Среднего Востока. Kurdishcenter.ru.
  13. Encyclopedia of World Cultures, David Levinson, G.K. Hall & Co. (1991), p.225
  14. Аламдар Шахвердиев Азербайджанские курды (рус.) // Международный Азербайджанский Журнал IRS-Наследие. — С. 40-41.
  15. The Kurds: A Contemporary Overview, Philip G. Kreyenbroek, Stefan Sperl, Routledge, (1992), ISBN 0-415-07265-4, p.201
  16. Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War, Thomas De Waal, NYU Press, ISBN 0-8147-1945-7, p.133
  17. (Russian) Партизаны на поводке.
  18. (Turkish) Kurdistana Sor
  19. David McDowall Современная история курдов = A modern history of the Kurds. — 3, illustrated, revised. — I.B.Tauris, 2004. — С. 192. — ISBN 1850434166, 9781850434160
  20. Thomas de Waal Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through Peace and War. — New York University Press, 2004. — С. 304, прим. 15. — ISBN 0-8147-1944-9, 0-8147-1945-7
  21. Azerbaijan. Seven Years of Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. — Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, December 1994. — С. 14. — ISBN 1-56432-142-8
  22. Юнусов А. Этнический состав Азербайджана (по переписи 1999 года). «Демоскоп».
  23. "Всесоюзная перепись населения 1926 года. Национальный состав населения по регионам республик СССР". «Демоскоп». Archived from the original on 2012-02-03.
  24. "Всесоюзная перепись населения 1939 года. Национальный состав населения по республикам СССР". «Демоскоп». Archived from the original on 2012-02-03.
  25. "Всесоюзная перепись населения 1959 года. Национальный состав населения по республикам СССР". «Демоскоп». Archived from the original on 2012-02-03.
  26. "Всесоюзная перепись населения 1970 года. Национальный состав населения по республикам СССР". «Демоскоп». Archived from the original on 2012-02-03.
  27. "Всесоюзная перепись населения 1979 года. Национальный состав населения по республикам СССР". «Демоскоп». Archived from the original on 2011-08-26.
  28. "Всесоюзная перепись населения 1989 года. Национальный состав населения по республикам СССР". «Демоскоп». Archived from the original on 2011-08-26.
  29. "Этнический состав Азербайджана (по переписи 1999 года)publisher="Демоскоп"". Archived from the original on 2011-08-26.
  30. "Ethnic composition of Azerbaijan: 2009 census". Archived from the original on 2012-02-04.
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