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Public isolation or language barrier


Ethnic Azerbaijani people in Georgia and Georgian cultural life

Gunel Movlud

According to the official statistics second largest ethnic group living in Georgia after ethnic Georgians are Azerbaijani people (they make 7% of the population). How do about 400 000 Azerbaijani citizens contribute to Georgian cultural life? What is their impact on the development of Georgian literature, music, cinema and television?

On January 15, 2015 rector of the Tbilisi State Conservatoire Rezo Kiknadze said in his interview to Media.tv: “Nowadays, only two ethnic Azerbaijani students study in the Conservatoire. Of course it is too little. I wish more Azerbaijani citizens had opportunity for development [in Georgia].”

In May 2015, a huge Festival of Literature was organized in Tbilisi with participation of representatives of about 30 countries. Local writers and poets made speeches, presented their books and organized poetry evenings. The festival lasted more than one month but we could not listen to any ethnic Azerbaijan poet or writer in it. Are ethnic Azerbaijani writers integrated into the Georgian cultural life? We asked this question to one of the organizers of the festival Natalia Lomouri.

“Mission of the Georgian Writers’ House has been clear from the very first day it was opened. We organize presentations of books, art evenings and various culture events not only for writers, but for painters, photographers, film-directors – our door is open for everybody. Any independent artist can apply to our house with the request to organize a culture event. Ethnic Azerbaijani writer or poet has never applied to the Writers’ House with similar request yet. I regret that we have not organized any culture evening for ethnic Azerbaijani people. We do not see them in the field of literature. Maybe, language barrier is reason.”

“Akhali Saunje” is a famous magazine on literature in Georgia. It publishes publications about the lives and works of local and foreign artists. We got interested whether works of ethnic Azerbaijani people were ever published in the magazine.

Editor-in-chief of the magazine Akhali Saunje Shota Iatashvili said: “Frankly speaking, works of ethnic Azerbaijani writers have never been published in the Akhali Saunje. We have only Georgian edition that means we publish only Georgian or translated works. I am also anchor of the Radio Program “Library” at the Tbilisi Bureau of the Radio Liberty/Free Europe. I wish to speak about the books of ethnic Azerbaijani poets and writers in this program but we can speak only about the books which were published in Georgian. We have translated books of only famous Azerbaijani writers into Georgian. I know poet and translator Oktai Kazimov because he knew Georgian language very well. I also know Imir Mammadli. He also knew Georgian well but he moved to Azerbaijan more than ten years ago.”

Georgian journalist and poet Eka Kevanishvili thinks problem is not only in language barrier but also in the poor awareness. “We have meager information about ethnic Azerbaijani artists. They write in foreign language but it does not mean that there is no information about them. I feel lack of information about them. To support these people to feel plenipotentiary members of this society, media shall pay attention to them and their art.”

Since 2010, every year capital of Georgia hosts Caucasian Jazz Fest. Jazzmen (women) from all three countries of the South Caucasus are usually invited to the fest. Are ethnic Azerbaijani jazzmen in Georgia? 

Fest organizer Elene Mechitova said: “I have never heard about ethnic Azerbaijani jazzmen in Georgia. Ethnic Azerbaijani people have serious problem in getting elementary education too. So we cannot speak about their musical education at all… I have graduated from the Conservatoire and no ethnic Azerbaijani student studied there at that time…”

It is position of Georgian artists about the role of ethnic Azerbaijani people in the Georgian culture life. Apparently, people mostly believe the reason is language barrier and low education. What do ethnic Azerbaijani people think about their cultural integration? Elvin Bunturk, one of the civil activists from ethnic Azerbaijani community in Georgia and author of articles, said: “We can say that we failed to integrate [into the Georgian society]. People have low education. Educated, creative and talented Azerbaijani people try to go to Baku. Opportunities they might have in Azerbaijan are more attractive. Besides, they have language barrier. We and Georgian people do not speak common language, we cannot understand each other. Political and state systems in Georgia are not open for us. They are not interested that we, their citizens, received good education.”

Young poet and author of the active website Renessans.ge in Georgia Joshghun Jefer said: “The main problem is language barrier. Georgian writers can express their opinions in literature. Besides that, ethnic Azerbaijani authors do not have so many topics to write about and attract interests of Georgian literature elite and to integrate into them. There is a huge gap between us. I can say that there is no cultural contact between us; there is no contact between ethnic Azerbaijani and Georgian peoples. Besides we have different religion, language and national identity. Lack of education is basis of it.”

Azerbaijani journalist Aida Taghieva thinks it is caused by mental problems. “I do not see integration of ethnic Azerbaijani people. The reason is education problem. How can an artist with poor knowledge of state language integrate into civilized and creative elite?”

How realistic are problems of language barrier and low education, which were mentioned by both ethnic groups? Will ethnic Azerbaijani artists without language barrier and good education integrate into Georgian cultural life?

Although it was difficult, we managed to obtain one example.

Photo-reporter from Georgia Shahvalad Aivazov is ethnic Azerbaijani. He is a war-reporter. Shahvalad has been working for the Associated Press for 23 years in the South Caucasus. Currently he has very active cultural life in Georgia. This year, he won competition of photo-reporters organized by the Ministry of Culture, Tbilisi City Hall and Umbrella Tbilisi Photo. Shahvalad Aivazov was awarded with Aleksandre Roinishvili Award for his contribution to the development of Georgian photo-art. In May 2015, his 60 photos were exhibited in the Ioseb Grishashvili History Museum in Tbilisi.

Photo by: newsjey.wordpress.com 

The publication was prepared in the frame of the project implemented by the Human Rights House Tbilisi with financial support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Tbilisi. Human Rights House Tbilisi is responsible for the content of the article and the views in it might not at all express the views of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. 

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