Will Azerbaijan return part of its cultural heritage?
In a contentious issue, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan finds itself grappling with the inclusion of historical toponyms on identity cards for citizens born in Western Azerbaijan. According to Azerbaijan in Focus, reporting Turan, the matter has ignited heated discussions within the Milli Majlis, the Azerbaijani parliament, with varying perspectives on how to address this historical and cultural concern.
The head of the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Elshad Hajiyev told Turan, that currently, the names of settlements in the identity cards of citizens born in Western Azerbaijan continue to be indicated in the same form, adhering to the names of villages and cities adopted in the Republic of Armenia. However, at the moment no official decision has been made on this issue. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has not yet received any instructions on this issue from Parliament.
This practice has attracted criticism from those who claim that it obscures the historical Azerbaijani toponyms of the region. The Milli Majlis is actively discussing the proposal to include historical Azerbaijani toponyms in the identity cards of natives of Western Azerbaijan.
The public discourse on this matter gained momentum when Aziz Alekberli, the chairman of the Board of the Community of Western Azerbaijan and a Milli Majlis deputy, addressed the topic during public hearings in parliament. Alekberli noted that during the replacement of identity cards for natives of Western Azerbaijan through ASAN Services, a government service known for its efficiency and transparency, the historical names of their birthplaces were indeed being indicated.
Adding historical context to the debate, it’s worth noting that historical toponyms in Western Azerbaijan have undergone a complex transformation. According to the 1903 Map of the military topographical Department of the Caucasian Military District of the Russian Empire, all toponyms in Western Azerbaijan were of Turkic origin. Nevertheless, by 1991, over 90 percent of these Turkic toponyms had been Armenized. The final phase of Armenization took place following the dissolution of the USSR.
As the Milli Majlis continues to deliberate on this sensitive issue, the question remains whether they will choose to acknowledge the historical Azerbaijani toponyms, potentially reshaping how citizens from Western Azerbaijan identify their places of birth and reclaiming a piece of their cultural heritage.