Monday, February 4, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Azerbaijani FNCA – a ‘Locomotive’ for Other Migrant Groups in Russia?

Paul Goble

Baku, February 4 – The Federal National-Cultural Autonomy of the Azerbaijanis of Russia is “the locomotive” which “is showing the way” to the 15 other such groups, according to the leader of one. But speakers at its annual meeting over the weekend suggested that despite its achievements, the group has not achieved many of its goals.
On Saturday, 130 delegates and some 150 guests assembled in Moscow at the annual meeting of the FNCA of the Azerbaijanis of Russia. Most of the day-long session at the Russian capital’s Hotel President featured the kind of things typical of such sessions in the Russian Federation or elsewhere.
Senior officials sent their greetings (, the FNCA issued a special magazine ( ), and participants were shown a documentary on the group since its founding in October 1999 (
But far more interesting were the comments of two of the heads of other FNCA groups about the influence of the Azerbaijani organization and the frank assessment of the group’s own leaders about what it has achieved up to now and where it has fallen short of its goals.
The head of the Tsygane (Gypsy) FNCA said that the Azerbaijani one had become “the locomotive which sets the tone for all autonomies and shows all of us how to work.” And his Kurdish colleague praised the group for promoting tolerance as a forum for “fruitful dialogue and cooperation” (
While many echoed their words, Soyun Sadykov, head of the Azerbaijani FNCA, said the group had failed to meet some of its ambitious goals. Indicative of that, he said, are “the absence of Azerbaijanis” in the Duma “and other power structures” and “losses in the information war” with Armenia (
The delegate from Derbent, complained about what he called “the illegal behavior” of Russian border guards toward Azerbaijanis. And still another pointed to the rising tide of discrimination cases against Azerbaijanis whom FNCA and its Moscow law firm are seeking to defend (
.In the year ahead, Sadykov and other speakers said that the group hoped to become even more active not only promoting Azerbaijani interests and interethnic harmony inside Russia, an indication that they see continuing problems in this area. In addition, they said their FNCA would try to help ethnic Russians in Azerbaijan.
One speaker, the actor Ilham Hanbudagov, proposed that the group organize a special joint spring holiday celebration for Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim and Yakut young people in order to promote “mutual understanding and respect through our children”
And another urged the group to continue its series of roundtables and conferences on topics like “Ethnic Crime – A Myth of Reality” She added that the FNCA will hold blood drives under the rubric “Blood Knows No Nationality” and job fairs to help Azerbaijanis find legal work in Russia (
This list of achievements, shortcomings and plans suggests that the FNCA of the Azerbaijanis of Russia may not be all that its members would like, but it also indicates that it and those of other nationalities in the Russian Federation are well on their way toward playing the role that ethnic groups in other countries do.
That is both less and more than Western observers and Moscow officials expected when the Russian government passed the law almost a decade ago that opened the way for these groups to be established and provided significant seed money to help in their operations.

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