Azerbaijani Americans

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Author: Grace Waitman
Editor: Thomas Riggs
Date: 2014
Publisher: Gale, a Cengage Company
Document Type: Topic overview
Length: 5,863 words
Lexile Measure: 1440L

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Azerbaijani Americans

Grace Waitman


Azerbaijani Americans are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from Azerbaijan, a constitutional republic on the western coast of the Caspian Sea. Azerbaijan is located in a region known as the Caucasus, a large tract of land between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea that is at the border of Europe and Asia. Azerbaijan shares borders with Iran to the south, Armenia to the west, Georgia to the northwest, and Russia to the north. The Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, a landlocked semi-sovereign area spanning 2,124 square miles (5,500 square kilometers) and situated between Armenia and Iran, is also considered part of Azerbaijan. In total, Azerbaijan covers approximately 33,436 square miles (86,600 square kilometers), an area slightly larger than the state of South Carolina.

Azerbaijan's population was an estimated 9.59 million in 2013, according to the CIA World Factbook. However, scholars agree that there are likely somewhere between 20 and 30 million ethnic Azerbaijanis living in northern Iran, though the Iranian government does not release population counts of the various ethnic groups living there. Most citizens of Azerbaijan are Muslim (approximately 96 percent), with small segments of the population identifying themselves as Russian Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Christian, and Jewish. Ethnic groups in Azerbaijan include the Azeri (90.6 percent), Dagestani (2.2 percent), Russians (1.8 percent), and Armenians (1.5 percent). The economy of Azerbaijan is based on oil production that grew steadily in the first decade of the twenty-first century due to the completion of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which runs through Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey and connects the vast oil and gas fields in the Caspian Sea to trade routes in the Mediterranean Sea. Azerbaijan is among the top ten oil suppliers to the European Union.

Azerbaijanis, or Azeri Turks as they often call themselves, began immigrating to the United States in the middle of the twentieth century after World War II and settled primarily in New York and New Jersey. Large numbers have also established residence in California, Texas, Minnesota, and Florida. After arriving in the United States, many Azerbaijanis found blue-collar jobs and formed communal organizations such as the Azerbaijani Society of America that fostered a sense of solidarity and helped members of the immigrant group maintain a connection to Azerbaijan. Another wave of Azeris immigrated to the United States between 1988 and 1994, when the country was at war with Armenia. Over 75 percent of Azeris who have immigrated to the United States come from countries other than Azerbaijan, with the most significant population of Azeris coming from Iran and sizable numbers from Russia and Turkey.

Precise data for Azerbaijani Americans is difficult to obtain because the U.S. Census Bureau does not include Azerbaijani as an ancestry group when compiling population data. Moreover, some Azerbaijani immigrants who have come to the United States from Iran self-identify as Iranian; other Azerbaijani immigrants may self-identify as Turkish because Azerbaijanis are a Turkic people. Nevertheless, the Network of Azerbaijani Americans from Iran (NAAI) and the Azerbaijani-American Council both estimate that there are approximately 400,000 people of Azerbaijani origin living in the United States, with up to 300,000, and perhaps as many as 350,000, coming from Iran.


Early History In the 1960s archeologists found evidence of a proto-human settlement dating back more than 300,000 years at the Azykh Cave in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. From 900 to 700 BCE the area was populated by an Iranian tribe called the Medes as well as the Scythians, a nomadic people that migrated from north of the Black Sea and eventually settled in the South Caucasus, an area that includes present-day Georgia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and northern Iran. The kingdoms established by the Medes and the Scythians in the South Caucasus were absorbed into the Persian empire in approximately 550 BCE. While under Persian control, the people of the Azerbaijan region practiced the Zoroastrian religion.

Just over two centuries later, Alexander the Great displaced the Persians, and subsequently the area was subject to numerous cultural influences, including the Greeks, the Romans, and the Caucasian Albanians, until various local Caucasian tribes regained control in approximately 200 BCE. Christian influences began to enter the region in the first century CE, and Page 204  |  Top of ArticleChristianity spread rapidly in the early 300s due to the charisma of Gregory the Illuminator, an Armenian prophet who converted nobles and tribal leaders throughout the area. Christianity and Zoroastrianism remained the principal religions in the southern Caucasus until the Muslim conquest in the seventh century brought Sunni Islam to the region and initiated the decline of rival faiths.

Turkic tribes from Central Asia, all of which practiced Sunni Muslim, began to invade the southern Caucasus early in the eleventh century, and by 1030 the Ghaznavids had seized control of the northern portion of present-day Azerbaijan. The Ghaznavids were followed quickly in 1055 by another Turkic people, the Seljuqs, who revived Persian culture and brought more than a century of prosperity to the region. The flowering of the arts and sciences, the development of schools, and the renaissance in architecture ended abruptly in the 1230s when Mongol invaders sacked the Seljuq empire, destroying several major cities in present-day Azerbaijan. The Mongols remained in control of much of the South Caucasus until they were expelled in 1380 by Tamerlane, a Turkic emperor originally based in Samarkand, or present-day Uzbekistan. Tamerlane's vassals ruled briefly in Azerbaijan before giving way in the mid-1400s to the Shirvanshahs, a Sunni dynasty that had intermittently controlled areas of present-day Azerbaijan since approximately 850 CE. In 1462 the Shirvanshahs entered into a series of skirmishes with the Safavids, a Sufi religious order that practiced Shia Islam and was based in Ardabil in northern Iran. In 1501 the Safavids invaded Baku, the capital of present-day Azerbaijan, and massacred the Shirvanshahs. Fighting persisted over the course of the sixteenth century until the Safavids, under the rule of Shah Abbas, were finally able to regain control of Azerbaijan in 1601 and establish Shia Islam in the region.

In the 1700s Azerbaijan was occupied by the Ottomans and by the Russians, as the Safavid dynasty, based in present-day Iran, began to crumble due to a series of attacks from numerous enemies along all its borders. The Russians gained control of the Azerbaijani region with the signing of the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813 at the end of the first Russo-Persian War and the Treaty of Turkmenchay in 1828, which concluded the second Russo-Persian War and established the current border between Iran and Azerbaijan. In an attempt to maintain dominion over the region and to mitigate the influence of Persian culture in Azerbaijan, the Russians encouraged the migration of non-Orthodox Russian Christians, in addition to Germans and Armenians to the region. In 1870 oil was discovered near the Caspian Sea in the city of Baku, and over the next thirty years the population of Baku increased by 250 percent as migrating Russian and Armenian businessmen assumed control of the oil enterprise and ruled over both the local Azeri population and transplanted workers from throughout the Russian Empire.

Modern Era In the years of the oil boom and through the turn of the twentieth century, a left-wing intelligentsia, influenced by socialist ideas that had been circulating in Europe, had been growing steadily in Azerbaijan, especially in Baku. Forced to meet underground for decades, the group's ideas began to spread rapidly with the start of World War I in 1914 and later with the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and the subsequent institution of Bolshevik rule in Russia. In 1918 a democratic republic was established in Azerbaijan, the first in the Islamic world, but these swift changes brought violence as the Azeris tried to expel the Armenians and groups of Bolsheviks in Baku persecuted Muslims. Azerbaijan sustained its independence for two years before succumbing to the Soviet Red Army in 1920. During the 1930s, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin purged the Azerbaijani intelligentsia, killing all suspected dissidents and eliminating any hope that the country would soon free itself of Soviet rule. Azerbaijan was a primary supplier of oil to the Soviet Union throughout World War II and after, through the 1950s, until the oil field of Baku were depleted and the Soviet Union looked elsewhere for oil and gas.

No longer able to depend on oil revenues, Azerbaijan became one of the poorest of the Soviet Republics in the 1960s, and ethnic violence between Azeris and Armenians returned to the region and continued through the 1990s. The focal points of the tension was the Nargorno-Karabakh region in Azerbaijan, where the highest concentration of Armenians lived, and the city of Baku, where anti-Armenian sentiment was most virulent. The Soviet Army was repeatedly called to the area to suppress anti-Armenian violence, and by the late 1980s the fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia was recognized in international circles as a full-scale war. With an anti-Soviet movement gathering force in Baku, the Red Army interceded and killed over 100 dissidents in the Azerbaijani capital on January 19 and 20, 1990. Known as Black January, this period of time is considered by Azeri nationalists to be the first days of a reestablishment of the Azerbaijan Republic, which had been dormant since the 1920 invasion of the Red Army. However, Azerbaijan did not formally declare its independence until August 30, 1991, four months prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The war with Armenia continued to escalate in the early 1990s and reached its zenith with the Khojaly Massacre on February 26, 1992, when Armenian nationals, with the help of the Russian army, killed more than 500 Azeris in Khojaly, a city in the Nagorno-Karabakh area of Azerbaijan. Azeris throughout the world recognize the event as ethnic cleansing, and each year gather to commemorate the tragedy. In the years leading up to the Khojaly Page 205  |  Top of ArticleMassacre, over 250,000 Azeris had been expelled from Armenia. An uneasy ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan was proclaimed in 1994, and shortly thereafter a plundered Azerbaijan took the first steps toward economic recovery. On December 12, 1994, the Contract of the Century, which secured $60 billion of international investment in the Azerbaijan oil industry went into effect, and in 1998 the Azerbaijani parliament ratified plans to build the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. Construction began in 2002. Throughout the early 2000s large deposits of natural gas have been discovered in Baku, continuing the resurrection of the Azerbaijani economy and transforming the country into one of the world's largest suppliers of natural gas.


The first Azerbaijani immigrant on record entered the United States in the early twentieth century through Ellis Island. After World War II a larger wave of Azeri immigrants arrived, many of whom had been detained in German prison camps during the war. It is impossible to know how many of these immigrants had lived in Azerbaijan before they were displaced by the war and how many had lived elsewhere in the Caucasus, in places such as northern Iran, southern Russia, and eastern Turkey. Immigrants from this period settled primarily in New York City, especially Brooklyn, and New Jersey, where they created the Azerbaijan Society of America in 1957. By the 1970s the Azerbaijani American population also occupied other areas of the United States, including California, Texas, Minnesota, and Florida.

In the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, the United States government conferred refugee status on 14,205 Azeris who had fled the country during the war with Armenia. Nonprofit agencies helped Azerbaijani refugees find homes in every state in the union, with the majority of these immigrants taking up residence in the established Azerbaijani American communities in Los Angeles and the Brooklyn borough of New York City. These Azerbaijanis had sustained strong ties with their home country, to the extent that several major U.S. cities formed a “sister city” relationship with cities in Azerbaijan, especially Baku. For example, Baku has a “sister city” relationship with Houston, Texas, and Honolulu, Hawaii. Similar connections exist between Newark, New Jersey, and Ganja in Azerbaijan; and between Monterey, California, and Lankaran in Azerbaijan. Other states with large numbers of Azerbaijani Americans include New Jersey, Texas, Minnesota, and Florida.


The official language of Azerbaijan is Azeri, a language in the Turkic family of languages. While over 90 percent of the population of Azerbaijan speaks Azeri, the language is also prevalent in Iran, where approximately 30 million people speak Azeri, and in the region of Borchali in southern Georgia, which is home to almost 40,000 people of Azerbaijani origin. Other languages used by Azerbaijanis include Dagestani, Russian, and Armenian. Azerbaijani immigrants have tended to learn English quickly. However, in the United States there are a considerable number of language programs

The next wave of Azeri immigrants, who arrived in the 1990s, likewise depended on family members as well as other members of established Azeri communities in the United States to ease the trauma of displacement and relocation. In California, relocation programs arranged for a relative to meet arriving Azerbaijanis at the airport.

available for persons interested in learning Azeri. The most notable of these is the Summer Language Workshop at the Indiana University–Bloomington, which has offered Azeri classes since 1990. In addition, many Azeri organizations in the United States offer language classes to promote the usage of Azeri among second- and third-generation Azerbaijani Americans. For example, the Azerbaijani American Cultural Association, founded in Miami, Florida, offers these classes as a way to promote knowledge about Azerbaijan and its culture.

Greetings and Popular Expressions Common greetings and expressions in Azeri include the following:

Xoş g∂lmişsiniz!—Welcome!; Salam∂leyküm—Hello; leyküm salam—Hello (in reply); Siz nec∂siniz?—How are you? (formal); Nec∂siz? / S∂n nec∂s∂n?—How are you? (informal); Sağ olun, yaxşıyam—Thanks, I'm fine; Nvar?—What's up?; Tanış olmağıma çox şadam—Pleased to meet you; Çox şadam—Pleased to meet you (in reply); Sabahınız xeyir—Good morning; Axşamınız xeyir—Good evening; Sağ olun / Salamat qalın / Görüş∂n∂d∂k—Good-bye (formal); Sağol / Xudahafiz—Good-bye (informal); Yaxşı günl∂r!—Have a nice day!; Nuş olsun!—Bon appetit!; Üzr ist∂yir∂m / Bağışlayın—Excuse me.


Almost 95 percent of the population in Azerbaijan practices Islam. Of that Muslim majority, 85 percent is Shia and 15 percent is Sunni. In Nargorno-Karabakh, where the population is overwhelmingly Armenian, most people belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church. There are small but significant Jewish, Christian, and Hindu populations in Azerbaijan as well. Zoroastrianism was the primary religion in Azerbaijan from the first millennium BCE through the Arab invasions of the seventh century. While few Azeris have practiced Zoroastrianism since that time, aspects of Zoroastrian culture remain prevalent in contemporary Azerbaijani society. For example, Nowruz, the Persian New Year celebrated each year at the beginning of spring on the Western calendar, is among the most popular holidays in Azerbaijan.

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Azerbaijan is officially a secular state, and in the early twenty-first century it was widely recognized as one of the most irreligious countries among the predominately Islam nations of the world. Several government agencies, most notably the State Committee for Work with Religious Associations, actively promote freedom of religion in Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, with the increase of tension between Muslim nations and the West in the early twenty-first century, the International Relations Security Network (ISN) has noted increasing numbers of Azerbaijani youth joining radical sects. In the United States, Azerbaijani Americans tend to practice Islam more ardently than their forebears in Azerbaijan, but Azeri immigrants have a sense of ethnic solidarity and pay less attention than native Azerbaijanis to sectarian differences within their faith.


Azerbaijani Americans have sustained close ties with Azerbaijan, whether they came to the United States to escape the Nagorno-Karabakh War or arrived in the first wave in the 1950s. They have formed numerous organizations seeking to keep members of the immigrant group informed about current events in Azerbaijan, and they promote strong relations between the United States and Azerbaijan. The first wave of Azeri immigrants from Azerbaijan was insular, with almost 80 percent choosing to marry within the immigrant group. Azeri immigrants from other countries, such as Iran and Turkey, were likely to live within communities with other Azeris who had migrated from the same country. The immigrants who came in the second wave, during the Nagorno-Karabakh War, tended to join existing Azeri communities but assimilated much more quickly than their predecessors in the United States, most likely because members of this second group arrived as refugees and were seeking a brand new life.

Cuisine The staple dish in Azerbaijan is plov, saffron rice cooked in a mix of spices and sometimes served with meat and vegetables. Other traditional dishes include dolmas (vegetables such as grape leaves, tomatoes, or peppers stuffed with meat and rice) and kebabs, or shashlyks, as skewered meats are called in Azerbaijan. Kebabs that feature chicken roasted in a clay oven called a tΩndir (the same type of oven that is called a tandoor in India and Pakistan) are a national favorite. Another favorite is kourma with alycha (a type of plum) and lemon, which consists of pieces of mutton served on the bone and prepared using onions, saffron, and tomatoes. Azerbaijani cuisine also includes sweets such as badamburi, a pastry that contains almonds and sugar; pakhlava (baklava), a pastry covered with syrup and served with chopped nuts sprinkled on Page 207  |  Top of Articletop, and halva, a sweet popular throughout the Middle East that is made with either malted wheat or ground nuts or sesame seeds. Azeris also enjoy fruit pastries seasoned with saffron. The preferred beverage in Azerbaijan is black tea. Many Azerbaijani American organizations offer festivals that feature foods native to Azerbaijan. Some groups, such as the Azerbaijani American Cultural Association based in Miami, offer Azerbaijani cooking classes as a means of preserving Azeri culture. Many Azerbaijani Americans share food during holidays, such as during the month of Ramadan.

Dances and Songs Azerbaijani music often combines storytelling and poetry with mournful instrumentation. Mugham is a form of classical Azerbaijani music that combines poetry with improvised musical interludes. The nature of the improvisation varies from region to region in Azerbaijan. Meykhana is a form of rap or spoken word poetry rendered in rhymed verse by one or more performers. When performed solo, artists are known to improvise their verse. The ashiq form consists of stories and poems sung with the accompaniment of string instruments. Azeri American organizations often host concerts featuring professional musicians trained in the one of the Azeri musical styles. One of the most popular of Azeri musicians is Emin Agalarov (1979–), who performs under the name Emin and sings in English. Emin was trained by Muslim Magomayev (1942–2008), an Azerbaijani opera singer who also had a Sinatra-like lounge act and covered pop songs. Emin, too, is famous for his Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley covers but also writes and performs original pop songs. Many college campuses, notably Indiana University, regularly host cultural events featuring classical Azerbaijani music.

Holidays Many Azerbaijani Americans celebrate the traditional Muslim holidays, such as Eid al-Fitr, which is the breaking of the fast at the end of Ramadan. Azerbaijani Americans also observe Nowruz, the Persian New Year, at the beginning of spring, although this is not a weeklong holiday in the United States as it is in Azerbaijan.

However, public holidays that commemorate key moments in Azerbaijani history have a larger place in the national consciousness than religious and traditional holidays. The most significant of these national holidays is Republic Day, celebrated each year on May 28 to observe Azerbaijani freedom from Russian rule. This day has a significant place in the national memory because Azerbaijan was the first democratic republic in the Islamic world and because it was able to maintain its freedom for only two years before Soviet Russia took control of the country. The day is marked with a military parade through the streets of Baku. In the United States, large segments of the Azerbaijani American community—those

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Ağıl başda olar, yaşda olmaz.

Intelligence is in the head, not in the age. (Meaning: You do not have to be old to be intelligent.)

Bir buğda km s n, min buğda biçm zs n.

Without sowing a single wheat you would not harvest thousand ones. (Meaning: One small action can help change what happens in the future.)

vv l düşün, sonra danış.

First think, then speak.

Kiminin vv li, kiminin axırı.

Someone's end is someone's beginning.

Köp yin qarnı tox g r k.

Dog has to have its stomach full. (Meaning: Treat those in your service well and they, in turn, will treat you well.)

Bilm m k eyib deyil, soruşmamaq eyibdir.

Shameful is not the one who doesn't know, but the one who doesn't ask.

Ağac bar ver nd baş ın aşağı dik r.

Tree would bend when it bears fruit. (Meaning: One should be modest even if he or becomes rich and influential.)

who emigrated from Iran—are likely to let Republic Day and other national holidays pass without much notice. However, some members of the Azeri community in the United States commemorate the holiday by attending speeches hosted by the Azerbaijani Consulate. In Los Angeles, the Consulate General addresses a large audience of up to a few hundred people that includes members of the immigrant community as well as university professors, politicians from neighboring states, and dignitaries in the Los Angeles area.

Azeris throughout the world observe the anniversary of the massacre of “Black January” to mourn the death of Azeri citizens killed by the Red Army in Baku in 1990. Likewise, each year Azeris commemorate the Khojaly Massacre of February 26, 1992. In 1993, two years after the fall of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijani president Heydar Aliyev declared December 31 Solidarity Day, and it has since been observed both within the country and by Azeri expatriates abroad. In addition, many Azerbaijani Americans celebrate traditional U.S. holidays like Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.

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In Cleveland, Ohio, Azeri President Heydar Aliyev (1923–2003) is embraced by an Azerbaijani American woman during his visit to the memorial cemetery of the fighters who had died for the independence of Azerbaijan, in Baku, 1998.

In Cleveland, Ohio, Azeri President Heydar Aliyev (1923–2003) is embraced by an Azerbaijani American woman during his visit to the memorial cemetery of the fighters who had died for the independence of Azerbaijan, in Baku, 1998. YURI KOCHETKOV / AFP / GETTY IMAGES


In Azerbaijan the extended family is the primary unit in society, a tradition born of the fact that for centuries rural Azerbaijani families worked collaboratively on a shared piece of land to ensure sustenance and survival. Modern families no longer exercise this type of shared occupational structure, but families still rely strongly on one another and may receive both financial and emotional assistance from relatives. Azeri immigrants who came in the aftermath of World War II established close-knit communities in the United States, and like many people starting with very little in a new country, these immigrants relied on each other to build new lives in their adopted country. The next wave of Azeri immigrants, who arrived in the 1990s, likewise depended on family members as well as other members of established Azeri communities in the United States to ease the trauma of displacement and relocation. In California, relocation programs arranged for a relative to meet arriving Azerbaijanis at the airport. This was part of the process of establishing the identity of the refugees and was often necessary before further services, such as finding the new arrival an apartment and procuring an identity card, could be rendered.

Gender Roles In Azerbaijan traditional gender roles are typically observed. Men are expected to provide for their families, while women look after the domestic responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, and raising children. While women do work outside the home, they frequently pursue stereotypically feminine occupations like teaching or nursing. Outside the major cities, especially Baku, women do not visit restaurants or tea houses alone. Traditional gender roles remain largely intact throughout much of the Azerbaijani American community, though these roles are not as rigidly prescribed in the United States. Azeri women have also taken an active role in helping female refugees adapt to life in the United States. For example, the Azerbaijani American Women's Association, established in 2006 and headquartered in California, offers support and promotes awareness of the experiences of Azeri women who immigrated in the 1990s. This organization not only serves the needs of Azerbaijani American women but has also established connections with other women's organizations in the United States.

Education Because Azerbaijanis are not included as an ancestry group by the U.S. Census Bureau, academic statistics for Azeris are difficult to obtain. Many of the refugees arriving in the 1990s sought the help of religious organizations to educate their children and help them learn English and make the transition to the U.S. school curriculum. Cooperative arrangements between Azerbaijan and the United States have created learning opportunities for the young people of both countries. For example, the Azerbaijani-American Youth Social Association has sponsored educational projects that engage youth from both nations in volunteer-based activities that allow participants to learn more about the culture of the other country.

Courtship and Weddings While love marriages are on the rise in Azerbaijan, arranged marriages are the norm in many communities and most women live with their parents prior to marriage. Even in the case of love marriages, most Azerbaijanis seek the approval of the parents. After approval is granted, the bride's parents typically host a party, either in their home or, more commonly, in a banquet hall. As part of this celebration, the couple receive an ornamental box that contains their engagement rings. The rings are initially secured together by a red ribbon; this is cut in a ceremony, after which time the couple each dons their respective rings. Chocolates are often included in the box, signifying adding sweetness to the union. The bride spends the day before the wedding with female friends and family members, celebrating with more sweets and having her hands decorated with henna. After the wedding the newlyweds do not typically go on a honeymoon but rather move into the groom's parents' home. During the first few months of marriage, the bride learns from her mother-in-law how to cook and care for her husband. Azerbaijani Americans are less likely to enter into arranged marriages and typically abide by American wedding traditions such as rehearsal dinners and honeymoons.


The Azeris who came to the United States in the 1950s typically found blue-collar employment in the East Coast region. However, there was a small contingent among this group that had escaped Page 209  |  Top of ArticleAzerbaijan in 1920, at the dawn of Soviet rule, and spent over thirty years living as merchants in Eastern Europe before coming to the United States. Many of these people opened small businesses in the United States. Many of the refugees who arrived in the 1990s were highly educated people who had left professional jobs in Azerbaijan. In the United States, these people typically accepted lower-level jobs and large pay cuts.


Azeris throughout the world are a politically conscious people who keep track of politics in Azerbaijan and continue to celebrate the most important holidays on the national calendar. In the United States, several Azerbaijani Americans organizations have established “sister city” relationships between major metropolitan areas in the United States and Azerbaijan. In 2010 these organizations partnered with the U.S. Census Bureau to gather data on the Azeri communities in the United States. In addition, Azerbaijani Americans have participated in U.S. politics, most notably by petitioning Congress to admit Azeri refugees from the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Some grassroots organizations have publicly supported President Barack Obama.


Academia Max Black (1909–1988) was a philosopher, physicist, and mathematician who studied under Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein at Cambridge University and later made important contributions in the field of analytic philosophy. Black was born in Baku (which at the time was part of the Russian Empire), raised in London, and moved to the United States in the latter part of his academic career. He lectured in the philosophy departments at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne and at Cornell University.

Ali Javan (1926–) is an Azeri physicist born in Tehran who immigrated to the United States in 1948. Javan joined the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1961 and has served as professor emeritus there since 1964. Javan's accomplishments include inventing the gas laser, which made fiber optic communication possible, and developing the first instrument that could accurately measure the speed of light.

Lotfali A. Zadeh (1921–) is a mathematician, electrical engineer, and computer scientist who received his PhD from Columbia University in 1949 and became a professor at the University of California at Berkeley in 1959. Zadeh was born in Baku, but his father was an Azeri Iranian who had been raised in Tehran. When he was ten, Zadeh moved with his family to Tehran and spent thirteen years there before moving to the United States and enrolling at MIT.

Art Semyon Bilmes (1955–) is an Azerbaijani American commercial artist whose clients include

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Azerbaijani Americans are very active in politics, especially concerning their advocacy for the need to establish and maintain a strong relationship between Azerbaijan and the United States. The majority of the Azerbaijani organizations in the United States are designed to promote greater awareness of and knowledge concerning Azerbaijani customs and traditions. While this might not seem like an overtly political objective, Azerbaijani Americans who have membership in these organizations frequently view these goals as a means of advocating for understanding of their heritage and culture.

Many of these groups were established in the aftermath of the massive wave of Azerbaijani refugees who arrived on U.S. soil during the early and mid-1990s. Because of the struggles that Azerbaijan underwent after its independence from Soviet control, especially in its war with Armenia, the national pride of Azerbaijanis prompts them to engage in efforts to make their nation and its distinctive identity more visible to mainstream America. To this end, other organizations have taken as their explicit purpose the goal of elevating grassroots initiatives designed to cultivate cultural, scholarly, and academic exchanges between Azerbaijan and the United States.

CBS, Western Union, Citibank, and Smirnoff Vodka. In 1990 Bilmes opened the Ashland Academy of Art, in Ashland, Oregon, an independent art school with a curriculum modeled on the classical European academies. The school remained open for thirteen years until 2003, when Bilmes closed it and subsequently moved with his family to Maui, Hawaii, where he opened an art school called Atelier Maui.

Music Sona Aslanova (1924–2011) was an Azerbaijani soprano who moved to the United States in 1994. Aslanova sang opera and folk music and became famous during tours of the Soviet Union when she performed in operas composed by renowned Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov. In the prime of her career, Aslanova was frequently cast in movies and live radio broadcasts.

Bella Davidovich (1928–) is an Azerbaijani pianist classically trained in Moscow. A prodigy, Davidovich showed signs of musical genius at age six and was performing classical pieces at leading venues by age eleven. Her professional career began in 1944 and spanned twenty-eight seasons, during which time she was considered among the finest pianists in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Davidovich retired in 1977 and the following year immigrated to the United States, where she accepted a teaching position at the Juilliard School.

Mstislav Rostropovich (1927–2007) was a cellist born in Baku to aristocrats of Russian and Polish descent. He moved to Moscow in 1943 and by his mid-twenties was considered to be among the best Page 210  |  Top of Articlecellists in the world. However, Rostropovich was also a human rights activist, and his political beliefs derailed his career in the Soviet Union. He was exiled in 1974 and settled with his wife in Washington, D.C., where he accepted a position as conductor of the U.S. National Symphony Orchestra in 1977. He continued in that post until 1994 and made frequent visits to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. At the end of his life, in addition to his home in the United States, Rostropovich maintained homes in three other countries, including two residences in Russia.

Sports Kristin Fraser (1980–) is a figure skater born in Palo Alto, California, who competed for Azerbaijan in the 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympic Games with Igor Lukanin, a Soviet-born skater who has also competed for Germany in international events. Lukanin and Fraser have won four Azerbaijani national champions together. They married in December 2010.


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Azerbaijan International

Launched in 1996, this online magazine boasts on its masthead that it is the “World's Largest Web Site about Azerbaijan.” As of 2013 the site had compiled more than 2,250 articles and 6,350 photos relating to Azerbaijan.

P.O. Box 5217
Sherman Oaks, California 91413
Phone: (310) 440-8000

Azerbaijan Review

Monthly newspaper published in New York since 2007; languages included are Azeri, Russian, and English.


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Azerbaijan Cultural Society of Northern California

Hosts educational and social events that bring together the Azerbaijani American community in Northern California.

16400 Lark Avenue
Suite 260
Los Gatos, California 95032

Azerbaijani American Cultural Association

Founded in 2006 to promote Azerbaijani culture in South Florida. Hosts the “Days of Azerbaijan” festival and numerous conferences to educate local residents.

137 Golden Isles Drive #1414
Hallandale Beach, Florida 33009

Azerbaijani American Women's Association

Identifies and addresses issues that Azerbaijani women face in the United States and in Azerbaijan, hosts educational and social events that promote Azerbaijani culture, and conducts philanthropic activities.

1573 San Ponte Road
Corona, California 92882
Phone: (951) 372-9193

U.S. Azeris Network

Builds alliances among the various Azerbaijani American organizations throughout the United States as well as with Turkic and other diasporic communities; promotes voter awareness and encourages Azerbaijani Americans to participate in American political debate.

P.O. Box 76044
Washington, D.C. 20013-6044


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American Research Institute of the South Caucasus

Hosts reading groups and lectures on countries in the South Caucasus and supports research on Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia.

Leyla Rustamli, Resident Director for Azerbaijan
Department of Anthropology, Purdue University
700 West State Street
Suite 219
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Goltz, Thomas. Azerbaijan Diary: A Rogue Reporter's Adventures in an Oil-Rich, War-Torn, Post-Soviet Republic. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1998.

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Lerman, Zvi, and David Sedik. Rural Transition in Azerbaijan. Lexington, VA: Lexington Books, 2010.

Ordubadi, Mămmăd Săid. Years of Blood: A History of the Armenian-Muslim Clashes in the Caucasus, 1905–1906. Reading, UK: Ithaca Press, 2011.

Roudik, Peter L. Culture and Customs of the Caucasus. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008.

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Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3273300026