Friday, March 2, 2018

New Russian Book on Azerbaijanis Sells Only 30 Copies in First Month, Sparking Discussion and Concern

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 2 – Only 30 copies of a new Russian-language book on Azerbaijanis, part of the “Peoples and Cultures” series and prepared jointly by scholars in Moscow and Baku, were sold in the first month after its release, a disappointing figure sparking complaints about inadequate advertising and concern about declining interest in the subject.

            In early February, the Nauka publishing house issued the collective monograph “Azerbaijanis in a print run of 1400 copies, approximately 1000 of which were for sale. Since then, only 30 have sold, people in the publishing and distribution industries tell the Kavkaz-Uzel news agency (

                The 700-page book may have put some people off by its price – 1496 rubles (25 US dollars) – but the scholars involved in its production place the blame on the publisher and distributors and the failure of both to advertise the book properly.

            Academician Valery Tishkov, the former director of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, says that Nauka publishes things quite well but “isn’t able to sell books. With regard to sales, it is simply a catastrophe. There is a demand for the book, but there is not enough information about it.”

            Books in the series “Peoples and Cultures” are “unique and interesting,” he continues. They contain unique information, maps and other data not found anywhere else, and what is particularly important they are produced jointly by Russian scholars and by scholars from the nation being described.

            Since 1997, there have appeared volumes in this series on the Armenians, the Georgians, the Chechens, the peoples of Daghestan, the Karachays and Balkars, the Ingush, and the Ossetins. “It remains to write about the Circassians and Adygeys [and] perhaps also about the Nogays,” Tishkov says.

            Lyudmila Misonova, who serves as responsible secretary for the series, says that the Azerbaijani embassy has talked about purchasing 1,000 copies; but so far, it has not followed up on initial discussions. She notes that a decision has been taken not to issue electronic versions of the book until the series is completed.

            Yury Anchabadze, a senior scholar, says that the small number of volumes sold is an unpleasant reality.  “After the disintegration of the USSR, people lost interest in” Azerbaijanis and other non-Russian peoples. But now, at least with regard to the Azerbaijanis, there is a rebirth of interest.

            The recent volumes in this series represent a significant advance on the two-volume “Peoples of the Caucasus” that was issued in the 1960s.  Many issues couldn’t be discussed then but are being fully covered now, Anchabadze says. And that promotes interest and scholarly cooperation among the peoples involved.

            Aliaga Mamedli, the head of ethno-sociological research of the Baku Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography who served as the responsible editor for the Azerbaijani contributions, says that the book is “important for the information of Russians and Russian-language readers about Azerbaijanis and Azerbaijan.”

                In addition, he notes, “in the West, there are specialist and ethnologists who via Russian are acquainted with the literature devoted to the peoples of the former Soviet republics, including Azerbaijan.”

            Togrul Dzhuvarly, a member of the Azerbaijani National Committee on European Integration, agrees; but he sees additional benefits: many other peoples may “via Russian-language literature” become acquainted with the ethnology of Azerbaijan.  That is important for them and for Azerbaijanis as well.

            “Of course,” Dzhuvarly says, “someone may look at this and see political subtexts such as perhaps Russia wanting to stress that the peoples of the former USSR are in its sphere of influence. But even if there is a certain dollop of truth in that regard, this is a manifestation of it in ‘a soft form.’ The scientific, informational and culturological significance is much greater.”

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