Thursday, June 21, 2018

Residents of Two Daghestani Villages in Azerbaijan Moved En Masse to Daghestan

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 21 – A long-simmering problem between Daghestan and Azerbaijan appears to be on the way to a solution, not by shifting the border so that those ethnically tied to Daghestan could live among their own but rather by moving 377 residents of two villages that are located in Azerbaijan into new houses in the North Caucasus republic.

            The villages, Khrakh-Uba and Uryan-Uba, are in Azerbaijan’s Khachmaz district. Until 1991, they were governed by Novo-Agul rural council of the Magaramkent district of Daghestan; but after the disintegration of the USSR, they became “enclaves on the territory of Azerbaijan” (

            Some activists from the villages, supported by their Lezgin co-ethnics in Daghestan, had called for a border change so that they would be ruled as they had been in the past. But Azerbaijan for understandable reasons given its conflict with Armenia was unwilling even to discuss that possibility. And in September 2010, Moscow and Baku signed a border accord.

            That border left the two Lezgin villages within Azerbaijan, and in the years since, the residents and their supporters in Daghestan have campaigned to move the people north to Daghestan. The conflict intensified on occasion over the use of water by these villages given that the border between Azerbaijan and Daghestan is a river.

            This year, the Daghestani authorities were able to come up with the money to pay for the relocation of the people, as a result of a massive subvention from Moscow arranged by the new head of the republic, Vladimir Vasiliyev, who very much wanted to avoid having a genuinely “international” conflict on his southern border.

            According to the Kavkaz Uzel news agency, those who have been moved are pleased with this arrangement although many say that they have had to wait far too long and that some of those who had lived in the two villages earlier had departed on their own and thus have been lost to the community.

                Although the size of this population transfer is quite small, it is a model of what can be done to deal with enclaves both official and unofficial which include people who identify with another country than the one they find themselves in. And because it doesn’t involve border changes, it is a strategy that some in the international community might be prepared to support.

            Consequently, the successful move of two Daghestani village populations could be a model for resolving similar problems elsewhere in the Caucasus and in Central Asia. As such, how it plays out now that the populations have been shifted merits the closest possible monitoring.

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