Glinting off the black Caucasus Mountains, the morning sun gives Stephanakert the gleam of a town freshly scrubbed. Everywhere roads are being laid and houses restored. Women wrapped in blue nylon overcoats and woolen leggings sweep away litter from the town square. And on Stephanakert's main Azatamartikneri (Partisans) Street, stores display fresh fruit and cheeses alongside refurbished restaurants and a new discotheque.
Louise L’Estrange Fawcett, Iran and the Cold War: The Azerbaijani Crisis of 1946 (Cambridge, 1992).
Early in 1988, the southern Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan witnessed large-scale political demonstrations and ethnic clashes. Renewed demonstrations and street confrontations in mid-May led to the dismissal of the Communist Party chiefs in both republics. Joe Stork spoke to Ronald Grigor Suny, who teaches Soviet and Armenian history at the University of Michigan, about the background to these clashes. Suny is the author of Armenia in the Twentieth Century (Scholars Press, 1983) and The Baku Commune, 1917-1918: Class and Nationality in the Russian Revolution (Princeton University Press, 1972).
What exactly happened early this year in Karabagh, when clashes erupted between Soviet Armenians and Azerbaijanis?
Shaikh-ul-Islam Pashazada Allahshukur Hummatoglu is chairman of the Board of Management of Caucasian Muslims. Fred Halliday and Maxine Molyneux interviewed him in Baku in July 1984.
How are Soviet Muslims organized?
There are four separate Islamic religious bodies in the Soviet Union. Three of these are for Sunnis. Here in the Transcaucasian region, comprising Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia, Shi‘i Muslims are the majority. Their leader is the shaikh-ul-Islam, the position I now hold.
Are you appointed by the state?
Baku, the capital of Soviet Azerbaijan, lying on the west coast of the Caspian, embodies many suggestive contrasts with other areas of the Soviet Union and with the neighboring countries of Iran and Turkey. On the esplanade running along the seashore, restaurants sell kebabs, local pancakes (kutab) and Azerbaijani sweets; there are the colored lights, smells and sounds of outdoor eating places further south. The mustachioed young men, the gestures of greeting, the pace of the crowd suggest other Middle Eastern cities. In the icheri sheher, the inner city, glass-paned balconies lean over the first floors of the houses, as they do in Turkey. Three centuries of Persian rule have also left their mark on the literature and art of this region.