Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2018, 16:17 GMT

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Azerbaijan : Talysh

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Azerbaijan : Talysh, 2008, available at: [accessed 19 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Talysh are a predominantly rural people who speak a north-west Iranian language. In the 1999 Census 76,800 Talysh (1 per cent of the total population) were recorded in Azerbaijan, although unofficial estimates put their number at between 200,000 and 300,000. The Talysh are culturally close to the Azeris and they are also known as Tolish or Talush. They are concentrated in southern Azerbaijan and areas contiguous with Iran.

Historical context

The Talysh have suffered as a result of the long-term deprivation of cultural and education rights and from the effects of economic neglect of their region, situated in south-east Azerbaijan and bordering Iran and the Caspian Sea.

Azeri fears of the emergence of pro-Iranian separatist sentiments led to the formation of the Azerbaijan Talysh National Party in 1992. In June 1993, as part of the general political unrest resulting from the campaign against the then President, Abulfaz Elchibey, and recent defeats on the battlefield in the Karabakh conflict, Ali Akhram Hummatov declared the formation of the Talysh-Mugansk Republic. The republic was short-lived, however, lasting only until August. With the accession of Heydar Aliyev to power in Baku, the Azerbaijani centre reasserted itself and Hummatov was arrested. Initially sentenced to death, he was then given a life sentence. Hummatov was released in 2004 as a result of pressure from the Council of Europe. The Talysh National Movement continued its activities, although within the framework of a unitary Azerbaijani state.

Current issues

In 2005 an international conference on Talysh studies was held in the Armenian town of Tsakhgadzor, attended by representatives of the Talysh National Movement in Azerbaijan, as well as representatives of the Talysh diaspora in Russia, and of the Talysh minority in Armenia itself. Speakers at the conference claimed the repression of the Talysh minority in Azerbaijan, although such claims were then denied by parts of the Talysh diaspora in Russia. As is the case with other minorities in Azerbaijan, it appeared that the issue was being tied to the overall picture of Azerbaijani- Armenian relations. The conference further resolved to establish an International Talysh Association.

In April 2006 the first edition of a joint Azeri-Talysh-language newspaper, Shavnisht, was published in Baku. The newspaper aimed to report on current developments in the life of the Talysh minority in Azerbaijan. In February the convention of the Talysh National Movement took place in the sea-side city of Lenkoran, close to the Iranian border, and a local chapter for the organization founded. According to reports, however, leading figures within the Talysh National Movement and the editor of the Shavnisht newspaper have been the subject of intimidation from law enforcement officials, who have allegedly interrogated movement members and confiscated identity documents.

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