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Home » Diplomacy News, Russia, Ukraine, and Caucasus, Southwest Asia and North Africa

Increased Cooperation between Turkey, Azerbaijan

Submitted by on March 21, 2012 – 9:45 pm 10 Comments |  
Recently, there has been a shift in diplomatic priorities of Azerbaijan. As has been reported in a previous GeoCurrents news post, tensions have been growing between Azerbaijan and Iran, with the latter accusing its northern neighbor of growing pro-Israeli leanings. As reported today by Voice of America, Azerbaijan is increasing its diplomatic and economic cooperation with another one of its neighbors, Turkey. This development follows on the heels of the collapse of rapprochement efforts between Turkey and Azerbaijan’s rival, Armenia. This diplomatic falling out between Turkey and Armenia is unsurprising, given that Turkey continues to rigorously deny the Armenian genocide.

One item on the new cooperation agenda concerned Turkey’s support for Baku’s efforts to reclaim the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. The majority ethnic Armenian territory declared independence in 1988, triggering a six-year conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan that claimed 35,000 lives. The war ended in a cease-fire in 1994, and repeated international efforts to broker a peace deal have failed. At a recent event in Istanbul commemorating the killing of 603 Azeris in the village of Khojaly in Nagorno-Karabakh during the conflict in 1992, Turkish Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin delivered a passionate speech, saying: “As long as the Turkish nation stays alive, that blood will be answered for.”

A U.S. State Department report earlier this year strongly criticized Turkey for the current deadlock in Turkish-Armenian relations. But the American pressure may now be offset by rewards from the closer diplomatic and economic relations with Azerbaijan, which in recent months has signed a series of lucrative deals to supply gas to energy-hungry Turkey, as well as another agreement for Turkey to be a distributor of Azerbaijani energy to the wider region. The deals also help Turkey move away from energy dependence on Iran, which is facing growing international economic sanctions.

Azerbaijan’s change in diplomatic priorities may also have some geolinguistic underpinnings, as Turkish and Azeri are closely related Turkic languages. Azerbaijan and Iran are connected, in contrast, by their common religion, as well as by a large Azeri minority in Iran itself. The other two national languages involved — Armenian and Farsi — are both Indo-European but not members of the same subfamily.

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  • Ario
    • Asya Pereltsvaig

      So I take it you object to my use of “Farsi” (rather than “Persian”) as the name of the language? Not sure I agree with these ideological and esthetic arguments you list. Linguists typically use both labels interchangeably or nearly so. Some uses differ for older stages of the language. The Ethnologue lists the language as “Farsi” (and “Persian”) as an alternative name:

      • Ario

        Ethnologue is hardly an authority on any language and certainly not one persian when compared to the official Academy of Persian language,which says the official name of the language is Persian in english and its variations in other languages.
        I dont see how you think any of the arguments above are ideological,rather I think its quite obvious that when you change the name a language(or any cultural identity with its own history ,for that matter) you remove it of many positive and negative annotations,gained through centuries of cultural contact, presenting it as a new,unidentifiable phenomenon thus robbing it of a major part of its identity.
        Call this Persian Paranoia but rather than finding this reasoning “ideological”,I find the insistance on using Farsi rather than Persian by some people and media outlets has a political agenda behind it.I certainly did not think this was the case with Geo Currents but your recent comment and your lack of reasoning for this insistance(Why not start using Deutsch rather than German?!)is making me think other wise.

        • Asya Pereltsvaig

          I most certainly have no intent of robbing the language in question of any positive connotations that some people might associate with one name or another. My point in the comment above is that there are no purely linguistic reasons to prefer one name or another.

          As for your point on Deutsch/German, there are good reasons to use the term “Deutsch” for Low German dialects — to highlight their affinity to Dutch — so I wouldn’t necessarily object to it.

          Again, no offense intended and my apologies!

          • James T. Wilson

            Is he objecting to the fact that we in English have no supreme language authority as some national languages do?  He could certainly call the language Persian or Farsi or Iranian or whatever he wanted–the only hurdle would be whether he was understood.  I must admit to being a bit prickly about being told what words to use in my native language.  Consequently, I wouldn’t have the gall to tell my Japanese friends not to call it eigo, my Chinese friends not to call it zhongwen, or my Russian friends not to call it anglitskii.  The only times I am amenable to such criticism is in a case like eskimo, in which that ethnonym is actually the ethnic insult from another group, and I have objected to purely insulting terms, such as “white ghost” in Cantonese, being used of me.  Generally, however, I will call a language whatever I please in English and I am perfectly happy to let someone else call English whatever they like, even if they notionally cut me off from the glories of Shakespeare or Bede or whomever else.

          • Asya Pereltsvaig

            Good points and I agree, James! There is something not right with speakers (or academies, or whatever) of one language telling speakers of another who to say or write things in their language. The Ukrainians insist on Russians saying “in Ukraine” a certain way… I blogged about here:

          • James T. Wilson

            My point, though, Asio, is that trying to control what English-speakers call anything is like trying to hold water in your hand–you might be able to control a little of it, but most is going to slip through anyway.  The language in question will be called whatever is most convenient and memorable.  I could, I suppose, object to Welshmen calling my language Saesneg, since it refers to Saxon, with which there is only the most distant connection, but I would never tell a Welshman what to call anything in Welsh.

            The Ukrainian example does remind me, though, of one of those “eskimo” instances (though not the morphological nitpick you are talking about, Asya).  I suppose I would not use the term Little Russian, as some nineteenth century books do, and I would probably be a little uncomfortable if a Russian friend referred to it as Malorusskii iazyk, if that was ever a term.  Of course, I don’t know why Ukrainian, which sounds to me as if they are on the border with someplace, would be any better, but they are OK with it, so I guess that’s what I will use.

          • Ario

            James I dont think you even read my comment before responding.The word Farsi was basically non existent in english language before the 1980′s,while Persian and its variation has been in use in European languages for about 2500 years.
            So if anything I am asking your chinese friend to call it “zhongwen” Rather than “English”.You ask me why?!Ive listed a variety of reasons for you and even assuming that Asya is right about there being no purely linguistic reason to choose one of the 2 words((Although many of the reasons listed above are actually the opinion of distinguished non Persian linguists!) ,I am yet to hear a reason for using Farsi over Persian specially considering all of the “Non Linguistic”reasons ive listed.Also why is this done in case of Persian and not done in case of other languages,Why isnt “Türkče” used rather than Turkish,Why isnt “Español” used rather than Spanish,and even more similarly why isnt “Elinici” rather than Greek?!

          • Asya Pereltsvaig

            Here’s a possible linguistic reason why “Türkče” and “Español” are not used in English: they are not possible English words as they contain sounds not found in English (marked by letters ü and ñ, respectively).

  • Ario

    Quote from the link above: 
    “Linguistically, it is widely accepted that native speakers and foreigners use different words to describe the same language. Alex Bellem from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, observes[43]:
    “If we insist on ‘Farsi’ then shouldn’t we insist also on ‘Türkče’ or ‘Español’ or ‘Elinici’,, and so on? Since it is accepted in linguistics as natural that non-native words are adapted to conform to the phonology of the borrowing language (perhaps via an intermediate ‘conveyor’ language), can we object to ‘Persian’ on linguistic grounds?”
    Joseph Bell, Professor of Arabic and Middle-Eastern Languages and Cultures at the University of Bergen in Norway is stronger in his condemnation[44]:
    “No one would seriously consider substituting Deutschland for Germany, or Deutsch/Deutscher for German in English. ‘Deutschland’ exists, of course, in English, but with connotations for which a high price was paid . . But to use the word [Farsi] as the normal term for the national language of Iran has to be classified as one of the greatest affronts to great cultures in our time.”
    He goes on to examine the negative cultural implications of the usage of this term[45]:
    “Saying Farsi instead of Persian robs the language and the culture of all the sense of splendor the name Persian has taken on in western languages through two and a half millennia of war, trade, religious and cultural influence, and other forms of confrontation or subtle interaction”.