Comparative Study in Azerbaijani & Polish Situations of Multiculturalism

Comparative study of multiculturalism phenomenon in Azerbaijan and Polandprimarily  requires the analysis of the structure of both societies. Conducted research should be focusedmainly on the data about ethnic and linguistic groups and cultural minorities living in thecountries. To present the ethnic structure of polish society I will use the latest Polish National Censuspublished in 2011 by Central Statistical Office. Statistics concerning Azerbaijani population by ethnic groups are taken from Statistical Yearbook published by the State Statistical Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The latest available data present the social structure from 2009. The attempt to define and characterize Azerbaijani and Polish model of multiculturalism will be made.

Essay about multiculturalism would be useless without a definition of this term. The concept can be explained in two ways. The simple and more common definition states that “multiculturalism is the co-existence of diverse cultures, where culture includes racial, religious, or cultural groups and is manifested in customary behaviours, cultural assumptions and values, patterns of thinking, and communicative styles”. The second explanation relates rather to the theoretical aspects and defines multiculturalism as a view on the socio-political state system. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica „multiculturalism is the view that cultures, races, and ethnicities, particularly those of minority groups, deserve special acknowledgement of their differences within a dominant political culture”.Thus, multiculturalism means not only to accept and tolerate different cultures, races, and ethnicities. It demands to provide special acknowledgement of minority groups that can significantly affect state politics and way of governance. The so-called special acknowledgement may take the form of: 1) recognition of contributions to the cultural life of the political community as a whole; 2) a demand for special protection under the law for certain cultural groups; 3)  autonomous rights of governance for certain cultures.Two last possibilities clearly indicate that multiculturalism supportsstrong position of minority groups in state political order. There isno place nor intention to assetthis view in the essay. However, there are two main controversial issues regarding multiculturalism that need to be brought up. Firstly, strengthening the position of minorities by giving them numerous privileges can destabilize the institution of common good. The interests of certain groups may dominate the common good and interests supported by majority. In this contextmulticulturalism undermines the notion of equal rights which is the second problem. In extreme cases this may evencause a total distrust for the political value of equal treatment.Multiculturalism does not function without politics favourable for minorities. At the same time, it is a state and government responsible for creating cultural politics in every country. This means that every country may lead its own and unique multicultural politics and a universal model of multiculturalism simply does not exist. In the following part of the essay an analysis of the Azerbaijani and Polish models will be provided.

As data provided by United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs indicate, today in Azerbaijan live about 9.868.000 people. In 2009, 91,6% of citizens were Azerbaijanians. That means that around 8,5% ofpopulation in the country consists of minorities. The Statistical Yearbook mentions following minorities: Lezgis, Armenians, Russians, Talyshs, Avars, Turkishs, Tatarians, Tats, Ukrainians, Sakhurs, Georgians, Jews, Kurds, Kryzs, Udins, Khynalygs and other nationalities. Using the example of the most numerous minority of Lezgisthat makes up approximately 2% of all citizens I will make the attempt to describe Azerbaijani model of multiculturalism.The ethnic group is located in north-eastern Azerbaijan (Qusar, Quba and Khachmazdistricts) and southern Dagestan, Russia. It is estimated that around 40% of population in Qusarand Khachmaz regions are Lezgis and they have majority in some towns and villages of the region. In this case a phenomenon that originally applies to multiculturalism in the United States called “majority-minority” may also be used in the context of Azerbaijan. It describes a situation when ethnic minorities make up a majority of a local population. Due to that they are able to influence local governments and demand support in maintaining their culture, language, etc. As recommendations prepared for Azerbaijan by Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe based on the statement of Federal Lezghin National and Cultural Autonomy claim, main ethic problem in the Caucasus is the division of Lezgis by the Russian-Azerbaijani border. The line between two countries for Lezgis is often the insuperable barrier between brothers, sisters, and whole families. Moreover, Lezgis who frequently speak at homes their native language complain that they have difficulties with teaching young generations Lezgian language at schools due to the textbooks imported from Russia not adapted to contemporary teaching.This is a perfect example that frequently the efforts to provide a minority with all rights and freedoms requires a cooperation between two countries. It also shows that regarding multiculturalism the cooperation between central and local governments is essential. The law provided by central rule must be supported by activities taken at the local or regional level.Lezgis group is followed by Armenian, Russian, and Talyshs minorities that make up to 1,3% of population in Azerbaijan each.

As I mentioned before multiculturalism is not only the presence of ethnic minorities in the country, but also a view that minorities deserve special acknowledgement of their differences within a dominant political culture and should be included in the state politics and governance. In other words, multiculturalism can be identified withthe strategy of a democratic state based on acceptance and tolerance. Thus, to define the model of multiculturalism in Azerbaijan it is necessary to know whether  state policy and governance embrace minorities and what activities are led toward ethnic groups by Azerbaijani state. Firstly, we need to refer to Constitution of Azerbaijan and its provisions regarding minorities. Article 21from the second section in its third point claims that “(…)The Republic of Azerbaijan shall guarantee the free use and development of other languages spoken by the population.”.Also, article 45 from the third section of constitution defend the linguistic rights of minorities “1) Every Person shall have the right to use Native language. Everyone shall have the right to be raised and get an education, be engaged in creative activities in Native Language; 2) No one can be deprived of the right to use Native Language.”. Moreover, the European Council admits that Azerbaijan made a great effort to guarantee all rights and freedom for ethnic minorities in the context of implementation of the  Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in 2004.

Population of Poland is estimated for 38.593.000 people in 2016. The National Census published in 2011 indicates that more than 871 thousand (2,26%) citizens declared to be polish and other ethnic identity and more than 596 thousand (1,55%) claimed non-polish roots and identity. That means that Poland is highly homogenous state with undifferentiated demographic structure. Ethnic minorities make up only to 1,5% of Polish population. According to National Census there are 22 different national or ethnic minorities distinguished. The most numerous are: Silesian, German, Belarusian, Ukrainian,Kashubian Romany (Gypsy),Lemkos, Russian, Lithuanian. Silesians make up to 1% of the total population, German, Belarusian and Ukrainian to 0,1%. The number of other minorities is so law that in general data they are represented as 0%. To provide you with some accurate numbers Lemkos are estimated for 5,6 thousand, Russians for 5,2 thousand, and Lithuanians for 4,8thousand. In this case, it is rather difficult to analyze the Polish model of multiculturalism, because it is difficult to speak about multiculturalism in Poland itself. The homogenous demographic structure makes the idea of multiculturalism in Poland rather poor. Also, the concept of multiculturalism regarding state politics is a secondary matter.

To conclude, the term“multiculturalism” states not only for the coexistence of many national and ethnic groups within a country, but also for the idea that the issue of minorities should be a relevant matter to state politics and governing in the context of acknowledgement of their differences within the dominant political culture. The model of multiculturalism in Azerbaijan I would describe as “general model/pattern”. The country makes a great effort to guarantee all rights and freedom to ethnic minorities. Its law is adjusted to standards regarding the rights of ethnic groups and assures such as linguistic rights and freedom of education and cultivating own culture. The confirmation of the success in this matter is confirmed by such international institutions as European Council or OSCE. Moreover, many initiatives such as creating Baku International Multiculturalism Center were performed. The educational action took by the Multiculturalism Center gives a great opportunity not only to find out more about issue of multiculturalism itself and multiculturalism in Azerbaijan, but alsogives other countries a clue how to deal with this matter. In the context of multiculturalism the comparative study between situation in Azerbaijan and Poland cannot be made. However, the Azerbaijani model could be applied in Poland to some extend as a model of relations between state politics and minorities as well as inspiration for educational activities considering such topics as tolerance, acceptance and multiculturalism.   




„Multiculturalism”, The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, available on 01/19/2016 []

„Multiculturalism”, Encyclopedia Britannica, available on 01/19/2016 []


Population of Azerbaijan 2015(statistical bulletin), State Statistical Committee Republic of Azerbaijan

Statistical Yearbook, State Statistical Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan, 2009.

Federal Lezghin National and Cultural Autonomy, The 2015 Human Dimension and Implementation Meeting, Warsaw 21 September – 2 October 2015, Working Session 17: Tolerance and non-discrimination II, 1 October 2015, available at:

Article 21(3)/Section 2, Cnstitution of Azerbaijan.

Article 45/section 3, Constitution of Azerbaijan.

National Census.National, Ethnic, Linguistic and Religious Structure of Population in Poland, Main Statistical Office, 2011.


Olga Krajewska


Participant of International Multiculturalism Winter School "Multiculturalism as a liestyle in Azerbaijan:Learn, Explore, Share"

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