The “Wild West” in Azerbaijan: Notes on Late 1980s Soviet Ethnosociology

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Alexander Formozov


In the mid-1980s, Viktor Karlov, a Moscow-based ethnologist, led an ethno- sociological study in Azerbaijan. The aim was to survey samples of all of Azerbaijan’s ethnic groups and ethnographic regions in order to gauge levels of modernization and Sovietization, as expressed through indicators such as ethnic self-identification, values, gender roles, and attitudes toward traditional customs. The survey had to be abandoned in 1987 due to ethnic tensions, and the data were never fully analyzed. Karlov discusses observations from the field on ethnic and religious identification as well as political obstacles faced by the researchers. Corruption and payment to obtain employment were rampant. There was an oversupply of labor, leading to hidden unemployment. The resulting frustration was vented in interethnic clashes. Local authorities sometimes interfered with the survey work in order to mask critical attitudes or ethnic diversity. In Russian, summary in English.


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