BASEES Annual Conference 2022

City, Ethnicity, Islam, and National Development: Negotiating Self-Identity in Baku, 1860s- 1910s

Fri8  Apr04:00pm(20 mins)
CWB Syndicate Room 1


Yelena Abdullayeva


The annexation and incorporation of Azerbaijan into the Russian empire in 1813 and 1828 generated new cultural settings. The long-established cultural centres lost their significance in the development of cultural authenticity among Azerbaijanis. Baku gained prominence because of the oil boom of the 1870s that transformed this small town into the largest oil centre in the world and the largest urban centre in the South Caucasus. The Russian Imperial administrative elite considering Baku the frontline between Asian and European worlds tried to modify the city into a European modern urban centre different from the traditional Muslim environment. In this paper, I explore how Azerbaijanis, who lived in or had recently moved to Baku, lost connections with their traditional social environments and faced a need to defend their interests and culture in the multi-ethnic urban community that no longer served an Azeri-only population. I argue that the development of the European-style urban center propelled the rise of native bourgeoise and intelligentsia and their ideas on the birth of the millat, nation, within the multi-ethnic community of Baku and at the larger scale of the Russian empire between 1870s and 1910s.