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Georgia: An Azeri Wedding

This post is part of our special coverage Caucasus Conflict Voices.

azeri_wedding

Azeri Wedding, Karajala, Kakheti Region, Georgia © Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimediia 2009

Last weekend saw an unprecedented event occur in the South Caucasus. Flying Carpets and Broken Pipelines blogger Arzu Geybullayeva, an Azerbaijani citizen based in Istanbul, Turkey, and Baku, Azerbaijan, worked with Global Voices Online's Caucasus Editor Onnik Krikorian, a British citizen partly of Armenian descent based in Yerevan, Armenia, to produce various reports on an ethnic Azeri village situated close to Telavi, Georgia.

Although cross-border initiatives between journalists do occur, this initiative was unusual because not only was it undertaken by mutual voluntary consent, but it was also without the involvement of a “neutral” editor or organization. It was certainly the first time that bloggers on both Armenia and Azerbaijan, two countries in the South Caucasus still locked in a state of war over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh, came together.

arzu

Arzu Geybullayeva, Azeri Wedding, Karajala, Kakheti Region, Georgia © Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimediia 2009

As detailed on my Frontline Club blog, the collaboration was important for both personal and professional reasons. Geybullayeva, also an analyst on Azerbaijan, was perhaps the first English-language blog on her country to stand out in the region.

It was a dream come true. Despite knowing each other for several months online, the chances of meeting regional analyst and superstar blogger Arzu Geybullayeva seemed remote at best and unlikely at worst. [...]

[...]

But always expect the unexpected in the South Caucasus, and a meeting of youth activists inTelavi, Georgia, saw the unlikely happen. [...]

Ten minutes outside of Telavi was Karajala, a village Inhabited by approximately 8,000 ethnic Azeris in Georgia. As Arzu and I had often spoken about joint projects using traditional and new media to overcome the negative stereotypes of the other in play in Armenia and Azerbaijan, it provided us with the first of hopefully many projects along the same lines. What we weren't expecting, however, was to walk straight into an ethnic Azeri wedding.

azeri_wedding_arzu

Azeri Wedding, Karajala, Kakheti Region, Georgia © Arzu Geybullayeva / Flying Carpets and Broken Pipelines 2009

Writing on her own blog and posting her own photos, Geybullayeva also remembers the visit to Karajala and especially stumbling upon the wedding. She also details the history and context of the village in a country where ethnic Azeris constitute the largest minority with an overall population of around 280,000 according to a 2002 census.

According to the locals the population of the village is around 8,000 people (Wikipedia says between 8 and 10,000). All are ethnic Azerbaijanis who have lived there for several generations. They speak in Azerbaijani but with a dialect- they all use Georgian as well, so it is more of a mix. 16- year- old son of the village head says there are maybe 3 or 4 Georgian families.

[...]

To be honest, I wasn't expecting much. I thought at best, there would be some nice shots and maybe few interviews. Well, it was more than that. 30 minutes into the visit, a woman, whom we (me and journalist Onnik Krikorian) tried to interview told of a wedding that is taking place just five minutes from where we were standing.

The front yard of the house was crowded with people- neighbors, relatives who came to help. This was just the preparation; the wedding was to take place later in the evening and that was the only the girl’s wedding (according to Azerbaijani traditions there are two weddings- girl and boy, the boy’s wedding is the actual wedding). It all looked like well- planned team work- men were setting up the tables, while women were busy preparing food and washing the dishes. 300 guests were expected to come.

Several hours into chatting with locals, we got invited to the wedding itself, which was the ultimate experience.

 

 

A joint article and photostory will also soon be published by Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso while a slide show of my own photographs with an audio narrative from Geybullayeva can be viewed above. So far response from Armenian and Azerbaijani alike as well as others has been positive with some comments to that effect available on my Frontline Club post.

Dagen Valentine | October 1, 2009 7:44 PM

Onnik and Arzu,

Awesome. Collaborative efforts like this are what the region needs. Work like yours will help Azeris and Armenians recognize, accept, and celebrate their differences and similarities.

[...]

scary azeri | October 1, 2009 10:55 PM

Wow, I loved this! Well done, guys. Arzu- you are too cute! You need to do more video interviews. :)
On a more serious note, I have found this fascinating. I never KNEW there was an Azeri village in Georgia.

[...]

Medea Georgia | October 2, 2009 6:28 AM

Hey, guys, great initiative…not only for Armenians and Azeris to get closer to each other, but for Georgians as well…Viva to integrated and strong South Caucasus

Narmina | October 2, 2009 9:31 AM

It is so nice that there are people who want to see South Caucasus united. I hope that one day end will come to war and hate between nations in Caucasus. We have to be united and support each other!

A larger version of the audio slideshow as well as a video interview with Arzu Geybullayeva on the visit shot on a mobile phone is also available on the my Frontline Club post as well as below. Geybullayeva was also interviewed by Global Voices Online in July. Hopefully this will mark the start of other collaborations between Armenian and Azerbaijani bloggers in the months and years to come.

 

This post is part of our special coverage Caucasus Conflict Voices.

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