Introduction / History
While the origins of the Azerbaijanis, (also known as the Azeris), are unclear, we do know that they have been subjected to numerous invasions throughout their history. The homeland of the Azeris was first conquered by the Persians in the sixth century B.C. Islam was introduced into the area during the seventh century A.D. and has been practiced there ever since.
What Are Their Lives Like?
By the eleventh century, Persian influence was overpowered by Turkic influence, which explains the blending of Turkic and Persian aspects of their culture. The Azerbaijanis scattered around the same time as the Turks, between the sixth and the eleventh centuries. During the thirteenth century, this region of Asia was conquered by Genghis Khan's short lived Mongol Empire.
The Azeri language belongs to the southwestern (Oguz) branch of the Turkic language family. There are two main subgroups of Azeri: Azerbaijani North and Azerbaijani South. The main differences are in the sounds and basic grammatical structure of the languages. Azeri has a written tradition that dates back to the fourteenth century. Arabic script is used in Iran and the Cyrillic alphabet is used in Azerbaijan. Azeri serves as the somewhat hybrid, yet common, language of eastern Transcaucasus, southern Dagestan, and northwestern Iran.
In the past, a clan-type family structure was common among the Azeris. The clan, or hoj, was usually named after a common ancestor. Clan members were bound to provide mutual aid to each other. They frequently acted as a unified entity in business dealings. In a desire to protect their culture, Azerbaijani marriages were usually within the family. They preferred unions between first cousins. Marriage to a non-Azeri was almost unheard of prior to the Soviet period. Polygyny (having more than one wife) was only allowed in cases of infertility.
Numerous invasions, and the tribal nature of the people caused the Azeris to spread throughout Central Asia. Today, there are significant Azeri communities in Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, Armenia, Iraq, and especially Iran and Azerbaijan, their homeland. There are smaller pockets of Azerbaijanis in former Soviet republics including Moldova, Belarus, Lithuania, Estonia, and Georgia.
In 1979, a significant number of Azeris formed emigrant colonies in the Central Asian nations. The Azeri colony in Turkmenistan consists almost entirely of urban oil specialists. In other nations, including Kyrgyzstan, the community is divided between rural farmers and city dwellers who are mainly technicians and engineers.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Because of the Azeri's historical ties with Iran, Shia Islam is dominant. The Azeris are primarily of the Ithna Ashari (Twelver's) tradition of Shia Islam, which emphasizes the importance of 12 divinely ordained leaders, one of whom will appear with Christ in the end times. There are also some Sunni Muslims among them. Until the twentieth century, most Azeris identified more with Islam than with their nationality. These beliefs were modified, especially under the atheistic rule of the USSR. Today it is common for the Azeris to be non-religious, or to have little to do with their religious traditions.
What Are Their Needs?
The Azeris need the chance to make Christ the center of their lives so they can live life to the full (Jn. 10:10).
Pray for dedicated believers to go to the Azeri community in Kazakhstan with the gospel.
Pray for spiritual discernment and hunger that will lead them to the cross and the empty grave.
Pray for the Holy Spirit to move among Azeri family heads in Kazakhstan so they will be willing to listen with open hearts and minds.
Pray for a Disciple Making Movement among Azeris in the 2020s.
Scripture Prayers for the Azerbaijani in Kazakhstan.