Introduction / History
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.
What Are Their Lives Like?
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.
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.
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. Most of the Azeris in Ukraine are in Donetsk Oblast, Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk.
Azeris have their own magazine and newspaper in the Azerbaijani language. Fifteen regions of Ukraine have Azerbaijani cultural societies, even though the Azeri population is fairly small in that country.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Most Azeris in Ukraine came fairly recently as guest workers, but they have made their mark in that country, especially in athletics. There are a number of ethnic Azeri soccer and volleyball players representing Ukraine in sporting events.
Officially the Azeris are Shia Muslims, but in Ukraine they are noted for not being religiously minded. Almost none of them follow Christ in this country that is known as the "Bible Belt" of Eastern Europe.
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 Ukrainian believers to go to the Azeri community 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 Ukraine 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 Ukraine.