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Reflections of nationalism and the role of language policies in national identity formation in Post-Soviet Azerbaijan

Akyıldız, Selma
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the newly independent Azerbaijan has entered its nation-building process. Azerbaijani political elites aimed to re-form national identity through a set of language policies. In this context, they focused on the alphabet, and on the name of the official language which they consider as markers of their national identity. Turkism versus Azerbaijanism as the two competing ideologies have left their mark on this process. Language has been used as a political tool for promoting Turkish identity first and then Azerbaijani identity. This study will analyze the construction of Azerbaijani national identity in the post-Soviet period scrutinizing language policies in the light of the ethnosymbolist approach where symbols, myths, values, and memories are the decisive elements for the formation of national identity. In this regard, language has assumed a vital role by ascending Azerbaijani national consciousness and by awakening the feeling of unity and uniformity among the Azerbaijanis. I argue that the Azerbaijani presidents relied on language policies to assist the nation-building process in the country, which had a strong influence on the creation of the Azerbaijani national identity together with the influence of the Nagorno-Karabakh war. In this context, I will examine the shifts, continuities, and ruptures in the political discourse of the Azerbaijani elite with regard to the name of the nation and language after Azerbaijan’s independence in 1991.