In the years immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union, ethnic Azeris in Georgia clamored to return to their titular homeland. But now, thanks in part to strong bilateral relations, the trend is changing: ethnic Azeris still in Georgia are staying put, and thousand who made their way to Azerbaijan are even opting to return.
Economic collapse, war and nationalist government policies prompted thousands of Georgia’s ethnic Azeris to head to neighboring Azerbaijan during the early 1990s. About 80 percent of the remaining estimated 350,000 ethnic Azeris in Georgia live in the southeastern region of Kvemo Kartli, a predominantly agricultural area.
The Azerbaijani government has no specific data on how many ethnic Azeri migrants are currently in Azerbaijan, but migration expert Azer Allahveranov, president of Baku’s Eurasian Platform for Civic Initiatives, a non-governmental organization, estimates that more than 95 percent of the 100,000 Georgian citizens believed to live in the country are ethnic Azeris.
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Shahin Abbasov is a freelance reporter based in Baku and a board member of the Open Society Assistance Foundation-Azerbaijan.