Azeri: Üzr istəyirəm …

The language project arrives in Azerbaijan, known as the land of eternal flame. The name itself originates from “Azer” which was what the first settlers called “fire.” The legacy of those tribes lives on, with eternal fires burning in various sites around the country.

With a history that stretches all over the South Causcus, Azeri finds influences from its Turkish, Iranian, Russian and to a lesser degree, Armenian neighbors.

Since 5,000 years ago, Azerbaijan was composed of several different unified states. In the beginning of the 200s AD the region was ruled by what is now modern-day Iran, leading to a wave of Persian and Arab migration. About five centuries later, after the introduction of Islam and brief Arabic rule, Turkic ethnic groups entered the region, which  would heavily impact the future of Azerbaijan. The Oguz Turks brought their language with them, which would heavily impact Azerbaijan’s identity. After the fall of Arabic rule and the spread of Islam, Azerbaijan became even more unified through its reinvigorated system of independent states, holding its own against Byzantium and neighboring Turkish tribes. This led to a renaissance of classic Azerbaijan culture and a bloom in the Azeri language.

Credit can also be given to Uzun Hasan, a ruler during the mid 1400s and his grandson, who sought to unite the states. Azeri had become the state language and was soon used diplomatically; this eased international relations while allowing the language to replace already spoken Turkic ones. Azeri rulers would govern until the mid 18th century, when Iran took control of the country. Azerbaijan would later be passed to the Gajar family, leading to a brief dynasty before the beginning of its tumultuous history with Russia.

By the 1800s, the northern part of Azerbaijan was part of Russia. The lands were invaded and Russia would carry out genocide against native Azeris in the year to come. At the time, Armenians were transplanted into the Karabakh region (conflict between Azeris and Armenians over the region is still happening today). After Turkey intervened around the end of WWI, Azerbaijan formed its own republic, the first of its kind in the Near East.

Azerbaijan would continue to be attacked by Russia, as more genocides would unfortunately take place. The country became part of the USSR and its riches (specifically oil) would be exploited. Even more, native Azeris were deported and Armenians would claim the western part of the region. Things wouldn’t get better until Heydar Aliyev came into power in 1969, creating a series of economic and cultural reforms that revolutionized the country. Like all the other countries that made of the U.S.S.R., Azerbaijan gained independence in the early 1990s, when Aliyev was elected again and helped rescue the country from its post-Communist problems. Despite the ongoing conflict over Karabakh, Azerbaijan has rapidly aligned itself with a modern European identity, joining the Council of Europe and lots of other continental groups.


Prior to 1992, Azeri was written in Cyrillic. It now uses the Latin alphabet, but Cyrillic is still common. A Perso-Arabic script is also used in Iran, but I’m not including it because it’s not standardized. Cyrillic is on the left and Latin is on the right (bold); most of the sounds are the same, but there are exceptions:

А а / A a
Б б / B b
Ҹ ҹ / C c
Ч ч / Ç ç – ch as in church
Д д / D d
E e / E e
Ə ə / Ə ə – a as in ash
Ф ф / F f
Ҝ ҝ / G g
Ғ ғ / Ğ ğ – no similarities in English; a strong, throaty “ch” sound as in loch
Һ һ / H h
Х х / X x – ch as in loch
Ы ы / I ı – i as in it
И и / İ i
Ж ж / J j
K k / K k
Г г / Q q – g as in go
Л л / L l
М м / M m
Н н / N n
O o / O o – o as in off
Ө ө / Ö ö – o as in world
П п / P p
Р р / R r
С с / S s
Ш ш / Ş ş – sh as in shut
Т т / T t
У у / U u
Ү ү / Ü ü – u as in lute
В в / V v
Ј ј / Y y
З з / Z z

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Azeri doesn’t really sound that hard. I know Turkish is agglutinative and Azeri definitely sounds like Turkic-based, but I can make out the words. I really like the way the Ğ ğ (velar fricative) is used a lot, as it’s non-existent English. It’s still a little too early to tell. If I had to give an immediate description, Azeri sounds like the Turkish progeny of a Persian stepmother and Russian father. Like I said, it’s too early to tell.

I think you’ll love the video I included below, as it cracked me up. Spiderman teaches you how to count in Azeri! Seriously, you should subscribe to his videos, because they are not only informative but really hilarious.

5 thoughts on “Azeri: Üzr istəyirəm …

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