Prayer Profile
The Azerbaijani of Uzbekistan

[IMAGE] Although the origin of the Azerbaijani (also known as the Azeri) is unclear, the region and the people have been the focus of numerous invasions throughout their history. They were conquered first by the Persians in the sixth century B.C. However, by the eleventh century A.D., Persian influence over the area was overpowered by Turkic influence. During the thirteenth century, the region fell while under the dominion of Genghis Khan.

Most of the Azeri are Muslims. Arab Muslims first introduced Islam to the region during the seventh century A.D.; and it has been practiced there ever since.

In 1979, a significant number of Azeri formed emigrant colonies in the Central Asian nations. The Azeri colony in Turkmenistan consists almost entirely of urban oil specialists. In other nations, including Uzbekistan, the community is divided between rural farmers and city dwellers who are mainly technicians and engineers.

What are their lives like?
In the past, the clan-type family structure was common among the Azeri. The clan, or hoj, was usually named after a common ancestor. Clan members shared pasture land and were bound to provide mutual aid to each other. They frequently acted as a unified entity in business dealings. It was also common for up to forty members of an extended family to live together in large dwellings called gazma.

The development of petroleum resources in the region has changed the living conditions of many Azeri. While some still farm the rich soils, many have moved into the cities and towns to work in industry. There they find themselves occupying the lower skilled jobs and taking direction from "foreign" managers.

In a desire to protect their culture, marriage within the family was encouraged. Unions between first cousins were considered the most desirable. 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.

The Azeri diet consists mainly of rice pilaf and a variety of grilled and boiled meats including beef, goat, and lamb. Traditional dishes include bozartma (mutton stew), dovga (a soup made from yogurt), meat, and herbs. Tea and wine are popular drinks.

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 beliefs?
Uzbekistan's Azeri are primarily Muslims of the Shi'ite tradition, but there are some Hanafite Muslims as well. Azeri shi'ism is a reflection of the historical ties that exist between Azerbaijan and Iran. Until the twentieth century, most Azeri identified themselves as Muslims rather than Azerbaijani or Turks. They believe that being a "spiritual community of Islam" was much more important that being a nation.

Among the Azeri, religious practices are less restrictive of women's activities than in most of the other Muslim countries. The majority of Azeri women have jobs outside the home, and a few have attained leadership positions. However, some evidence of the traditional, restrictive female role remains.

What are their needs
The Azeri living in Uzbekistan are still very resistant to the Gospel and there are no known believers among them. The availability of the Jesus film and scriptures are all positive aspects, but with only two missions agencies targeting them, reaching these people remains a difficult task. At the present time, Uzbekistan is closed to traditional missions.

Prayer Points

  • Pray that the doors of Uzbekistan will soon open to missionaries.
  • Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Uzbekistan and share Christ with the Azeri.
  • Pray that prayer teams will be called to go and to break up the soil through worship and intercession.
  • Ask God to reveal Himself to these Muslims through dreams and visions.
  • Pray that God will open doors for Christian businessmen to share Christ with the Azeri.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
  • Pray for God to give favor and strategies to the missions agencies that are targeting the Azeri.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Azeri by the year 2000.

See also the following Azerbaijani Groups:
The Azerbaijani of Kygerzstan; The Azerbaijani of Russia; The Azerbaijani of Turkey;
The Azerbaijani of Turkmenistan; The Azerbaijani of Ukraine; The Azerbaijani of Armenia;
The Azerbaijani of Azerbaijan; The Azerbaijani of Georgia; and The Azerbaijani of Iraq.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Azerbaijani
  • Country: Uzbekistan
  • Their language: Azeri
  • Population: (1990) 45,800
    (1995) 51,200
    (2000) 56,900
  • Largest religion: Muslim (IThna Ashari) 56%
    Muslim (Hanafite) 24%
    Nonreligious 20%
  • Christians: None
  • Church members: None
  • Scriptures in their own language: Bible
  • Jesus Film in their own language: Available
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 2
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 14,900 (30%) Those evangelized by local Christians: None
    Those evangelized from the outside: 14,900 (30%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 36,300 (70%)
  • Country: Uzbekistan
  • Population: (1990) 20,420,200
    (1995) 22,843,000
    (2000) 25,383,200
  • Major peoples in size order: Northern Uzbek 71.3%
    Russian 8.3%
    Tajik 4.7%
    Kazak 4.0%
    Tatar 2.3%
  • Major religions: Muslims 74%
    Nonreligious 12%
    Atheists 9.2%
  • Number of denominations: 22

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Bethany World Prayer Center

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