The Changes On The Education Of Multinational Caucasia



Ali Shamil

Chief of department of International Relationships of Folklore Institute of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences




Caucasia is a region, situated at intersection of Europe and Asia. Nations living here are different from each other about language, religion and ethnic root. They talk in more than fifty languages. As the region is situated, on strategic position the empires, established here, fought to invade the region. The educational problem of the nations, belonging to different cultures, solved within the principle of voluntariness. Religion organizations were leading on education. Jews studied at synagogue, Christians at church and Muslims at madrasah.       

  Until the invasion of Russia, I mean, until 19th century, no one was educated compulsory, also there was no religion or nationally conflict among these nations at this region until 20th century. 

Russia, who wanted to follow the tradition of European countries, began to teach the sons of nobles-dvorians to create a support point in Caucasia after the occupation of region. Parents, whose children spoke in Russian, the European type schools were free of tax.   

These schools were missionary as well. Russia pursued a policy of Christianization and after Russianization policy. Despite the missionarism, pupils studied in these schools, became the patriots. 

After the collapse of Russia Empire on 1917, slavery countries became the establishing under the leadership of intellectuals, who had graduated these schools. The Bolsheviks, after strengthening the economically and military, began to recover the empire again. Bolsheviks began to abolish the new established governments by attacking. Despite Bolsheviks valued education, they used it for their benefit to propagate their ideology among the people. Russianization policy was implemented under the internationalization, the culture of exploited people, was assimilated and isolated from the developed countries.    

Fourteen republics declared their independence, when the Soviet Union collapsed on 1991 – a big differences happened on education as well. Engineers, teachers, doctors and etc. were taught the ideological education at universities during Soviet Union as well. 

After the collapse of Soviet Union, the teaching of ideological subjects cancelled in education. Students of independent governments began to get the education in different countries of world.  The Finnish system was introduced in Azerbaijani education. Thousands students went not only to Europe and America; in addition, they went to Korea, Japan, Chine and Malaysia to study there.   They turned back with a culture, science of those countries. Thus, new form of integration appeared in Azerbaijan.

Key words: Azerbaijan, Caucasian people, Russian Empire, education and teaching styles.




A limited number of students were taught the reading and writing in religious temples, in palaces on ancient times. Demand was increased for intellectuals over the years. Education was spread among the people out of the palace and temples, as the need increases over time.

The occurrence of Islam and occupation of Arabs the neighboring nations, made science, education, economy and culture to be developed.  

Arabic caliphs influenced other governments not only fighting. They used diplomacy, propagated Islam very rapidly. For example, al-Balazury the great historic of 9th century, mentioned that, Azerbaijan joined to Arabic Caliphate with the peace, concluded with Huzaipha ibn al-Yaman, with Hijri calendar, on 18th (on 639-th year) century (Azərbaycan tarixi, 2007:132, 2-ci cild). Not only Azerbijan, even powerful countries accepted Islam by diplomacy as well. Alban monarch Javanshir going to Damascus, made a diplomacy with the caliph of Muaviye on 667th and 670th years.  As a result, Albania had subjected to Caliphate (Azərbaycan tarixi, 2007:139, ikinci cild). As sixty year passed over the accepting of Islam, Azerbaijan joined to Amavis caliphate. 

The accepting of Islam of nations developed the economy, science of the people spreading from Gibraltar throat, connecting Atlantic Ocean to the White Sea, to the India, from Great Wall of China to the area in north, where Tatars and Bashgirds live. The reason of this was the applying of same rules and laws of Kuran and the safety of caravan roads.

Thus, the safety of stability, the rule of the same law in a big area, made to develop the science and education. In one of the hadith about Islamic prophet Muhammad, told that, even if science is in China, have to follow it. That is, the religious, racial and national obstacles were eliminated, about the learning of science.  Thus, the number of schools increased rapidly. According to researchers, Hajjaj ibn Yusif (661-714), who was the member of caliphate (Антология педагогической…, 1989:13), used the word of school firstly. First madrasah was opened in Nishapur (Current Iran Islamic Republic) city on the end of 10th century, after, in whole big cities were opened the madrasah.  In addition, it was organized general and individual education at schools and madrasahs, at whole places for dervishes, in Sufi’s grave and home and in other places  (Azərbaycan tarixi, 1999:260-261, second volume).

Karim Shukurov mentions that, the establishing of Saljug government and becoming the political leader, was observed with the innovations on education as well. The vizier Nizamulmulk (1018-1092) had a great role on this. This foresight vizier opened the madrasahs at Baghdad city, named “Nizamiye”, to train the higher qualification staff – teacher, researcher, engineer doctors etc on 1067th year. (Əliyeva N., 2015). So many Azerbaijani researchers worked at these madrasahs together with Khatib Tabrizi, so many youth got the opportunity to get education  (Şükürov Kərim, 2016:12).

Big educational institutions of Azerbaijan were opened not only in big cities, but in villages as well. For example, 3rd Alban monarch Momin Vachagan had sponsored to his own school in Rusak village, (Kalankatuklu Moisey, 1993:53). Omar ibn Kafiyaddin opened “Darül Şəfa” (healing house) at Malham village near the Shamakhi city on 11th century (Şirvani Xaqani, 1978). According to researchers, the level of education was higher in those madrasahs, such as a widely researches were not only about education, treatment but about whole sciences as well.  For example, it was used the Agaricales mushroom here, which was taken the penicillin by Europeans (Orta esr elyazmaları…, 2006:89). We can show the Yaksai madrasa which was operated on 19th century, as an example (Şamil Əli, 2011:329).

Actually, these educational institutions weren’t opened in a big villages or in a strategically places. These institutions mention a modern university campus with a fresh air, beautiful nature. Teachers in these madrasahs were not only Muslims, they also were Jews, Christians, Buddhists. It was normally to invite the teacher from Chine, India, Egypt, European countries to teach in these madrasahs, and wasn’t any religious or national conflict between them, on the contrary, they discussed religion and beliefs comprehensively here.    The works of Greece, Roma, Egypt, Indian, Chinese philosophers were taught in Arabic language in madrasahs (Azərbaycan tarixi, 1999:124). There was a tolerance in education, that is, modern multicultural values, were kept, in Middle Ages madrasahs.


The structure of educational institutions and teaching system

Despite daughter and son of noblemen was taught at palaces individually, king’s children studied at madrasah mainly. It needs a special preparation. This preparation realized in schools, which were opened by mullah in villages, and in big cities. 

Mullah taught student firstly reading and secondly writing. So many poems were memorized for the brain improve.  Despite village and district schools consist of 3-4 years, it wasn’t compulsory. Depending on the ability of student school program could be finished in 2 or 3 years as well. Mullah warranted his talented students as a controller on the peers. Controller student taught his peers and controlled their education. Thus, he/she could repeat, also gained pedagogical experience. 

School alumnus qualified to study at madrasah. The education fee could be paid in a different way.  For example, whole expenses of reach families’ children were paid by their family. Expenses of poor families’ children were paid by associations and donations.   

Rich men weren’t enough by donating money, they also donated sown areas, mills, snacks and etc. The income of these sown, mill, snack was used on payment of poor students. Muslims fasted over thirty days and finally celebrated it with Ramadan holiday. According to Islamic principle, rich must to donate for per capita of family member. This charity depend on income of family.  Mostly they donated to madrasah not to poor families. Completely given charities were distributed to students and pupils, to handicapped, to lonely children, and to unemployed people in exile. It makes a chance to students to get education, to travel to other cities.

The syllabus was identified on teacher’s initiative and knowledge. Students were free to select the teacher and subject as well. That’s why student could change his/her city and continue education very easily.

Education consist of 3-4 stages here. For every stage was defined 3-4 years. Despite the education program had to lasted during 3-4 years, student could finish it in 2 years in Rushdiyya (secondary school). Rushdiyya alumnus could continue their education at  “İdadiyyə”. This stage is very similar with the modern European universities. A special  alumnus of Idadiya could continue their education at “Aliye”. This stage is similar with the PhD degree of modern universities. Alumnus of Aliya got the title of Mudarris (professor) (Медресе Южного Урала и Приуралья, 2010).

In madrasah had taught not only Islamic sciences, but also humanities and technical sciences. On the preparing of syllabus professors and students were entitled to equal rights. It improved the quality of education and created a condition for students to study with their lovely teachers. Mostly teacher made students to discuss. It made them to be a free-thinking person. One of the important problem is that, women (professors) taught in madrasahs as well and it was out of the focus for many years.  

Raising in madrasahs was continue with this system until 15th century. Madrasah teachers contributed to world civilization between 10-14th centuries. Big universities, observatories, hospitals, pharmacy and pharmacy shops, libraries were at Muslim Eastern, best scientists worked there. Mystical scientists had a great role on this development as well. The role of the creation of multicultural environment, mystical scientists was indispensable. The documents discovered that, madrasahs were under the state control. For example, it’s clear form the decree, given by Azerbaijan Atabaylar government, that, the relationship between teachers and students, also other problems were regulated by state (Hüseyinzadə Ə., 1968:46).

According to sources despite there were 170 school and 30 madrasahs in Azerbaijan on 13-14th centuries (Просвещение…,1968:396) the number of schools were increased to 600 and number of madrasahs were increased to 47 in Tabriz city on 1647. At the madrasah, opened by Fazlullah Rashidaddin the vizier of Kazan khan (1295-1304) at Tabriz city, studied seven thousand student  (Azərbaycan tarixi, 1999:299, 3-cü cild).

Despite we have an information about some scientists, poets, philosophers, doctors etc. studied at madrasahs, but we couldn’t get any information about their total numbers.

Islamic Sharia began to dominate on madrasahs since 15th century. It was a major impediment to progress of secular sciences. Madrasahs changed to an Islamic ideological center from the secularist center.



Strengthening of Islamic Sharia on madrasahs happened at the same period with Renaissance in Europe, with the degradation of religion, with the improvement of maritime.  

The improvement of maritime was the reason of European invasion of new lands and pillage of raw materials and wealth from there. It makes to improve the economy, industry, science in Europe. One of these countries was Russia. Russians, who were in Mongol-Tatar captivity more than 300 years, learned the management from them. After the revival began to occupy Kazan khanate (1552), Astrakhan khanate (1556) and after sent military expeditions to Siberia to expand the lands.  

Russia became a threatening to the Ottoman Empire, Safavi, Afshar, Gajar governments on 18th century. Russia occupied the Crime khanate after the attack to Caucasian, but was unable to defend the position there. Russian general Zubov pulled back the army to the south of Caucasia as soon as got the information of Gajar’s attack, but it was a temporary retreat at the end of century. 

Russia occupied the south of Caucasia, thus, Azerbaijan divided into two parts on 1804-13 and on 1926-28 years. Russia formed its own management on the occupied area. As a result of this, a new problem appeared in area. Such as local people couldn’t speak in Russian they couldn’t participate in management. It was difficult to create a control apparatus without the local officers. 

As a remedy, Russia opened a government schools at Azerbaijan. Christians and a few Muslims were admitted to these schools. To propagate the Russianism in region, madrasahs were condemned; to study in Russian was praised.   


Russianization and Christianization policy of Russia in region


 After the Crime war (1853-1853), the nationalism began to rise in Russia and Russian far sighted intellectuals wanted to russify and assimilate the Muslim people.   

Cold war of Tsarist Russia against the Muslim people was seem on education obviously.  Russian military criticized and hindered the old education system of madrasahs, with more than thousand year’s tradition and teaching method, giving enorm freedom to teachers and students. Local intellectuals, following this propagation, being under the influence of European improvement, unknowingly became an active member of this approach. Which is, Europe and America use at their modern universities the ancient madrasah’s system and present as innovation to the world.  

In addition that, madrasahs were hindered, parents who want to teach their children at madrasah, must to get permission letter from the regional director, otherwise they were punished. Government kept whole school and madrasahs in its custody on 1874. According to 1876 rule, it was compulsory to speak in Russian and to have an information about the program of Russian schools for madrasah’s teacher.    

Ministry of Education banned to open a school or madrasah without the permission of regional directors on 1877 (Özdemir E., 2007:41-49).

Despite the hindrance of government, the number of unauthorized schools and madrasahs raised day by day. Hundred alumnus of theology Academy, opened by Russia on 1846, propagated Christianity on the Islamic areas. The Committee of Translators translated the books about Christianity into Turkic languages and published on 1847. Government, religious organizations, public organizations supported those who accepted the Christianity. Every Christian family supported to build the house also got 200 Ruble (The Russian national money) money to improve the tillage (Pirmanov A. ve Kapeyeva A, 1997:69-70). Value of money was seventy sheep at that time.

It was given privilege to Russian families relocated to the regions. But still Muslim families paid 2,5-3 ruble[1] tax to pay the expenses of Christian families. These taxes raised every year. Besides, Muslims were forced to pay the tax to build the roads and keep the schools (Özdemir E., 2007:17-18).

Ministry of Education of Russia created a commission of missionary, which Nikolai Ivanivich Ilmunski was member on 27th March of 1870. Ilmunski, who was born at Penza and was educated as Orthodox missioner was sent to the cities of Istanbul, Damascus, Egypt of Ottoman Empire on 1851-1854 years after the graduating of Theology Academy. Missioner, learning Turkic, Arabic, Persian languages perfectly, wrote  book of “Türk-tatar dilçiliyi kursuna giriş” on 1861. He was chosen Chief of Department of Turkic-Tatar languages of Kazan University on 1863. He leaded to the Teacher Seminary in Kazan for long years. One of the developers of theoretical and practical principles of policy of Russification and Christianization was Nikolay Ilmunksi. When D.A.Tolstoy, the ministry of Education of Russia wrote that “education of people, who live within the borders of our homeland, must serve to their Russification and Christianization and assimilation of Muslims with Russian people” -  Nikolay Ilminski answered that “it’s impossible to fight against the Arabic alphabet as long as Islam ruled on people.”

According to Ilminski’s program, Russia should be replaced the Kirill alphabet with Arabic alphabet which is used by Turks-Muslims more than thousand year, to prepare different alphabet for every Turkic accent, to take apart them from their culture, history, to break their connection with each other.  Despite his program couldn’t be realized during Tsarist Russia, Soviets realized it very successfully by the local intelligentsia.

The visible side of Comission, which was created on 1870, was to increase the quality of education. Even government enacted about the paying of school expenses on 1874. After this enacting, began to collect additional tax from local people. The invisible side of these rules and laws was to assimilate the occupation people and to Russificate them. Another main goal of these schools was to assimilate people. To make them to think as Russian and forget their history, background culture (Özdemir E., 2007:46).

Great pedagogue and Christian Aleksandr Alektorov contorled the schools in Omsk, Akmola and Semey provinces, influenced not only on Ahmet but, on hundred patriotic intellectuals, scientists, pedagogues.  

Alexandr Alektorov, Chuvashian pedagogue, was met with missioner Ilminksi and liked his activity. But he didn’t followed his way. Such as he continued his missionary activity at education. According to his training, missioner must learn the history, folklore, ethnography, language, lifestyle of occupied peoples fully.  After knowing these, should be taken an action (Aldaşın A. 2013:68).


Jadidists and Westerners


The confusion happened on 1905 at Russia made Tsar 2nd Nikolai to accept the October Manifesto. As a result of this manifesto, even intellectuals of slavery nations could create their political organization.  We can divide the leader of that period into four group:

1.    Jadids, who want to perpetuate the tradition, proud of the heroism of ancestors and joined around the madrasahs named usul ul-kadim.  

2.    Jadids, who want to improve, following the Europe’s experience.  They joined around the madrasahs, named  usul ul-jadid;

3.    Westerners, who were under the influence of Russia and Europe and ignored the tradition;

4.    Socialists, who want to gain the social justice under the influence of revolutionary socialists.

As members of usul ul-kadim couldn’t be organized, we can’t see them on political sphere. There were two main power on political and national struggle: Jadids and Westerners. Despite these two power joined in many problems, but they had a difference on struggle method and it makes a big conflict between them.

Westerners demanded the Islamic law, want to be free from tradition, ignored the defenders of Turan ideology, want to turn away to the West but not to Ottoman Empire and Bukhara. Westerners believed that, nation will be prosperous under the influence of West. (Dulatov M, 1991:45).

The controversy between Westerner and Jadid leader became so deep that, westerners ignored the Turkism movement, even they didn’t participate at 1st 2nd and 3rd Russian Muslims Congresses organized on 1905-06 years. (Özdemir E, 2007:106).

The education of Muslims was banned during Tsar Russia, I mean Muslims could study at special technical schools only with the tsar’s permission (Mərdanov Misir, Tahirzadə Ədalət, 2018:10)

Ismail khan Ziyadkhan(1867-1920), the Azerbaijani deputy, told at the First State Duma of Russian Empire:  “South Caucasia was occupied by Russia hundred years ago… Muslims were under the pressure. No rights were given to us… No education was given to us.  Because there isn’t any school at our villages. We can’t met any school even within a hundred kilometers.  Whereas, Muslims pay tax for education. I wonder where this money is spent? To make military ships, which we can’t use anywhere… or to the ministries, which we don’t believe any of them?

Some of schools were lack of teaching materials. Some philantropists helped us and after some intellectuals were arrested!”  (Şükürov Kərim, 2016:15).


Russinization under the internationalism during Soviet Union

Bolshevik Russia occupied Azerbaijan after increasing the military might, on 28th April of 1920.  Thus, the government established on 28th May of 1918 was deleted from map.

Bolsheviks began to arrest the members of this government. They shooted more than 48 thousand people from 28th April 1920 until August of 1921 and most of them were intellectuals (Nəzərli, 1995:197). More than sixty rebellion happened and many political parties had hidden their activity (Qasımov, 1998:74).

Dadash Bunyadzadeh, the commissioner of public education, told at first Azerbaijan Soviets Congress on 1920-22: “During centuries Azerbaijanians hadn’t get any education. During the census we met only 62 educated teacher” (Mərdanov Misir, Tahirzadə Ədalət, 2018:11)

According to the researches of Adalet Tahirzadeh we can see that, more than 700  youth get education at the universities of Russia and Azerbaijan, after the gaining freedom on 1991 (Tahirzadə Ədalət, Tahirli Oğuztoğrul, 2016).

After the Bolshevik invasion the number of schools increased in Azerbaijan as well. Even at villages were opened the schools. The visible side of this is that, Bolsheviks wanted to educate the people, but invisible side was that, Bolsheviks wanted to propagate their ideology among the people. They want to make whole slavery people to forget their culture, history, and ancestor. Slogan against the national literature and culture was that: “Refuse Nizamis, Refuse Fuzulis! We need Verkharns, Uitmens, Mayokovskis” (Mərdanov Misir, Tahirzadə Ədalət, 2018:11).

According to university syllabus enginner, doctor, teacher must to learn the history of party, markssit philosophy, marksist ethic and esthetic, scientific communism, political economy during Soviet Union. These subjects consist 40 percent of whole lessons. Despite the main goal of Soviets was internationalism on theory, they never applied it on practice. 



After the collapse of Soviet Union Azerbaijan gained its freedom. But it wasn’t easy to fall out of the captive full.  The specialists who prepared the new syllabus were the persons of Soviets. Azerbaijan began to learn the experiences of advanced countires and as a result applied the Finnish Generation Program. 

The collapse of Soviets gave an opportunity for youths of Azerbaijan to study in different countries of world. Unfortunately, most of them  don’t turn back because of the lack of social welfare. Azerbaijani government has not taken any action to stop the brain drain.  

We haven’t met any student who went to Core, Chine, Japan, Vietnam on 19-20the centuries, but after the freedom of Azerbaijan their number is hundreds.




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International Conference on multiculture and Education ICME Koreya, Seul, Jungseok Memorial Library, Inha University 23 November 2019, p.3-19


[1]Rubl-Rusiyada işlədilən pul vahidi.

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