Russians represented 6 per cent of the population in 1989. By 1999, mass emigration had seen the proportion of Russians reduced to 1.8 per cent. According to the 2009 census their numbers have diminished further to 119,300, accounting for 1.3 per cent of the population. They are the third largest ethnic minority group.
Russians are primarily concentrated in urban centres. Russian Orthodox believers enjoy freedom of worship in Azerbaijan.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union Russians were not widely discriminated against in Azerbaijan, although some concern was expressed following the introduction of an Azeri language programme promoting wider use of the Azeri language in 1989–90. Russians and Russian-speakers feared that they would become increasingly disadvantaged in terms of education and employment opportunities. The status of Russians and Russian-speakers improved after moves to ban the tuition of Russian in schools were overturned.
Russian is the second most commonly used language in Azerbaijan, with around 300 secondary schools, 18 high schools and 38 national schools providing education in Russian. Russian continues to be widely used in Azerbaijan in multiple spheres, despite efforts to promote Azeri as the state language. Russian appears to be spoken widely among various ethnic groups and with other formerly Soviet countries.
Television, print and internet media in Russian are widely available. It is estimated that some 7 per cent of students in secondary and higher education study in Russian, while there has been a rise in the number of Russian-medium schools. This reflects continued adherence to Russian among Azerbaijan’s national minorities despite the dramatic decline in the Russian demographic presence in the republic.
Updated March 2018