Azerbaijani-Armenian Gay Romance Novel Fuels Controversy

030409_frontScandals and discussions have erupted in Azerbaijan over the bestselling new novel – “Artush and Zaur.” This book by Azeri writer Alekper Aliyev (who has been in Yerevan on at least two occasions that I can recall) has written a novel about the romance between two young men — one Armenian, one Azerbaijani. For a highly conservative society like Azerbaijan (and Armenia for that matter), the publication of this book comes as a real shock.
“Taboos will not be easily overcome” declares the sub-title of “Artush and Zaur.” And in this bestseller novel about the romance between two young men — one Armenian, one Azerbaijani — Azerbaijan is experiencing the truth of that line.
The Armenian-Azerbaijani combination alone might raise eyebrows, but in this tradition-bound society, the homosexual orientation of the novel’s two lovers is stirring additional controversy. By contrast, a heterosexual Armenian-Azerbaijani romance published in late 2008 received a largely favorable reaction.
None of Azerbaijan’s large publishing houses would print the novel. Some said the book was disgraceful; others that they were afraid, according to the author, Alekper Aliyev. A publishing house allegedly located in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, finally accepted the job.
Aliyev, the author, says that a desire “to fight against petrified stereotypes” motivated him to write the book.
This story, carried by EurasiaNet, attracted my attention for two reasons:
1. It is genuinely interesting
2. Why on earth did they put that news item into the Civil Society category?

Artur Papyan

Journalist, blogger, digital security and media consultant


  1. 1. It is really interesting! At least I hope the Armenian guy (gay) is the active one!
    2. Because it can’t be put into gender category, as there is no gender!

    1. It’s interesting to observe (and a collegue pointed that out to me just before you commented – Tigran), that whenever Armenians hear of this book, they are always interested – who is the active one! :))))

  2. Blogian has posted an interview with the author of this book. Looks like a Russian translation is coming soon. I bet it’ll be a bestseller in Armenia.

  3. And of course, Unzipped: Gay Armenia was the first to cover this book long before IWPR, EurasiaNet etc:
    Incidentally, from reading Mika’s post it would appear that both are “active,” as Tigran puts it.

  4. BTW, via Mika’s blog, the author of Artush and Zaur has started his own:

  5. I follow your blog for a long time and must tell you that your articles always prove to be of a high value and quality for readers.

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