Monday, December 31, 2012

Comparing Societal Values in the South Caucasus

Values and traditions can shape the ways in which people behave and perceive themselves and others within and across societies. Drawing on data from the 2012 Survey on Social Capital, Media, and Gender in Azerbaijan and the 2011 Survey on Social Cohesion in Armenia, this blog explores different values that, according to Azerbaijanis and Armenians, characterize contemporary Azerbaijani and Armenian societies, respectively. Based on CRRC’s surveys, people in Azerbaijan and Armenia reveal many similar values that define their societies today. In addition, the blog addresses the importance of family in Georgia, using the 2008 World Values Survey (WVS).

Ihe majority of Azerbaijanis think that having children (92%) and a family (89%) is very important in Azerbaijani society. Azerbaijanis also named respect for the Republic of Azerbaijan (84%), the elderly (83%), traditions (81%), and for the Azerbaijani language (77%) as building blocks of the society. 74% of the population places importance on education. Finally, according to the CRRC survey, respect for the history of Azerbaijan (74%) and respect for religious institutions (71%) also characterize contemporary Azerbaijani society.

Similar to Azerbaijanis, the overwhelming majority of Armenians think that having children (96%) and a family (92%) are important in Armenian society. The majority of Armenians also regard education (85%) and respect of traditions (82%) as rather important. Respect for the history of Armenia (78%), for religious institutions (77%), the Armenian language (76%), the Republic of Armenia (74%), and respect for elderly (66%) are also said to define Armenian society today.

The CRRC data show that the majority of Azerbaijanis and Armenians share similar values that they believe characterize their respective societies.  While CRRC did not conduct these particular surveys in Georgia, the 2008 WVS did ask Georgians about the importance of family in their lives. In this regard, 89% of Azerbaijanis, 92% of Armenians, and 99% of Georgians said that family plays an important role in their respective societies.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Exploring Emotions and Life Satisfaction in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia

From 2009 to 2011, Gallup conducted surveys in over 150 countries to compare how people feel about their lives and what emotions they experience during the day. Based on these surveys, Singapore was considered as the least emotional society (ranked 1st) out of 151 countries surveyed, while the Philippines was named as the most emotional nation (ranked 151st) out of all countries surveyed. Georgia ranked as the 2nd least emotional society after Singapore. Azerbaijan ranked the 15th and Armenia ranked the 38th least emotional nations. This blog explores these findings in comparison to CRRC’s 2011 Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey questions on feelings and life satisfaction in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.

In each country, Gallup focused on peoples’ experiences of five positive and five negative emotions. Positive emotions were feeling well-rested, being treated with respect, experiencing enjoyment, smiling and laughing a lot, as well as learning or doing something interesting. Negative emotions included feeling angry, being sad, stressed, or worried, and experiencing physical pain. Gallup then averaged the percentage of people in each country who said they experienced each of the 10 positive and negative emotions. The results show Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan ranking relatively low on emotionality.

Emotional Countries,, viewed 6th December, 2012, <>

CRRC’s 2011 CB also asked people in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan to describe their feelings, but for specific questions rather than a set of positive and negative emotions that were averaged. 26% of Armenians, 8% of Azerbaijanis, and 13% of Georgians said they experience a general sense of emptiness. In comparison, 48% in Armenia, 66% in Azerbaijan, and 60% in Georgia said that this statement did not describe their feelings.

About half of the population in Armenia (51%) and Georgia (55%) said that they felt happy, followed by just under half of the Azerbaijani population (40%) who also said that they were happy. In turn, 15% of Armenians, 19% of Azerbaijanis, and 12% of Georgians reported feeling unhappy.   

About a third of the population in Armenia (30%), a quarter in Azerbaijan (24%), and over a third in Georgia (36%) said that, all things considered, they were generally satisfied with lives. Somewhat similar percentages indicate that people were unsatisfied in each country. 

In conclusion, Gallup and CRRC reveal somewhat different results in terms of emotional experiences and overall life satisfaction in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. While Gallup measured the average percentage of respondents who reported experiencing any of the 10 negative or positive emotions daily, CRRC took a different approach by focusing on Armenians’, Azerbaijanis’, and Georgians’ general experiences of feeling happy, general life satisfaction, and a general sense of emptiness. 

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Modalities of Azerbaijan's Islamic Revival

Islamic revival on the societal level has become a much-touted subject in Azerbaijan in recent years. Ongoing controversy over an informal state ban on hijabs in the country's public education institutions, along with a number of recent government-sponsored research projects and conferences on religion, attest to the increasing salience of Islam as a social and political issue, even as the Azerbaijani state remains staunchly secular and instrumentalizes Islam primarily for legitimization purposes.

Yet, if Azerbaijani society is indeed experiencing an Islamic revival, what are the manifestations of its increasing religiosity? According to data from the Caucasus Barometer (CB) and CRRC's 2012 Social Capital, Media and Gender Survey (SIDA), religious indicators such as overt religious practices and trust in religious institutions have actually shown negative trends in the last five years. Nevertheless, other indicators suggest that Azerbaijanis' private religious practices and conceptions of personal religiosity may be gaining greater currency.

According to the CB 2008, 10% of people in Azerbaijan claimed to attend religious services on at least a weekly basis, while 7% and 36% attended at least once a month or on special holidays, respectively. Around 20% of Azerbaijanis attended services "less often" and nearly 30% "never" attended.

Religious service attendance has changed little in the last five years. According to the 2012 survey, only 6% of Azerbaijanis said they attended services at least once a week, with 11% indicating they attended at least once a month and 40% claiming only on religious holidays. Almost 25% and 20% of Azerbaijanis claimed they attended services "less often" and "never", respectively.

Azerbaijanis' trust in religious institutions likewise decreased between 2008 and 2011. In addition to local mosques, the institutions in question could refer to the Caucasus Muslim Board - a state-affiliated organization including Shia and Sunni leadership due to Azerbaijan's approximate 60/30% Shia-Sunni population - and the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations - likewise a state-affiliated entity, tasked with regulating religious organizations operating in the country.

The institutional trust factor is especially significant, as research suggests that a country's level of religiosity depends on the authority of its religious institutions (Chaves 1994). In turn, this authority is measured by the degree of individuals' confidence in religious institutions (Kleiman, Ramsey, & Palazzo 1996). According to the CB from 2008 to 2011, there was a 17% decrease in the number of Azerbaijanis who "fully trust" religious institutions, with a slight decrease for those who trust religious institutions "a lot" and no change for those who "somewhat" trust said institutions.

Despite decreases in active religiosity, CRRC data suggest that personal conceptions of religiosity and private religious practices are becoming more important for Azerbaijanis. Between 2010 and 2012, the combined total of Azerbaijanis who claimed they were "quite" or "very" religious increased from 16% to 27%. During the same period, those claiming they were "somewhat religious" jumped from 23% to 32%.

Perhaps even more telling are 2012 data measuring the frequency of praying at home. Despite low mosque attendance, a sizeable 30% of Azerbaijanis claimed to pray at home at least once a day, while 27% said they prayed at home at least once a week and 12% once a month.

Other sources of data suggest similar trends. A 2011 poll conducted by the Center for Strategic Research indicated that 21% of Azerbaijanis were interested in religious questions "to a large extent", while 46% expressed interest "to a certain extent" and 24% to a "lesser extent." Only 9% of Azerbaijanis claimed they had "virtually no interest" in religious questions.

Even if overt religious indicators such as mosque attendance and trust remain quite low, the fact that Azerbaijanis increasingly think of themselves as more religious indicates that religiosity may be growing on a more personal, passive level. That over 50% of Azerbaijanis pray at home on at least a weekly basis is likewise an indication that private religious practices may be serving as the primary modalities of Azerbaijan's Islamic revitalization.