I hope this kind of question is allowed. In any case, I want to clarify that there is no intention for racism or political arguments, etc. It is just a sincere wonder from the anthropological point of view.

What is the nationality of the Azerbaijani players Mamedyarov and Radjabov?

Do they identify as Azerbaijanis, which is a Turkic nationality, or as Russians who happen to live in Azerbaijan? I think they speak Russian as native language.

Are they Russian Jews living in Azerbaijan? I think this is a possible, and at the same time, very complicated issue in anthropology.

Are they Azerbaijani Jews who just learned Russian as a second foreign language?


2 Answers 2


I have read a lot about them over the years, and I have never heard anything that would lead me to believe that they are anything but true Azerbaijanis, and have both played under that flag forever. Both were born in Azerbaijan while it was still part of the Soviet Union.

Speaking Russian is simply explained by the fact that since both born in Azerbaijan while it was still a republic of the Soviet Union, and no matter where you lived, or your ethnicity, Russian was the official language of the Soviet Union. You might have been bilingual, but you spoke Russian with the masses. I would imagine that even after the Soviet Union fell, they did not automatically switch away from that since it was so pervasive, and easy to talk to more people with.

I have never seen anything written about them being Jewish and the country has a demographic of 97.4% Muslim, 1.1% Christian, and 1.0% None, making that all the more unlikely.

I worked as a Russian translator from 1980-1988 while in the military.

  • There actually is a group of Jews native to East Caucasus, including Azerbaijan. They are called Mountain Jews ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_Jews ), and they speak a language related to Persian. They are less than 1% of Azerbaijan population, but there are some notable artists and businesspeople of that origin. On the other hand, Kasparov’s father Kim Weinstein and paternal grandfather Moses Weinstein were Jews born in Baku (not Mountain Jews though, but Ashkenazi). So the idea that an Azerbaijan native may be a Jew is not that ludicrous.
    – Neith
    Feb 7, 2020 at 18:30
  • @Neith I never said it was impossible or ludicrous", but given that I read a lot about chess daily, for many decades now, and have never heard that they were, and given that they would be less than 1%, I only said "unlikely". It was just an educated guess. Feb 7, 2020 at 18:54

This is in addition to PhishMaster's answer elsewhere:

According to https://www.chess.com/players/shakhriyar-mamedyarov, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was born in Sumgait, Azerbaijan SSR, Soviet Union, on April 12, 1985. He is the Azerbaijan’s top player, and has becaome the only player ever to win the World Junior Championship twice (winning it in 2003 and 2005). He became a Grandmaster in 2002.

According to https://www.chess.com/players/teimour-radjabov, Teimur Radjabov was born in Baku, Azerbaijan SSR, Soviet Union, on March 12, 1987, the same city as former world champion Garry Kasparov. By 2001, he had earned his Grandmaster norms (at young age of 14) and was competing in Group B of the Corus Tournament at Wijk aan Zee.

It is noteworthy that when he was 16 years old, Radjabov was one of seven participants at Linares 2003. In that tournament, in perhaps one of the most famous games of his career, Radjabov has defeated Garry Kasparov (his fellow Baku native) in 39 moves with the black pieces. The game has been voted the best of the tournament.

Along with other fellow Azerbaijani players, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Teimur Radjabov have led their nation to gold medals in the 2013 and 2017 European Team Chess Championship. The two represent the nation’s best chance at a world champion among the current crop of top players.

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