Youth Activism and Protest in the North and South Caucasus

May 04, 2011
10:00 am - 12:00 pm


Gregory Shvedov
Editor in Chief of Caucasian Knot (Russia)

Adnan Hajizada
Youth activist (Azerbaijan by Skype)

Emin Milli
Founder of Alumni Network (Azerbaijan by Skype)

Moderated by

Nadia Diuk
National Endowment for Democracy

Against the backdrop of the political upheaval in the Middle East, the conflicts of the North Caucasus and the social protests in Azerbaijan have focused attention on the growing role and significance of youth across the region.  In the North Caucasus, the insurgency and growing religious radicalism draw most of their support from the youth.  In Azerbaijan, youth participation in politics has been controlled and marginalized, leading to many liberal minded youth choosing to emigrate or opting to pursue private lives.

The new generation that has come of age in the Caucasus since the collapse of the Soviet Union is struggling to establish its identity in the context of a very limited, and continually narrowing political space.   The mixture of traditional cultures and Soviet norms that shaped their parents’ generation has eroded.  While the new environment provides a greater measure of personal freedom and some opportunities for self expression, the space for political or social activism is closing up.  How do young people view their role in society in Azerbaijan and the North Caucasus?  Is the religious radicalization that has occurred in the North Caucasus predominantly a youth phenomenon? How do young people in the Caucasus learn civic values?  How do they participate in politics?  What do they expect from the future?  To respond to these and other questions, we welcomed three eminent panelists.


Gregory Shvedov is the editor‐in‐chief of the 24/7 Internet news agency Caucasian Knot (full Russian version:; and short English version:, which covers events in each of the 20 regions of Russia’s North Caucasus, the South Federal District, and the independent South Caucasus. He also serves as director of the Information Agency MEMO.RU, which was founded in 2002 to mobilize support for activism through social marketing.  In addition to the Caucasian Knot and MEMO.RU, Mr. Shvedov serves on the board of the International Memorial Society, for which he was previously responsible for coordinating interregional cooperation between 80 branches.

Adnan Hajizada is a blogger and one of the founders of the OL! Azerbaijani Youth Movement, an initiative focusing on the education and development of Azerbaijani youth. He has been a member of the movement’s executive board and has served as its external affairs coordinator. He is well-known internationally for his YouTube videos, some of which are aimed at educating foreigners about conditions in Azerbaijan. He was arrested in 2009 on fabricated charges after posting a satirical video online and was sentenced to two years in prison. He was released in November 2010 after his imprisonment was widely criticized by the international community.

Emin Milli is an Azerbaijani blogger. In 2009, he was sentenced to prison for two and a half years on fabricated charges of hooliganism. Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience and he was conditionally released in November 2010. He has worked as a coordinator for the International Republican Institute in Azerbaijan and as a director of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. As a consultant and legal expert, he advised the Council of Europe on more than 40 cases of political prisoners in Azerbaijan (2002 -2004), many of whom have been released following pressure from the Council of Europe. He also founded the Alumni Network, a social networking group for Azerbaijani youth.