Pehlevanliq culture: traditional zorkhana games, sports and wrestling


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Inscribed in 2022 (17.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan, 2021

Pehlevanliq culture in Azerbaijan includes games and sports, such as wrestling, and individual performances. Pehlevans use specific tools that resemble medieval weapons (such as swords, shields and bows), but are heavier (originally, to allow pehlevans to handle real weapons easily). The competitions are overseen by referees and accompanied by music or fast-beating drums. The main practitioners of the element are the pehlevans, the men who practise, perform and transmit their knowledge and skills. The community also includes local organizations, trainers and students at local physical education institutions, as well as the spectators and the craftsmen who create the tools. The main driver for the transmission of the element has been the interest of local communities in the games, sports and performances. An integral part of popular culture, folk events and outdoor celebrations, Pehlevanliq culture provides a strong sense of identity to communities in Azerbaijan. For many years, pehlevans have been a symbol of determination, promoting social cohesion and providing a sense of pride and shared identity to local communities.