Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 17.COM 7.B.42

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Azerbaijan has nominated Pehlevanliq culture: traditional zorkhana games, sports and wrestling (No. 01703) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

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.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   The culture of pehlevans (pehlevanliq) refers to a variety of traditional physical performances, training and competitions practised and transmitted from generation to generation by ‘pehlevans’ (traditional athletes/wrestlers). It includes zorkhana games and sports, pehlevan wrestling, pehlevan performances at outdoor celebrations, and various popular events. The practitioners of the element are pehlevans (men only) who have chosen this as an occupation and practise, perform and transmit their knowledge and skills. The knowledge and skills are transmitted through local schools in cooperation with local conservation societies. The element contributes to improving health and enhancing physical and mental well-being. For pehlevans, the performances reinforce the feeling of cultural belonging and develop determination in their characters. The element is also an integral part of folk events and outdoor celebrations.

R.2:   At the local level, inscription will raise awareness about intangible cultural heritage and how it adapts to local environments in the process of transmission from generation to generation. At the national level, inscription will promote the concept of intangible cultural heritage and, in particular, traditional games and sports as intangible cultural heritage that is transmitted and sustained by a variety of community members. At the international level, inscription will demonstrate the interrelation and links between traditional sports, health and well-being and promote the concept of intangible cultural heritage in general. Inscription of the element will demonstrate that intangible cultural heritage can reinforce the feeling of belonging through centuries-old traditions. It will also promote and inspire other forms of cultural expressions and creativity.

R.3:   The file provides details of past and current safeguarding measures and how the State has supported such measures. The Ministry of Culture, in collaboration with the Azerbaijan Zorkhana Federation and the communities concerned, proposed a series of measures, including efforts to enhance transmission, research, promotion and knowledge-sharing. The proposed measures will be supported by the communities and stakeholders. The possible unintended effects of inscription will be monitored through the periodic reporting process under the 2003 Convention. The proposed safeguarding measures were prepared with the involvement of the communities concerned from the early stages of the preparation for the nomination. The file explained the roles of different organizations and practitioners in implementing the proposed measures. Specific organizations and individuals were designated as primary contact persons for the monitoring of the safeguarding measures and any unintended results of the inscription of the element.

R.4:   For the preparation of the nomination, a working group was established with the practitioners and NGOs who had been involved in the inventorying process and representatives chosen by the communities concerned. The working group started consultations with the communities concerned and was involved in the preparation of the nomination file. Details of its meetings are provided in the file. The file includes letters of consent from federations, associations, organizations, trainers and practitioners.

R.5:   The element was included in the Register of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Azerbaijan on 21 September 2017. The inventory is maintained by the Documentation and Inventory Board, established by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The element was included in the Register with the participation of communities, NGOs (all men) and local municipalities. The inventory is updated every three years. In general, elements on the Register of the Intangible Cultural Heritage are proposed and updated on the basis of proposals of communities, NGOs, public associations, unions, and practitioners through regional departments of the Ministry of Culture.

  1. Decides to inscribe Pehlevanliq culture: traditional zorkhana games, sports and wrestling on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Encourages the State Party to ensure the widest possible community participation in the implementation of safeguarding measures;
  3. Further encourages the State Party to provide more detailed explanations on the social functions and cultural meanings concerning the element, including on gender-specific roles.