UN Says Azeri Horse Game a ‘Intangible Heritage’ That Needs to be Preserved

by Kathy Jones on Dec 6 2013 8:22 PM

 UN Says Azeri Horse Game a ‘Intangible Heritage’ That Needs to be Preserved
The United Nations has included a traditional Azeri horse-riding game from the disputed region of Nagorny Karabakh in its list of "intangible heritage" in need of preservation.
Chovqan-- a rudimentary form of polo-- was named a tradition in need of urgent protection along with a Guatemalan harvest festival that involves dressing up corncobs in ceremonial clothing, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) said Tuesday.

Envoys picked the new listings at a meeting in the glitzy Azerbaijani capital Baku.

Chovqan is a horse game traditionally played by nomads and was chosen as it in danger of dying out, the communique said. The name derives from the bow-tipped stick used by herders in the past.

Today the game is played by two teams wearing traditional garb and to the sounds of traditional music.

"The practice and transmission of Chovqan have weakened, however, due to a loss of interest among the youth, combined with urbanisation and migration, leading to a shortage of players, trainers and Karabakh horses," Unesco said on its website.

Azerbaijan is locked in a festering decades-long feud with its neighbour Armenia over the breakaway region of Nagorny Karabakh.

Armenia-backed separatists seized Nagorny Karabakh from Azerbaijan in a war that killed 30,000 people in the 1990s.

But despite years of negotiations since a 1994 ceasefire, the two sides have still not signed a peace deal.

Established in 2008, the Intangible Cultural Heritage list comprises some 100 traditional events from around the globe and is designed to "help demonstrate the diversity of this heritage and raise awareness about its importance," according to UNESCO.

Delegates are set to debate four further nominations to the list on Wednesday.