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Buenos dias pora! | Long Read

// How the role of the diasporas is changing worldwide and how we can benefit from it


he term diaspora in the modern world no longer describes merely a community of representatives of a nation living outside its historical homeland. The concept has long since changed its definition found in the Torah. The current interpretation includes an actor in international relations, a mechanism of political influence, ‘soft power’, and economic potential. The process of shaping a successful diaspora goes hand in hand with the development of states, having a reciprocal effect, which means the historical homeland and diaspora support each other’s enhancement.

The concept of a diaspora entered the political and social sciences as a term in the 1950s and 60s in the USA. The word was coined from the translation of the ancient Jewish word of galut into Greek. Diaspora had a negative meaning in the biblical context: following this logic, God punished the Jews for sinning and scattered them around the world. Today, the diaspora has not only ceased being a punishment but has also grown to be considered God's greatest blessing.

The eminent English historian and philosopher Arnold J. Toynbee described the Jewish diaspora as the future of the world order in his monumental A Study of History (1972), saying the importance of social structures associated with ethnic groups was increasing under globalization.

The number of migrants has tripled across the globe in the last half a century. There were 75.5 million migrants on the planet in the 1960s, whereas the number reached 176.6 million in 2000 and 213.9 million in 2009. The UN reports that one in every 35 persons worldwide and one in 10 in developed countries is an international migrant

Growth of the number of migrants and ratio to the total world population

Such an acute increase in the number of migrants goes hand in hand with their organization, resulting in opportunities to influence the most diverse areas of life in their respective countries.

Children of Two Homes

The classical diaspora was a historic necessity. For instance, the migration of Jews from Judea or Africans from the ‘Black Continent’ to foreign lands was not a purposeful migration. Rogers Brubaker, American sociologist, and diaspora researcher calls these forced diasporas that have taken shape due to states collapsing, etc. ‘cataclysmic diasporas’. Unlike labour diasporas, cataclysmic diasporas do not spread over large areas, choosing to live more compactly.

Professor Robin Cohen, the British sociologist, divides diasporas into four categories according to the reason for their formation in his Global Diasporas: An Introduction (1997):

·        Victim diasporas (Jewish, African, Armenian, Palestinian)

·        Labour diasporas (Indian)

·        Trade diasporas (Chinese)

·        Imperial diasporas (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese)

The purposeful migration as of the 19th century (moving to the ‘new world’ to build a new life) started a fundamentally different wave of diasporas. The Irish, Italian, German, Russian, Polish, Scottish, and other diasporas are the product of that wave. 

An essentially new wave of diaspora shaping began towards late 20th century

The diaspora process took on a completely different essence as several countries, especially the USA, introduced major changes to their migration legislation in the late 20th century. Even those nations, who did not historically shape traditional diasporas, now had a chance to build a ‘second homeland’. The Chinese and Indians took advantage of this opportunity the most.

We must include a vital nuance: Migration does not automatically create diaspora. Becoming a diaspora requires preserving national identity and fulfilling a number of other conditions. There is a delicate zone between the states of ‘not yet a diaspora’ and ‘no longer a diaspora, which one must accommodate and get comfortable with.

Zaur Aliyev, Ph.D. in history and expert on diaspora issues, says it is important to distinguish between a community and a diaspora. There are Turkish communities in different countries, such as Holland and Australia, who live their lives, and celebrate holidays…. But that does not necessarily make them a diaspora. The diasporic activity requires legal organization and information resources

Zaur Aliyev: ‘We must raise the matter of dual citizenship for the diaspora’

Another important condition is maintaining ties with the historical homeland, otherwise, the diaspora will shortly shed its identity and dissolve into the local community. As the ties are maintained and strengthened, the diaspora gradually grows into a new political brand in their respective countries.

Guyana comes in first (36.4%), Bosnia and Herzegovina second (34%), Albania third (30.7%), Syria fourth (29.8%) and Jamaica brings up the rear (28.6%) in the top five countries, where the majority of population lives abroad. However, no one has heard of a powerful Guyanese, Syrian, or Jamaican diaspora. So, it is not about the numbers. So, what is it about? What does building a strong diaspora require? What models, and mechanisms must be applied?

Answering these questions entails addressing the experiences of nations, that have already managed to generate a strong diaspora in our modern world.


This is the term, coined to describe the Chinese living outside China. However, it would be incorrect to merely translate it as ‘migrant’. According to the Chinese mentality, citizenship is not the most important factor. Lineage matters more. If your great-grandfather lived in China, it makes you a Chinese as well, which is why China sees migrants as their own citizens living abroad. They have managed to pass on their language, culture, and customs from generation to generation and maintain ties with each other and their historical homeland.  

China sends the most students globally to study abroad

There are many Chinese, who have authored great achievements in various fields and countries. Yuan Zheng (Eric Yuan), the founder of Zoom, Jerry Yang, the co-founder of Yahoo, Yang Chen-Ning, the Nobel prize winner in physics, Steven Chu, the 12th US Secretary of State and Lee Kuan Yew, the legendary Singaporean Prime Minister, are all representatives of the Chinese diaspora.

One of the reasons behind China’s ‘economic miracle’ lies in its diaspora of 50 million people. Most of them live in the ASEAN countries. The funding they have been allocating in their historical homeland has increased the investments by ASEAN countries in China (around 80 billion USD per year) which is two and a half times bigger than China’s investments in those countries (30 billion).

Wang Haoqiang, director of the Confucius Institute in Azerbaijan, notes in his article for, that the Chinese diaspora has boosted the development in China in mainly four aspects:

• They promote Chinese culture abroad.

• They contribute to trade and investments.

• They actively participate in developing education.

• In terms of politics, they are promoters of policy.

The expert believes there are 5 factors behind the success of the Chinese diaspora: excellent education, diligence, good upbringing, innovative spirit, and kindness. These factors come together, building a foundation for the Chinese to succeed abroad.

The numbers also confirm his words: China is today the country that sends the most students to the US (330 thousand a year). They mainly major in disciplines, such as mathematics, medicine, and engineering. More than half of Chinese immigrants in the USA have a college degree.

32 Million Ambassadors

In the early 1990s, around a third of software engineers in Silicon Valley were Indians. Suhas Patil (Cirrus Logic), Vinod Khosla (Sun Microsystems), Sabeer Bhatia (Hotmail), and others were the ones, who played a key role in the tech revolution in the USA. The model was a completely different one this time: The Bangalore Phenomenon.

Bangalore - A city on the rise thanks to the diaspora

Bangalore, in the Indian state of Karnataka, was a city with a population of 10 million in the ‘90s. The city began to transform rapidly after establishing ties with California’s Silicon Valley. Bangalore is currently considered the most dynamically developing city in the world with 1.5 million people employed in hi-tech, home to headquarters of over 700 major local and global companies. Karnataka’s hi-tech exports are worth 45 billion USD a year. This is one of the greatest illustrations of a diaspora attracting investments into its homeland.                                            

Dr. Aslam Khan, Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Mahatma Gandhi Central University in India, mentioned during his interview to AzVision that the Indian diaspora has transformed into one of the most important discourses in global affairs, as it Is not only the largest diaspora in the world but one that has proven to be a great political and economic force around the world.

The US is home to the largest Indian Diaspora (4.5 million), followed by Saudi Arabia (4.1 million) out of 32 million Indians living outside their homeland. The World Bank Report reads that India receives around USD 100 billion yearly in remittances. The country received an annual FDI of $84,835 million in the financial year 2021-22. The top investing countries are Singapore, Mauritius, the UAE, the USA, the Netherlands, and Japan, which have a great Indian presence’, Aslam Khan explained.

Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, called on the Indian Diaspora to consolidate efforts to grow India into the third largest economy globally and termed Indian citizens living overseas the Ambassadors of India.

The Indian diaspora is also a shining illustration of economic power leading to political influence. The heads of state in countries, such as Surinam, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Fiji, and Mauritius are of Indian origin. British Indians are the largest ethnic minority in the UK and are employed in most top fields. Rishi Sunak’s rise to the post of Prime Minister in Great Britain is a unique historical event. 15 MPs of Indian origin currently serve in the British Parliament. These are Gagan Mohindra, Claire Coutinho, Nadia Whittome, Navendu Mishra, Priti Patel, Alok Sharma, Sanjoy Sen, and others.

In Canada, Harjit Sajjan serves as the Minister of International Development, Navdeep Bains was the Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry, Bardish Chagger was the Minister of Diversity, Inclusion, and Youth, and Anita Anand is the current Minister of National Defence. 

Countries with the largest widespread Indian diaspora

Both political parties in the USA, the Republicans and Democrats, consider the Indian Diaspora a major force. Joe Biden’s appointment of Kamala Harris as his vice president is a clear pointer to the fact. Some Indian Americans, such as Ro Khanna, Nikki Haley, and Vivek Ramaswamy, are currently considered the highlights of the upcoming 2024 presidential elections in the US.

The presence of the Indian Diaspora in the Middle East has had a profound impact on the relations between Delhi and regional countries. The Gulf countries are India’s largest trading partners.

India’s experience is one of the great illustrations to the wonders a skilled diaspora can create in the contemporary world.

Vasila Vahidgizi, head of the department at the State Committee for Work with Diaspora confirms in her interview to that the period of labour migration worldwide has ended, launching the era for transferring scientific potential and entrepreneurial ideas. The time has ripened for penning global diaspora success stories rather than listening to sentimental migration tales.

‘This highlights the fact that diaspora approaches have completely shifted and the importance of establishing ties with them and building new platforms for compatriots abroad to do more useful work for their homeland’, the head of department at the State Committee emphasized.

Everything for the Motherland

A diaspora aiding their homeland is not indicative of China and India only. The diaspora of 32 million in the USA has had a great influence on Ireland’s economic growth. The Irish government launched a special program to turn the outflow of human capital (brain drain) into profit (brain gain).

Yahya Babanli, Ph.D. in history and expert on diaspora issues, believes diaspora makes up a single organism with its nation. With a right approach in ideology and strategy towards this body, it can easily become the mediating bridge between two countries. It will be a participating actor in their respective countries, building ties with their homeland and representing it.

‘When we realize that the modern Chinese, Polish, and even our brotherly nations Kazakhs and Kyrgyz diasporas are also investors, we will see just how much ground we have lost. The Kyrgyz government organized a huge exhibition-meeting with Kyrgyz businesspeople and their partners in Russia in 2009, thus encouraging investment into Kyrgyzstan. Kazakhstan’s state program for 2005 included the Ol-Orman project, which focused on returns and investments. The Azerbaijani diaspora has been growing, but we have yet to see economic efficiency’, Babanli noted. 

Yahya Babanli: ‘Diaspora and the people are a single organism’

Capital moves very cautiously. Investing in a country requires certain criteria, trust, and confidence first and foremost. So, who can believe and trust a country the most? Its children! We have been seeing this come to life in the Turkish example. Despite the anti-Turkish propaganda in the West, businesspeople of Turkish origin invest heavily in the country.

But, of course, the diaspora should not be only focused on their historical homeland. They must absolutely play an active role in the socio-economic and socio-political lives of their respective communities, and try to win the respect, trust, and confidence of the local people. The diasporas start inspiring associations with certain fields after some time, as you would think of finance when hearing about Jews or hi-tech when Indians are mentioned…

The best example of this would be the American Jews. Moisei Bekker, Ph.D. in Political Science, writes in his article for that there were practically no Jews in the upper house of Congress until the 1950s. There are 30 Jews in the Congress and another 13 in the Senate. 31 representatives of the Jewish community have held ministerial posts, and another 20 have had diplomatic and administrative positions throughout US history. 28 people have been elected to the state government. Over 60% of the working Jewish population in the United States are people engaged in skilled work with high wages. Only 5% of US Jews live below the poverty line.

Azerbaijani Diaspora: at the Lookout for a Model

There is a substantial Turkish diaspora in Germany today. They have made significant headway in several fields but remain underrepresented in Parliament. What is the reason behind this?

‘They must still go through the stage, which the Greeks, Armenians, Jews, Indians already have’, explains Teymur Atayev, political contributor and host of ‘Aspects of Foreign Affairs’ at CBC, in his interview to ‘Time is an important criterion for a diaspora. We have been noticing that the Turks are now perceived as their own. We have been seeing more Turkish surnames, especially in journalism. 

Teymur Atayev: ‘Diaspora building resembles climbing stairs. It is no easy feat.’

The Turks started moving to Western countries in the 1960s, whereas the Azerbaijanis began towards the late 90s. The Jews were mainly the first ones to leave Azerbaijan. They can now be considered our diaspora and lobby to a certain extent.

This factor, close ties with brotherly diasporas, can support the rapid development of the Azerbaijani diaspora. It takes decades for a diaspora to grow, consolidate and influence processes. Mehmet Yuce, Professor at Aegean University, and expert on international issues, proposes an interesting idea to reduce this time: Turkic peoples must consolidate their diaspora activities.

He says, developing a mechanism of cooperation with the diasporas of the Turkic states is key, especially the Turkish one. The ‘Turkic World Vision 2040` program has put forward goodwill in this regard.

Mehmet Yuce: ‘We must necessarily take advantage of the intellectual opportunities the diaspora has to offer’

Supporting its historical homeland, working for its growth, and representing its interests is firstly a necessity for the diaspora itself because a diaspora stays in shape to safeguard its identity and turns that ethnic identity into a successful business card. The opposite of that is assimilation.

The image of the country it represents is the image of the diaspora itself. Therefore, the diaspora must spare no efforts to build a good image of their homeland in the country they live in and should accept it as an element of their own image. This is one of the main denominators that unite the interests of the historical homeland and the diaspora.

It certainly would not be efficient to employ the experience of a certain nation and a model and follow it blindly. Everyone needs to find a way to suit their temper and character. To summarize, we now know the ingredients that should be included in the recipe for a successful Azerbaijani diaspora:

·  Educated individuals,

·  Continues, unbreakable ties with the homeland,

·   Active participation in the cultural, social, public, and political life of the country,

·   Sincerely serving the interests of both ‘houses’.

The diaspora is the first, who needs to follow this recipe to be able to develop, while still maintaining its identity. The homeland is certainly interested just as much as the diaspora is, which is why it should spare no support for its children abroad to polish this recipe. The result will not be long in coming.

  28 July 2023    Read: 3512    Can be read: 3 min.

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