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The 95th Anniversary of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic

By Dashgin Shikarov

The Revolution of 1917 led the Russian Empire to chaos and turbulence. Under the slogan of struggle against the counter-revolutionaries in March 1918, the Baku Commune of Armenians and Bolsheviks decided to completely eliminate the ethnical Azerbaijanis. The crimes committed by Armenians on those days were engraved on the memory of the Azerbaijanis forever. Thousands people were killed just for their ethnic identity, architectural monuments, schools, hospitals, mosques and other buildings were destroyed. Most of Baku turned into ruins. Massacres were carried out in Baku, Shamakhi, Guba, Karabakh, Zangazour, Nakhchivan, Lankaran and other places with medieval barbarity.

The only way for Azerbaijanis to stop this violence was to establish their own State and National Army. On May 28, 1918, the Muslim National Council held its opening sitting in Tiflis and adopted the Declaration on Independence, which proclaimed the establishment of independent Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) in south and southeast Transcaucasia. The declaration consisted of six clauses and became the first Constitutional Act in the history of Azerbaijan and affirmed Azerbaijani statehood in the form a Democratic Republic. On June 16, the National Council and the cabinet of the ADR got relocated to Ganja – the second biggest city of Azerbaijan. The primary goal of the government was to liberate Baku and the other cities of Azerbaijan, which were under occupation of Armenians and Bolsheviks after the March 1918 massacre.

On April 5, 1918, the establishment of Caucasus Army of Islam was approved by Ottoman Empire and Nuri Pasha – the Turkish general was appointed commander of the Army. The Turkish troops united with Azerbaijani forces in Ganja. Soon after that, 20 thousand Baku Soviet troops launched an all-out attack on Ganja. The Caucasian Islamic Army entered a fierce battle with them. The Soviets were defeated and the Islamic Army advanced toward Baku, liberating cities one by one. Islamic Caucasian Army launched an attack on Baku and on September 15, 1918. Baku was liberated. Over a thousand of Muslim officers and soldiers laid down their lives in the Baku battle. The losses of the enemy were huge. Thousands of them were killed, 1,677 soldiers and officers of different nationalities were captured.

The capital of ADR moved from Ganja to Baku and on November 16, 1918, the Azerbaijan National Council resumed its function. On December 7, 1918, the first session of Azerbaijani parliament took place. This was a first parliament formed on the utmost democratic principles of that time in the entire Muslim East. Parliament included representatives of the main ethnical groups populating the country.

Despite the end of WWI in November 1918, it took a while to finalize its consequences. The winners concurred to call an international conference in Paris to settle major issues in the world. A parliamentary delegation of Azerbaijan went to Paris with the main goal to gain international recognition for ADR. On January 11, 1920, the Supreme Council of the Paris Peace Conference unanimously resolved to recognize de facto the independence of Azerbaijan. On January 19, the Azerbaijani mission received an invitation to the Supreme Council of the Paris Peace Conference. The allies formally assumed the obligation to defend the newly recognized state from foreign aggression.

Despite the lack of any previous experience in statecraft, the leadership of the ADR managed to create a well-operated state machine, establishing relations with more than 20 countries of the world, including Turkey, USA, Belgium, Holland, Greece, Denmark, Italy, France, Switzerland, UK, Poland etc. On June 24, 1919, the Government adopted a national flag with white crescent and eight-pointed star with a three-stripe background. On June 26, the Government enacted the establishment of Azerbaijan Armed Forces. The process of army build up was completed by January 30 to include 30,000 of infantry and 10,000 of cavalry troops.

The Government established an extraordinary investigation commission to scrutinize the acts of genocide of Azerbaijanis by Armenians, adopted the official state symbols and regulation on Azerbaijani citizenship, and recognized the equality of men and women. The separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers was also confirmed.

Public education was among the primary concerns of the Government. Roughly half of the schools switched to use Azerbaijani language, which became a compulsory subject. Another essential step was establishment of the Baku University on September 1, 1919. A number of schools were opened. Hundreds of young students received scholarships to study in leading European universities. The establishment of Chamber of Appeals and Intelligence department became the vital pillar of the state-building process. The Baku-Batum oil pipeline was restored in 1919 , the government issued a decree on free trade and gave a rebirth to the merchant fleet. The Caspian fleet of Azerbaijan was established in summer of 1919 as well.

During the 23 months of independence, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, with a total area of 97,300 square kilometers and 2, 862 million people, was governed by five subsequent cabinets. Azerbaijani parliament, composed of 15 parties, passed 230 acts to secure the interest of the Nation.

On April 28, 1920, Azerbaijan was occupied by Red Army. The resistance movement of Azerbaijani people was squashed. All government institutions of Azerbaijan were abolished. Baku again lived through a week of looting.

The independence of Azerbaijan was restored only after 71 years. The tri-colored flag with a white crescent and eight-pointed star of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic raised again.

Today, Azerbaijan is witnessing a rapid and dynamic development that is comparable with developed countries of the world. A country with nine and a half million population has become a leading power in Transcaucasia and a leading regional investor with total of 45 bln. USD of foreign exchange reserves that is financing multi-billion projects in different countries of the world. The economic growth of Azerbaijan goes accompanied by enormous construction boom, development of the industry, infrastructure, agriculture, sports, tourism.

The social security model is conformed to international standards with insurance-pension system in place for every citizen.

Azerbaijan, lead by President Ilham Aliyev, carries on a balanced foreign policy, based on the interests of his country. Situated on the geographical border of Europe and Asia, Azerbaijan is integrated in the political structures of both continents. Being a member of the Council of Europe and the OSCE, Azerbaijan plays an active role in the OIC, ECO. Azerbaijan is also a member of Non-Aligned Movement and in October, 2011 got a seat of a non-permanent member of Security Council of UN allocated for Eastern Europe. This was indeed an acknowledgment of the political calibre and image of the state.

I am proud to say, that our two countries Azerbaijan and Pakistan enjoy close and cordial relations characterized by shared perception on major global and regional issues. Both countries closely cooperate in international forum and support each other on their core issues. The two countries signed the number of agreements to provide a framework for bilateral cooperation in all spheres including economy, trade, finance, information, culture and military fields.

The writer is Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Pakistan

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