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Opinion / Editorial

Independence Day of Azerbaijan

Independence Day of Azerbaijan

Despite being separated from Russia and Iran and deprived of their citizenship in the early 19th century, Azerbaijanis, both in the north and south, underwent a national awakening and fought for freedom in the early 20th century. to. This war culminated in the proclamation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (RDA) at the meeting of the National Council held on May 28, 1918. 

The Declaration of Independence showed the formation of the first democratic republic of the parliamentary model in the Muslim world. The main provisions of the Declaration adopted by the National Congress, among other things, also required the establishment of friendly relations with all nations, especially with neighboring states, guaranteed civil rights to all citizens residing within its borders, regardless of nationality, the declaration of religious belief, class affiliation, wealth and gender and created ample opportunities for development for all ethnic groups residing within its territory. Azerbaijan follows these principles even today.

Within a short time, the main state institutions were established and divided into three branches of government. Six months after independence, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic also introduced a parliament that reflected all ethnic and religious groups in the country. With 80 seats for the largest ethnic group – Azerbaijanis, 21 – Armenians, 10 – Russians, 1 – Germans, 1 – Jews, 1 – Georgians and 1 for Poles.

The newly formed republic faced challenges in almost all spheres. A national army was created to protect territorial integrity, which it fulfilled by restoring sovereignty to a number of territories.

Much attention has been paid to education, where old schools were renovated or replaced with new ones. An important historical moment was the opening of Baku State University in 1919, making it the first modern university on the territory of Azerbaijan. Despite difficulties and financial shortages, the Azerbaijani authorities sent 100 young people to various educational institutions in Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom.

A major achievement in the democratization process was the abolition of censorship, a holdover from the tsarist period.

Another important achievement, which laid the foundations for democratic and secular citizenship in Azerbaijan, was the right to vote for women. Giving women the right to vote in 1918, the same year as Poland, Azerbaijan was a pioneer in the universal suffrage movement, ahead of the Benelux countries (1919), the United States (1920), and France and Italy ( 1945).

From the beginning, the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan developed an active foreign policy. In addition to building bilateral relations with a number of countries, establishing and hosting numerous diplomatic missions, the government of Azerbaijan also sought international recognition at the highest level. A delegation sent to the Paris Peace Conference met with world leaders, including Woodrow Wilson, who initiated the first discussion of the Azerbaijan issue at the Council of the Big Four in May 1919.

President Wilson later recounted his meeting with the Azerbaijani delegates in his San Francisco speech in September 1919, describing his positive impression of the Azerbaijani delegation: “Do you know where Azerbaijan is? Well, one day there came a group of very dignified and interesting gentlemen who were from Azerbaijan. I didn't have time to find out where they were coming from until they left. But I immediately understood this: that I was talking to men who spoke the same language that I spoke in relation to ideas, in relation to the concepts of freedom, in relation to the concepts of right and justice".

Azerbaijan found support with British Prime Minister Lloyd George. A British initiative at the Paris Peace Conference ended with the issuance of a resolution of "de facto" recognition of the government of Azerbaijan by the Allies and Entente in January 1920.

This recognition was historic, albeit too late. Azerbaijan's participation in the international system of international relations was interrupted by the military intervention of Soviet Russia in April 1920. After consolidating their power within Russia, the Bolsheviks began to collect former parts of the empire and chose Azerbaijan as their number one target in South Caucasus as they desperately needed to collect the huge oil deposits in Baku.

 

Despite the collapse of the state, the national idea that was nurtured during the 23-month independence survived and helped revive an independent Azerbaijan towards the end of the 20th century. After the restoration of its independence in 1991, the Republic of Azerbaijan declared itself a successor state of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and restored the attributes of the RDA - the flag, emblem and anthem. Following the developments of the past year, Azerbaijan has also fully restored its territorial integrity and looks forward to the further development of democratic, economic, intellectual and cultural values, as well as the strengthening of multi-faceted regional and inter-regional cooperation. In the last decade, relations between Azerbaijan and Albania are growing, especially in the energy sector. I am convinced that both countries have untapped potential for further promoting relations in new areas of mutual interest and within international organizations.