Introductory and concluding speeches of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the meeting of the commission that elaborates the draft of the new constitution of the Azerbaijan Republic - Presidential Palace, November 2, 1995

Honorable commission members!

Ladies and gentlemen!

The next meeting of the commission that elaborates the draft of the new constitution of the Azerbaijan Republic is held today. As you are aware, a lot of work has been done by the commission; the draft constitution has been prepared, published and submitted to the public discussion. At the meeting of the commission on October 14 we decided to elaborate the draft constitution based on the results and proposals of the public discussion and review it in the commission till November 2. On November 2 the updated draft will be published once again so that the new constitution of the Azerbaijan Republic will be adopted by popular referendum on November 12.

Today is November 2. We haven’t finished all our job by today. First, we have a lot to do. Second, some events took our time. Therefore, we must discuss the issues which are on today`s agenda and decide what to do further.

But before starting our discussion, I ask you to take a moment of silence to remember the Azerbaijani citizens who died as a result of the Baku metro accident on October 28.

May they rest in peace!

What we did regarding the tragedy is known to public. Relevant actions were taken and the commission was established immediately. The commission is implementing its tasks during this period. All the victims were taken by their relatives and buried with the participation of the commission. Their families received necessary financial aid. Those who are at hospital are receiving medical treatment. The tragedy echoed all over the world. Heads of many states, governments and international governments, as well as prominent figures expressed their condolences to our nation through their letters, wires, and phone calls.

Using the opportunity I want to thank all the heads of states and governments for their moral support, condolences, and attitude.

At the same time, representatives of several countries came to Azerbaijan to help in these issues. Among them there are medicals, experts on accidents, and people of different fields. Some heads of states proposed their help and I accepted; so their representatives came here. Some countries and organizations render financial and medical aid to our country. I thank them for their aid.

I think we have our own means to investigate the tragedy, treat the injured people. But the foreign aid broadens our means. Using all these means we will pass the hard period.

The reasons for the accident are being investigated now. It was impossible to say anything about the accident right after it happened. Perhaps it is still impossible: why did the accident happen? Because of a technical reason or incapability? Was it terror, provocation, or another crime? We have to consider each possibility, none of them should be excluded or accepted as true in this stage of investigation. It has been our position since the beginning. I instructed our investigational and operational bodies to clarify the reasons of the accident accurately and objectively. No subjective action will be allowed.

It is a big tragedy. Investigation of its reasons is of great importance for us. Therefore, I assure you and the public that we will take all the actions to investigate the reasons of the accident objectively. They will be found. Now some people, some reporters wanted to investigate themselves. Many articles based on rumors are published in press, especially in opposition newspapers. I recommend some media and opposition to discontinue it. It is wrong to use the tragedy to attain own aims. If someone wants to attain their own targets, they can do it within framework of law and according to our traditions. To blame the government in inactivity, using the tragedy is libel and does not earn them people`s support.

Today I am told some people who committed crime in Azerbaijan and escaped abroad, including Moscow spread different statements and rumors from there. It is not important. We should not pay attention to them. But during the tragedy, some people used it for their goals, instead of solidarity of the people; it demonstrates how immoral they are.

The general prosecutor of Azerbaijan is present here. I keep in touch with him every day. He supervises the investigation. I have instructed him. Last night I talked to him. They have met the foreign experts. I state once again that the reasons of the accident must be investigated accurately and objectively. We need to take relevant measures. Undoubtedly, the people who are guilty in the accident in such an important transportation are also needed to be charged. If there was a purposeful crime, the relevant actions must be taken.

I watched a Moscow TV channel last night. As I understood they were interviewing some officials of the Moscow metro. The official person was asked about the state of the Moscow metro. He talked about the bad situation of the trains. He also said more than half of the 4,000 trains of the Moscow metro is in a bad situation. It is our reality now.

We have never produced any trains or other relevant equipment. Equipments, machines, devices were produced in different parts of the Soviet Union and imported to Azerbaijan. We have used them up to now. Perhaps reporters and opposition members that write libel in their papers don’t know it. But I was engaged in this sphere intensively when I worked in Azerbaijan, because most part of the Baku metro was built when I worked here and in Moscow. When I worked in Moscow, I supervised the whole transportation complex, including metro construction as the first deputy of chairman of the Soviet of Ministers. Metro systems were constructed in ten cities of the Soviet Union then. I always paid special attention to the construction of the Baku metro. I took many actions to solve relevant problems, so I know this sphere well. I am not an expert, but I know since I was engaged in it. I know the state of the metro, too. So there is no need to spread different rumors or slander on these issues.

I have instructed the general prosecutor and all investigating bodies to investigate it discreetly and report me their decisions and results.

Now about the agenda of today`s meeting of the commission. As I noted, we were supposed to complete the draft based on the submitted proposals and publish it in press. It was not possible; the reasons were obvious. Discussion of all the proposals submitted by the people is not included in the agenda of the commission today. I proposed to include an issue to the agenda; I consider that its discussion today is necessary. This is the Article 23 of the draft constitution on the official language of Azerbaijan. Why I attach special importance to this article and think we need to discuss it separately is because it is one of the main articles of our constitution. Also because different sources used different terms to name our official language throughout the 20th century. We need to discuss everything and come to an ultimate decision. Thus, I considered the special discussion of this article necessary.

Milli Majlis passed a law on the official language of Azerbaijan in December 1992. The day before yesterday - on October 31 in the building of the Academy of Sciences I assembled the Azerbaijani intelligentsia, including representatives of scientific institutions of the Academy, universities, creative unions, scientists, poets, writers, experts on linguistics, literature in order to discuss this issue. I took part in the first part of the meeting. Detailed discussions were held there. I stated my opinion on the necessity to discuss the problem at this level; it was broadcasted on TV. I don’t want to repeat. Probably you saw or heard it on TV. You can also read my speech on newspapers.

I just want to say I personally attach a special attention to the problem as the chairman of the commission, the President of Azerbaijan. I also pay attention to it because of its historical significance, different opinions on it, and even an illegal decision on the official language.

The law adopted by Milli Majlis in December 1992 - I am not talking about its content - is an illegal document by legislative point of view. Because a constitutional law must be adopted in order to make a change on the official language of Azerbaijan in the constitution. An ordinary law that was adopted instead of a constitutional law can not amend the constitution. The 1978 constitution of the Azerbaijan Republic states that the official language of Azerbaijan is Azerbaijani. But in December 1992, 26 members of Milli Majlis passed the law that states the official language of Azerbaijan is Turkish. However, the constitutional law of 1978 was not abolished at that time. Of course, the 1992 law could not abolish the constitutional law. Both the 1978 constitution and the 1992 law are valid. So it is a big mistake by legislative point of view. It is one of the sides of the problem.

Secondly, the 1992 illegal law of Milli Majlis has not been generally accepted in our country. Most of the population did not accept the adoption of the law, while some part appreciated it. But some people with legislative and political experience were worried about the illegal adoption of the law.

So we have such a situation now. It proves once again the irresponsible attitude of the then authorities of Azerbaijan to such a responsible job. In order not to make such mistakes, not to do anything illegal and to solve this problem with the popular will, I pay a serious attention to it as the chairman of the constitutional commission and I decided its discussion was necessary. So I propose to discuss this article at today`s meeting of the commission.

I also want to note that as the chairman of the commission or the President I may support any proposal as some think. The draft constitution was discussed in the constitutional commission, last time on October 14 and then it was published. At the last discussion three members of the constitutional commission stated their opinions on the official language.

Members of the commission Bakhtiyar Vahabzadeh, Anar, Elchin Efendiyev propose to write the official language as the Azerbaijani Turkish language. The other members of the commission did not appreciate their proposal. It is the situation from discussion point of view. But I repeat since it is a very sensitive, delicate subject, we have to take every opinion into consideration and we can`t solve the problem with simple majority. Remember that this issue was implemented in Milli Majlis violently in December 1992. Otherwise, most members of Milli Majlis should have voted for it. But the majority did not. Only 26 out of 39 MPs who were present at the session of Milli Majlis voted for it. Milli Majlis has 50 members. Two third of MPs of Milli Majlis should have voted for it to pass the law. If the two third of MPs did not vote, then the problem should have been solved wisely. Those who wanted to implement the idea should have discussed it once again, consulted and convinced people to pass the decision. If people did not approve it, it should have been considered. But it did not happen.

I don’t think it happened because of inexperience. I think those who governed Azerbaijan at that time had great claims; it has nothing to do with inexperience. Each of them had great claims. Thus, they did it. They would not have had any experience, even if they had no claims. Because there is a world experience, or even a simple experience; every problem may be discussed.

If you recall, you can see that we did not have such discussion. Three members of the commission submitted a different proposal. However, the rest insist to name the official language Azerbaijani. But why have we included Azerbaijani in the draft and published it in press, while three members have a different proposal? I want to explain it.

First, it is called Azerbaijani in the article 73 of our current constitution. Second, for a long time - it was made public today, probably relevant historical references will be submitted, - since 1936 our language has been called Azerbaijani. Third, the law passed in December 1992 is illegal. However, having considered the proposal submitted by three members of the commission, I recommended to introduce it to the public discussion: we have introduced it so the people discuss it and express their opinion, but our experts of relevant field, scientists, writers, linguists, historians, and interested organizations should discuss the subject specially. I instructed the chairman of the working group of the commission Ramiz Mehdiyev on this matter. Later I was busy; as you know, I visited the USA.

At that time we decided the Union of Writers, the Union of Reporters, linguistic institutes, literature institutes would discuss it separately. Since universities have experts of different spheres, only linguistic experts of universities should discuss the issue and submit the results of the discussions to the constitutional commission.

I called a meeting of the working group on October 30 and learnt that my direction had not been implemented, no discussion had been held. Therefore, we decided to call this assembly in the big hall of the Academy of Sciences on October 31 and did it.

I also want to note that 1400 proposals, including amendments, additions were submitted to the draft constitution after the public discussion. The 18 proposals of the total 1400 deal with the official language. The 18 proposals call the official language differently - either Turkish or Azerbaijani Turkish. There was a public discussion. We could discuss 18 proposals at a meeting of the commission and adopt the article included in the draft. But I think it is not the right way. I had a special meeting with the intelligentsia on October 31. Later I was informed about the speeches made at that meeting. After I was informed, I decided to discuss the subject at the meeting of the commission specially.

Besides the members of the commission and working group, 27 people who spoke at the meeting held in the Academy of Sciences on October 31, have been invited to today`s meeting. Not for repeating their speeches, but since they made their speeches, they are invited to this meeting, too. Also I ask to invite our experts on this field, linguists, literators, a group of people from the Union of Writers, not only its officials. They are present here. I want us to discuss this problem in this condition.

I want to note another matter, which is vital, historical, and serious. It can`t be solved emotionally or no one can solve it the way he or she wants. In general, everyone should approach issues that are vital for people with great responsibility. There is no need for actions in squares or to evaluate some people. There is no need for appraisals or protests in order to solve these problems. It is necessary to solve them wisely, calmly, freely, by thinking of the future and by evaluating the past.

Unfortunately, some emotional, populist speeches have temporarily influenced a group of people in recent years. This is temporary. But our moral values are permanent and universal. Therefore, we can not approach towards these issues irresponsibly. I was informed, I also saw on TV last night that some people made speeches, they were applauded and called heroes for naming our language Turkish.

Do you know that those actions are worthless. First, they show the low level of the people, who organize those actions. I say it with a responsibility. At the same time, they do not help us solve the problem worthily. Some may be emotional. Everyone has specific features and opinion. Our country is free. Everyone can express himself or herself freely; There is no problem. But the attitude towards solution of this problem should be very responsible and wise. I repeat that there is no need for emotions and subjective opinion. Our people have had big losses because of conjunctures, subjectivity and volunteerism. Let`s not repeat mistakes. The illegal law adopted in 1992 is a sample of subjectivity and volunteerism.

Considering all these factors - even though we have a lot to do and our scheduled graphic is a bit late, I think it is all right - I have invited you here to discuss this problem freely today and have introduced the problem to discussion. I guess what I say allows everyone express his or her opinion freely.

In order to start discussion, I want to give the floor to Ramiz Mehdiyev so he informs about the result of the meeting held in the Academy of Sciences. I made a speech there, stated my thoughts on the problem, and left in order not to influence anyone`s position with my presence there. But now the commission members, including me should know how the discussion was held there and what results it yielded.

Concluding speech

I consider we had a detailed exchange of opinions. All opinions were expressed. There is a difference of opinion especially in these circles. There is not a difference of opinion among our people. I think so. However, we have to listen to and consider thoughts of our intelligentsia, including scientists, especially experts who have done a lot in linguistics and literature. I think we should make an ultimate decision in the next meeting of the constitutional commission. There are other people invited to today`s meeting besides the commission members. We have invited scientists, linguists in order to learn their thoughts. After learning them we can come to a final decision and discuss it in the upcoming meeting of the constitutional commission.

But ending this discussion, I want to note that our language has survived throughout centuries. We gained independence in 1918. But the independence was lost after a short while. Four years ago our state independence was regained. Highly evaluating our past, we have to appreciate the achievements, great revival and progress of our people in the 20th century. Our famous people glorified our nation in the past, however, the achievements attained in the 20th century - since the beginning of the 20th century, the establishment of our first independent republic in 1918, the foundation of the Soviet republic in Azerbaijan in 1920, - had never attained before. Not only should we note it, but also we should be proud of it; personally I am. I was born at the beginning of the 20th century. The 20th century is coming to an end now. My life has continued through this period; I have witnessed a lot. I can see and I know from history that our nation has had a great development during this period. Now some populists depreciate the Soviet time arguing that our nation was repressed, divided, and so on.

They are historical reality. What is their result? The result is that our people have a great culture and literature. If we can count two or three notable personalities, you can see how many famous people we have had in the 20th century. Our science, literature, culture, music, school of art, history were founded. We became famous in the world. Azerbaijan was well-known before its independence, but it became more famous after independence. You can see how long our road of development has been. Now we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the UN. Only 50 states joined the UN, when it was established in 1945. Now, 50 years later the UN has 184 member-states. One of them is the independent Azerbaijan Republic.

Our people have become literate. I don’t want to compare our nation with others and rank it. But now borders are open; so is the world. You might have been abroad. Now I see more that I saw before. I can see the level of literacy of other nations. We can evaluate the level of literacy in neighboring countries, as well as countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe. What is the general level of literacy and culture of the Azerbaijani people? Many Azerbaijani citizens work in foreign countries as high-level experts now. It is true brain-drain is a negative factor for our country. It happens because of the current situation of Azerbaijan. But it has a positive side as well. It demonstrates the high linguistic, cultural, scientific level of our nation; that`s why many people who grow up in this environment can work abroad as teachers, professors, high-level experts of different fields. Would it have happened if literacy did not reach such a high level?

In Europe there are many workers from different countries. I recall I met Yugoslavian representatives several times during the Soviet time. I visited Yugoslavia with delegations. Over one million Yugoslavians had left the country for Germany where they worked at low-level jobs. I argued with the Yugoslavian authorities asking them why they let people go. They answered they benefited from it. How? First, they could not survive in Yugoslavia, but earned more money abroad. Second, they sent their money to Yugoslavia helping the domestic financial situation. You know how many people from Yugoslavia and other countries went to work in Europe. I don`t want to name all those countries. But Azerbaijanis go abroad, for example, to Turkey, to work at universities, work as teachers in cultural fields. It proves how much our nation has advanced throughout the 20th century.

Of course, today we can mention the repressions, tortures, injustice of the Soviet time. We can do it. It is our history. We should always say historical truth. Why do you forget our achievements though? As it was mentioned here, one of the achievements is related to the development of our language; the Azerbaijani language - it doesn`t matter how you name it - had never been enrichened, developed, as it has been within last 60 years. This is my opinion. Never had so many books, novels, poems, stories been written, as they have been within last 60 years. It is our historical way and achievement. When saying the independent Azerbaijan Republic we mean our state. No one can name it differently. Otherwise, it would be betrayal to our nation. It is the Azerbaijan Republic, and our state is recognized as the Azerbaijan Republic.

I was in New York for five days. I had 50-60, or maybe even 70 meetings within the five days. I had equal meetings with presidents of advanced countries of the world. I met with the US president. Yesterday I received a letter from him which says how pleased he was with our meeting and how interesting our meeting was. It is not only because of me, but also because of the Azerbaijan Republic, the Azerbaijani people.

These factors should be taken into consideration. No one should forget them. As an independent state, Azerbaijan has already held its position in the world. Therefore, the decision we are going to make should not touch our national identity and pride. We should know it. The words of Nizami, Fuzuli, Jalil Mammadguluzadeh, Mirza Fatali Akhundov, Sabir are dear to us. But we have a reality. This reality would have not been foreseen by Nizami, or Fuzuli, or Jalil Mammadguluzadeh. Reality prevails over our history and leads us to our future. If we end the Armenian occupation and strengthen our state, Azerbaijan will have a bright future.

Thus, we should always appreciate our national identity. I have a long life, I live today and I work with you. For me my national identity is above everything. My national identity has always helped me through difficulties. Thanks to my national identity I have pursued my own way, achieved what I wanted, and served my people. Therefore, we should not lose our national identity. We have a national identity we can be proud of.

Let us have a brief break. And then we will make a final decision on this subject in the next meeting of the constitutional commission. Thank you.

Translated from "Azerbaycan" (newspaper), November 3, 1995