Speech of Heydar Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan at the ceremony dedicated to the 80th ‎anniversary of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic - May 27, 1998‎

Ladies and gentlemen!

Distinguished guests!

I congratulate you, the Azerbaijani people on the 80th anniversary of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic!

The history of the statehood of the Azerbaijani people dates back hundreds of years. But at the beginning of the 19th century our people lost its statehood. The establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918 was a historic event and one of the glorious pages in our history.

The 80 years passed since the establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic may be divided into four parts: the first - 1918-1920 - the period of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic; the second - 1920-1922 - the period of the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialistic Republic; the third - 1922-1991 - the period of totalitarian regime and communist ideology in Azerbaijan, when Azerbaijan was part of the USSR along with other constituent republics; the fourth part has been lasting up to now since the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991 and restoration of the independence of Azerbaijan.

Each part has its own place and importance in our history.

The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was established with adoption of the "Declaration of Independence" on May 28, 1918. Its establishment was related to the political, public and ideological environment, which prevailed at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries in Azerbaijan. All the processes occurred in Azerbaijan and around were the results of that environment.

Of course, there were appropriate conditions for it. The end of the World War One, the fall of the Russian Tsarism, the October revolution in Russian and the situation emerged afterwards, inability of the Moscow government to control all the territories belonged to Russia in the past, the political conditions in the Southern Caucasus secured a proper ground for the establishment of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic. But at the same time, progressive people were needed to institute a state. Then there was a prominent Azerbaijani intelligentsia which representatives had been educated in Russia and other European countries, closely acquainted and learnt the European and world culture.

With their intellectual potential, faithfulness to their nation, they took part in the processes going in Azerbaijan at the beginning of the 20th century and together created the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic. We must commemorate all those public figures who served Azerbaijan.

Ali bey Huseynzade, Ahmed bey Agayev, Jalil Mammadguluzade, Mirza Alakbar Sabir, Uzeyir Hajibeyov and others had a great impact on the development of national identity. They all took part in laying the foundation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918.

With the establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918, our statehood once lost was restored. At the same time, it was the first independent state based on democratic principles in our history.

The establishment of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic, the adoption of the "Declaration of Independence" required a big will, wisdom, far-sightedness and courage. Our prominent politicians made a very important step then.

The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was established with big difficulties. There were external forces trying to prevent it; also, the internal situation in Azerbaijan was uneasy. After the foundation the Democratic Republic faced big hardships, problems, opposition as well. Today we can state proudly that despite all the difficulties, within two years the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic flourished and founded the basis of the independence of Azerbaijan in future.

Our public figures declared the independence of Azerbaijan outside our country. Because different political groups desired to seize Azerbaijan. Because of geostrategical importance, natural resources, particularly oil deposits, Azerbaijan attracted many foreign countries. Those countries, as well as some political groups inside Azerbaijan didn't want Azerbaijan to become independent. Thus, after the declaration of independence in Tiflis, the government of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic headed to Ganca, not Baku. Within a very short period in Ganca they did much; afterwards - on September 17, 1918 the Azerbaijani government entered our capital Baku.

The period afterwards contains a vigorous activity of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic. While preparing for the 80th anniversary of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic, scientific conferences and grand ceremonies were held, period of the Democratic Republic was researched, interesting facts were found and articles on it were published. I hope that it will continue further - the establishment of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic, its significance will be illuminated very well. In my opinion, our public has recently been well informed about the activity of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic.

I want to note briefly that the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic flourished in hard conditions, under pressure of the external and internal forces opposing the independence of Azerbaijan, such as different parties in the National Council and the parliament.

Despite all the problems, the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic did much during a short period. The most important is that it was the first democratic state in the Orient and the Muslim world; it established both independence and democracy in Azerbaijan. For what was done, the activity of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic is highly appreciated. I hope that this period will be remembered as a bright page of our history and next generations will appreciate its role.

Today with thankfulness we remember the founding fathers, who established the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and ensured its two-year activity. Mammad Amin Rasulzade, Fatali Khan Khoyski, Alimardan bey Topchubashev, Nasib bey Yusifbeyli, Hasan bey Agayev, as well as other members of the National Council greatly served Azerbaijan. Our nation remembers and will remember their deeds with thankfulness.

The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic officially ceased to exist on April 28, 1920. It was impossible for the Democratic Republic to survive further. There were a lot of reasons. I suppose that our historians will research them. On the one hand, the Communist- Bolshevik regime in Russia desired their rule to cover all the former territories of the Tsarist Russia. On the other hand, controversial processes were going on within Azerbaijan. Different parties at the domestic parliament struggled over power. Naturally, they weakened the Republic.

In such conditions the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic failed to exist further. Some of the leaders of the state then supposed that their way would be continued. Mammad Amin Resulzade thought that the new government established by the Bolsheviks would maintain the national identity of Azerbaijan. So did the other figures. Some people, including Nariman Narimanov also thought that they would be able to retain the independence of Azerbaijan even under another ideology. Unfortunately, they could not do it.

The second period covers the time of the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialistic Republic in 1920-1922. As an independent state, the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialistic Republic led an independent policy, established relations with other countries, signed international treaties. However, it was ruled by the Communist-Bolshevik regime. Finally, Azerbaijan was one of the founding republics of the Soviet Union in December 1922.

Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union and under the communist ideology for 70 years. It was a controversial period. But that period must be objectively estimated. The Azerbaijani people suffered a lot during 70 years.

Prominent figures of our nation were repressed, a lot of people were deported to remote areas of Siberia, Kazakhstan, the Central Asia in the 1920-1930s. As a result of such a policy, many people were either repressed or killed in the 1920-1930s.

In 1937-1938 especially the Azerbaijani intelligentsia, including political and public figures were either arrest or murdered. Strangely, some people who served the Bolshevik regime were also repressed. The Azerbaijani people had to go through such tragedies.

Genocide was committed against the Azerbaijani people. The decree that I signed clearly reflects the history of the genocide. The genocide was committed by the Armenians against our people in March 1918.

In 1937-1938 a lot of Azerbaijanis were expelled also to Iran. It repeated in 1944-1949. In 1948-1953 a lot of Azerbaijanis were compelled to leave their homes in Armenia.

The World War Two caused many human losses for Azerbaijan - hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani people perished in the war against fascism.

They were our losses in that period. But the biggest tragedy was the Armenian aggression aimed at annexation of the Azerbaijani territories.

The facts of the occupation of the Azerbaijani lands by the Armenians are well known. That happened also during a 70-year period. In 1988 Armenia launched a military aggression against Azerbaijan in order to annex Nagorno-Karabakh. It caused a big tragedy.

Furthermore, another genocide against our people was committed on January 20, 1990.

As you know, the third period which lasted 70 years had a negative impact on the Azerbaijani people.

However, at the same time, our people flourished and developed, despite all losses. Alongside the losses, the Azerbaijani people had big achievements. The most important was that literacy, educational and cultural level of our people increased during that period. Great masses were educated, a lot of schools were founded in our republic, a lot of Azerbaijanis succeeded to get higher education and contribute to different fields of society. The science and culture of Azerbaijan prospered during that period.

Great Uzeyir Hajibeyov created our national anthem in 1919. He perceived then it is necessary for our nation. Despite his young age and the difficulties of that period, he wrote a magnificent anthem. When we establish relations with foreign countries, we listen to their national anthems. I also feel proud when listening to our national anthem composed by Uzeyir Hajibeyov. Not only because it is sounded abroad, but because the music of the anthem is wonderful indeed.

Uzeyir Hajibeyov created his masterpiece - the opera "Koroglu" in 1937, during the years of repression. The overture of the opera sounds like an anthem. That's why some people accept it as the national anthem.

Showing such facts, I want to confirm that Azerbaijan developed in those years, despite all hardships. The economy of Azerbaijan developed, creating a big industrial-agrarian potential. The cities were rebuilt, developed and expanded. New cities, roads, bridges, railways, power plants, big works and factories, as well as the Baku metro were founded.

All they happened thanks to wisdom and efforts of the Azerbaijani people in the 1970s. In those years a great intellectual potential emerged in Azerbaijan. All they were the basis of our independence in 1991.

Finally, the fourth period started with the declaration of the independence of Azerbaijan in 1991. It is the happiest period for us, because Azerbaijan declared, maintained and strengthened its independence, making it perpetual.

This period looks like the period of 1918-1920, but differs from it at the same time. Because the Azerbaijani people faced many tragedies in this period, too. On the one hand, Azerbaijan restored its independence, was accepted by the world community and we live in a free country. On the other hand, serious problems made our situation harder. The most difficult problem is the Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan and its results.

This aggression was launched in 1988. The conflict might and must have been prevented then. But it was not prevented because of the activity of the Soviet government and incapability of the Azerbaijani authorities. During 1918-1920 the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic faced the Karabakh problem. As there was a conflict in Karabakh, part of the military force of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was transported there. The Armenian nationalists desired to occupy Karabakh then, too.

Such processes continued also in 1920-1922 and eventually ended up with the formation of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Province. However, the Armenian nationalists didn't give up their efforts to annex the Nagorno-Karabakh later, from the 1930s till the 1970s. Every time their efforts were prevented; I am witness of those processes, in many cases I organized the rejection of those claims.

Therefore, I state that the conflict might have been prevented in 1988. However, the Soviet government then and Gorbachov whose attitude towards Azerbaijan was negative allowed Armenia to escalate the conflict. The Azerbaijani authorities in 1988-1990 failed the popular trust and could not maintain the national interests. However, they might do it.

Later after the conflict turned into a war, the situation worsened. Thus, Azerbaijan faced a big problem right after the declaration of independence. Then the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan was under way. Therefore, it was necessary to create an independent state and maintain the national interests during the conflict.

In that situation the then Azerbaijani authorities had to mobilize all forces, accumulate all political forces in order to strengthen the independence and settle the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Unfortunately, they failed to do it. The internal political processes worsened the situation of Azerbaijan. They caused many losses of Azerbaijan.

If analyzing, we can count some stages of this period as well. I think that the most critical point of that period emerged in June 1993. Five years ago - at the end of May 1993 the governmental crisis happened. The forces in power could not preside over Azerbaijan. The population opposed the authorities. Using that opportunity, external and internal forces attempted to seize the power in Azerbaijan. Consequently, it led to a civil war in June.

Let`s remember the events in Ganja. The central government had already lost the control over some territories of Azerbaijan. Moreover, criminal gangs seized the control over seven districts in the south of Azerbaijan. The tensions were high in the north of the country, too. A civil war broke out in Azerbaijan.

Five years have passed since then. People forget such events very quickly. But please remember those days for a while. During the 75th anniversary of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic, an extraordinary military regime had been proclaimed throughout Azerbaijan. All the settlements in Azerbaijan were controlled by the military then. The population had lost its freedoms. Illegal armed, criminal gangs reigned in streets. All they led to a civil war.

We could prevent them. I think that 1993 is of great significance for protection of the independence of Azerbaijan. In June 1993 Azerbaijan was about to be torn apart and collapse. You all witnessed it. Our popular writer Anar said yesterday that if we could not have prevented all negative processes in 1993, Azerbaijan might has lost its independence once again. It is true. Because our enemies didn't want Azerbaijan to exist and develop as an independent country. On the one hand, Armenia has territorial claims against Azerbaijan, on the other hand, some circles in foreign countries attempt to control Azerbaijan. The events occurred in June 1993 and later was not a result only of the mutiny of armed gangs and inability of the then authorities, but also the plans of the secret services of some foreign countries on disintegration of Azerbaijan. We ruined their plans and could maintain the independence of Azerbaijan.

Later it was not so easy to keep the independence of Azerbaijan. You remember the October events and the coup d`etat attempt. The people`s trust to the head of state and government prevented the tragedy. Then Ganja had been seized by those criminal gangs. Without the national solidarity, the popular support, those armed people might commit more crimes.

But before it, the Lankaran events happened. We should never forget them. It was a hard period. While the tensions were high in Baku and other parts of Azerbaijan in 1993, the separatist forces wanted to transport a military unit with a 3,000 staff and weapons to Lankaran in order to secede from Azerbaijan and create their own state. We prevented it with the power of the people, the trust of the population of the southern region to the head of state.

In March 1995 there was an attempt to usurp the power. Both external secret service forces and internal oppositional parties had gathered in OMON. It was strange. As I stated in my speech in the parliament yesterday, history must be a lesson for everybody. Highly appreciating the activity of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic, we know well the rivalries within the Republic. We are informed of the parties which sacrifices the national interests of the state for their own in hard periods of Azerbaijan. The history was repeated.

All oppositional forces and armed criminal gangs gathered around OMON attempted to seize the power once again in March 1995. What for? For tearing Azerbaijan apart, shedding blood again? They wanted to come to power, take high positions. The people who pursued their own ambitions, not the national interests joined the March events in 1995.

But Azerbaijan had already accumulated its power by that time. Our state demonstrated its might, having prevented that attempt. Other provocations, terror act attempts committed later were the measures organized by both internal and external enemies.

Today, in a glorious day I state proudly:

We have served the Azerbaijani people - we have led our people through difficulties, maintained and strengthened the independence of our country.

In 1991 we restored the independence of Azerbaijan. We are faithful successors of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic.

The democracy based on experience of the 1918-1920 years is rapidly developing now in our country. Recently Azerbaijan has had significant achievements even in hard conditions.

The first achievement was that we saved our people from different coup d`etat attempts and reached internal stability in Azerbaijan. Every citizen needs this stability, because it ensures defending the rights of every citizen. This stability is also the main factor for the development of Azerbaijan as a democratic, legal and secular state. It also lets conduct political and economic reforms. Therefore, it is our biggest achievement. I am sure that with the national solidarity and the correct policy of our government we`ll maintain and strengthen this stability further.

The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic existed briefly, so it could not adopt its Constitution. In 1995 we adopted the first Constitution of the independent Azerbaijan by way of national referendum. We can be proud of it.

In November 1995 the first parliament of Azerbaijan was elected by way of democratic and free elections based on a multi-party system. Now Azerbaijan has the government, the parliament and the president elected by the people, and the Constitution approved by the population.

Having stabilized the internal situation in Azerbaijan, we have determined our foreign and domestic policy which we currently conduct. The peaceful foreign policy of Azerbaijan includes mutual useful relations with all the countries of the world, maintenance of peace and stability, peaceful co-existence with the neighboring nations and cooperation with other countries in all spheres. We`ll lead this policy further. Such a policy was appreciated worldwide. Azerbaijan holds high positions in international organizations, such as the UN, OSCE, the EU, the European Council, the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Azerbaijan established direct relations with many countries and signed a lot of international treaties, which are being implemented into life. Our political and economic relations are being developed and expanded.

As a democratic country, Azerbaijan considers establishment of relations with every democratic country of the world as the priority of its foreign policy. Azerbaijan is a young democratic state; we want to establish democracy in our country, so we use the experience of democratically developed countries. This issue is an integral part of our relations with other countries.

We support the peaceful solution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. There has been a cease-fire for four years. We observe the cease-fire treaty we signed four years ago, so we keep the cease-fire regime.

We think that the conflict can be settled peacefully. With the help of the co-chairs of the Minsk Group of OSCE - Russia, the USA and France we strive to reach the peaceful solution. I state it once again that we support the peaceful solution of the conflict and we`ll maintain the ceasefire regime further.

We have wide economic relations with other countries. You are aware of them and their results. Now there is a big interest to our economy and economic relations with us. In 1994 so-called "Contract of Century" on joint development of 3 oil deposits situated in the Azerbaijani Sector of the Caspian Sea was signed with 11 companies. This contract is being realized now: oil from the "Chirag" deposit is being produced and exported. We can observe the outcomes of the work we have done.

Later other 8 contracts were signed. Soon new ones will be concluded, too. In June the international oil and gas exhibition will be organized in Baku for the fifth time. As you see, with its foreign policy, economic reforms and relations Azerbaijan gradually retakes its reputation as the oil center of the world; the oil industry of Azerbaijan will contribute to our people and those who cooperate with us.

You are also informed of our internal policy. A legal, democratic, secular state is being formed in Azerbaijan. The articles of our Constitution delaing with the human rights are being implemented into life. The human rights are being protected. We have done a big progress in this sphere, but not finished our task. This sphere always needs attention; we do it. We combat criminality in Azerbaijan, we have liquidated armed gangs and saved the Azerbaijani people. There are no illicit, armed persons in Baku any more. Because of the intensive struggle against criminals, we have reached peace and stability in Azerbaijan. We`ll keep pursuing this policy further.

Furthermore, we have made punishment measures more humanistic. Our legal reforms result positively. As you are aware, Azerbaijan was the first Oriental country to have abolished the capital punishment. It demonstrated how democratic and humanistic the state of Azerbaijan is.

A lot of guilty people have been pardoned and granted amnesty. With my decrees 1,800 prisoners have been pardoned during the recent three years. With my iniative and the decision of our Parliament three acts of amnesty have been exercised towards 37,000 citizens, most of them have been released from prison. We strengthen our laws and make punishments more humanistic. We`ll further pursue this policy.

There are all conditions for the development of democracy in Azerbaijan. Freedom of press, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and political pluralism are ensured. Some think that it is not enough. However, it is a big progress for Azerbaijan. Everyone in Azerbaijan is free and can enjoy human freedoms.

We conduct reforms to strengthen the state. We have already benefited from the results of economic reforms. They all are obvious. Since 1994 we have been conducting these reforms. In general, liberalization of economy, foreign trade, export and import have positively contributed to the domestic economy.

The adopted program on privatization is being implemented into life. It has positive results. The small privatization is coming to an end. The big privatization, which includes privatization of medium and big enterprises, is currently under way. Thanks to the privatization and the liberalization of foreign trade, all the problems related to food and consumer goods have been removed. Everyone can buy and sell anything freely overall in Azerbaijan. They all are positive results of the privatization and the economic reforms.

Our agrarian reforms have positive outcomes as well. "The Law on Agrarian Reform" adopted in 1996 is being realized. Many lands have become private property. Those lands are more fruitful. Herding has entirely been privatized; its positive results are obvious - there is rich livestock production. Shortly, Azerbaijan has been pursuing market economy.

I assure all our citizens that our way is democracy, protection of human rights. In the economic sphere we also pursue market economy, "open doors" policy, integration with the world economy. We have already reached big achievements, but I hope that we`ll succeed more in future.

Thanks to our reforms, we have got positive results in our economy. Our GDP increased by 5.8% in 1997 and 8.5% for the first four months of 1998. In 1991-1992 our GDP were decreasing by 20-22% per year. We stopped the decrease in GDP in 1996, and it increased by 5.8% in 1997 and 8.5% during the first four months of 1998.

The domestic industrial production had been decreasing since 1990. We could stop it in 1996. Next year there was an increase. It is good that the industrial production increased by 0.3% in 1997 and 0.4% for the first four months of 1998.

We have achievements in monetary sphere, too. As you know, Azerbaijan used to suffer from inflation. In 1994 the inflation in Azerbaijan reached 1,600%. We gradually decreased it. During the recent two years the inflation has been very low in our country. The value of manat has increased by 4% against the dollar in the recent 4 months.

The investments made on the Azerbaijani economy have increased. Last year the increase was equal to 60-70%. During the first four months of this year it has increased 60%. The foreign investment for last year was USD 1.3 billion. Azerbaijan holds the first position among the countries of the CIS for this indicator. The per capita investment in Azerbaijan is USD 160. They are significant facts for the present and the future.

As I told, we pursue the "open doors" policy. A lot of foreign investors are interested in oil and non-oil sectors of Azerbaijan. With the laws adopted, we have created all necessary conditions for their activity in Azerbaijan. Furthermore, I signed some decrees. For attraction of more foreign investments, all necessary conditions will be created. Anyway, I think that we much be proud of the current situation in the country.

As a result of the reforms, the welfare of the population have been improved. For example, the workers` salary increased by 60% last year, 38% during the first four months of this year. Pensions increased nearly two times. The budget-financed salary increased by 50%, too.

Despite positive results, I understand that it doesn`t allow our citizens to live as they want. There are still people facing many problems, living in hard conditions. The conditions in which refugees and IDPs live worry us much. Our reforms will positively contribute to the welfare of the Azerbaijani citizens.

Privatization, economic and agrarian reforms, liberalization, aid to enterpreneurs, development of enterpreneurship will revive the Azerbaijani economy.

Despite difficulties and problems, we strengthen our independence, develop our country. Azerbaijan may be an example among the newly independent countries for its achievements.

We are proud of what we have. But on our way, we have had great losses, too. During 80 years the Azerbaijani people suffered a lot. We have martyrs who perished for our lands. We have martyrs killed on January 20. We shall always remember them. Today, in a a glorious holiday I ask for a minute of silence to commemorate all our martyrs.

May all our martyrs and victims rest in peace!

Dear friends!

Dear sisters and brothers!

Today we are celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic with feelings of pride and thankfulness. Today we are commemorating our founding fathers. We are looking back at the 80 years passed. We are proud of achievements, sad of losses. However, we are looking forth. All necessary conditions for the independent existence of Azerbaijan have been created. You can be sure that the independence of Azerbaijan is in reliable hands.

I bow in front of the people who served and sacrificed for the national freedom. I want to assure the Azerbaijani nation that as successors of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic we shall maintain and strenghten our independence.

Long live the Azerbaijani people!

Long live the strong, eternal and independent Azerbaijan!

From the newspaper "Azerbaijan", May 29, 1998