Introductory and concluding speech of Heydar Aliyev, President of the Republic of ‎Azerbaijan, at the meeting of the commission elaborating the draft of the new Constitution of ‎the Republic of Azerbaijan, Presidential Palace. November 5, 1995‎

Today the next, perhaps the last meeting of the commission created for the elaboration of the draft of the new Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan, is taking place. At the meeting of the commission held on November 2, we discussed one article of the draft of the Constitution after the national discussion. After the publication and national discussion of the draft, we must look through the submitted proposals, amendments and decide which of them may be adopted and improve the draft.

The members of the working group of the commission have analyzed the sumbitted proposals; they have definite views on them. The working group can present us its views on the proposals, then we can determine which proposals to accept. I think that we must complete our work and the final variant of the draft must be ready and published.

Before listening to the information of the working group on these proposals, we must conclude the discussions on Article 23 of the Constitution. As this article was of special importance and there are some opinions on it, it has been passed through a detailed discussion. After the national discussion, this article was dicussed at the Academy of Sciences with the participation of intellegentsia. Later, on November 2, this article was discussed in the commission for the Constitution. That discussion lasted nearly five hours. We listened to all the proposals, but no desicion was made. We have to decide today. Thus, before listening to the information of the working group on other proposals, we must complete our discussions on this article; we must determine our opinion, then look through the proposals on other articles.

Therefore, I give the floor to Ramiz Mehdiyev to inform about the results of the discussion of the meeting of the commission held on November 2...

* * *

Our scientists, writers, experts could express their opinions in two discussions. After the publication of the draft of the Constition, it was discussed by the public, too. I was informed today that nearly 3,000 proposals on different articles of the Constitution has been submitted. Amog them, there are 23 proposals on the Azerbaijani language; some propose to name the official language Turkish or Azerbaijani Turkish. In the meeting held on November 2, some members of the commission made speeches, disclosed their positions. What else about it do other members want to add?

Concluding speech

It is a very responsible and honorary duty to adopt the first Constitution of the independent Azerbaijan. We are lucky to be assigned with such a duty. At the same time, we must realize our responsibility for our work to the history and next generations. Therefore, we have to pay great attention to our work, approach it objectively, with patience and responsibility. Since the establishment of our commission up to now, all the members of the commission, as well as, I, as the chairman of the commission, have been doing our best to implement our duties.

Our work is coming to an end. Having discussed the draft totally, analyzed the sumbitted proposals and prepared the final variant of the draft of the constitution, we must publish it. You, the members of the commission and the public are witnessing that I am supporting the detailed discussion of the Article on the official language; I think that the time spent for it is worth. Some has not any patience more, others think that everything is obvious and that we should make the final decision. However, I think that the issue must be entirely clear. I approached this issue from a common point of view, we have already discussed it several times and the majority has reached the same opinion.

First, while the draft was developed, this issue was discussed. The draft has been checked several times. Later when this issue was discussed on October 14, we exchanged views on this article. Three commission members told that it would be better to write Azerbaijani Turkish or Azerbaijani (Turkish) language instead of the Azerbaijani language as the official language of the country. The rest of the commission didn`t support this idea; they preferred the Azerbaijani language. Etibar Mamedov who made a speech today, said nothing then. In that case, as the chairman of the commission, I must conclude the issue, taking into consideration the opinion of the majority. But I think that though just three members of the commission support that idea, they remain in minority, nevertheless we must take into consideration their opinions, too, because they are our intellegentsia, people of culture, science, literature. The official language of Azerbaijan was declared the Azerbaijani language in the Constitution of 1978. Thus, "The official language of Azerbaijan is Azerbaijani" was written in the Article 23 of the draft. It was submitted to the discussion of nation.

As I told in our previous meetings, I thought we must study the different opinions from historical and scientific point of view. During our work, I wanted the people express their views freely. Second, in these discussions I wanted to clarify this issue for myself, too, even though I know the history of our language. I could maintain my own position from the beginning; I didn`t do it. It would help the issue to be obvious. Therefore, after the publication of the draft, we thought that the discussion of this issue again is necessary.

On October 31, this issue was discussed by the intellegentsia at the Acadamey of Sciences, where more than 25 people spoke. I wasn`t satisfied though. The meeting of the commission for Constitution on November 2 was entirely dedicated to this issue. The meeting lasted 5 hours. After that discussion, a final decision might be adopted. However, I still support the continuation of that discussion with the participation of the members of the commission for Constitution and the working group. At the end of discussions, I want to express my own view, as well.

Language, nation are philosophical and historical conceptions. Mankind has used any language to contact. There were tribes, groups; they were later transformed into nations. Therefore, language, nation are philosophical and historical conceptions. According to the law of dialectics, the two conceptions are always developing.

I think that our historians, philosophers agree with my words from scientific point of view. No one can insist that what is said in the 12th or 15th century is a dogma for us today. We should take into consideration. Discussing the issue of the official language of our state, we should not take any conjuncture. We should not worry if someone will like or dislike our decision. We should not apologize anybody because of our decision. I don`t accept such a position.

In our meeting on November 2, one of our linguists told that 23 Turkic speaking nations used to live in the territory of the former Soviet Union. It means that there are a lot of Turkic speaking nations, which have the same roots. So there must be other Turkic speaking nations outside the territory of the former Soviet Union. The languages in the world were divided into different language groups and have branched out. Every branch has developed and reached the current level as a result of different processes.

However, it is not the end yet. The mankind, the human society are developing; so we can not say what will happen in several hundred years. However, the world will change for sure, as everything is developing. Undoubtedly, the Turkic speaking nations which we belong to, have branched out and developed under the influence of their territories, neighbours and other factors.

The Turkic languages have become the official languages of states in the 20th century. It is connected with the formation of state. In our discussions the Ottoman empire and the Ottoman language were mentioned often. But our historians know very well that Turkish was not the official language of the Ottoman empire till the 19th century. If you read the decrees of sultans, you`ll see that they were not issued in Turkish, but in Arabic or Persian. You can visit the museums in Istanbul, if you want to be sure. I have spoken with the officials of Turkey. All they confirm my words. Turkish became the official language after the current Turkish Republic was established. As a brotherly nation, the establishment of the Turkish Republic by Ataturk, its position in the world and Turkish as the official language gladden us. We consider them as great achievements.

The Azerbaijani people who live in Azerbaijan, Iran and the east of Turkey have been speaking Azerbaijani. But everyone must know that Azerbaijani became the official language only in 1978.

We must be thankful to our ancestors for preserving our language, despite the invasion of different states. Our language was maintained by our people and the prominent persons. The great poet and thinker Nizami Ganjavi mentioned Turkish, even though he wrote his poems in Persian. Great Fizuli wrote his poems in both Arabic and Turkish. Molla Penah Vagif, Mirza Fatali Akhundov, as well as our prominent persons of the 20th century, such as Hasan bey Zardabi, Ahmed bey Agayev, Ali bey Huseynzade, Fatali khan Khoyski, Mammad Amin Rasulzade, Nariman Narimanov, Dadash Bunyadzade maintained our language with their words, decrees, documents. However, Azerbaijani wasn`t the official language then.

Our greatest wealth is that in spite of all the difficulties, our language has survived and become richer year by year. In the past our language wasn’t so rich, simple and pure at the same time. Thus, the language has been developing year by year, profiting from the science and culture of the world. Especially, since the 20s of the 20th century, there have been prominent linguists, critics, poets, writers and journalists in Azerbaijan. In that period we could introduce Nizami Ganjavi, Muhammed Fizuli, Nasimi, Vagif, Akhundov, Sabir and other prominent poets and writers to the world. They weren’t famous before the 20th century. They became famous in the world in our period; it all was connected with Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani language.

Nizami`s "Quintuple" was translated into Azerbaijani after 1948. I achieved its publication in Moscow, having been translated into Russian. I was engaged in this issue for several years. The poems by Nizami weren`t entirely published in Russian. Then I was not given enough time for it. Later I found out that the translation of the poems by Nizami is not perfect. I had an idea which I tried to realize, to create a group of translators for the translation of the poems by Nizami into Russian from the original. The Russian language is known also in other countries. It all happened in that period.

We translated the works by Nasimi into Azerbaijani for the first time while celebrating his 600th anniversary.

Thus, that period when our language developed, was a productive period for us, forour literature, history. For granting the language an official status, there must be an independent state, a country. If a language does not represent a state, it can never be an official language. It is proven from legal and philosophical point of view. Azerbaijan used to be a constituent of the Soviet Union with its banner, coat of arms and anthem. Then we faced a lot of difficulties to grant Azerbaijani the status of the official language.

Perhaps one thing would be interesting for you. I knew it. I asked to bring the Constitution of the Soviet Union adopted in 1977. You can have a look at it - there is no article on the official language.

At our meeting on November 2, the Chief of the National Archives presented a reference: in the draft of the 1936 Constitution of Azerbaijan, Turkish was supposed to be the official language. But after our representatives returned from Moscow, the article on the official language was not included in the Constitution. Articles on official language were not included in the Constitutions of the Soviet Union of 1936 and 1978. It means that the people in the administration did not want the languages to be separated, also realizing that Russian is the dominant language and it was not necessary to include it. I think so. When we tried to include an article that the official language of Azerbaijan is Azerbaijani, in the Constitution of 1978, we were asked from Moscow why we are trying to do that, if it was not included even in the Soviet Constitution.

As you see, our rich language has passed such difficulties. Since 1936 our language has been named Azerbaijani in all the documents. Azerbaijani is shown as the official language in the 1978 Constitution. Today we all call our language Azerbaijani, too.

With all respect to our history and roots, today we have the right to say that our language has developed, received its name and reached the official status in the 20th century. It is wrong to change the name of our language from historical, philosophical point of view and for the future of our statehood.

We must not lose our identity. Every nation has its history and specific achievements. The Azerbaijani people live within the territory of Azerbaijan recognized by the UN. We know our past - we are a Turkic nation. Our language belongs to the Turkic language group. However, we have our own language, as other 23 Turkic speaking nations have. We must not mix or attach our language to another one. Perhaps other nations from the Turkic language group may envy how rich our language is.

I respect every language. I think that we can be proud of the Azerbaijani language. Because it is a rich and popular language in the world. Our nation, republic and language are famous. It is reality, at least the reality of the recent 60 years.

Despite the dominance of Russian in Azerbaijan, we preserved our language. We didn`t lose it. We speak our language now and are able to express even compicated thoughts. It is a great achievement. It is above other achievements, because our language is so rich that we can express everything.

I declare again that with respect to our history and our ancestors, we must make a historic step today - we must adopt the official language of the Republic of Azerbaijan. It is Azerbaijani.

I think that while developing the draft, we can improve and broaden Article 23. Anyway, we adopt it and sumbit to the referendum. Let the people say its position. As representatives of our people, members of the society and persons empowered by the people, we are disclosing our views. If nobody minds, we can finish the discussion of this issue.

The newspaper "Azerbaycan", November 6, 1995