Concluding speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and chairman of the Constitutional Commission Heydar Aliyev at the meeting of the commission on January 14, 1998 - January 14, 1998

Honorable members of the commission!

Today we are discussing an important problem. We are engaged in creating statehood, legislation and legislative acts of the independent Azerbaijan Republic. From this point of view, elaboration of the Constitution of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic is an important task. I think the working group has worked effectively and the prepared draft can be generally adopted today.

Among the works done recently are our consultations with international organizations on the draft Constitution of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. It is very important. Because we should strive to make our legislation, laws and state acts reflect democratic principles. We should try to prepare and adopt all our laws, decrees and state acts according to democratic principles. That`s why we have accepted European international organizations as an example; we cooperate with them and use their experience. We have taken a lot of steps in this sphere. Now it is of paramount significance to consult with international organizations, study their opinions and proposals while working on the draft Constitution of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.

Their proposals were announced here. I think the working group should analyze them comprehensively after today`s discussion. It will be better if the proposals are accepted. The opinions of some experts may not adjust the present realities. The proposals and opinions are not mandatory though. We should adjust them to our life, realities, as well as to our national traditions and interests. I think it is a significant issue, thus we have to finish it.

The commission members made speeches and presented useful proposals. All of them should be taken into consideration. I believe we have spent much time for it. The elaboration of the draft Constitution must be completed within ten days. We don`t need much time. Because we have the draft Constitution, the opinions of international organizations, and the proposals of both the working group and the members of the commission. I think they should be analyzed within a few days, more useful ones should be accepted, and the updated draft should be submitted.

I asked the working group to invite all its members. Because Etibar Mammadov claimed they had not been involved. I could not understand it.

Ramiz Mehdiyev: Etibar Mammadov is not a member of the working group. He wants to get acquainted with the opinions of international organizations.

Heydar Aliyev: Let them do it then. Get the members of the working group and the commission acquainted with them. Most of them were announced here, but they can still learn the opinions again.

Any way, our goal is to adopt a perfect constitution of our time, which will be long-lasting and make up part of the legislative basis of Azerbaijan. I think we can do it.

I want to state some ideas regarding today`s discussion. I consider it useful because of some speeches made today.

Nakhchivan has been an old and integral part of Azerbaijan throughout history. It has a 3500-year history. I can`t say the history of Nakhchivan has been written well, however, richness of its history, including before Christ times, Middle Ages and modern period is proved by evidence. Nakhchivan is really an Azerbaijani land with a rich history. There were reigns, khanates and states, such as Atabegs; it is all known from history.

Not only is Nakhchivan`s history so rich, but also chaotic and complicated. Nakhchivan has attracted great attention from many parts of the world. Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, and in the 10th century a Byzantine emperor visited Nakhchivan. There are a lot of similar facts. The land of Nakhchivan has developed throughout its century-old history. People have flourished, survived difficulties and tragedies in Nakhchivan. It is still living as an Azerbaijani land. It is an enermous achievement.

Nakhchivan`s history in the 20th century was very complicated and controversial. Hard and contradictory processes happened in Nakhchivan within a few years from the 1917 October revolution through 1924 when Nakhchivan was proclaimed an autonomous republic and when the first Constitution of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic was adopted in 1926. The Armenian Dashnak forces claimed Nakhchivan, and tried to occupy it in the 20th century and even before.

But even the lands surrounding Nakhchivan have been Azerbaijani lands. Armenians settled later. They have claimed Nakhchivan as they claim some territories in current Turkey and as they occupied the Azerbaijani territories where the current Armenian Republic is located. However, they failed to seize the territory of Nakhchivan.

Unfortunately, some of the lands of Nakhchivan were occupied by Armenians, but Nakhchivan could maintain its area in general. If the province of Zangezur that separates Nakhchivan from Azerbaijan had not been granted to Armenia, then Azerbaijan would have had a single area without autonomy in Nakhchivan. Granting the province of Zangezur, including districts of Mehri and Gafan, which were Azerbaijani territories to Armenia in 1920 was a terrible event in our history.

Armenians have always tried to occupy our lands. As known from history, Armenians, Georgians, and Azerbaijanis initially wanted to create a common Transcaucasian state in 1918 in Tbilisi. As the idea was never realized, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia declared their independence. But there were serious and tense arguments there.

Evidently the founders of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic agreed to cede some of the Azerbaijani territories, including Irevan to Armenia. Our archives contain a wire of the Prime Minister of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic Fatali Khan Khoyski from Tbilisi to the Foreign Minister Mammad Hasan Hajinski. He asked Hajinski to increase the efforts to help them come from Tbilisi. Because they were not allowed to leave Tbilisi. He also informed that they had finished their discussions with Armenians and decided to give Irevan to Armenia. The wire is in Russian. It says "We have yielded Irevan to Armenians" in Russian. The document dates to 1918.

These periods of our history should be researched, analyzed and written. I have proposed it several times. I think we need our ancient history, too. However, we can`t document the millennium-old history of Azerbaijan. The 19-20th centuries are a significant period for us; we need to research it. While looking through some archive materials on Nakhchivan, which I had seen before, too, I recall how important it is to deliver the truth to our public and future generations.

Apparently during the Sovietization of Armenia in December 1920, it was proclaimed on behalf of the Azerbaijani government that the areas of Zangezur and Nakhchivan were ceded to Armenia. Later Armenians claimed both Nakhchivan and Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the referendum held in 1921, 90% of Nakhchivan's population wanted to be included in Azerbaijan. As you know a referendum was held in Nagorno-Karabakh, too. Then the Nagorno-Karabakh population also voted for being part of Azerbaijan.

It is part of our history. Now highly appreciating the activity of the people who maintained the national interests of Azerbaijan in those turbulent times, we can argue that they were very loyal and patriotic people. Thanks to their efforts and patriotism the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic was maintained. It is no surprise that the status of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic was determined by two international treaties. We can ask why its status was determined by international treaties. Because some forces claimed Nakhchivan. Its attachment to Azerbaijan was reflected in those international treaties, which were concluded in March 1921 in Moscow and in October 1921 in Kars.

Now we know how hard it is to arrange interstate actions. But imagine 1920-1921 when there were no transportation, communication and other means. In those conditions our patriotic people struggled to maintain Azerbaijan. We must not forget their deeds and appreciate them. There have also been mistakes that resulted in many losses, but there were great breakthroughs as well. The Moscow and Kars treaties were among those achievements. The then authorities of Azerbaijan attained them.

I have already stated that some post-Soviet forces claim Azerbaijan was destroyed from 1920 through 1990. Even though the Communist regime came to power in Azerbaijan in December 1920, the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialistic Republic was independent.

If Behbud Shahtakhtinsky signed the Kars treaty on behalf of Azerbaijan with Russia, Armenia, Georgia and Turkey in 1921, then Azerbaijan was independent enough for self-determination. We must not forget it or cross out our history. We need to recall both black and white pages of our history, its tragedies, achievements and successes. We can`t forget the efforts of the people.

These treaties are of great importance. During the Soviet time they were totally forgotten. I can say 99% of the Azerbaijani population had no idea about them. Perhaps some historians and researches knew. Those treaties were forgotten, because there was no need for them. The republics were part of the Soviet Union. But during the Soviet time the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic had its own constitution. The Constitution of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic was adopted in 1926, then in 1937, and later in 1978. Thus, no one worried about Kars or Moscow treaties. There was no need. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the foreign claims against Nakhchivan, we understood how important these treaties are for Azerbaijan.

In 1990 and later these treaties were announced in Nakhchivan; people recalled and used them. During my visit to Turkey as the chairman of the Nakhchivan Supreme Soviet in March 1992 and my negotiations with late president Turgut Ozal and then Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel, we recalled Kars and Moscow treaties. The authorities of the Turkish Republic, particularly Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel stated in front of press that if any changes are made in the status of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, Turkey has a right of vote, according to Moscow and Kars treaties. It is true. Turkey is one of the parties that signed both Kars and Moscow treaties. Turkey is an independent and important country now as it was at that time. Turkey has been guarantors of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic ever since.

They are pages of our history. At the same time, these facts reflect the processes on the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and their outcomes. Nakhchivan has had a difficult time and survived as an autonomy within Azerbaijan.

Unfortunately, even later Armenia claimed some territories of Azerbaijan neighboring with Armenia. They could succeed somehow in 1929.

According to the decision of the Transcaucasian Central Executive Committee, 657 sq. km. of territories of Nakhchivan, including its villages mentioned here were ceded to Armenia. It is true. But it is not all. It is the territory ceded from the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. But there were lands ceded from Zengilan and Gubadli. There is a big village called Nuvadi in the province of Mehri. It has been an Azerbaijani village with a rich history. It is situated in the bank of the Araks and in the middle of the distance that separates Nakhchivan with the mainland of Azerbaijan. The village of Nuvadi was also granted to Armenia in 1929. However, it is an old Azerbaijani village with rich traditions. The Nuvadi population was brave people. I remember, when most of Azerbaijanis were departed from Armenia, the Nuvadi people did not leave their village. But later they were forced to leave and go to the village of Vezhnali in Zengilan. They lived in tents. They struggled and did not want to leave. Later they asked me of help. But I hardly maintained Nakhchivan, how could I help them? But I managed to send representatives by helicopter to the tent camp of the Nuvadi people near Vezhnali, Zengilan. We aided them and kept in contact with them.

Not only lands of Nakhchivan, but also some other territories of Azerbaijan were lost at that time. We have lost the strip separating Nakhchivan from Azerbaijan - the distance is 46 kilometers by railroad. The area of Zangezur was not so large, when it was ceded to Armenia. Yesterday we saw on map that it had a 10-km access to the Araks. But later some villages of Nakhchivan and current Zengilan were ceded to Armenia, having enlargened the strip from 10 kilometers to 46 kilometers. These processes resulted in big losses for us. We lost some of our territories because of those processes.

I want to present another historical fact, even though it is known. In 1968-1969 Armenia had new territorial claims against Azerbaijan. I guess they used the 1932 maps of the Transcaucasian Cartography Agency. Hasan Hasanov may know, those maps were false since the mapmakers were Armenians. Unfortunately, Azerbaijanis were not so vigilant in this case. It is our nation`s characteristics: we are not vigilant and flexible. But our counterparts are more vigilant, more flexible and stronger than us. Using those maps they initiated territorial claims on some parts of Azerbaijan, especially the territories neighboring with Armenia. I was not the leader of the republic, but I held a high position. The then authorities of Azerbaijan negotiated with the authorities of Armenia. Even a protocol was signed in 1968. That protocol is in the archive now. I was shown that once again yesterday. Armenians claimed some territories of the district of Sadarak neighboring with Armenia, some lands of Ordubad bordering with Mehri, the village of Taghlar in Gedebey, and some territories of Gazakh, Gubadli and Lachin. Unfortunately, the then authorities of Azerbaijan agreed with the claims, having signed the protocol. In May 1969 the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan and its chairman late Isgenderov signed a decree on ceding those territories. Fortunately, the implementation of the decree was delayed.

As you know, I was elected the First Secretary of the Central Committee of Azerbaijan in July 1969. I recall those days. They raised that issue in front of me a few days after my appointment. There was a pressure from Moscow, too. They urged me to issue a decree on implementation of the decision which had been made. I said the decision made in May had not been implemented till July, so I needed to research the issue. After the investigation I realized I could not approve it. So I did not. It is known. The decision was never realized while I worked In Azerbaijan. In 1985 Armenians attained the implementation of the decision: new commissions were established, new protocols were signed, those territories, including some from Nakhchivan were ceded to Armenia.

It is necessary to know this history. I believe the ceded lands must be returned some day. The historical territories of Azerbaijan must be returned. Our people must always know what lands we had, what lands were ceded, why they were ceded, and they must be returned. Future generations will return them if we can`t.

The anti-Azerbaijani policy of Armenia continued throughout the 20th century. I recalled the issue on those territories. Azerbaijanis were deported from Armenia 50 years ago - in 1948-1953. It was Azerbaijani lands. The lands which were ceded to Armenia in 1918-1920 were ethnically cleansed up from Azerbaijanis in 1948, thus no one could say they had been Azerbaijani lands.

Very serious crimes were committed against people and nations during the Soviet time. There were many repressions and deportations in the 1920-30s. Azerbaijan had big losses as a result of the repressions and deportations. The policy of the Soviet government covered all the parts of the country. Most people were exiled to Siberia, but not Russians. Our people were deported. From 1929 through the collapse of the Soviet Union many people were deported from Transcaucasia. But our nation had more losses. There were not so many repressions in other parts of Transcaucasia as there were in Azerbaijan in 1937-1938. The 1937-1938 repressions were held all over the Soviet Union. But their scales were different in different regions and satelite republics. In Transcaucasia we always compare Azerbaijan with Armenia and Georgia. The number of the deported from Azerbaijan since 1920 has been more than that from Armenia and Georgia.

A number f people in Azerbaijan were repressed in 1937-1938. Furthermore, a number of Azerbaijanis were deported to Iran in 1937-1938. However this history has long been forgotten. Some Azerbaijanis were massively deported from Azerbaijan as they were subjects of Iran. 60 years have passed since that historical tragedy.

Most of them may not remember those days. But I witnessed them. I lived in Nakhchivan. Our neighbors were put into buses and deported on the other bank of the Araks. I witnessed those who were deported from Nakhchivan to the Central Asia by political motives. Some people that studied with me at school were bidding farewell with us. We did not understand what was going on, but we saw they were deported from their homes.

Our people faced a lot of tragedies in the 20th century. The tragedies that happened in Nakhchivan were more horrible than that in other parts of Azerbaijan. I also need to note that despite difficulties and deprivations the Nakhchivan people were very brave in 1980-1990 as they had always been.

For instance, I consider the decision of the Supreme Soviet of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic on January 19, 1990 on secession of Nakhchivan from the Soviet Union is historic even though the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan abolished the decision on January 29. The population of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and their representatives in the Supreme Soviet expressed their will. Why? Because of the injustice against Azerbaijan. The Soviet troops had not entered Baku yet, but there had been attacks against Nakhchivan by Armenia. The village of Kerki was lost, while other villages were attacked. The Sovet troops in Nakhchivan and Armenia did not defend Nakhchivan, though there were too many troops. Thus, the Nakhchivan people had no option, but to make the decision.

I recall I was brought Turkish newspapers when I was having meetings regarding the 20 January event in 1990. The papers had big titles "Nakhchivan is burning". I did not know it then. I learnt about it on January 21. Because I had no connection. But I learnt about it from newspapers given to me by foreign reporters. But it was a tremendous event.

Afterwards Nakhchivan survived in a blockade and endured all difficulties. It demonstrates how adherently Nakhchivan maintained the national interests of Azerbaijan. As it was noted here, the Azerbaijani government had an unfair attitude towards Nakhchivan. I remember the past well. The Azerbaijani authorities had an unfair attitude towards Nakhchivan. I remember the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s. I felt it even when I was the leader of Azerbaijan. Though I was the head of the country and I was born in Nakhchivan, I witnessed some bodies did not want to recognize the normal rights of Nakhchivan. I witnessed it.

Nakhchivan has received an unfair attitude. Speaking frankly, the main construction, development of industry and agriculture started in Nakhchivan in the 1970s. You can count and compare what was constructed till and after 1970, excluding the historical buildings. It applies not only Nakhchivan, but every part of Azerbaijan. But I mention Nakhchivan, because I am talking about it today. And I know there was an unfair attitude against Nakhchivan. As a result, they tried to limit the rights of Nakhchivan.

For example, the exclusion of that provision of the Article 112 in October 1991 was mentioned here. Its reason was obvious. The Soviet government was dissolved in Nakhchivan in September 1991. Heydar Aliyev was elected the chairman of the Supreme Soviet by popular will. In the presidential elections which were held on September 8 in Azerbaijan Ayaz Mutallibov was the only candidate. The Nakhchivan people were against him, we did not hide it. The Nakhchivan people stated it. I and other members of parliament from Nakhchivan protested Ayaz Mutallibov`s election as president in their speeches at the sessions of the Supreme Soviet. Because he was guilty for the January events. He maintained the emergency situation in Azerbaijan, particularly Baku and had an unfair attitude against Nakhchivan. Therefore, the population protested his election. We did not take part in the presidential elections.

What was the reason of pressure on Nakhchivan? The referendum on maintaining the USSR was held in March 1991. This issue was discussed in the Supreme Soviet. Some members of the Parliament at that time, such as Asya khanum, Etibar Mammadov are present here. I guess Anar was not an MP, but Bakhtiyar muallim was. Some other MPs are also here. A number of MPs, including me and some other people from Nakhchivan stated that the Soviet Union was being collapsed, the Soviet government had committed a serious crime on January 20 and had taken Nagorno Karabakh from Azerbaijan prior to it. It had almost done it.

Nagorno Karabakh was annexed from Azerbaijan in 1988. When I stated we had lost Nagorno Karabakh in my speech at the session in February 1991, some people protested me saying Nagorno Karabakh was attached to Azerbaijan as firmly as never before. If a special administration committee was established in Nagorno Karabakh, it means the area got out of the control of Azerbaijan and became attached directly to Moscow and managed by the head of the Special Administration Committee Volsky. It meant Nagorno Karabakh became attached to Armenia. It was obvious.

Thus, when the issue on the referendum was discussed, we, MPs from Nakhchivan called people not to go to the referendum. Referendum was not held in Nakhchivan. Thus media disseminated information on "Nakhchivan`s secession from Azerbaijan" on behalf of some people from Nakhchivan in March 1991. Then the second event happened. Nakhchivan did not participate in the referendum and presidential elections. So they decided to defame Nakhchivan again. At the same time, Heydar Aliyev was unexpectedly elected the chairman of the Nakhchivan Supreme Soviet. They worried Heydar Aliyev would become the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan. They wanted to prevent it. By depriving the rights of Nakhchivan they tried not to let Heydar Aliyev come to power. Heydar Aliyev had no intention though. But because of one person, - as it was mentioned by Bakhtiyar Vahabzadeh, - it was wrong to deprive the rights of Nakhchivan.

They wanted to deprive the rights of Nakhchivan: I appreciate the MPs who defended Nakhchivan. Actually we did not enjoy this right in Nakhchivan. I never came here while I worked in Nakhchivan. But this right of Nakhchivan was maintained. However, later there was an action against Nakhchivan again. It was mentioned here, but I want to go into details. It is a historical matter.

The Popular Front and Musavat were in power at the end of 1992 and at the beginning of 1993. They replaced the previous government. The previous government wanted to abolish the Article 112. The Popular Front-Musavat government decided to cancel the status of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic at all. The relevant proposal was prepared and discussed. God knows, if the 1993 events had not happened, the status of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic would have already been cancelled. Of course, the people would have protested it, but it might have led to a tragedy - no one knows it. But it was real. The representatives of the president and Milli Majlis came to Nakhchivan. Their coup d`etat attempt in Nakhchivan in October failed. After that we called a session. The representatives said clearly since Azerbaijan was a unitary state, there could not be an autonomy. So Nakhchivan`s autonomy should have been cancelled and its districts should have been controlled directly by Azerbaijan.

The interests of nation can not be sacrificed because of attitudes towards some people. What did they do that for? In order to leave Heydar Aliyev outside.

So we have the Kars and Moscow treaties, the people who strove to protect every inch of Azerbaijan in those turbulent years, the documents and results attained thanks to their activity on the one hand, the people who were against the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, who tried to limit or even cancel Nakhchivan`s autonomy on the other. They speak too much about national interests and claim to be most patriotic people in Azerbaijan.

I spoke on Nakhchivan`s autonomy last time, I spoke on it widely today. I did it in order to recall history. I believe Nakhchivan`s autonomy is a historical achievement and we must protect it. Nakhchivan`s autonomy is an important factor to serve for returning our lost lands. We must maintain this factor. Nakhchivan`s autonomy is an important factor as a border between Azerbaijan and Turkey. It is a historical event that Nakhchivan`s autonomy was established within Azerbaijan; when borders were regulated by those treaties, Azerbaijan and Turkey got common border, albeit small. The common border was established in 1921. But an important role played by the existence of the common border in 1991-1993 and the establishment of that bridge in 1991-1992 in the relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan is obvious.

Recalling some historical moments, I want to say that we must maintain Nakhchivan`s autonomy and grant Nakhchivan rights it needs. Thus I think the elaborated draft generally meets requirements. But as I noted, all the proposals and opinions related to today`s discussion should be taken into consideration and elaborated and the updated draft should be introduced within ten days.

I also think the updated draft must be submitted by our commission to the Supreme Soviet of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. The Supreme Soviet of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic must discuss it and make a decision. Afterwards the adopted Constitution must be confirmed by the Milli Majlis of Azerbaijan as a law. So we take a serious step in the field of the Azerbaijani legislation and regulate these issues. The Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic will obtain a worthy status within the Azerbaijan Republic, going through historical stages. It is necessary for present and future.

I thank you for today`s meeting and the work done. I hope the draft Constitution will be completed and submitted within ten days. Thank you.

"Azerbaycan" (newspaper), January 15, 1998