Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev before the residents of Ganja - May 24, 2000

Dear residents of Ganja,

Dear sisters and brothers,

Dear friends,

It is already two days I am in Ganja with you. Yesterday I arrived in Ganja then within a few hours I took part at the opening ceremony of “Yenikend” hydroelectric station in Shamkir. Then I went back to Ganja. I was at "Billur" plant then spent the night in Ganja and today in the morning again we visit the factories. We visited the Clay Association, the association which produces equipment, a military unit, and most importantly we visited the mausoleum of Nizami Ganjavi.

During these two days I had many meetings with the residents of Ganja. Every time I met you, I conveyed you my sincerest words. If you collect all my speeches of these two days here in Ganja, Shamkir, you will probably get lots of them. But the most important point is that from the day I came here I witnessed deep respect, esteem and love of people of Ganja to me.

When walking in the town, people gathered on both sides of streets greeted me. I also greeted them with great love. Perhaps I broke the rhythm of Ganja a bit. Because no matter where I was walking, the young and old greeted me everywhere. This love is excited me, thus, I cordially greet all of you and express my appreciation to you, the residents of Ganja for the hospitality, warm feelings and admiration again and again.

Each of my visit to Ganja pleased and inspired me, and I always found in Ganja a good mood and warm hospitality. It is not the first time that I visit Ganja. I visited Ganja in the 80s, 60s and in particular, after 1969 when I headed Azerbaijan. Ganja is a lovable town for me, as well as for you, because it is a major cultural center that shows the world the ancient history of the Azerbaijani culture.

We recently celebrated the 1300th anniversary of the epos of "Kitabi Dede Gorgud" which was attended by the heads of the Turkic-speaking countries. It showed to the world the 1300-year history of the Azerbaijani people, the epos written by the people. It demonstrated that the Azerbaijani people is an ancient nation and has an ancient and rich culture. The Azerbaijani people made an extremely valuable contribution to the world culture. The culture and literature of the Azerbaijani people had an impact on many countries of the world.

In this regard, Nizami is a shining example of the history of our rich culture. Nizami lived on this land, showed his genius and created his immortal works here. According to Nizami, Ganja is a town with an ancient history. Therefore, when I visit Ganja I visit the home of Nizami, it gladdens me as an Azerbaijani patriot.

However Ganja is known not only because of Nizami Ganjavi. Ganja is famous for its other prominent and outstanding figures. You know them well. I do not want to take the time and talk about it in detail. However, Ganja was the town where the Democratic Republic first was established and proclaimed its independence in 1918. We are on the eve of the national independence of Azerbaijan. The 28th of May is the Day of Independence of Azerbaijan, the Day of Republic. On this day of 1918 the thinkers and patriots of Azerbaijan proclaimed in Tbilisi the independence of Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan was declared to the world as an independent country. However, then Baku was under the occupation of the enemy, they could not come to Baku and stayed in Ganja where they carried out their activities. From May to September, the first capital of the independent state of Azerbaijan was Ganja.

As you know, people who took an active participation in the formation of the Democratic Republic and some members of the first government of the Democratic Republic were the people born and lived in Ganja and had great achievements in the struggle for independence of Azerbaijan.

Ganja has a very rich history. However, in XX century Ganja has grown, developed and become a big and beautiful town. We talked about that in Ganja there were built large industrial enterprises, which provided people with jobs. However, today, in the transition period some of them do not work and there are difficulties in economy. During the meeting, we discussed these issues. Some of the ministers who came here with me have reported the problems on a number of issues of Ganja that must be solved. My aim is primarily to provide Ganja with uninterrupted supply of electricity in the coming autumn-winter season.

Yesterday, we celebrated the opening of “Yenikend” hydroelectric station built on the River Kura in Shamkir. I decided to build “Yenikend” hydroelectric station in 1979. Then its construction began. However, in subsequent years, the construction was suspended. Since 1994, I have restarted the construction. We had no finances, thus, I appealed to the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development. We received a loan of 53 million USD dollars and due to this credit the hydroelectric station was built.

I felt a sense of boundless pride yesterday. We have created a great hydroelectric station according to modern technology. It now makes 112 megawatts of electricity. But soon, in a few months the fourth block will start to work and it will produce 150 megawatts of electricity. I would like to let you know that all electricity produced in “Yenikend” hydroelectric station is and will be produced for Ganja. However, it does not meet all your needs.

Today the president of "Azerenergy" company Imanov said that once Ganja was used 160 megawatts of electricity totally. It met the needs of industry and all people. Today to meet the needs of Ganja we need 260 and maybe more megawatts. What is the reason? On the one hand, industrial enterprises do not work and they do not use electricity in the same volume as they did then. But at the same time, demand for electricity has increased, as each of you constructed in your houses various devices, you are providing heating in your apartments in the autumn-winter season and use hot water. All this is possible thanks to electricity. Therefore, your need grows. I was promised that your growing needs will be provided for the month of October. But I ask you to stop and do not raise your needs, as in this case you will create for us even greater difficulties.

It is true, we strive to create new plants. Thus, on the Kura “Tovuz” hydroelectric station will be built, its project was developed in the 70s. It will give 360 ​​or 380 megawatts of electricity. But we need 200 million dollars for its construction. Currently we do not have these finances. We need to look for a loan and then begin the construction. Now, as you know, we have a lot of difficulties. However, you need to know if in 70 years we have not developed and implemented an extensive program for providing Azerbaijan with electricity, now Azerbaijan could have not been able to meet even 30 per cent of its electricity needs. In those years we looked forward and thought about providing Azerbaijan with electricity. Despite the fact that in those years there was a single power system in the USSR, all the regions of the Union used as much as they wanted, regardless of where it was produced. However, we were not satisfied with it. We created large power stations in Azerbaijan. We established in Mingachevir eight additional stations. Each of them produces 350 megawatts of electricity. If we had not created them, had not taken other measures and not built “Shamkir” hydroelectric station on the River Kura then, today there would have not been independence on electricity. Where, from whom should we get it? Who will give us electricity? Those who provide it require money. We have no resources for it.

Today, I am very happy that in those years I was thinking about the future, about the independence of Azerbaijan, have prepared an extensive program to ensure the independence of Azerbaijan in energy and achieved its implementation. Therefore, today we are able to fully provide Azerbaijan with electricity.

As you remember, in the 70s we provided Azerbaijan with gas wholly. We provided the most remote villages, including the mountain villages. Then, Azerbaijan itself was producing 16 billion cubic meters of gas annually. We received two billion cubic meters from Russia and rapidly implemented the gasification in Azerbaijan. You know that in order to provide the whole Azerbaijan with gas we laid gas pipelines of great length. However, today Azerbaijan produces only 6 billion cubic meters of gas a year which do not meet the needs. Ganja was completely gasified. However, in the subsequent years, it was stopped. We are engaged in gas supply in Ganja since the beginning of 1996-1997.

The president of "Azerigaz" company is also here. I listened to him today, too. He told me that 15 thousands of subscribers in the town are provided with gas and more 10 thousand subscribers will be provided till autumn. Thus, we provide and will provide with gas the most of part the town. But that is not enough.

As you know, we have signed contracts with the major oil companies of the world. Currently, these contracts are being implemented. On the one hand, in a few years we shall have a large income from these contracts, on the other hand, while carrying out one of these contracts we found in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea a large gas deposit "Shah Deniz", seven-eight months ago. By extracting gas from there, we shall not only be able to provide Azerbaijan, but also have the opportunity to deliver it to the world market. But it requires three-four years.

Thus, as you know, we shall decide and solve these problems month by month, day by day and year by year. The economic policy conducted by the Azerbaijani government, a new oil strategy of Azerbaijan and the revenues that we shall get through this strategy in the coming years will ensure the development of economy of Azerbaijan and the well-being of the Azerbaijani people.

But that is not all. We conduct large-scale reforms. We implemented land reform and as a result of it Azerbaijan has no problems with food. As you remember, in the 70s when I worked in Azerbaijan meat was sold with coupons in the shops in a number of places. You remember it. Meat was not enough and the government could not provide it. Azerbaijan has not been specialized in cattle-breeding, as it was engaged in cotton and vine-growing. We bought meat and oil products from Russia and Ukraine. Each year they reduced the supplies. Thus, we could not meet the needs of the population.

Now, however, we carried out the land reform and delivered lands to the peasants. They use their lands effectively: grow wheat, fruits and vegetables, and livestock products have increased for several times. Therefore, the markets have no problem with meat today. In Baku, each market sells meat and food products. All this is produced in Azerbaijan. It is a wonderful result of our land reform.

However, the land reform is a part of our general reforms. Another part is the privatization of other areas belonging to the state.

We have carried out the privatization small and medium enterprises. It is said that trade and bread baking have been privatized in Ganja and now there is no problem with bread. In 1993-1994, even in 1995, I, as President of Azerbaijan, every day was working for several hours a day on how to provide the population with bread. Now, however, this task and food supply is not on my responsibility. The private sector already provides with bread and other food products, such as butter, meat and dairy products.

Thus it is the right way. We go and shall go by that way. Therefore, we proceed to the second stage of privatization. The parliament adopted a law. In the nearest future we shall announce the government program. I shall issue a decree for the large-scale privatization.

Much work in this area will be carried out in Ganja. Today I listened to the minister on national property. There are a number of proposals that should be implemented. Implementation of these proposals will help to ensure both the development of Ganja, solution of social problems of the town and improvement of welfare of the population.

As a result of the development of our economy, we pay in time the wages and pensions of people from the state budget. Today I was informed that in Ganja wages and pensions were paid for the month of May. You should know that it is not easy. Citizens of many neighboring countries of the former Soviet Union financed from the state budget cannot receive wages and pensions for 5-6 months. But we can provide it. Why do we do that? Because we conduct a right economic policy. As a result of it, the revenue of the state budget of Azerbaijan is provided and on the account of profits we pay wages and pensions in time.

In a word, Azerbaijan is in a period of transition. We have many tasks ahead. However, to achieve these objectives we have good opportunities and most importantly our citizens have great enthusiasm and optimism. I believe that optimism is quite reasonable and thus with this optimism we shall maintain the independence of Azerbaijan and continuously develop its economy. Thus, the well-being of people will improve.

However, the most important condition for this is that we stabilized the political situation in Azerbaijan.

In June 13 of 1993 I arrived in Ganja. You remember the situation in Ganja, it was impossible to go out. I came here. The troops of Surat Huseynov seized Ganja and controlled all areas of the town.

As you know, on June 4 in Ganja there broke civil war, blood was shed and many people were killed. In Azerbaijan there was a crisis. The then Azerbaijani authorities could not rule the country. Thus, many intellectuals and elders of Azerbaijan appealed to me - then I lived in Nakhchivan - and invited me to Baku. Not only them, but also those who were in power then, seeing the hopelessness of the situation appealed to me and asked me to come to Baku. They held negotiations with me for four days. I did not want to come.

On June 9th I arrived in Baku. The situation was extremely grave. The armed groups in Azerbaijan were fighting with each other for power. The authorities were not able to run the country. Taking this opportunity, the armed forces of Armenia occupied the Azerbaijani lands consistently.

In such a situation I began to receive requests from everywhere to help Azerbaijan to get out of this situation. However, assessing the situation I said, if I do not go to Ganja where the conflict began and not meet the people there I shall not be able to take on this responsibility.

In June 13 I arrived in Ganja. We headed straight to the house of guests. The military units of Surat Huseynov, surrounded the house of guests let us in, but did not let out. We held negotiations there until morning. What must be, it will be, I should say it. Behind me there were two gunmen sent by Surat with guns pointed at me. That is, I was talking and they stood behind me with guns aimed at me. Please note the conditions in which I was negotiating. They could at any moment open fire and I would have died that night.

All night I negotiated. I asked them to give me the opportunity to go to town and meet people. But I was not allowed. I was told that the situation in the town was extremely dangerous, thus, we cannot ensure your safety. Then I asked them to take me to a place where there were fights, bloodshed and destruction. I was refused. But I still went there. It was 10-15 minutes that I was observing this place when they opened fire from all sides. I did not know where and whom they were shooting. I was told that the situation was dangerous and I could no longer stay here. I have already completed my work and had to return to Baku. However, I left the place where there was a shooting with great difficulty and returned to Baku.

Our correspondent Elmira Akhundova seems came here with us. While on a visit to Ganja I was accompanied by many journalists and one of them was Elmira Akhundova. What a terrible situation it was then!

I often came to Ganja to do good works. In June 1993, I also risked my life to come here in order to get Azerbaijan out of this plight situation. Then I held here talks and returned to Baku. On the way to Baku we were stopped twice. They did not want to let us into the city. Somehow I reached Baku. In such difficult circumstances I took the post of the leader of Azerbaijan.

Difficult situation was not only in Ganja. Illegal armed groups captured most regions of Azerbaijan then. The heads of executive bodies appointed by the Popular Front Party ran away as soon as the troops of Surat Huseynov approached. In such a difficult situation the country was.

Yes, we experienced such a hard period with you. You probably remember the events of 1993, 1994 and 1995. The events of October 1994 when the coup began in Ganja. In 1995 there was an attempt of coup. We dealt with all of this and were able to prevent the attempt of coup. What was the reason? Why, when, in October 1994, large armed forces attempted a coup, me, a person who did not have any unit and army managed to prevent this coup? Why? Because behind me there were people, there were you.

I appealed to the nation on television. 500,000 people gathered in front of the Presidential Palace within the two hours at night. Not only there, but also in all towns of Azerbaijan - I know including Ganja - people gathered to protect the statehood of Azerbaijan and personally Heydar Aliyev. That is my strength.

Based on the trust of our people I managed to bring Azerbaijan out of the grave situation. Having established a strong social and political stability in the previous seven years we protected and preserved the independence of Azerbaijan and shall continue to defend it with you and with your support.

In order to implement into life the reforms in our country, safely complete the transition period and to cope with its difficulties we must first ensure social and political stability in Azerbaijan. We solved this problem only in 1995. From 1993 to 1995, our country went through a difficult period. However, since we established socio-political stability in the country, you can safely live, you do not suffer from illegal armed groups and they cannot violate your rights. Day and night whenever you want, you can walk in the city. You live freely in independent Azerbaijan. This is a great happiness and the greatest success for me.

However, the current stability in Azerbaijan concerns some of the external and internal forces. Carrying all sorts of provocations they want to aggravate the situation in Azerbaijan again and to destroy it. Since Azerbaijan is extremely rich in natural resources, it has an important worldwide political and strategic position. Azerbaijan has a great future. Therefore, the external and internal forces are trying to commit a provocation in Azerbaijan. We prevent and shall continue to prevent these attempts.

I declare that no force can break the socio-political stability established in Azerbaijan. If someone tries to do it, we shall prevent them together with you.

The cease-fire in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict established in 1994 has great importance in ensuring political stability in our country.

As you know, in 1988 Armenia committed an aggression against Azerbaijan. A part of the Azerbaijani lands was occupied because of various reasons. More than one million of our citizens have been expelled from the occupied territories and live in difficult conditions. Many refugees and displaced persons live in the suburbs of Ganja.

A cease-fire achieved in 1994 set the ground for the negotiations for a peaceful settlement of the conflict and allowed to take necessary measures to ensure the political stability and economic development of our country.

Today we maintain the cease-fire, because we want a peaceful settlement of the conflict and hold negotiations. I believe that the negotiations will yield its result. The occupied lands of Azerbaijan will be liberated peacefully through negotiations, the territorial integrity of our country will be ensured and people driven from their homes will return home.

Azerbaijan as an independent state is on the path to democracy. The path of democracy is our strategic path. We are in the process of construction a legal, democratic and secular state. Azerbaijan has strengthened many of the principles of democracy. In 1995, we adopted the first Constitution of Azerbaijan. Many reforms have been conducted for democracy in Azerbaijan and they will continue.

Our goal is to do everything possible to ensure Azerbaijan to live and develop as an independent state, to turn it into a powerful and economically developed nation among other nations of the world. Our goal is to make Azerbaijan fully democratic, protect the right of every citizen and to ensure their freedom. Our goal is to lead Azerbaijan on the road of the market economy and to carry out economic reforms. Our goal is to do everything possible to make Azerbaijan occupy its worthy place in the world community, to make the economy integrate to the world economy and as a result of all this to turn Azerbaijan into a happy and developed country. This is our goal and our work is aimed at achieving this goal. Today I declare that we shall achieve this goal with you.

Dear friends, I have already said that I conduct such a bold policy always with the support of the people. Support of the residents of Ganja always inspired and encouraged me. Ganja is dear to me. Residents of Ganja are dear to me. I thank you for being bold in that difficult period of 1993 and for showing your civic qualities closely by uniting around the President of Azerbaijan. We survived that crisis.

I thank the residents of Ganja for supporting the president of Azerbaijan in the events of October 1994, thus, we managed to prevent the attempt of the military coup. I thank you for the fact that in the March of 1995 when in Baku there was an attempt of coup Ganja again supported the President of Azerbaijan and our statehood. I still feel your support and thank you for all this. I am confident that you will always protect statehood of Azerbaijan, will do everything possible to protect the independence of our country and support me, the President of Azerbaijan.

I wish you and in your person all my brothers, sisters and friends from Ganja health, happiness and new successes. Thank you, goodbye.

Translated from the newspaper “Azerbaijan”, May 25, 2000