Introductory speech of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the discussions on the course of the agrarian reforms and on the draft law on land reform - Presidential Palace, June 24, 1996

I have invited here the members of the commission set up early, and as a whole the heads of agencies dealing with the agrarian reforms. I am going to analyze all this.

As you know, we have adopted two laws in the February of 1995 on the reforms in the agrarian sphere and established a special commission to supervise those laws and implement them into life. At the same time, several meetings and discussions have been held up now to conduct the agrarian reforms in a larger scope. We have taken some measures to get acquainted with the experience of some countries, especially of CIS countries connected with the conduction of the agrarian reforms. We have adopted decisions to implement these reforms into life in some regions in a larger scale as an experiment. Undoubtedly, there have been some results. But we have not achieved our tasks in implementation of the agrarian reforms, thus, functioning of the agrarian sector based on new principles, and we have not reached this goal.      

In my opinion, on the one hand, there is negligence in the implementation of the laws and decisions that we have adopted, but at the same time, lack of experience and conservative tendencies in some places impede the conduction of those reforms. When I was repeatedly interested in this issue, I was told that in order to conduct these reforms in a complete and larger scope, we need another law on land reforms. Indeed, it is necessary. But to adopt this law we have to work much, reconsider and gain experience.      

This law has been developed and discussed several times in the commission set up by my early decree chaired by Arif Rahim-zade. But I have been informed that some provisions in this draft are very controversial. In such a case, no doubt that I always advice to reinvestigate the issue thoroughly, analyze it, exchange views in order not to commit a mistake.

One thing must be clear to everybody. I have stated this several times, and today once again say that today and in future our economy depends on the implementation of economic reforms. This is our way, and there is not an alternative one. I suppose that most of our public understands it. Positive results and profits achieved from the conduction of reforms in some places convince much more people in it. That is why, let no one think otherwise.

Some people pretend to be more reformers, as if they are reformists, but others are conservatives. They must give up such populist actions, because, we have a state policy here, and this policy is determined by the President.

As President I have already determined the state policy in the agrarian sphere, in general, in the economy of Azerbaijan. This is the road of reforms, increase of production, its development, privatization of property, opening prospects for advancement of the private sector, market economy, granting freedom to people, creation of conditions for the entrepreneurship and initiative. These are the main principles of our state policy. I have announced this several times.  

I am also better informed than those who give us advice how to conduct reforms in the agrarian sphere, and I know that the agrarian sector of economy is very complicated. Now we are conducting privatization. For example, it is not difficult to sell the fuel filling stations. The people who wanted to sell them first tried to sell them and embezzle money. We averted this. That is why, it was suspended. Such things may happen, because we have not been insured of it. But this is not a big problem. It is not a problem to sell out shops and other small enterprises to the private sector. But the privatization of big enterprises is more complicated than this. But we know how to do it.

In the agrarian sphere, especially the issue connected with land is very complicated. People who have never dealt with land and spent their lives in Baku think that it is easy. But it is not like that. I have said it before and I say it again. There was a time when more than ten years was spent to achieve the process of collectivization after the October revolution. In 1929-1930 the collectivization program was adopted, collective farms were established, lands and agricultural tools were confiscated from the private property and all this were accompanied with oppressions, administrative measures, verdicts and repressions. We know all this from history that people were sent to Gulag, that is, to Siberia. People who were against the collectivization, in general, were sentenced to death or exiled. Hired workers were instigated against them. A big repression was under way. All this was not accidental, because the hereditary land belonged to its owners. People had their lands, properties and cattle, and it was natural that they resisted against their expropriation. It was natural. But despite the harshness of the regime, it was not possible to conduct the collectivization in one or two years, and it experienced bloodshed and repressions.        

Then a number of people were brought up with a psychology contradicting it. They thought that they cannot live without collective and state farms. We cannot change this psychology by administrative methods and we must not do this. We cannot do it and allow do it by force.

That is why, it is very hard to conduct the land reform and make changes in land property. I have said this in our previous meetings. For example, there is a harsh resistance to privatization of cattle, but we continue to have it done in a number of places. We have started this in Nakhichevan from 1992. I was interested with this in my meeting with the chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan and he told me that only two collective farms have remained in the district of Shahbuz, they are a bit conservative, but all cattle and lands have been sold out to people in the rest of places. 

I asked about meat and he told that they have a plenty of it. When I was living in Nakchichevan, you all know about my living condition there then, people suddenly got news that tomorrow cattle will be butchered in the village of Jahri. People streamed there to buy a kilogram or two of meat. Some days later the same was happening in the village of Nehram. People were going there then. Because there were no meat in butchers. Now I was told that there are meat in streets, bazaars and shops, everywhere in Nakhichevan. This is the same place, so how does it happen that there are a plenty of meat there? They even say that they take meat abroad for sale.    

Unfortunately, this process is not so fast in a number of regions of Azerbaijan. That is why, when we held a meeting on April 2, I ordered to carry it out. Probably I will be informed today how it is implemented into life. I am not concerned, the process is under way and it will continue like this for some period. The minister of agriculture not once told me that there were plenty of meat in Baku itself and the prices don`t go up, but even dropped. I mean there are problems to implement these measures in the field of livestock, but they are not insurmountable. 

The problem of land is different in various regions. I mean that the law adopted in February is implemented, on the other hand, I now the complexity of this issue. But despite this, we have to resolve this complex issue correctly for the sake of our economy and welfare of our people whatever tough it is.

As you remember, I have sent delegations to different republics to learn their experience. News came that reforms have yielded good results in Oryol, Nijni Novgorod regions of Russia. Arif Rahim-zade was leading the delegation to those regions. They visited both Oryol and Nijni Novgorod. They have gained  good experience. I ordered to get acquainted with the experience in other spheres as well, and to take whatever is better. But not to make the mistakes they have done. I think we have some advantages in this sphere. I mean we have not hurried up, so we can better use the experience of different countries and regions.  I am planning our work today like this. Let Ali Abbasov inform us on the implementation of two laws adopted in February. Arif Rahmi-zade is to inform us on the draft law on land reform and talk about its contents, meaning, shortcomings, controversial points or importance of this draft. After this let’s have exchange of views. But I warn that all the speeches must be short and clear. Speakers must be brief and talk to the points and give their proposals or brief us about the experience. We have to economize our time. I have some other events today. We cannot waste much time.  


I see that there are many discussions on the item 11 of the draft law. Disputes and discords are largely due to this item. It seems other items are not so controversial. But today’s discussions once more proved that to conduct land reforms is really tough. We have to do this and change the form of property on land and as our constitution says, lands must be privatized. All this is for the advancement of economy of our nation and welfare of our people.

Land has always been an asset for the people. All things are built on the land. Human history has appeared on the use of lands and served to bring the humanity to these days for centuries. That is why, we have to protect and take care of the land. Every inch of the land is very precious and irreplaceable for us. We have to approach to land from this position. Along with this, we have to do many serious works and take serious measures to use the lands efficiently.  

In general, today when we talk about the land reform, we mean all the lands of Azerbaijan. All of them. While appreciating our achievements, we have to say that not only for agricultural production, but in general, efficient use of the land has always been violated. Not only in rural sites, but also in urban areas where buildings and enterprises and roads are built, lands have been treated very superficially. They think that this is just land and we can build whatever we want on it. But where to build, and what to build, what to plant, where to plant, what to produce, what part must be used as pasture or forest, what part must be preserved as wildlife nature of Azerbaijan. All these issues of big concern of our scientists and various people. This is one thing. From the other hand, working without any plan, sometimes arbitrary rule and sometimes unconsciousness of the value of the lands have resulted in this. 

We are approaching to the end of the 20th century and come close to the 21st century. We are at the crossroads of the history. We will find ourselves in the third millennium after a couple of years. The more numerous people live in our planet, the more they need the lands, and the importance of the lands increase more. We are an independent nation now and masters of our own destiny. Our territory is not so large and we don`t have vast lands. Our population increases and it will continue. That is why, we must approach these issues from global perspectives. In general, we have to think about the nature and land of Azerbaijan. We must have a big state program of this.

We are discussing the draft law on land reform now. We are simply talking how to use these lands, especially for the agricultural goods.

Perhaps, we have to adopt a law and a state program on how to use it, not only the lands of the collective and state farms but all our lands in general. The principle must be like this: to build, to take care to conceive that land is priceless and to raise the awareness of public and completely change the attitude towards the land.

I suppose that the Cabinet of Ministers, my administration, the Presidential Administration, must be busy with this and give their proposals.

To be specific about the discussed issue, I want to say, it is doubtless that the land must be privatized. But we must do it so that the process of implementation does not to harm us. On the contrary, we must profit from the implementation of the privatization.

There were different opinions here, and it was the same in previous one. Some say that lands must be given to all people who live in rural, while others say they must be given to those who are engaged in farming and others say that people must be divided into categories, some must receive more, others less. They all are substantial ideas. Various opinions prove that this issue is very complicated. As I mentioned at the beginning, we cannot approach this issue superficially. As you see, use the experience of how it has been done in the region of Nijni Novgorod. Mammad Abbasov read the results of the work done in Nijni Novgorord here. I don’t’ reproach them, this is not their fault. They have done the work and there are positive as well as negative results. We also do this work. That is why, we must think that this work will not be so easy. There will be hardships.

But I think that this principle must be a priority.  The principle is justice. The principles of social justice. Lands have always belonged to the landlords in Azerbaijan and other countries before. As you know, there was a land reform in Russia in 1861. Serfdom was abolished. As you see, lands still were used then. Then there were the so called Stolyipin reforms, you know this as well. After the October revolution rules of the socialist and communist regime become dominant. But the lands have always been private property, in general. But even then, not every person owned his land. Injustice of the past was so that lands were hereditary. Those who had land acquired more lands. There were landlords, and rest of the people worked in their lands.

For example, you know that in the Baltic republics, Eastern European countries, where there was collectivization, this process is going very tense. For example, the Romanian president Ion Iliescu has told me about their problems. In 1945-1946 their lands were private properties. So they adopted a law to give those lands back to their owners. Thus, some people say that they own the lands, while others say they do not. Thus, what about those who come after them?

Lithuanian President Brazauskas also told me that they have also adopted such a law before they faced hardships. Thank God that we don’t have them. But lands belonged to various owners and they were seized and collectivized and become collective property and everybody had his own share in this property. But they have not possessed a real share. Various injustices took place before in different ways. We must not let them happen again. What has passed, has passed. It remained behind. We must build this production so that no injustices happen. What will be then? We can foresee the future processes. But they derive from the laws of the market economy. I think so, too.   

Some people here said that if to give a piece of land to everybody they won`t be capable to use them. Thus, they will simple receive the land, but cannot use it. Someone is busy with a different business, and if he receives his land share and does not want to be engaged in it, because he has another business, it will not do. That is why, he will either give the land to his relatives or sale or rent it. All this could happen. After the land reform there will be the process of concentration. It will happen beyond any doubt. Those people or families who are connected with the land will be busy there and perhaps small land holders will unite with them. But this is the second phase of the process. It will be an objective process. Now we have to regulate this work. Now we are regulating it. Now when we adopt a law, we must not allow social injustice. We must act on the social justice principle. We must act according to social justice.

It seems to me that in such a case the issue of giving or not giving the land to everybody emerges. It was mentioned here that the lands belong to everybody. I think Mr. Aydin said that there 7 million of population and all of them must have land. This is not true. For example, the people born in the city and his or her grandfathers had never been connected with the land. When I was working here before, I asked from a man of almost same position with me in Zighulba, I don’t want to mention his name, what tree is this? That man could not differ an apple tree from pear tree. It became clear that he cannot differentiate them. I knew that he cannot. That is why, I asked him on purpose when we were walking. It is possible that not everybody know what is spruce or aspen. But undoubtedly, people who possess or are connected with a garden knows the fruit trees. He knows that for example, this is an apricot tree, this is apple or cherry plum or the quince or other tree. But as I said, he has had no idea of this. I told him several times that you, man, learn this, next year when we walk in this garden, I will ask again what this or that tree is. But he could not learn this. I cannot blame him. Because he had no idea what was village or garden. This man was born in the city and has seen nothing except asphalt roads and buildings. There are a lot of such people. So what, shall we say that they also must have lands? Of course, they must not. If they must, then they have to receive from lands of Baku, Sumgait or Ganja.    

That is why, we speak of the land useful for agriculture and people engaged in the production of agricultural products. We have such people in the regions that they are not connected with the land, that is to say, they don’t work in the collective farms, but live in the villages and they have a land next to their houses. They plant vegetables there and they have also apple, pear and pomegranate trees. But they don’t work in the collective farm, then how we can not give them land? I think we must give them lands, because they are also masters of these lands and worked in the collective farms before. Most of the people present here come from the land. Am I right? They come from lands and some of them have relatives in villages, some of them have none there and they have come here. But they are people, who are connected with the land. So, we have to think about this.

In my view it is necessary to discuss all this again and take a right decision. I am saying once more that we have to make this event, this law very fair. I mean if someone is treated injust and deprived of the lands and properties, we must not let this happen when we conduct this reform a second time. I am pointing out once more that the main goal of the reform and the law which we are going to adopt is to increase the efficiency of using the lands.   We have vast lands. If we use them efficiently, then we can receive more crops than we had in 1970s. History proved that if the land is efficiently used when it belonged to someone as a private property, he tries to profit from this as much as possible. When he takes high profit from the land, then production will grow up. He will have profit and overall production will go up. The only way for increasing production is to promote entrepreneurship and private property. We shall follow this way in the agrarian sector, industrial sector and other sectors of the economy as well. 

Thus, with these assumptions, I once more charge the commission to have in view these discussions and submit the last version of the draft law to me until July 5. Arif Rahim-zade heads this commission. You said that such proposals have come from 11 regions, 30 regions have other proposals and so on. You see how many varieties are there. Aren’t there? Thus, we have to sit and analyze them once more. Let’s have discussions on the ideas from the regions. Let’s see why these proposals differ. Undoubtedly, it is because of their specificities.

I want to point out one issue that that after the adoption of this law, its application will differ in every region, even in every village. This is natural. But we have to set up common principles in this law and delegate its implementation to regional and village organizations. Of course, there are less land in Lenkoran, more in Imishli. That is why, land shares will be less and more in Lenkoran and Imishli respectively. Agjabadi will have more land shares, Astara less of it. This is normal. But every region has its own peculiarities. The process will be in one way in Khizi, in another way in Zagatala. This is also normal. That is why, try that this issue be reflected in the law so that to have a room for maneuvering. Of course, I will issue an order regarding this issue. Exactly, to have more room for maneuvering and not as it had been before, i.e. whatever Moscow said, it had to be carried out everywhere. You know that it was done like this in such a big country, as Moscow said this, it must be done in Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan or Siberia.   

We must treat the differentiation seriously. Consider how to reflect them in the law.

I think we held useful discussions today. You have to submit to me this project by July 5. I am announcing my program to you in advance. From July 5 to 10 we shall have them discussed with you once again. Somewhere on July 10, this issue could be submitted to the parliament for the adoption of the the law. Thank you.

Translated from Azerbaijan newspaper, June 25, 1996.