By Sabah Aslam
The early part of 20th century witnessedthe collapse of the Russian Empire. This big fall of Russian Revolution 1917led to chaos and unrest in all parts of the state including Azerbaijan. Henceunder the slogan of ‘struggle against the counter-revolutionaries’ in March1918, the Baku Commune of Armenians and Bolsheviks decided to completelyeliminate the ethnical Azerbaijanis. Thus, the Armenians acted atrociously andkilled thousands of innocent Muslims. That throbbing history is imprinted onthe memory of the Azerbaijanis forever and it has left indelible marks on thehistory pages to give Azerbaijan a real boost to rise against all the odds andprove its substance, subsequently, it is beaming today with multidimensionalcolors of success and glory amongst the comity of nations. It was anopportunity availed in time and today that all Azerbaijanis hold the flag ofgrace for the generations to come and follow the footprints of this venerable legacy.
Coming back to the history, the onlyoption for Azerbaijanis to stop that violence against them was to establishtheir own very State. So, the Muslim National Council held its opening sittingin Tiflis (presently Tbilisi, Georgia) on May 28, 1918, and adopted theDeclaration on Independence. Andsubsequently the establishment of an independent Azerbaijan Democratic Republic(ADR) in south and southeast Transcaucasia was announced. The 1918 declarationbecame the first Constitutional Act in the history of Azerbaijan and affirmedAzerbaijani statehood in the form a Democratic Republic. On June 16, theNational Council and the cabinet of the ADR got relocated to Ganja – the secondbiggest city of Azerbaijan. The primary goal of the government was to liberateBaku and the other cities of Azerbaijan, which were under occupation ofArmenians and Bolsheviks after the March 1918 genocide.
The mission was carried out by the newlyestablished Caucasus Army of Islam - united Azerbaijani and Turkish forces.Afterwards, twenty thousand Baku Soviet troops launched an all-out attack onGanja. The Islamic Army entered a fierce battle with them. The Soviets weredefeated and the Islamic Army advanced toward Baku and got it liberated onSeptember 15, 1918. Over a thousand of Muslim officers and soldiers laid downtheir lives in the Baku battle. The losses of the enemy were huge.
The capital of ADR shifted from Ganja toBaku and on November 16, 1918, the Azerbaijan National Council resumed itsfunction. On December 7, 1918, the first session of Azerbaijani parliament tookplace. That was the first parliament formed on the utmost democratic principlesof that time in the entire Muslim East. Not only a true form of multi-partyrepublican government was created, but also extended the suffrage (right tovote) to all persons, irrespective of ethnicity, religion or gender. ADR was the first country in the entireMuslim world to give voting rights to women, even ahead of such advanced westerndemocracies like the United States and the United Kingdom. It also guaranteedfreedom of expression, assembly and religion, among many other liberties to thecitizens of Azerbaijan.
The Supreme Council of the Paris PeaceConference on January 11, 1920 unanimously resolved to recognize de factoindependence of Azerbaijan. Despite the lack of any previous experience instatecraft, the leadership of the ADR managed to form a well-operated statemachine, establishing relations with more than twenty countries of the world,including Turkey, UK, USA, Italy, France Belgium, Holland, Greece, Denmark,etc. The Government adopted a national flag with white crescent andeight-pointed star with a three-stripe background. On June 26, the Governmentenacted the establishment of Azerbaijan Armed Forces. The process of army buildup was completed by January 30 to include 30,000 of infantry and 10,000 ofcavalry troops.
Functioning economy and independentfinancial system started to evolve. Educational reforms began, the Baku StateUniversity was founded; roughly half of the schools switched to use Azerbaijanilanguage, which became a compulsory subject; hundreds of young studentsreceived scholarships to study in leading European universities. Preparationsfor constitution, development of comprehensive doctrine of national statebuilding, and the criminal code with guarantees of universal rights andfreedoms were under way. Bilateral formal relations were established with anumber of foreign states and independent foreign policy reflecting the nationalinterests of Azerbaijan was formulated and pursued. The Government establishedan extraordinary investigation commission to scrutinize the acts of genocide ofAzerbaijanis by Armenians, adopted the official state symbols and regulation onAzerbaijani citizenship. The separation of legislative, executive and judicialpowers was also confirmed. The establishment of Chamber of Appeals andIntelligence department became the vital pillar of the state-building process.The Baku-Batum oil pipeline was restored in 1919; the government issued adecree on free trade and gave a rebirth to the merchant fleet. The Caspianfleet of Azerbaijan was established in summer of 1919 as well.
The ADR fell under the military attack ofSoviet Russia on 28 April, 1920. The resistance movement of Azerbaijani peoplewas squashed. All government institutions of Azerbaijan were abolished. Theindependence of Azerbaijan was restored only after 71 years. The tri-coloredflag with a white crescent and eight-pointed star of Azerbaijan Democratic Republicrose again.
Today, Azerbaijan is witnessing a rapidand dynamic development that is comparable with developed countries of theworld. Rich of hydrocarbon reserves, the country exports them to Europeconsequently taking part in ensuring of its energy security. Having taken advantage of itsgeographical location, Azerbaijan became not only a main point for transportation of crude andgas to Turkey and Europe via diversepipe-line net, but a transport corridor linking East with West as well. A country with nine and a half millionpopulation has become a leading power in Transcaucasia and a main regionalinvestor, financing multi-billion projects in different countries of the world.The economic growth of Azerbaijan goes accompanied by enormous constructionboom, development of the industry, infrastructure, agriculture, sports, andtourism.
Azerbaijan carries on a balanced foreignpolicy, based on the interests of the country. Situated on the geographicalborder of Europe and Asia, Azerbaijan is integrated in the political structuresof both continents. Being a member of the Council of Europe and the OSCE,Azerbaijan plays an active role in the OIC, ECO. It is also a member ofNon-Aligned Movement, and last year completed its tenure as a non-permanentmember of UN Security Council.
Pakistan and Azerbaijan enjoy close andcordial relations characterized by shared perception on major global andregional issues. The two countriessigned number of agreements to provide a framework for bilateral cooperation inall spheres including economy, trade, finance, information, culture andmilitary fields. Both countries closely cooperate in international forum andsupport each other on their core issues.
Thewriter is Executive Director of the Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution.