By Anastasia Lavrina in Baku: –
Today, on 28 May, Azerbaijan marks 101th anniversary of establishment Azerbaijan Democratic Republic for the first time in 1918. This national holiday is the brightest page in the history of the people of Azerbaijan who fought for liberty despite being divided by Russia and Iran and deprived of its own statehood.
After long-lasting national liberation struggle of the Azerbaijani people, the Declaration of Independence was signed on 28 May 1918 in the building of former Palace of the Governor in the Caucasus in Tiflis. 17 September 1918 the Government of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic moved to Baku after heavy fighting and its liberation by the Caucasian Islamic Army on September 15. Despite the fact that Independent Azerbaijan lasted only 23 months until the Bolshevik 11th Soviet Red Army invaded it, establishing the Azerbaijan SSR on 28 April 1920, within a short period of time, the main state institutions were founded and divided into three branches of governance.
The government adopted several laws and implemented various political, military, legal and economic reforms. Established National Council of Azerbaijan consisted of 120 people who reflected all ethnic and religious groups in the country (80 people were present Muslims, 21 – Armenian, 10 – Russian, 1 – German, 1- Jews, 1 – Georgians and 1 to Poles). On September 1st, 1919, the first higher educational establishment in Muslim East, Baku State University was established. For the first time in the Muslim world, women had electoral rights.
As a result of invasion of the Red Army, the first Azerbaijan Democratic republic collapsed on April 28, 1920. Azerbaijan was able to restore its independence again only after the USSR collapse in 1991.
3 positive traits of successful development of Azerbaijan
Multicultural and equal society
The strength of any state lies in the strength and courage of its people. The Azerbaijani people have shown and proved their courage in practice many times. Moreover, Azerbaijan is known throughout the world by its cordiality, hospitality and, above all, solidarity. All this is the result of a multicultural society, supported by the country for centuries. The current policy of the government in this area and gained experience are indicated as an example for other countries, including European states, where the slogans for solidarity and freedom are constantly heard.
Azerbaijan not only supports the idea of multiculturalism, but also treats every culture with care, while studying it and expressing solidarity with the customs of all peoples living on the territory of the country. In confirmation of what has been said, it is important to recall that by order of the head of state on February 28, 2014, the service of the State Counselor on Multiculturalism, Inter-ethnic and Religious Affairs was established to ensure the maintenance of tolerance. On May 15, 2014, by the decree of the President of Azerbaijan, the Baku International Center of Multiculturalism was formed to ensure the preservation of tolerance and cultural, religious, linguistic diversity. In addition, the center aims to study existing models of multiculturalism and stimulate their applications in Azerbaijan.
Today, we can observe many examples when the violation of the rights of some ethnical groups as well as discrimination becomes a reason for ethnical conflicts. In Azerbaijan, there has long been no such thing as the division of society on religious or ethnic grounds, there is just one concept – the people of Azerbaijan, who are free to decide which religion to profess and which traditions to honor. This is what makes it possible to form stability in the country, which becomes the basis for the development of domestic and foreign policy of the state. Moreover, the unity of the people means solidarity and strength.
The strategic position of Azerbaijan in the Caucasus region, which is ideally situated between Europe and Asia made it possible for the government to manage strong international relations as well as diplomatic and trade relations on regional and global level. Here is not only the rich natural resources of Azerbaijan and its favorable political and geographical position play a role, but also a balanced foreign policy, processes taking place in the country, social and political stability, integration into the world community, stable development and other factors. Azerbaijan’s foreign policy in the region and beyond is imbued with the spirit of good neighborliness, mutually beneficial cooperation and partnership.
Azerbaijan has a very favorable but, at the same time, very difficult location being surrounded by Russia, Iran, Turkey, Georgia and Armenia. Considering constant pressure of the United States on Iran and Russian influence in the region, Azerbaijan has been able to manage and sustain the balanced policy and friendly relations with both countries. Azerbaijan is investing $ 60 million in the development of the Astara railway freight station in the west of Iran’s Gilan province. In addition, Azerbaijan provided a loan of $ 500 million to Iran for the implementation of the project for the construction of the Rasht-Astara railway. The Qazvin-Resht-Astara (Iran) – Astara (Azerbaijan) railway is part of the North-South transport corridor, which connects Northern Europe with South-East Asia, also connecting the railways of Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia.
At the same time, Azerbaijan is a member and one of the main co-sponsors of various transport and energy trilateral projects with Turkey and Georgia. Southern Gas Corridor is one of the world’s largest infrastructure projects, which envisages transportation of Azerbaijani gas to Europe. This project will increase Azerbaijan’s contribution to energy security of Georgia, Turkey and some members of the European Union.
This year the EU and its Eastern Partners, including Azerbaijan, celebrate their 10th Anniversary of the Eastern Partnership Program. Membership of Azerbaijan in various international organizations and projects guarantees Azerbaijan’s voice to be heard widely.
The only country, which remains isolated from any project with Azerbaijan is neighboring Armenia. In the end of 1980s Armenia started ethnical cleansing policy against Azerbaijan for further occupation of 20% of its territory. Because of this policy, Nagorno-Karabakh and 7 surrounded regions of Azerbaijan were occupied by Armenia in the beginning of 1990s. Despite four resolutions adopted by the United Nations Security Council, which require immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian Armed Forces from the occupied territories, Armenian ignores them. The same policy of ignorance has been lasting for almost 30 years without significant changes, no matters who rules the government of Armenia.
Investments in youth development
The future of any country depends on strong youth. Investing in youth reforms means investing in sustainable future. After the restoration of independence at the end of the twentieth century, Azerbaijan started to carry out fundamental reforms in many spheres of social, political and socio-economic life. Moreover, one of the most important tasks was to consolidate and coordinate the activities of young people as the main driving force in the development of society and the state.
In many countries, the relationship between youth and political parties is tensed. To break the vicious circle of doubt and mistrust, young people can develop the skills and motivation to successfully interact with political parties. At the same time, political parties can be encouraged to create space for young people by eliminating barriers in its participation in decisions making process. In Azerbaijan young people get support to run own projects or campaigns. Moreover, the youth is integrated in different volunteering activities at a local, regional and national levels.
Modern youth policy began in Azerbaijan since 1994, when the head of state created the Ministry of Youth and Sports, which opened new opportunities for young people. Today, the youth is very successfully working in various sectors, making a great contribution to the overall development of the country. Azerbaijan Youth Foundation helps young people to realize individual ideas or to carry out big projects aimed to support youth development.
Investment in education is another key to youth development. The State Program on Education of Azerbaijani Youth abroad in 2007-2015 was successfully completed and a new State Program on Increasing the International Competitiveness of the Higher Education System in the Azerbaijan Republic for 2019-2023 was adopted. With support of these programs, hundreds of students were able to study abroad for free and apply the gained knowledge in the workplace and in society at large.
Today, people of Azerbaijan are celebrating 101th anniversary of establishment Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, the first democratic secular state in the Muslim East and these people have a lot to be proud of.
(Writer is based in Baku and Leading Eurasian political analyst, international speaker and appears on television talks shows)