June 21, 2019

Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (1918-1920): The first democratic and parliamentary republic in the Islamic East

By Mr. Jalal Mirzayev, Charge d’affaries of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

2018 is a significant year in the history of Azerbaijani people, as it marks the 100th year anniversary of the establishment of Azerbaijani statehood – Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR). A series of the events all over the world are being held to commemorate the memory of this short-lived, but glorious statehood.

ADR was proclaimed on May 28, 1918 with the adoption of the Declaration of Independence – the exemplary policy document which committed to the principles of democracy and rule of law. This republic was proclaimedin the midst of the turbulent and complex geo-political situation in the South Caucasus region.

Despite the difficulty of the times surrounding its establishment, ADR succeeded in combining western democratic, liberal principles and ideals with eastern cultural values. It was a secular and independent state which granted equal political, social and economic rights to its citizens regardless of their origin, class or gender. ADR was also the first republic in the Islamic world granting equal suffrage to women, way ahead of many modern democracies in the world.

In a short period, ADR managed to unify whole Azerbaijan under one leadership, proclaimed first Ganja, then Baku as the capital of the country and established strong and dedicated Azerbaijani army. The territory of ADR at the time was 114 square kilometres with a population of 3.3 million people.

The national flag of Azerbaijan was adopted during the ADR period, to which the current republic is still adhering. Our flag consists of a white crescent and white eight-pointed star in a tricolour. The colours representthe ideals of the ADR founders: blue – represents having Turkic origin, red – represents modernism and green – adherence to Islamic values.

The first Parliament of Azerbaijan was established in 1918 and it was a forum where representatives of all religious and ethnic groups could freely and equally voice their opinions. The parliament, backed up by a cabinet comprised of bright, young and brilliant minds, carried out a number of exemplary and far-reaching reforms. For instance, among economic reforms, Baku – Batum oil pipeline was restored, the construction of the Baku – Julfa railway was continued, the Azerbaijan State Bank was created, currency banknotes were issued and measures were taken to develop Caspian Shipping Company and etc.

One of the major social reforms was the abolishment of censorship on press. Moreover, ADR accorded due attention to the significance of the education of young generation. During these years, the parliament passed a bill authorizing the government to allocate scholarship to youth for their study abroad. Baku State University was also opened at this time.

Successful foreign policy was one of the key accomplishments of the government. Young ADR paid due importance to establishing diplomatic relations with the world. Representative offices of the UK, Greece, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Iran, USA, Ukraine, Finland, Sweden, Italy and Switzerland operated in Azerbaijan. The parliament adopted a law on the establishment of diplomatic missions in a number of countries. A delegation consisting of bright Azerbaijani public officials and diplomats were sent to Paris Peace Conference which succeeded in de-facto recognition of ADR by the participants of the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. In fact, members of ADR delegation to Paris Peace Conference made a lasting impression on President Wilson, who later cited:“I was talking to men who talked the same language that I did in respect of ideas, in respect of conceptions of liberty, in respect of conceptions of right and justice”.

Military intervention resulted in the termination of ADRin 1920 and end of a bright chapter in Azerbaijani chronicles. The Soviet rule lasted for 70 years until in 1991 when Azerbaijan proclaimed its independence again.

Despite its short existence, ADR has become one of the most honourable and glorious periods of Azerbaijani history. Azerbaijani people still remember and honour this period with utmost respect.


Picture by the Embassy of Azerbaijan.




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