Ambassador of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic Tahir Taghizadeh writes on his country’s 100th birthday
AS A RESULT of the Russian-Persian wars of the nineteenth century, the South Caucasus fell into Russian jurisdiction and Azerbaijani lands were split into two parts. In the north, the fight for the nation’s progressive forces for the liberation of the people and the development of national consciousness was crowned with the proclamation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR).
The establishment of Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan on 28 May 1918 was a historic event and a glorious page in Azerbaijani history. The Declaration of Independence – the policy document of the new republic – expressed a commitment to principles of democracy and the secular and parliamentary state, and these principles were followed to the letter.
Under difficult circumstances, the ADR managed to take advanced and progressive steps to consolidate the foundations of the newly independent state. The ADR was the first parliamentary republic in the Muslim East and among Turkic peoples that was built on foundations of political pluralism and a multi-party system. The state was governed according to parliament, which passed laws and regulations reflecting the country’s ethnic and religious diversity.
The ADR’s noteworthy achievements include: granting women the right to vote before most western democracies, establishing state institutions such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Azerbaijan State Bank, adopting state attributes and state language, establishing the national army, opening several educational institutions including Baku State University, creating the Azerbaijani telegraph agency and abolition of censorship, adopting the Law on Citizenship, developing a national security concept, releasing postage stamps and a national currency and the restoration of the Baku-Batum Oil Pipeline.
After declaring independence, establishing diplomatic relations with foreign countries was a top priority for the young state. An ADR delegation participated in the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and after protracted diplomatic talks and procedures, the Supreme Council of the Conference unanimously decided to de-facto recognise the independence of Azerbaijan. With that, the ADR’s diplomatic ties expanded and several countries opened consulates and representative offices in Baku, while the Azerbaijani parliament adopted a law on establishing diplomatic missions abroad.
The ADR, however, fell in April 1920, with the Bolshevik invasion of Azerbaijan.
Although the ADR did not last long, the foundations of Azerbaijani statehood had been laid. At the end of the twentieth century, the restored independent Azerbaijani state declared its loyalty to the traditions of the First Republic. “Today’s independent Azerbaijan is the successor of the ADR. We are loyal to all democratic traditions of ADR and we are implementing them,” our President Ilham Aliyev recently said.
Having successfully hosted a number of major international events including Formula 1, the inaugural European Games, the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, the International Humanitarian Forum and many others, Azerbaijan is continuing an ambitious agenda of organising high-profile events such as World EXPO in 2025.
Over the years, a British military presence in the region has become a solid guarantee of peace, especially at the time when the ADR came into existence. Besides, the UK was among the countries that recognised the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic’s independence, and their representative office opened in Baku after the ADR gained international recognition at the Paris Peace Conference.
Building on that heritage, today the Republic of Azerbaijan and the UK enjoy constantly developing bilateral relations and mutually beneficial strategic cooperation in a number of areas, including political, economic, energy, trade and investment fields.
Following the re-election of H.E. Ilham Aliyev as the Republic of Azerbaijan’s President on 11 April 2018, our President paid a visit to the UK just two short weeks later on the invitation of Prime Minister May. As well as the Prime Minister, the President met with FCO Minister of State for Europe and the Americas Sir Alan Duncan, Minister of State for Trade and Export Promotion at the Department for International Trade Baroness Rona Fairhead, members of the House of Lords and MPs and Chief Executive of BP Robert Dudley, during his short visit to the UK. The very fact of the visit and the nature and scope of the meetings held, are a clear indication of the positive dynamics of bilateral relations.
The relationship between Azerbaijan and the UK is continually evolving, and both sides are taking specific steps to further expand and diversify mutual strategic cooperation. In the wake of the latest political developments within Europe, Azerbaijan and the UK anticipate more intensive and increasing cooperation in the coming years.
This year is the centenary of the ADR and this landmark date is being widely celebrated in Azerbaijan and beyond, as seen at our reception organised by the Azerbaijan Embassy in London on 24 May at Jumeirah Carlton Hotel. The participation of statesmen, prominent political figures and captains of industry from both the UK and Azerbaijan was a great indication of the positive nature of the bilateral partnership.
In the words of FCO Minister of State for Europe and the Americas Sir Alan Duncan, speaking during the reception: “The UK is proud to call itself a friend of Azerbaijan.” Equally, Azerbaijan is privileged to call its relationship with the UK one of true friendship and strategic partnership.