History of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is one of the world`s most ancient centers of civilization. Archaeological finds discovered in Azykh, Taghlar, Damjili, Dashsalahli, Gazma caves and in other settlement sites, including the lower jaw of Azykhantrop, the Azyk man who lived 300,000-400,000 years ago, bear evidence to Azerbaijan`s being one of the places of settlement of primitive humans. This rare find ensured Azerbaijan`s inclusion in the map of Europe`s early inhabitance sites.
With its statehood history spanning 5,000 years, the Azerbaijani nation boast the most ancient statehood traditions in the world. First state or ethnic-political establishments in the Azerbaijani territory date back to the BC.
In the 1st millennium BC-early 1st millennium AD, Azerbaijan was home to a number of powerful states, including Manna, Atropatena and Albania. These states played a crucial role in Azerbaijan`s economic and cultural history as well as in improving public management culture in the country and establishing a single nation.
There was no common culture in the territory of Azerbaijan during that period, with ancient Turks practicing Tengriism, Zoroastrianism and also a religion of nature worship, especially of fire, water, soil, moon, stars and sun. In the territory of Albania in the northern part of the country, mostly in mountainous regions, Christianity was spread.
In the 3rd century Azerbaijan was invaded by the Sassanid Empire and in the 7th century was subject to the Arab Caliphate. The Islamization of Azerbaijan in the 7th century was a milestone event in the history and destiny of our people. Islam gave a strong boost to and played a crucial role in uniting the nation and establishing its single language. Religious unity between Turkic and other ethnicities contributed to the establishment of their common traditions and encouraged their integration.
The mid-9th century marked Azerbaijan`s political revival as the states of Sajids, Shirvanshahs, Sallarids, Ravvadids, Shaddadis and Eldiguzids were established. The emergence of independent states encouraged revival in all areas of political, economic and cultural life. The establishment of local states on the Azerbaijani lands after 600 years of the Sasanid and Arab occupation, the rise of Islam as the major monotheist religion in the country played a crucial role in the ethnic evolution of the Azerbaijani people and formation of a single language and culture.
In the 15th-18th centuries Azerbaijan`s statehood culture was enriched even further. That was a period when the states of Kara Koyunlu, Ag Koyunlu, Safavid, Afshar and Gajar that stretched over a large part of the East were controlled by Azerbaijani tribes.
Under Uzun Hasan (1468-1478), the state of Ag Koyunlu grew into a powerful military and political factor in the Near and Middle East. His policy aimed to establish a powerful and centralized state that would encompass the entire Azerbaijani lands. In the late 15th-early 16th century, Azerbaijani statehood entered a new stage of its development as grandchild of Uzun Hasan, outstanding statesman Shah Ismail Khatai (1501-1524), managed to unite all Azerbaijani territories within a single state. With its capital in Tabriz, it was the united, centralized Azerbaijani state of Safavid. Under Safavid rule, Azerbaijani language was declared state language. The Safavid state was one of the most powerful states in the Near and Middle East.
Outstanding Azerbaijani ruler Nadir Shah (1736-1747) who came to power after the fall of the Safavid state expanded the territory of the former empire.
In 1739, he invaded Northern India, including Delhi. But his plans to create a powerful, centralized state on this large territory failed.
After the death of Nadir Shah, his empire fell. In the second half of the 18th century, Azerbaijan was divided into small states – khanates and sultanates. That period of Azerbaijan`s statehood history is characterized as the period of crisis and recession.
In the late 18th century, Qajar dynasty of Turkic origin came to power in Iran. The Qajars pursued a policy of subordinating Azerbaijani khanates to the central power. Azerbaijan became a theatre of long-term bloody wars between the Qajars and Tsarist Russia, which sought to occupy the South Caucasus.
After Gulustan and Turkmenchay treaties
The territory of Azerbaijan was divided by the two empires under Gulustan (1813) and Turkmenchay (1828) treaties: the north of Azerbaijan was annexed to Russia, while the southern Azerbaijan became part of Iran, which was ruled by the Qajar dynasty.
This marked the beginning of mass resettlement of the Armenian population from neighbouring countries to the Azerbaijani lands, in particular the territories of Karabakh, Iravan and Nakhchivan khanates. In 1828-1829 alone, 40,000-50,000 Armenians were resettled from Iran and 90,000 from Turkey to Azerbaijan. It`s not a coincidence that in 1978, the Armenians erected "Maraga-150" memorial in Shikhark village, Tartar district, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the resettlement from Maraga village in Iran to Karabakh. In 1988, the Armenians deliberately destroyed the monument because it bore evidence to their resettlement to Azerbaijan`s ancient land of Karabakh.
In 1836, Tsarist Russia abolished the Albanian Christian church and subordinated it to the Armenian Gregorian church. This paved the way for Gregorianization and Armenianization of the Christian Albanians who were the ancient population of Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan Democratic Republic
Having existed for only 23 months from 1918 to 1920, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic went down in history as the first secular and democratic state in the Muslim East. Despite working under extremely tough and volatile socio-political circumstances, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic made milestone achievements in a variety of areas, including state building, economy, culture, education and army building.
The Declaration of Independence adopted by Azerbaijan`s National Council read: “Henceforth, as much as the people of Azerbaijan are the source of power, Azerbaijan, which covers southeastern Transcaucasia, is a fully fledged independent state. The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic ensures political rights and citizenship right of all citizens living within its borders irrespective of their nationality, belief, class, layer and sex.” In a short span of time, the government adopted Azerbaijan`s national flag, anthem and coat of arms, Azerbaijani language was declared as state language. Great strides were made in state and army building, economy and culture, education and healthcare. For the first time in the east and ahead of the majority of European countries, Azerbaijan granted women the right to vote.
On January 11, 1920, the Paris Peace Conference recognized Azerbaijan as an independent state. The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic occupied an area of 114,000 km2 (excluding disputed territories), and had a population of more than 2.8 million people.
The government of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was based in Tbilisi from May 28 to June, and in Ganja from June 16 to September 17, 1918, before moving to Baku where it worked until its fall on April 28, 1920.
Throughout its existence, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic saw its government change five times, with the first two headed by Fatali Khan Khoyski (1875-1920) and the next three by Nasib bay Yusifbayli (1881-1920).
The parliament of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic functioned from December 7, 1918 to April 27, 1920, holding 145 sessions during that period. Alimardan bay Topchubashov (1863-1934) served as chairman of the Parliament.
Azerbaijan during Soviet Union
On April 28, 1920, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic fell as the result of the Bolshevik military intervention. The same day Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic (Azerbaijan SSR) was founded. During the Soviet period, the territories of Zangazur, Goycha provinces, part of Nakhchivan and other districts were seized from Azerbaijan and annexed to Armenia. Azerbaijan`s area was reduced from 114,000 km2 during the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic to 86,600 km2. On July 7, 1923, the Bolshevik leaders initiated the establishment of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast.
In response to resistance and protests, the Soviet government carried out brutal repressions in Azerbaijan.
In 1937 alone, 29,000 people faced repressions, with the nation losing tens of its thinkers, including Huseyn Javid, Mikayil Mushfig, Ahmad Javad, Salman Mumtaz, Ali Nazmi, Taghi Shahbazi and others.
Baku oil played a crucial role in ensuring the Soviet Union`s victory over fascism in the World War Two (1939-1945). Azerbaijani divisions fought heroically from the Caucasus to Berlin, once again proving the nation`s courage and dedication.
The years 1948-1953 marked a new wave of mass expulsion of the Azerbaijanis from their native lands in Western Azerbaijan (the territory called Armenian SSR). More than 100,000 Azerbaijanis were deported from 24 districts in Armenia and the city of Yerevan under the resolution of December 23, 1947, of the USSR Council of Ministers.
Heydar Aliyev`s coming to power in Azerbaijan on July 14, 1969, became a turning point for the country, paving the way for its rapid development and transformation into one of the leading republics of the Soviet Union.
The national leader`s tenure saw Azerbaijan make outstanding achievements in all areas of economy, with special attention paid to preserving national and moral values, and thousands of Azerbaijanis sent to study at leading educational institutions. A total of 23 large industrial plants were put into service in Azerbaijan from 1970 to 1985, and the country started exporting 350 types of locally made products to 65 countries.
Great measures taken under national leader Heydar Aliyev`s tenure transformed Azerbaijan into one of the leading republics of the USSR in terms of industry, agriculture and culture.
On October 18, 1991, Azerbaijan regained its independence to declare itself the political and legal successor of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. The young country restored state symbols of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. The first years of independence were extremely difficult for the Republic of Azerbaijan. The country was significantly weakened by the expanding aggression of Armenia, internal power struggle and recession of the economy. The Popular Front-Musavat duo`s incompetent governance brought Azerbaijan to the verge of collapse.
But national leader Heydar Aliyev`s returning to power in 1993 by popular demand was crucial to Azerbaijan`s salvation. On June 15, 1993, Heydar Aliyev was elected as chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Azerbaijan. That day went down into the history of Azerbaijan as National Salvation Day. On October 3, 1993, Heydar Aliyev was elected as President of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
It was Heydar Aliyev’s salvation mission that allowed the Republic of Azerbaijan to preserve its state independence, the national leader’s tenure as president from 1993 to 2003 went down in Azerbaijan`s history as the period of fundamental reforms.
The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has successfully continued national leader Heydar Aliyev`s policy since 2003.
Despite the global economic crisis, Azerbaijan is continuously implementing large-scale transnational projects and economic reforms, taking outstanding and effective measures to ensure rapid development and improve people`s well-being, successfully developing – under volatile and complex circumstances – relations with the world`s leading countries and influential international organizations based on mutual respect, and strengthening its place and role in the international relations system.
President Ilham Aliyev`s winning confidence of the majority of voters in all elections is a telling sign of the people-government unity in Azerbaijan.