Azerbaijan Democratic Republic - What political experts and historians say about the first Republic in Muslim East -

16 August, Tuesday

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Azerbaijan Democratic Republic - What political experts and historians say about the first Republic in Muslim East

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28 May is 102th anniversary of the foundation of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, which is first secular and modern Republic in Muslim East. Founders of the Democratic Republic were Russian and European educated intellectuals.

The collapse of Russian Empire and taking control of power by Bolsheviks brought about strengthening political movements among three nations in the South Caucasus – especially Azerbaijanis, Georgians and Armenians.

At the beginning of 1918, Transcaucasia Democratic Federative Republic was established by the groups of Azerbaijani, Georgian and Armenian political intellectuals, and each delegation represented interests of its own nation in the assembly of Federative Republic. However, Federative Republic went one-or two months, because of internal clashes.

As a result of the collapse of short-term Transcaucasia Democratic Federative Republic, Azerbaijani intellectuals came together under the leadership of Mahammad Amin Rasulzadeh, the national leader of Azerbaijani people to found National Council on 27 May, 1918. They were able to set up National Council, and Rasulzadeh was selected the chairman of it.

On 28 May, National Council adopted declaration on the establishment of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Declaration composed of six provisions confirming territorial integrity, sovereignty and the jurisdiction of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, determining identity of Azerbaijani nation and recognizing fundamental rights and freedoms of all ethnic minorities and religious groups living within Azerbaijan. 

First capital of Azerbaijan was Ganja, but it was subsequently moved to Baku after the defeat of Bolshevik/Dashnak militants by Caucasian Islam army, which included Ottoman and Azerbaijan soldiers.

Parliament of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was instituted in December, 1918, which included various political fractions and the groups of ethnic minorities, such as Musavat party, Socialist Unity, Islamic Unity, Dashnaks, Russians and Jews.

On the occasion of 28 May, portal shared opinions of political experts and historians concerning the establishment of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.

According to viewpoint of expert and journalist Neil Watson from Britain, Azerbaijan Democratic Republic is benchmark for the Muslim East and also for many western countries.

“In my viewpoint, the foundation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic by Rasulzadeh, which was based on western models, set the benchmark for the Muslim East and also for many western countries,” said British journalist.

“It saw the franchise extended to all women over the age of 18, in advance of the UK, US, France and many other countries,” he added.

Neil Watson regretted that the western powers did not impede the occupation of Azerbaijan by Red Army.

“It is most regrettable that Azerbaijan was abandoned by the western powers in its time of need, enabling its invasion by Soviet Empire in 1920,” he noted.

French historian, and expert on diplomatic relations of France-Turkey, Maxime Gauin assessed 28 May remarkable date in the history of Azerbaijan. He considered that the establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic led to the affirmation of the Azerbaijani nation as a separate state.

“28 May is one of the main dates in the contemporary history of Azerbaijan, because the foundation of the first independent Republic led to the affirmation of the Azerbaijani nation as a separate state. This is the result of the national movement since 19th century as well as of the Russian civil war,” Maxime stressed.

“Azerbaijan Democratic Republic is the first secular republic in the Muslim world, more particularly at the intersection of Russia, of the Turkic world and of Iran,” he added.

French historian, Maxime Gauin also noted that the achievements - such as the vote of women and the creation of the first university in Baku—were remarkable, even more in considering extraordinary difficulties faced by the leaders of the Republic.

“Despite short-lived, the first Republic influenced Kemal Atatürk for his reforms in Turkey and the memory of the Republic was kept by the intellectuals who were emigrants in Turkey and western European countries,” Maxime added.

“The 28th May is a very important date in the history of Azerbaijan. It obviously is the day when the National Council declared Azerbaijan as an independent nation,” said Irish historian, Patrick Walsh.

 According to viewpoint of Patrick Walsh, the Great War of 1914 and the collapse of the Russian State in fighting changed everything and produced independence out of necessity – to ensure the survival of the community within a cataclysmic situation.

“The Azerbaijani leadership had attempted to develop their people within the new democracy of the Russian Revolution of February 1917, but this became impossible when the Provisional Government proved unable to effectively govern the state,” Patrick Walsh noted.  

“After the Bolsheviks came to power in a coup in October 1917, the Azerbaijani leaders attempted to share power in the Transcaucasian Seim with their neighbours, the Georgians and Armenians. However, this proved unworkable for a number of reasons,” he added.

Moreover, Irish historian described the founders of the Democratic Republic as being moderate and reluctant nationalists. He said that Caucasian Turks were not aggressive nationalists as like Armenian Dashnaks during that period.

“Men who made the declaration were very moderate and even reluctant nationalists. They came from an age of empires rather than nations and a people who had a rich and complex character with strong links to the Turkish, Persian and wider Moslem world. Nationalism is often a simplifying process and the Moslems of the Caucasus were reluctant to become narrow nationalists of the kind the Armenian Dashnaks were,” Patrick emphasized.

Furthermore, Patrick Walsh shared his views on institutions of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. According to his viewpoint, the political and administrative system was formed in the first Republic was based on European values and principles.

“The new state made a good start in establishing democratic institutions, with seats reserved for all communities in parliament, and it became one of only a handful of states in the world to enfranchise women (and was the first in the region). Functional institutions of state were founded, foreign relations established, and an army began to be organised in collaboration with the British and Georgians,” Patrick added.  

Another political expert, Peter Tase who is professional expert on Azerbaijani studies also shared his opinions on 102th anniversary of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.  American expert depicted 28 May as great aspiration of Azerbaijani people for independence, democratic institutions and territorial sovereignty.

“The Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan, established in May 1918, is an important accomplishment in the domestic sphere and also in the international stage,” said Peter Tase.

Given information about foreign relations of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan, political expert touched upon official meeting between the representatives of the Democratic Republic and the former President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson in Versailles peace talks.

“During this time, we have the first encounter between the Government of Azerbaijan and the Administration of President Woodrow Wilson, leaving an outstanding impression upon the president of the United States,” Peter noted.

“Furthermore, Azerbaijan was consolidated as an independent country during these two years (1918-1920) and it demonstrated to the world the deep interest and willingness to have a democratic government, its sovereign territory and a westward looking civil service system,” he added.

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