Independence Day in Azerbaijan: an inconspicuous holiday
Twenty-six years ago, on 18 October 1991, Azerbaijan adopted a law on state independence and became the next republic to officially announce its withdrawal from the USSR. In the decision of the Supreme Council of Azerbaijan, it stated that the Republic of Azerbaijan was restoring its independence, and considered itself to be the legal successor of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, which existed from 1918 to 1920.
Before Azerbaijan, the three Baltic States including Georgia and Armenia had also announced their decisions to withdraw from the USSR.
The first country to recognize Azerbaijan’s independence was Turkey (9 November 1991), thereafter Romania (11 December 1991), Pakistan (13 December 1991), Sweden (23 December 1991), Iran (25 December 1991), the USA (23 January 1992), Russia (10 April 1992) and others. On 2 March 1992, Azerbaijan became a member of the UN.
Back in 1992, the Day of State Independence was declared a national holiday as well as a non-working day. Traditionally, on this day the heads of foreign states sent congratulatory letters to the President of Azerbaijan.
In 2006 however, the republic’s parliament introduced amendments to the labor code, and unexpectedly announced that the Day of State Independence, including two other festive days, should be normal working days but with the status of a holiday.
Since then, many citizens of the republic, especially members of the youth often don’t even know what happened on 18 October. Leaders of foreign states even began to send congratulatory letters on 28 May, the day of the proclamation of the first republic in 1918.
Today, the only reminders of the holiday on the streets of Baku are small state flags on city busses. Other than that, it’s an ordinary weekday.
However, even after all these years disputes are still ongoing about how quickly parliament made the decision to make the main state holiday a working day among citizens. Here are a few examples from comments on Facebook today:
“Those who voted against independence are trying to erase this day from the people’s memory.”
“This is an example of political jealousy. Heydar Aliyev, the father of our president, has nothing to do with this day after all. All other days associated with his name have been declared days off.”
“A foreign guest of mine asked me: can I go see the parade in honor of your Independence Day? I could only raise my hands, because logic here is powerless.”