Memory and gratefulness
Two years from today we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the First Democratic Republic in the Muslim East, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR). It’s not an exact translation, since it’s word for word it’s the ‘people’s republic.’
There was a test on the Internet: “If time machines existed, what time period would you like to travel to? And I answered, “To 1918 in Baku.”
It was the period when Russia, which was preoccupied with WWI and then with a civil war, had no time to deal with its colonies. This allowed the progressive Azerbaijani intelligentsia to seize the moment and declare Azerbaijan an independent state (though, not without help from Turkey and Great Britain). Georgia did the same on May 26, Armenia, on May 28, the same day as Azerbaijan.
A lot was going on at that time: the end of the WWI, the Bolsheviks rise to power, ethnic conflict, a war, territorial claims by every country in the region…and amidst all this chaos, the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan came about. Isn’t it sacrilege? How can a Republic crop up in a Muslim country? And with voting rights for women? It must be mentioned that in the cradle of European democracy (Great Britain) women received these rights ten years later.
What present-day Azerbaijan inherited from the ADR is a flag, anthem, coat of arms and a reminiscence of reforms in the education and social spheres.
The founding fathers of the first republic were certainly romantics. Fatali Khan Khoyski, the first Chairman of the Government, immediately wrote a letter of resignation upon learning that one of his agency officials was taking bribes. Mammad Amin Rasulzade, the National Assembly Chairman, naively believed that ‘the banner that was once hoisted will never be lowered again.’
However, it was lowered on April 28, 1920, when the 11th Red Army, under Sergey Kirov’s command, entered Baku. There was almost no resistance. Rasulzade did not want bloodshed, whereas the Azerbaijani army was at that time on the Karabakh front. Territorial disputes between former Russian colonies were already taking place at that time.
Azerbaijan had a dispute with Armenia over the territories of Karabakh, Zangezur and Nakhichevan, as well as with Georgia, over the Zakatala region. As a result, Azerbaijan became the first soviet republic in the Caucasus. Worthy of note is Kirov’s first speech. “Long live Soviet Azerbaijan with its capital in Gyanja!”, which meant that Moscow wanted to make the multiethnic and oil-rich Baku part of Russia. However, thanks to the Baku Bolsheviks’ leader, Nariman Narimanov, the capital was protected.
Yesterday, on May 27, the President of Azerbaijan place a wreath at the monument of the founding fathers of the First Republic. It’s a very modest obelisk, popularly referred to as ‘a pencil’. There isn’t a single monument for neither Rasulzade, Khoyski or Rafibekov, or to any other leaders. Baku State University, founded during ADR times, no longer bears the name of the chief ideologist of independence, Mammad Amin Rasulzade. In my opinion, the reason for this is political jealousy. The nation should have only one chief and leader and of course, it’s Heydar Aliyev.