As one of the oldest cultural centres where the modern civilization started to develop, the lands of historical Azerbaijan is bounded on the north by Greater Caucasus Mountains, on the west by Alagoz Mountain Range and the Eastern Anatolia including the Goycha lake basin, on the east by the Caspian Sea, and on the south by the frontiers of Sultaniya-Zanjan-Hamadan. The people of Azerbaijan have created a rich and original culture, and traditions of statehood in this land – the historic Azerbaijani lands. In literature, this name has been referred as Andirpatian, Atropatena, Adirbijan, Azirbijan and ultimately Azerbaijan.
The ancient history of Azerbaijan has been written on the basis of archaeological, ethnographic, anthropological and other written resources. The archaeological finds, historical accounts and ethnographic materials collected during the expeditions have helped to study customs and traditions, spiritual and material culture, and former governance forms, and family life in Azerbaijan.
The archaeological researches that have been carried out in the Azerbaijan Republic revealed the examples of a rich material culture about the settlement of the early humans. As a result, it has established the grounds for the Azerbaijan Republic being included in the list of the areas where the early humans has evolved. The found ancient archaeological and paleontological materials point out that the early humans had started to live in the territory of Azerbaijan 1.7 or 1.8 million years ago.
There are many the archaeological monuments that demonstrate the fact that the territory of Azerbaijan is one of the worlds’ earliest human settlements in this geography. The archaeological finds from Azikh, Taghlar, Damjili, Dashsalahli, Gazma (Nakhchevan) caves including Azykhantrop’s (Azyk Man) lower jaw, who lived in the Acheulean era 300-400 thousand years ago, prove that Azerbaijan is one of the areas where the early humans has evolved. Azerbaijan has been included in the map of “the most ancient humans of Europe, with the discovery of Azykhantrop’s lower jaw.
The Azerbaijan people are also among the people with the most ancient statehood traditions of the world. The Azerbaijani people have a statehood history which spans across about 5 thousand years. The earliest polities and ethnopolitical unions in the territory of Azerbaijan have been established around the Urmiya basin in the end of the IV millennium BC and the early III millennium BC. The oldest Azerbaijani states that emerged in these areas have played a vital role in the politico-military history of the whole region. Azerbaijan had established mutual relations with states of worldwide influence such as Ancient Sumer, the Akkadian Empire and the Assyrian Empire located in the basin of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and Hittites located in Minor Asia.
There were states such as Manna, Scyth, Atropatena and Caucasian Albania existed in the territory of Azerbaijan in the early I millennium BC and the early I millennium AD. These states have played a crucial role in strengthening state governance, socio-cultural history and also the process of forming a unified nation in Azerbaijan.
Our country had gone through one of the difficult times of its history in the beginning of our era. Azerbaijan has been invaded by the Persian-Sasanian Empire in the III century and by Arab Caliphate in the VII century. The invaders had moved numerous Persian and Arab population of Persia and Arabia into the country.
Nonetheless, the Turkish ethnos, who were the majority of the population with superior military and political organization, were playing an important role in forming a unified nation during the early centuries of our era. Oghuz Turks were dominant one among the Turkish ethnos.
Starting from the early centuries of our era, the Turkish language was becoming the primary language of communication among ethnic groups and peoples who were living in the territory of Azerbaijan. The Turkish language was also a connecting and unifying component between the north and the south. This had played a very important role in forming a unified nation. Because there was no a uniform religious understanding – a monotheistic religion. The Turkish people had a god called Tanri and worshipping Tanri was not widely spread to be able to prevent other religious understandings. Religions such as Zoroastrianism, fire-worshipping, or worshipping to the sun, the moon, the stars, earth or water were still being practiced. In the territory of Caucasian Albania to the north, Christianity was spreading particularly in the mountainous and western regions. The independent Albanian Church was functioning in a fierce competition with neighboring Armenian and Georgian Churches.
The conversion into Islam was a fundamentally turning point in the history of Azerbaijan in the VII century.
The religion of Islam helped the formation of a unified nation and a language, and had crucially intensified the process. The creation of a religious unity among the Turkish and non-Turkish ethnos resulted in the formation of customs and traditions, expanding kinship, and deepening of the process of assimilation in the whole territory of Azerbaijan. The religion of Islam has also unified all the Turkish and non-Turkish ethnos under a unified Turkish-Islamic flag against the Byzantine Empire who were attempting to have the South Caucasus under the influence of Christianity, and also against Georgian and Armenian feudals who were supported by the former.
Azerbaijan’s ancient statehood traditions have flourished again in the mid IX century. There were new political awakening: the states of Sajids, Shirvanshahs, Sallarids, Ravvadids and Shaddadids were created in the territory of Azerbaijan where Islam spread.
There were also awakening in all aspects of cultural, economic, political life as a result of the creation of the independent states. This is a period of enlightenment in the history of Azerbaijan.
After 600 years of Sassanid and Arab oppression, the creation of the new states (Sajids, Shirvanshahs, Sallarids, Ravvadids, Shaddadids and the polity of Shaki), and the acceptance of Islam as the monotheist religion all over the country played an important role in ethnic evolution, and forming a unified language and culture of the Azerbaijan people.
The religion of Islam also played an advanced role for all Azerbaijani people, both various Turkish tribes, who were instrumental in formation of a nation, together with non-Turkish ethnos, who assimilated with the former, to present themselves as a unified power in fight against foreign invaders. This happened in a time when feudal dynasties, who were governing Azerbaijan, have swapped rules over Azerbaijan too often.
After the collapse of the Arabic Caliphate in the late IX century, Turko-Islamic empires became dominant powers in the Caucasus as well as in the Middle and Central East. The Turko-Islamic dynasties who governed the states of Sajids, Shirvanshahs, Sallarids, Ravvadids, Shaddadids, the polity of Shaki, Seljuks, Eldiguzids, Mongols, Ilkhanates and Hulagus, Chobanids, Jalayirids, Timurids, Ottomans, Kara Koyunly, Ak Koyunlu, Safavids, Afshars, Qajars and others has left a deep legacy not only in Azerbaijan but also in the whole South Caucasus and the Middle and Central East.
Azerbaijan’s statehood culture was enriched in the XV-XVIII centuries and afterwards. The empires of Kara Koyunlu, Ak Koyunlu, Savafid, Afshar and Qajar, which covered vast territories of the east, were governed directly by Azerbaijani dynasties.
This is a crucial factor that positively affected Azerbaijan’s internal and international affairs, extended politico-military sphere of our country and people, enlarged the geography of the usage of the Azerbaijani language, and created futile conditions for spiritual and material culture of Azerbaijani people to develop. In the time period mentioned above, Azerbaijani states played an important role in foreign affairs and politico-military system of the Middle and Central East, and actively participated in relations between Europe and East.
During the reign of the great Azerbaijani statesman, Uzun Hassan (1568-1478), the empire of Ak Koyunlu became a powerful politico-military actor in the Middle and Central East. Azerbaijani statehood tradition developed further. Uzun Hassan had a policy course of creating a strong and centralized state in the lands of Azerbaijan. He even has prepared a “set of laws” for the realization of this purpose. The great rule had the Kurani-Kerim translated into Azerbaijani and ordered Abu Bark Al-Tehraniyya to write a book of Oghuz tilled “Kitabi-Diyarbakiriyya”.
The statehood of Azerbaijani has entered a new stage in its historical evolution in the late XV century and the early XVI century. The grandson of Uzun Hassan, the great statesman, Shah Ismail Khatai (1501-1524) has completed the goal of his grandfather. He succeeded in unifying the north and the south Azerbaijan under one rule.
There emerged a new centralized and united Azerbaijani State called Safavids State with capital city of Tabriz.
Azerbaijani state governance tradition has advanced to higher level during the rule of Safavids.
Shah Ismayil, Shah Tahmasib, Shah Abbas and other Safavid rulers has turned the state one of the most powerful empires of the Middle and Central East as a result of their successful reforms, domestic and international policies.
Once the state of Safavid collapsed, the great Azerbaijani commander, Nader Shah Afshar (1736-1747) had extended the frontiers of the former Safavid Empire. The great ruler, Nader Shah Afshar, who was from country of Azerbaijani Turkic-Afshar, took the control over the northern India, including Dehli in 1739. However, Azerbaijani commander’s plans of creating a powerful and centralized state in a larger geography could not be realized.
After the death of Nader Shah, the vast empire, which he established, came to an end. There were local states emerged in the lands of Azerbaijan, which were already struggling for independence since the times of Nader Shah. As a result Azerbaijan was divided into small states, khanates and sultanates in the second half of XVIII century.
In the late XVIII century, Azerbaijani dynasty, the Qajar tribes (1796-1925) came to power in Iran. The Qajar dynasty took a policy course of its predecessors, Kara Koyunlu, Ak Koyunlu, Safavids and Nader Shah, which was to bring the Khanates back under a centralized power.
Subsequently, a period started with the Qajar Dynasty engaging in a long fight against the Russian which was trying to conquer the South Caucasus.
Azerbaijan was turned into a battlefield between the two great powers.
The two empires have divided Azerbaijan as result of Gulustan (1813) and Turkmenchay (1828) treaties. The northern Azerbaijan became part of Russia and the Southern Azerbaijan joined the Iranian Kingdom ruled by the Qajar Dynasty.
Consequently two new geographic and political terminologies emerged in the history of Azerbaijan: Northern Azerbaijan (or Russian Azerbaijan) and Southern Azerbaijan (or Iranian Azerbaijan).
Russia relocated Armenian population of neighbouring countries massively in the Azerbaijani lands particularly in mountainous regions of Karabakh, and the former territories of Irevan and Nakhchivan in order to sustain its rule in newly occupied territories. An “Armenian province” has been created artificially for specific purpose in the western Azerbaijan, the former Irevan and Nakhchivan khanates, along the border with Turkey.
In addition, Russia has abolished the Albanian church in 1836 and attached it to Armenian Gregorian Church. Therefore, more suitable conditions were created to Gregorianize and Armenianize the ancient Azerbaijani population of Caucasian Albanians. This also gave a ground for Armenians to claim new lands from Azerbaijan. No being sufficed with this, Russia carried out dirty policies: to arm Armenians and turn them fighting against the population who are Turkish and Muslims. It subsequently resulted in mass atrocities against Azerbaijanis. This development started a period of genocides against Azerbaijanis and whole Turkish-Muslim population of the South Caucasus.
Fight for independence in the Northern Azerbaijan has resulted in unprecedented tragedies. The Dashnak-Bolshevik government of S. Shaumian, who took the control of Baku, has committed horrible genocide against the Azerbaijani People in March 1918. Brotherly Turkey helped Azerbaijan. The fight for freedom was won. The first Democratic Republic in the Muslim East, People’s Republic of Azerbaijan, was established in the Northern Azerbaijan on 28 May 1918.
People’s Republic of Azerbaijan was the first parliamentarian republic in the history of Azerbaijani people as well as the first democratic, constitutional and secular state in the Muslim East and the Turko-Islamic geography.
The parliamentarianism during the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan is divided into two stages: the first stage lasted from 27 May 1918 to 19 November 1918. During the six month, the Azerbaijan National Council, which had 44 Turkish and Muslim representations and was acting as the first Azerbaijani Parliament, has adopted important historic decisions. Our first parliament proclaimed independence of Azerbaijan on 28 May 1918, took the charge of governing the country and adopted declaration of independence.
The second stage of the parliamentarianism of People’s Republic of Azerbaijan or the Period of Baku last just 17 months started on 7 December 1918 and ended on 27 April 1920.
It is worth to mention specifically that the parliament has adopted a law on founded Baku State University on 1 September 1919. The foundation of a national university was an important service by the states of the Republic before their own nation. Although People’s Republic of Azerbaijan came to an end, the role of Baku State University was unparalleled in beholding the ideals of the Republic to lead our people to independence again.
During the existence of People’s Republic of Azerbaijan, 155 parliamentary sessions were held of which 10 took place in the period of Azerbaijan National Council (27 May-19 November 1918) and 145 took place in the period of Azerbaijani Parliament (7 December 1918-27 April 1920).
More than 270 bills were brought to hearing before the Parliament and 230 of them had been adopted. The bills were discussed in heated and practical manner and adopted only after third hearing.
Although People’s Republic of Azerbaijan has survived only 23 months, it proved that even the cruelest colonizers and repressive regimes cannot end the ideals of freedom and independent statehood traditions of the Azerbaijani people.
People’s Republic of Azerbaijan collapsed as a result of invasion by the Soviet Russia. Independent Azerbaijani Statehood came to an end in the northern Azerbaijan. In the territory of the republic, the establishment of Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed on 28 April 1920. Right after the Soviet occupation, the process of demolishing the statehood tradition that was established during the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan was begun. The “Red Terror” was overtaking in every part of the country. Everyone who could possibly be of rebellious nature against Bolshevik regime was labeled as “enemy of people”, “counter-revolutionist” or “saboteur” and was becoming the victim of the “Red Terror”.
Consequently, there was a new genocide committed against the Azerbaijani People factually after the March 1918 genocide. The difference was that this time creams of the nation – the prominent statesmen of People’s Republic of Azerbaijan, generals, politicians, high-ranked officers of the National Army, scientists, religious figures, and party officials were executed. The Bolshevik-dashnak group was deliberately attempting to destroy creams of the nation to leave them with thinking minds. This was in reality much more appalling genocide than the genocide of March 1918.
Sovietization of the Northern Azerbaijan was finalized with the call for the first congress of soviets of Azerbaijan SSR on 6 May 1921. The first constitution of Azerbaijan SSR was adopted on 19 May.
Once the Azerbaijani People was deprived of their independent government, the exploitation of its natural resources was begun. Private ownership of land was prohibited. All the natural resources were nationalized or in really was considered as state property. Azerbaijan Oil Committee was established in order to manage the oil industry and V. I. Lenin appointed and sent A. P. Serebrovsky to Baku to manage the organization. Lenin succeeded in his goal who ordered the occupation of the Northern Azerbaijan by writing on telegram “Overtaking Baku is very important for us” to the Military-Revolution Council of Caucasian front. Baku was acquired by Russia.
The repression was continued against the Azerbaijani people during the 1930s. 29 thousand people were victim of the repression just in 19237. All of them were proud sons of the homeland. In this period the Azerbaijani people has lost intellectuals such as Huseyn Javid, Mikayil Mushvig, Ahmad Javad, Salman Mumtaz, Ali Nazmi, Taghi Shabaz and others. The thinking minds and the most honourable personalities were executed. The Azerbaijani people could not recover from this shock for decades.
A new stage of mass deportation of the Azerbaijanis from their historic lands of the western Azerbaijan (the area called Armenian SSR) took a start during the 1948-1953. Armenians hold on the lands of the western Azerbaijan strongly. They became majority in these lands.
Although the Azerbaijani people’s creative minds accomplished successes, the economy has shown signs of recession in many fields as well as in heavy industry and agriculture in the 1960s due to the objective ad subjective reasons.
There was an important change took place in the government of Azerbaijan during these difficult time of the Republic. The first stage of Heydar Aliyev rule in Azerbaijan took a start in 1969. As a great protector of his nation, Heydar Aliyev started to implement wide-range reforms in order to make Azerbaijan one of the leading republics of the Soviet Union in a complex historic environment of totalitarian regime.
The great politician was successfully accomplishing to have Political Bureau (Politburo) of the Central Committee of the CPSU, Plenums of the Central Committee, Congresses of Communist Party to adopt advantageous decisions that were necessary for the development of the people regarding economy, agriculture and different fields of culture. Afterwards, he was mobilizing the Azerbaijani people in execution of those decisions and striving for the advancement of Azerbaijan tirelessly the day and the night. The main priorities of his plans were to see Azerbaijan as self-sustainable and a scientifically and technologically developed country. Overall the road to our country’s independence was initiated by Heydar Aliyev at that time.
Hundred manufacturing facilities, factories and production units were constructed in all over the Republic in a very short time during 1970-1985 years. Azerbaijan was one of the leading producers in many fields in the Soviet Union. Azerbaijan was producing 350 products, which were exported to 65 countries of the world.
The historic importance of these great construction works was that our people has developed national honour, national self-awareness, and revived national senses of freedom and independence during the first stage Heydar Aliyev’s rule in Azerbaijan. This in reality meant a new phase for national independence movement of the Azerbaijani people in the 1970s.
The last stage of the statehood history of Azerbaijan started with adoption of The Constitutional Act on “the State Independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan” on 18 October, 1991 on the eve of the collapse of the USSR and it continues until today.
Azerbaijan has risen and fallen and seen domestic divide, faced foreign occupations throughout the history. Azerbaijan has always preserved peaceful and friendly relationship with neighbors. However the peaceful neighbors particularly Armenians, who have been settled in the western Azerbaijan, have claimed lands against Azerbaijan and occupied it as there was a chance.
Armenian Armed Forces carried out a policy of forceful deportation of Azerbaijanis from Nagorno Karabakh, which is inseparable part of Azerbaijan. They firstly ethnically cleansed Azerbaijanis from 126 villages of Nagorno Karabakh in 1988. Shusha was occupied on 8 May 1992 and Khojavand on 2 October 1992 by Armenian Armed Forces.
In this period, one of the most tragic events of XX century was committed on the day passing from 25 February to 26 February in 1992. The town of Khojaly with Azerbaijani population of 6000 was destroyed in a night by the Armenian Armed Forces with the help 366th CIS regiment.
As a result of occupation by Armenian Armed Forces since 1998, 20% of the Azerbaijani territory was occupied. The territories under Armenian occupation cover Nagorno Karabakh and 7 adjacent regions (Lachin occupied on 18 May 1992, Kalbajar on 2 April 1993, Aghdam on 23 July 1993, Jabrayil on 23 August 1993, Fuzuli 23 August 1993, Gubadli 31 August 1993, Zangilan 29 October 1993). Moreover there are 700 thousand IDPs who lost their houses from residential settlements in Nagorno Karabakh, adjacent regions and the regions bound by Armenia. These IDPs currently live in 62 district and cities in 1600 densely located temporary refugee settlements.
Ayaz Mutallibov, head of the government, resigned in March 1992 when people’s movement was intensifying. The situation and vacuum in the governance deteriorated the defense capability of the Azerbaijan Republic. As a result, Armenian and Soviet armed forces occupied Shusha in May 1992. This meant that Armenians were then occupying the whole territory of Nagorno Karabakh. The next step was to occupy Lachin district, a vital territory connecting Nagorno Karabakh with Armenia. The internal power struggles during government of the People’s Front (May 1992-June 1993) were weakening the defense of the Republic. Kalbajar was occupied in April 1993. There was been political crisis in Azerbaijan in June 1993. Heydar Aliyev came to power upon the request of the Azerbaijani People.
The return of Heydar Aliyev to power played a pivotal role in saving Azerbaijan. Heydar Aliyev’s political maneuvers prevented the country being torn apart in a civil war.
On 12 May 1994 a ceasefire agreement signed between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Nonetheless, Armenian forces has violated the ceasefire agreement and kept peaceful people and Azerbaijani armed forces under the fire.
The skirmish that took place on the night passing from 1st day to the 2nd day of April, 2006 was the largest military confrontation between Azerbaijani and Armenian armed forces in size and scale since signing the ceasefire agreement in 1994.
The April fights ended with the victory of Azerbaijani Armed Forces. As result Azerbaijan has liberated Seysulan village and several heights around the Talish village in Tartar district, Jojuq Marjanli village and Lala tapa hilltop in Jabrayil district, and Gulustand village of Goranboy villages, and roads in direction of Madagiz village.
Azerbaijani Army on September 27, with the counter-offensive operation along the entire front started the liberation of the occupied territories. The war that lasted 44 days, depicted the strength of the Glorious Azerbaijani army and ended with the decisive victory of Azerbaijan. By December 1, Azerbaijan has restored its territorial integrity. This 44 days war, brought an end to the long lasting occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and lead to the big return of residents to their home.