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About Azerbaijan

HISTORY OF AZERBAIJAN

Stretching back nearly 700,000 years, the story of Azerbaijan is rooted deep into the origins of mankind and has been part of many milestones in history. Subjected to nomadic territorial disputes, religious conquest, empirical rule, and Soviet division, Azerbaijan has undergone many phases of change and emerged as a democratic nation. 

The history of Azerbaijan’s statehood is approximately 5 thousand years old. The first state bodies on the territory of Azerbaijan appeared in late 4,000 - early 3,000 BC. In 1,000 BC there existed Manna, Iskim, Skit, Scyth and such strong states as the Caucasian Albania and Atropatena. These states played a big role in strengthening the culture of government, in the history of economic culture of the country as well as in the uniform nation formation.

In the 3rd century AD Azerbaijan was occupied by the empire of Iranian Sasanids and in the 7th century by Arabian Khalifat. The invaders populated the country with numerous Iranians and Arabs. 

With the introduction of Islam in the 7th century there occurred the important breakthrough in the history of Azerbaijan. Islam greatly facilitated the formation of uniform nation, language, customs and etc. among Turkic and not Turkic peoples on the territory of Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan witnessed new political development: on Azerbaijan lands united by Islam the states of Sadzhids, Shirvanshahs, Salarids, Ravvadids and Sheddadids were established. It was the beginning of the Renaissance of Azerbaijan history.

The late 15th - early 16th century might be considered as the new milestone in the history of Azerbaijan. An outstanding statesman Shakh Ismail Hatai managed to unite all northern and southern Azerbaijani lands under his rule. As result Sefevid state with capital in the city of Tabriz was created which later turned into one of the most powerful empires in the Middle East.

Nadir-shakh, an outstanding Azerbaijani commander who came to power after the fall of Sefevid state even more expanded the boundaries of the former empire. This Azerbaijani ruler in 1739 conquered Northern India, including Delhi. However, after the death of Nadir-shakh the empire collapsed.

Thus, in the second half of the 18th century Azerbaijan broke up into smaller states - khanates and sultanates.

In the end of the 18th century Iran was under the rule of Gadzhars, an Azerbaijani dynasty. They began to pursue the policy of placing all territories of the former Nadir-shakh empire and Azerbaijan khanates under centralized rule.

That was how the epoch of long wars between Gadzhars and Russia, which strived to conquer the southern Caucasus, began. As a result, on the basis of Gulustan (1813) and Turkmenchay (1828) treaties Azerbaijan was divided between the two empires: Northern Azerbaijan was attached to Russia, and its southern part to Iran. 

In 1918, Azerbaijan won its first independence from Russia at the collapse of the Czarist Empire and became the first Democratic Republic to be established in the Muslim world.  Just two years later in 1920, the Bolshevik movement gained popular support after the invasion of the Russian Red Army, and Azerbaijan was declared a founding member of the Soviet Union.

By 1936, the country was given full Soviet Socialist Republic status and was governed by the central political leadership in Moscow.  During World War II, Azerbaijan played a key role in supplying oil and natural gas to the Allied Forces and the Azerbaijani troops were commended for their valiant efforts on the Eastern Front.  Azerbaijan flourished in the 1950s, reaping the benefits of a flourishing, industrial post-war economy.

Flaws in the Soviet model became apparently in the mid-1960s, however, and Moscow soon appointed Heydar Aliyev the head of the Communist Party in Azerbaijan.  Aliyev helped stabilize the turbulent economy and became a champion of the people.

Troubles with the Nagorno-Karabakh region began stirring in 1988 as ethnic Armenians living in the territory called for reunification with Armenia.  At the same time, popular support for the Soviet Union was declining and opposition groups frequently clashed with Soviet troops in Baku.

On August 30, 1991, Azerbaijan had declared independence from the crumbling Soviet Union – for the second time in its history – and became a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).  Elections were held in September 1991 and 1992, but neither President succeeded in politically unifying the new Republic.  In June 1993, the struggling Parliament called Heydar Aliyev, who was thriving as the governor of Nakhichevan, to Baku.  He was officially elected President in October 1993 and served for nearly a decade.

Under the leadership of Heydar Aliyev, Azerbaijan began to flourish.  More oil and natural gas reserves were discovered and construction was begun on the oil and gas pipelines which currently export Azerbaijani resources.  In 2003, the revered President who unified Azerbaijan fell ill and passed away. 

A few months after his death, Heydar Aliyev’s son, Ilham, was elected President and continues to lead Azerbaijan today. 

 

Significant Historical & Public Holidays in Azerbaijan

January 20, 1990 - Martyr’s Day

On this day Soviet troops entered the city of Baku and killed more than 180 civilians. This date is celebrated as the rebirth of the Republic of Azerbaijan, as well as serving as a remembrance of the victims of the Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1988. The day is also known as Qara Yanvar (Day of National Mourning), Day of Shehids, or Remembrance Day.

February 25-26, 1992 - Khojaly Massacre (20th Anniversary in 2012)

Hundreds of ethnic Azerbaijani civilians from the town of Khojaly were killed by Armenian armed forces during the Nagorno-Karabakh War.

May 28, 1918 - Republic Day

Azerbaijan declared independence from the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic, thus forming the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Azerbaijan became the first democratic parliamentary republic in the Muslim world.

June 15, 1993 - National Salvation Day

Parliament invited Heydar Aliyev to Baku to lead the country.

August 30, 1991 Declaration of Independence (20th Anniversary in 2011)

Azerbaijan declared its intention to once again become an independent nation.

October 18, 1991 - Independence Day (20th Anniversary in 2011)

Since 1991, this has been the national day of celebration of the country’s independence.

November 12, 1995 - Constitution Day

The day the constitution was enacted is a public holiday in Azerbaijan.

December 31, 1989 - International Solidarity Day

Spurred by the fall of the Berlin wall, Azeri’s called for and led the removal of borders between Soviet Azerbaijan and Iran on December 31, 1989. This date has since been celebrated by Azeris around the world as the International Solidarity Day of Azerbaijanis.

© 2014 Azerbaijan America Alliance
This material is distributed by Azerbaijan America Alliance Corporation on behalf of our Board of Directors.  Additional information is available at the Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.
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