On May 28, 1918, the first parliamentary democracy in the Muslim world – the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was founded with the adoption of the Declaration on Independence. The sovereign territory of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was 114,000 square kilometers.
Despite facing grave internal and external challenges arising from the collapse of a Russian empire, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic succeeded in setting effective state institutions, upholding the rights of its citizens, and gaining the trust of the international community. Universal suffrage right, as well as the right of voting of women, was guaranteed.
The government was formed on the basis of accountability and separation of powers and the Azerbaijani parliament was a democratically-elected, multi-party, and truly representative legislative body, the first of its kind in the entire Muslim East. In its two-year tenure, the Republic was governed by five executive cabinets and the Parliament held 155 meetings and discussed more than 240 draft laws. Another vital pillar of the state-building process came with the establishment of the Chamber of Appeals, creating in effect a modern judicial system that would check the powers of Parliament and Cabinet of Ministers.
The newly formed Republic made education a primary concern and on its end, the Baku State University was founded. Despite the economic and political difficulties that the Republic was facing, it aspired for long-term human capital investment by providing scholarships for hundreds of young students to study in leading European universities. Azerbaijani was declared the official language, the national tricolor flag and anthem were adopted, a modern theater and opera were established, Azerbaijani postage stamps were printed and a national Azerbaijani currency-Manat was issued.
As stated in the Declaration of Independence, the establishment of friendly relations with all nations, especially neighboring nations and states, was determined as one of the foreign policy priorities of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.
The first major breakthrough in diplomatic relations came when the parliamentary delegation of Azerbaijan went to Paris with the main goal to gain international recognition for the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Members of the delegation to the Paris Peace Conference impressed foreign dignitaries with respect to their ideas of liberty, rights, and justice. Unanimous de-facto recognition of the independence of Azerbaijan was attained and the Azerbaijani mission received an invitation to the Supreme Council of the Paris Peace Conference.
In late 1919 and early 1920, however, the political situation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic – both at home and abroad – worsened considerably. Unfortunately, the independent Azerbaijan Democratic Republic existed less than two years and after its collapse, Azerbaijan became part of the Soviet Union for 71 years.
But in 1988-1990, the national democratic movement in Azerbaijan campaigned vigorously for the restoration of the country’s independence. Finally, in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan gained independence for the second time in the 20th century.
The act establishing the state independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan, which completed its passage on October 18, 1991, set out the foundations for the statehood of an independent Azerbaijan and determined the principles of its political and economic structure.
The difficulties faced by the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, including Armenia’s territorial claims and war against Azerbaijan, geopolitical intrigues, the socio-economic problems engulfed the Republic of Azerbaijan as well since regaining its independence in 1991.
The policies pursued later by the national leader Heydar Aliyev developed the sense of national identity by reviving our deep historical and cultural memory, as well as by instilling a firm conviction for preserving and strengthening our independence and statehood.
Today the Republic of Azerbaijan under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev as an independent, sovereign and democratic country brings into the reality the aspirations and ideals of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic with its good and effective management, socio-economic and human capital development as well as its growing role and prestige in international relations.