The date of 28th May is one of the brightest and most unforgettable days in the history of Azerbaijani statehood. On 28 May 2018, Azerbaijan marks the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the first parliamentary republic in the Muslim East – the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. The Azerbaijani people, having ancient and rich traditions of statehood, were forced by the will of history to be part of different empires at certain stages in the past, but they have always fought for freedom and independence. The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was founded precisely during the period of the reorganisation of the political world order, as a logical result of the bright cultural progress that Azerbaijan experienced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Radical socio-political and cultural transformations that started happening in Azerbaijan during the first half of 19th century, with the spread of educational ideas ensuring the emergence of a national theatre, school and printing, prepared the groundwork for the realisation of our national identity. With the Bolshevik seizure of power after the fall of tsarism in Russia, a complicated geopolitical situation arose on the territory of the Empire. Under conditions of even greater aggravation of political discord among the world’s leading states, caused by interest in Baku’s oil, the progressive political elite and intellectuals of Azerbaijan united in the name of creating independent national statehood.
On 27 May 1918, members of the Muslim fraction, or more precisely the Muslim Council of the Transcaucasian Sejm, held a special meeting and decided to proclaim the independence of Azerbaijan. For this purpose, the Transcaucasian Muslim Council proclaimed itself as the National Council of Azerbaijan. Thus, the first parliament was created, laying the foundations of the parliamentary republic. The presidium and Chairman of the National Council of Azerbaijan were elected at this meeting. Mammad Amin Rasulzadeh became the Chairman of the National Council. On 28 May 1918, the historic session of the National Council of Azerbaijan was held under the Chairmanship of Hasan bey Aghayev. The participants of the meeting included Hasan bey Aghayev (chairman), Mustafa Mahmudov (secretary), Fatali khan Hoysky, Nasib bey Usubbekov, Nariman bey Narimanbekov, Mehdi bey Hajinski, Hamid bey Shahtakhtinski, Firidun bey Kocharlinski and other distinguished sons of our nation, who adopted the Declaration of Independence of Azerbaijan.
The newly created Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, working to the limit of its capabilities, honourably fulfilled its complicated historic task. The first Parliament, Government and state administration were formed, borders were established, the flag, anthem and coat-of-arms of the country were created, the native tongue was declared as the state language, and serious measures were taken in the sphere of state construction. The territorial integrity and national security of the country were ensured, with military units of high combat capability created in a short period of time, and state bodies that meet national requirements and democratic principles were formed.
The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, based on the principles of democracy and equality of people, granting equal rights to all citizens of the country, ensured racial, national, class, and religious equality. It is important to note that it was the ADR Parliament that granted women the right to participate in elections for the first time in the East. The laws adopted by the Parliament of the Republic during the one and a half years of its activity created an opportunity to strengthen the independence of the national state, political and economic development, and make rapid progress in all fields. The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, constantly pursuing peaceful politics, tried to ensure mutual cooperation with all countries and establish relations based on the principles of mutual respect for rights. The Government and Parliament of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic carried out extensive work in order to achieve international recognition of the young republic among other countries, including the great powers of the world. With this goal in mind, the Parliament of the Republic decided to send a special delegation, led by Parliamentary Chairman Alimardan bey Topchubashov, to the Paris Peace Conference, which took place on 28 December 1918. Outstanding statesman A.M. Topchubashov, having overcome great difficulties, successfully achieved the de facto recognition of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic by a number of great powers. Thanks to the activities of the internationally recognized Democratic Republic, Azerbaijan became a subject of international law.
Unfortunately, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, following the occupation by the Bolshevik’s 11th Red Army in April 1920, failed to fully achieve its goals. However, the idea of independence, enshrined in the minds of the people, was not forgotten. Over the past period, the Azerbaijani people managed to preserve many attributes of national statehood, including religion, language, culture, tradition and customs. All these facts prevented the destruction of Azerbaijan as a state and its removal from the political map of the world after the Bolshevik occupation.
Having achieved the restoration of independence in 1991, the modern Republic of Azerbaijan demonstrated its adherence to ancient traditions of statehood and – as the successor of the Democratic Republic – adopted its tri-colour flag, state emblem and anthem. Since that time, our people have formally celebrated Republic Day on 28th May, when Azerbaijan proclaimed its independence the first time. By the order of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Mr Ilham Aliyev, the year 2018 has been declared in Azerbaijan as the “Year of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic”. According to this, various events will be organised and held within the country and abroad.