The story of Azerbaijan. The 100th Anniversary of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic

Essay, 2018

7 Pages, Grade: A


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Figure 1: Flag of Azerbaijan. With three stripes of blue, red and green. And a crescent and star in the middle. (Flagpedia, n.d.)

Located on the cross-roads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, Azerbaijan enjoys a strategic geographical location linking the two continents. The name Azerbaijan (Azer; meaning fire or fire-keeper) is of great significance to the country since it was once inhabited by fire-worshippers. (, n.d.) With the Caspian Sea at its west, the country’s geography includes the Caucasus Mountains in the north, as well as flat-lands in the center. Additionally, Azerbaijan has boarders with Armenia, Iran, Georgia, Russia and Turkey.

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Figure 2: Map of Azerbaijan. Showing the capital: Baku. And major cities in the country. Boarders with Iran, Armenia, Georgia and Russia are visible. (Monster, © 2000–2017)

Azerbaijan is home to around 10 million people (The World Bank, 2016) and its history dates back to the stone-age as suggested by archeological evidence found at the Azokh Cave. (Azakov, 2007) Because of its strategic geographical location and rich history, the country has been governed by a variety of rulers including Romans, Persians and the Soviet Union. Therefore, Azerbaijan has diverse ethnicities; some of what are Azerbaijanis, Lezgians, Armenians, Russians, Turks .etc.

While 98 percent of the country’s population comprises of Muslims, Christianity is the second most practiced religion. (Pew Research Centre, 2009) Additionally, Azerbaijan also has a small ancient Jew population. The Azerbaijani legislature has due provisions for religious freedom and liberty which affirms the secularity of the state. (Azerbaijan)

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Figure 3: Traditional Azerbaijani clothes and musical instrument at a display in Dubai, UAE. (Selladurai, 2008)

The Azerbaijani ethnicity is that of an ancient origin and can be traced back to the Oghuz Turkic tribes of Central Asia. While, majority of the Turks belong to the Sunni sect of Islam, Azerbaijanis are followers of the Shia sect. At the time of the Oghuz Turkic tribes, this region was referred to as Arran; which was north of the Araz river (modern day Azerbaijan). Arran was later conquered by the Romans in the first century and then taken over by the Persian in the third century. It was during the seventh and the eighth century that the Arabs began to conquer the region and Islam became the most widely practiced religion, replacing Christianity. With the weakening of the Caliphate, the region was governed by autonomous monarchs called “Shirvanshahs”. During the fifteenth century, there was great development in the fields of culture, literature and economy under the rule of “Shirvanshahs”. One of the great contributors to the Azeri language during this period was a poet named Nasimi who was one of the first poets to write his “gazels” (poems) in Azeri language unlike his predecessors; who used Persian as the language of choice. However, the regime of the “Shiranshahs” was overthrown by the Safavid Dynasty in the 1500s. After the decline of this Persian Dynasty, the land of Azerbaijan was divided and ruled as independent provinces called Khanates until the Russian invasion in 1721-1722. The Russian rule over this region was a period of great transformation which inculcated the oil-boom that led to development and prosperity. However, during the end of the Russian rule the land was torn apart by ethnic tensions and socialist politics of the Bolsheviks. A consequence of these tensions was the unfortunate genocide of 31st March 1918; which involved the killing of 12,000 Muslims in Baku. This was followed by the brief establishment of a Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic that soon demolished; resulting in the establishment of an independent Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. (Kazimova, 2011)

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Figure 4: (Current) National emblem of Azerbaijan. (, 2007)

The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic originally came into being in 1918 after the First World War had weakened the Soviet Union. The establishment of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was a milestone since it was the first parliamentary republic in the Muslim world. Additionally, the Declaration of Independence (1918) portrayed its commitment towards democracy which has been observed by the country over the years. From 1918 to 1920, the newly established state achieved a number of revolutionary accomplishments including the right to vote for women which was not even provided by the United States and a number of other Western countries at the time. Furthermore, just one year into its creation, the parliament of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic announced the charter to open the Baku State University in 1919. Soon the newly created state was acknowledged by countries around the globe and was playing its role in international relations. (AHMADOVA, 2014)

However, this independence and prosperity was short-lived and the Russian Red Army invaded the land in 1920. This was followed by the forceful establishment of Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic by the Bolsheviks. (ISMAILOV, 2017) After the invasions, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia were inculcated into the Soviet Union (established in 1922) as Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (TSFSR). Through this transformation, the three concerned countries surrendered their influence over foreign policy, trade, economy and other important aspects of country hood. However, in 1936 the Stalin government in the Soviet Union eradicated the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (TSFSR) and the three composing states were set as individual soviet republics. After overthrowing Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, the Soviet Union also took control over the Azerbaijani Nakhichevan region. A referendum in the region concluded that a majority of inhabitants wanted to be a part of Azerbaijan but the Soviet Union declared Nakhichevan as a separate state which still remains the case. During the Stalin and Post-Stalin period, Azerbaijan (like other states under soviet rule) faced great restrictions in administration and cultural transmission. Nonetheless, the country was able to prosper in terms of economy, infrastructure and literacy. Even under great limitations, Azerbaijan was able to perform much better than other Muslim countries of the Middle East. (Curtis, Glenn E. (Glenn Eldon), 1994)

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Figure 5: National currency of Azerbaijan: Manat (Baku Explorer, 2014)

It was during Gorbachev's period that a wave of autonomy spread across the Soviet Union until it completely collapsed in 1991; resulting in the foundation of eight new states within Central Asia. These states included Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Georgia and Armenia. The modern state of Azerbaijan (Republic of Azerbaijan) came into being in 1991 on the same principles set forth by the short-lived Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. However, the young country faced multiple major issues including a major land conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh region with Armenia that remains a matter of ought-most concern to the Azerbaijani foreign affairs. (Curtis, Glenn E. (Glenn Eldon), 1994)

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Figure 6: Maiden Tower (Baku, Azerbaijan). Ancient landmark. (IBRAHIMOV, 2008)

The first few years after independence was a period of extreme hardships for the country since it was striving to maintain its existence. However, the country set – forth the crucial measures related to its existence and the maintenance of statehood; including the national flag, national emblem and currency (manat) within two years of its independence. The second phase of Azerbaijan’s route to prosperity came about through the determined and steadfast leadership of Heydar Aliyev (1993) which made the country achieve stability and economic prosperity. The country once again became an autonomous player in global politics.

Over the years Azerbaijan has achieved multiple milestones including economic progress, which can be observed by the World Bank’s Doing Business – 2016 report that places Azerbaijan at the 7th positon out of 189 countries. Further milestones include participation in the G20 summit in 2015-16, hosting the Islamic Solidarity Games in 2017 and hosting The European Games festival in Baku (2015) that was an un-paralleled sports event with participants around the globe. (United States - Azerbaijan (Chamber of Commerce), 2015)

The story of Azerbaijan is that of persistence and determination. How the nation was able to survive even the most devastating circumstances is a source of inspiration for countries around the globe. The measures taken by the state during 1918 to 1922; including granting voting rights to women, were actions that set forward the resolution of Azerbaijan to be a part of world transformation.


AHMADOVA, D. F. (2014). Major achievements of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. IRS History, 38-43.

Azakov, P. S. (2007). National report on institutional landscape and research policy Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan: GlobalSSH project.


Baku Explorer. (2014). AZERBAIJANI CURRENCY (EXCHANGE RATES AND TIPS FOR TRAVELERS). Retrieved from Baku Explorer:

Curtis, Glenn E. (Glenn Eldon). (1994). Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia : country studies. Washington D.C: Federal Research Division, Libaray of Congress.

Flagpedia. (n.d.). Flag of Azerbaijan. Retrieved from

IBRAHIMOV, D. K. (2008). THE MYSTERY OF THE MAIDEN TOWER. Retrieved from Visions of Azerbaijan:

ISMAILOV, D. (2017). HISTORY OF AZERBAIJAN. Baku: Azerbaijan Architecture and Construction University Methodological Council.

Kazimova, N. (2011). Culture Smart - Azerbaijan. London: Kuperard. (2007). Azərbaycan Respublikasının Dövlət gerbi haqqında. Retrieved from

Monster, A. F. (© 2000–2017). Azerbaijan. Retrieved from Sandbox Networks, Inc., publishing as Fact Monster.:

Pew Research Centre. (2009). Mapping the global muslim population. Washington, D.C.: The Pew Forum on religion and social life.

Selladurai, M. (2008). Otlar dance group. Retrieved from Flicker: Otlar Dance Group:

The World Bank. (2016). Populatiom, Total. Retrieved from THE WORLD BANK:

United States - Azerbaijan (Chamber of Commerce). (2015). Azerbaijan's 2015 Achievements: Looking Ahead. Retrieved from (n.d.). THE LAND OF FIRE - AZERBAIJAN. Retrieved April 18, 2018, from

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The story of Azerbaijan. The 100th Anniversary of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic
University of Lahore
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azerbaijan, history, asia, europe, soviet union, muslim, east, west, democracy, story, country, state, international relations, political science, azokh, culture, ethnicity, religion
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Mohammad Ahmed Hotiana (Author), 2018, The story of Azerbaijan. The 100th Anniversary of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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