The First Republic: The Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan (1918-1920)
After the 1917 revolution in Russia, the Empire started to collapse, and ethnic regions of the Empire began movement towards separation and building independent States. In 1918, on May 28 the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic was proclaimed in the territory of the eastern part of the southern Caucasus – the first parliamentary democracy in the Islamic east – and which was to play a historic role in the renaissance and formation of the sense of ethnic identity and statehood of the Azerbaijani nation. The importance of the creation of an independent state was previously addressed by the group of national activists that represented Azerbaijani people in the Russian State Duma (parliament), governmental agencies and Tsarist army, and these were prominent Azerbaijanis such as Mamed Amin Rasulzadeh, Fatali Khan Khoyskiy, Alimardan bey Topchubashev, Nasib bey Yusifbeyli, Khalil bey Khasmammadov, Ali-Agha Shikhlinskiy, Samed Mehmandarov and several others. Ahmad bay Agaoglu, and Ali bay Huseynzadeh, were responsible for shaping the idea of Azerbaijanism, consolidating the nation at a moral level, as a synthesis of traditional Islamic and Turkic priorities with those of the modern era.
The development of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic, both as a nation and a state, was based on the idea of “Azerbaijanism”, which hinged on the principles of modernism, Islamism and Turkism, symbolizing the Azerbaijani people’s aspiration for progress based on preservation of their adherence to Islamic civilization and Turkic culture and on their unique ethnic identity.
In its short history – 23 months, the multi-party Azerbaijani parliament and the coalition government managed to take a number of important steps demonstrating the new nation’s determination to build a progressive state based on the principles of democracy and participation. The new government made serious steps towards building national education and public health systems, development of sustainable economic and financial institutions, created a national army and worked hard towards international recognition of the new republic as a member of world community of nations.
On January 11, 1920 the Paris Peace Conference, with the Treaty of Versailles, accorded de facto recognition of the independent Republic of Azerbaijan with its capital in Ganja. Turkey was one of the first independent states that recognized the new republic and supported it on the international arena. However, the political situation in the Caucasus derailed the plan of independent state development for all three Caucasian countries and in late 1919 and early 1920 Azerbaijani Democratic Republic found itself caught up in a ferocious tug-of-war between Russia, ruled by the new Bolshevik party and Persia, each pursuing its own geopolitical goals in this strategically important and oil-rich area.
The national and political aspirations of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was best seen from the symbolic history of our flag, which was one of the most important achievement of the new emerging state in the beginning of 20th century.
Some keywords to remember: collapse, proclaim, renaissance, prominent, consolidate, hinge, preserve, adherence, coalition, sustainable, recognition, derail, ferocious, aspiration
Classroom Activities: Draw a picture of the important Azerbaijan national symbols – flag and emblem
History of our flag
” The flag once raised will never fall”. Mammad Amin Rasulzade
As an independent state Azerbaijan has its own official national symbols, that illustrates the idea of unity around certain national cultural values. The national symbols in our country are flag, emblem and anthem. Let us see the idea behind our flag.
History has shown that soldiers sacrificed their lives during battles for sake of saving the colours. The loss of the flag during a battle was considered a disgrace and dishonor that would lead to disband of the troop.
A very important field of history, called vyssillography1, studies the history and ideas of flags and colours. Whitney Smith, the author of the book “Flag lore of all nations”, published in 2001 in the USA, believes that the idea of Azerbaijani flag belongs to Ali bey Huseynzade, who lived in 1864-1940 and was one of the active founders of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918.
The Azerbaijan national flag belongs to the tricolors group. Tricolors are also known as the flag of the prince, the flag of European family – the banner of the struggle for sovereignty against the colonialists. Our national flag consists of three equally sized horizontal stripes of blue, red and green with a white crescent and eight-pointed star in the center. It should be worth nothing that the first flag of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was not a tricolor (it had a picture of a white crescent and a white eight-pointed star on a red background). The founders of Republic decided to change the flag so that it represented three key concepts: Turkism, Islamism and the pursuit of progress.
Some keywords to remember: independent, symbol, illustrate, emblem, anthem, sacrifice, disgrace, disband troop, tricolor, horizontal, struggle, soveriegnity, colonial, cresent
Classroom Activities: Identify verbs and change them into noun forms
Let us decode the meaning behind the colors of our national flag.
Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was the 114th Turkic state. Most of the flags of the Turkic states were blue. Blue is the color of the ancient Türkic spirit of Tanri (Tengri), the color of the cloudless sky, peace, prosperity, trust and security. The “color of the sky” is boundless. It calls you to seek for meaning and truth. Furthermore, since ancient times, a blue color is recognized as having a noble (aristocratic) origin. Ancient Türks and Germans had the concept of “blue blood”. Türkic princesses painted their legs with blue paint in the shape of varicose veins, emphasizing their belonging to the higher society.
Red stripe embodies modernity, creativity, openness, progress, and the struggle for justice and democracy, material well-being. Red is the color of strength, energy, making very important decisions. Seljuk and Safavid rulers robe themselves in red before declaring significant decisions for the state.
Green is the color of Islam. Islam was founded in the Arabian Peninsula – surrounded by harsh deserts and bare rocks. The reasons for choosing green color by Arabs are quite obvious. Green signifies Areas that such as oasis, water and life. Green is also a color of spiritual growth, harmony and tranquility. Green grass pleases us after a colorless winter. This is the color of generosity, charity and nobility. This is the color that paves a way. If you notice, it is actually the green color of the traffic light that tells us to go.
There is a lot of controversy around the value of the eight-pointed star (octagram) on our flag. According to Fatali Khan Khoysky, it reflects 8 letters used in the name of “Azerbaijan” (written in Arabic). Some researchers believe that 8 rays of the star can also symbolize the Arabic spelling of the figurative name of Azerbaijan – “the Land of Fire “. Uzeyir Hajibeyov believed that the eight-pointed star means eight gates of paradise. In oriental ornaments, the eight-pointed star symbolizes the throne, which governs the sublunary sphere and is supported by eight angels. It is also an Islamic symbol – a marker that the ancient scribes used at the end of each chapter as a sign of successful work.
The crescent is depicted on the flags of most Muslim countries as a symbol of Islam. In fact, the origin can be traced to Iranian rulers who used this symbol. After the conquest of Iran in 651, Muslim rulers borrowed this sign as a symbol of power in Asia. A legend claims the Ottoman Sultan Osman saw a crescent moon – as a symbol of his power from one end of the earth to the other in his dream. The descendants of Osman believed this to be a good omen and adapted a crescent as a symbol of power.
Recommended classroom activities
Focus on vocabulary
Some keywords to remember: prospertity, trust, security, boundless, noble, embodiess, modernity, openess, well-being, robe, surround, harsh, bare, oasis, harmony, tranquility, generosity, nobility, reflect, sublunary, milestone, collapse, solemnly,
Focus on grammar: Identify adjectives in the excerpt below and change them into noun forms
The founder of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic Mammad Amin Rasulzadeh at the first meeting of the Parliament, pointing to the tricolor flag in his speech said: “The happiness of life lies in freedom. This flag of freedom will forever hover over our heads. ” The flag once raised will never fall!” Many years later, after a long period of Soviet influence and series of changes in the country, a very important event took place that became a milestone in the modern history of our country. On November 17, 1990, on the initiative of the national leader Heydar Aliyev, the Chairman of the Supreme Mejlis of Nakhichivan Autonomous Republic at the time, the tricolor Azerbaijan Democratic Republic flag was adopted as the state flag of the Autonomous Republic.
In 1991, when Azerbaijan gained its independence after the collapse of the USSR, the tricolor flag regained its rightful place – it once again became the flag of the entire country, which is the heir of the glorious history of the first democratic republic in the Middle East, the flag of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The tricolor banner, the emblem depicted on it, and the anthem are the symbols of our state.
On November 17, 2007 President Ilham Aliyev issued an order to lay a foundation for the National Flag Square. On September 1, 2010 the world’s largest flag was solemnly raised to the great height. Every year on November 9 the whole country proudly celebrates the Day of the National Flag.
The president and head of state of the republic bows his knee before the National Flag, to swear his allegiance to the idea of statehood and national values. The flag also covers the coffins of heroes who die on the battlefield. Today the flag is a symbol of pride, dignity and victories of the nation. The flag is a sign of our victories in the economy, science, sport national pride and army building.
The importance of the national flag to Azerbaijan is epitomized in these words of the national leader, Heydar Aliyev, “the independence of Azerbaijan will continue forever, and today’s young people will further develop Azerbaijan. The love of a citizen for the flag should be equal to his love for the motherland, people and state”.
- In what significant happened in 1917?
- When did Azerbaijan gain its first independence?
- Which country was the first democracy in the Islamic east?
- Name three prominent Azerbaijanis that led the independence of Azerbaijan?
- For how long did the first republic last?
- Under which treaty was the first republic recognized?
- Which country was the first to recognize Azerbaijan as an independent country?
- Which city was the first capital of Azerbaijan republic?