National Day Message by H. E. Dr. Nargiz Gurbanova, Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Republic of Bulgaria

National Day is the most important day in the history of every country. It is a celebration of the highest aspiration of own statehood that many generations strive for. My country Azerbaijan is marking its national day on 28 May, which we call the Republic Day.

On the very day in 1918 the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic, the first secular and parliamentary democratic state in the Muslim and Turkic world was declared, introducing democratic rights, freedoms and equality to all its citizens irrespective of ethnicity, religion, gender and social status. It provided suffrage to women for the first time in Muslim majority countries and ahead of a number of European countries.

The adoption of Azerbaijan’s Independence Declaration by the National Council 102 years ago was a historic moment which restored Azerbaijani statehood in a new form of parliamentary democracy. At that time the territory of the Azerbaijan democratic Republic was 114 thousand square kilometers with a population of 3.3 million people. Initially the temporary capital of the country was Ganja, which later was switched to Baku.

The new Republic was established in a very challenging domestic and international political environment of World War I. Though from early days the Republic faced serious challenges, its parliament and government implemented many crucial decisions and conducted fundamental changes in all spheres of national life. Absence of any previous experience of democratic statehood in Azerbaijan was not an obstacle for its leaders. Democratic aspirations and progressive spirit guided them and they succeeded in establishing a well-functioning democratic state and society.

All nationalities living in Azerbaijan were represented both in the government and 120 seat national Parliament that encompassed 11 fractions. Within two years of its existence, the National Parliament adopted 230 laws. In June 1918, the national flag consisting of a white crescent and a white eight-pointed star on a red background was approved, and on 9 November, the red cloth was replaced by a tricolor. The government began to organize armed forces and a separate Azerbaijani Corps was set up. On June 27 Azerbaijani was declared the state language. Old schools were nationalized, new schools and teacher training courses were opened. On 1 September 1919 the Azerbaijani parliament adopted a law on the opening of Baku State University. At the same time, about 100 young people were sent abroad to France, Italy, UK and Turkey for higher education at public expense. Along with creation of the Azerbaijani telegraph agency censorship in the press was abolished and a number of decision on the celebration of historical dates were adopted.  

During the existence of the republic, significant economic success was achieved: the Baku-Batum oil pipeline was restored, the construction of the Baku-Julfa railway was continued, the Azerbaijan State Bank was created, currency banknotes were issued and measures were taken to develop the Caspian Shipping Company.

Significant efforts were also made for securing international recognition of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. On 9 July 1919, the Government of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic adopted the decision to establish the secretariat of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Azerbaijani delegation led by the chairman of Parliament Alimardan bey Topshubashov attended the Paris Peace Conference and succeeded in getting the recognition of the young democratic state of Azerbaijan. With the recognition of Azerbaijan at the level of an international peace conference, the diplomatic ties of the young republic expanded. The Azerbaijani parliament adopted a law on the establishment of diplomatic missions in the UK, France, Italy, the United States, Switzerland, Poland, Germany and Russia. Representative offices of the UK, Greece, Belgium, Georgia, Denmark, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Iran, USA, Ukraine, Finland, Sweden, Italy and Switzerland started operating in Azerbaijan.

Regretfully, Azerbaijan Democratic Republic lived for only 23 months and ceased its existence in April 1918 following the Bolshevik intervention. Yet, its democratic ideals, values and traditions continued to live in the hearts and minds of next generations of Azerbaijanis.  And when we restored our independence in 1991, the Republic of Azerbaijan was announced as the successor of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic, ideals and values of which became the guiding principles in our journey towards democracy. The tricolor of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was raised in Azerbaijan again. Thus, the Republic Day symbolizes an unbreakable bond of our statehood with the legacy of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic.

Today’s Azerbaijan under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev is a modern, secular, and independent state proud of its history and looking into the future with great aspirations, firm on its road to developing a vibrant, multicultural society. My country continues contributing to regional economic cooperation and international peace and security, as well intercultural dialogue globally.

Since early years of our independence Azerbaijan and Bulgaria have enjoyed ties of friendship. Bulgaria was one of countries recognizing the independence of Azerbaijan in January of 1992. Azerbaijan has always attached great importance to strengthening bilateral relationship with Bulgaria and as a result of mutual efforts, over the years our cooperation has evolved into a strategic partnership. Bulgaria is also among our important partners in the framework of EU and other international and regional organizations. There are great opportunities for further promotion of Azerbaijan-Bulgaria relations and we are committed to strengthening our interaction with Bulgarian friends for the benefit of our peoples.

Though, with certain restrictions due to current COVID-19 outbreak, the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Bulgaria is not able to celebrate this year the National Day of Azerbaijan with our Bulgarian friends in a friendly atmosphere, I hope that solidarity, unity and support to each other will make it possible to successfully overcome the pandemic all over the World and joyfully commemorate the Republic Day of Azerbaijan in years to come.