Azerbaijan is first secular parliamentary state Muslim world

Representatives of various faiths have coexisted in the country for centuries and many languages, traditions and cultures survive there to this day.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon meeting with the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Heydar oglu Aliyev. (photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI / DEFENSE MINISTRY)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon meeting with the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Heydar oglu Aliyev.
The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was formed in the Muslim East exactly 100 years ago. This event carried paramount historical significance. The establishment of the first democratic republic in this region was a great achievement of the Azerbaijani people.
It was the first application of the European model of a nation-state in the history of the Muslim world. The ADR was built in accordance with the classical model of a parliamentary democratic republic, based on political pluralism and a multi-party system.
In Azerbaijan, the ability to engage in dialogue, listen and understand each other is nurtured since childhood. As a result, Azerbaijan is the only country in the region that has never seen religious fanaticism, xenophobia and antisemitism.
Representatives of various faiths have coexisted here for centuries and many languages, traditions and cultures survive there to this day.
Emerging in 1918, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was able to find its own special way of solving ethnic and religious problems. At the time, the ADR could easily compete with the United States in its ethnic and religious composition, and in the level of its citizens’ freedom – it had no equal, and not only in the East.
On behalf of the National Council, chairman Mammed Amin Rasulzadeh appealed to the all citizens of Azerbaijan, irrespective of nationality, religion, language and time of residence in the country, to get involved in active work to build a new democratic state. Rasulzadeh stated:
“History has predetermined that we should all to live our lives together. All Azerbaijani citizens, without distinction of religion or nationality, are sons of the same motherland and should lend a hand to each other to better arrange their lives within a common homeland and forge their own happiness and a better future together.”
Recently Azerbaijani scientist Dr. Moshe Bekker has written at IRS Heritage magazine: “The Baku Jewish National Council was created on December 3, 1917. Dr. Gukhman was elected the chairperson of this organization. Relatively few people outside the Azerbaijani or Jewish communities know about the remarkable role that the Jewish community has played in Azerbaijan.
For example a Minister of Health in the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was Jewish – Dr. Yevsey Gindes. Deputy Finance Minister, the Director of the Central Bank in the ADR, was Mark Aberguz. It was fantastic that two representatives of Jewish community have been ministers in the first Azerbaijan government.
Due to the atrocities of Armenian dashnak gangs in Karabakh and other regions of the country, the Azerbaijan newspaper published the following: “The Jewish National Committee filed a petition with the governor of Baku for cars for free transportation of mountain refugees from Guba.
At the present time, the picture of the events of those years was restored and previously unknown facts about the mass massacre of the Jewish population in the city of Guba were unearthed. Synagogue archives have been opened and numerous testimonies of relatives of the victims were collected. A place of mass executions of Jews by Armenian gangs of Amazasp was the Shimi depression: people were delivered there in batches and tortured – women and children were raped and old people and teenagers had their noses and ears cut off. Then they were killed. The corpses remained here in the hollow in the Shimi gorge.” At that time, “according to documents and eyewitnesses, up to 3,000 Jews were killed by gangs together with 50,000 Azerbaijanis.”
Speaking on behalf of the Jewish community on December 7, 1918, Dr. Moshe Gukhman said: “Dear Members of Parliament! In these great days for Azerbaijan, in the days of the start of its independent state building, I, as a person elected by 20,000 Baku Jews, came to welcome the legislature of the Azerbaijan Republic. The desire of Azerbaijani Turks, under the banner of self-determination of peoples and on the basis of the rightly understood interests of the people, to take all public life into their hands will meet the hottest response in the hearts of Azerbaijani Jews.
Azerbaijani Jews believe that under the roof of the young parliament they will always find strong defense for their rights, especially my brethren, the Mountain Jews, living in separate nests scattered in different parts of the republic, and that any attempt by anyone whatsoever to breach our rights and interests will be rebuffed and nipped in the bud here. We hope that under the state system, Azerbaijani Jews will occupy an appropriate place as equals among equals.”
The National Council decided to form a parliament of 120 people. The parliament was to consist of 80 Azerbaijanis, Armenians – 21, Russians – 10, Germans – 1, Jews – 1, Georgians – 1, Poles – 1. However, the Armenians, who did not want the independence of Azerbaijan, did not participate in the activity of the parliament. The parliament discussed more than 270 draft laws, 230 of which were adopted.
There were 11 factions in parliament. During its 17 months of uninterrupted activity, the parliament had left an indelible imprint in the history of Azerbaijani statehood in general and parliamentary culture in particular, by its valuable experience of an independent state building and a number of highly professional legislative documents adopted.
The Law on the Foundation of Baku State University, adopted by the parliament on September 1, 1919, deserves special note in this respect. Establishment of the national university was a tremendous historic achievement of the Republic.
Despite the fact of occupation of Azerbaijan by the 11th Red Army of Soviet Russia, the result of a bloody military operation, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic left a remarkable trace in the national history. Within 23 months of its existence, Azerbaijan Democratic Republic became clear evidence of the fact that even the most atrocious and oppressive colonial regimes were unable to eradicate the ideas of liberty and independent statehood of the Azerbaijani nation.
The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic as the first parliamentary republic in the history of Azerbaijan and the first model of a democratic secular state based on the rule of law in the East, including in the Turkic-Muslim world.
At the same time today, independent and strong Azerbaijan is a worthy successor of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. The Azerbaijani people restoring state independence in 1991 made a use of the rich statehood traditions of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan and established the independent strong Azerbaijan state based on this significant historical heritage.
The author is an expert in the field of international relations specializing in the Israeli-Turkish and Azerbaijani-Israeli relationships.