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I N D E P E N D E N C E : SECOND ATTEMPT by President Abulfaz ELCHIBEY: Keleki, Nakhichevan, December 1993

The state coup, which began with the Gandja insurrection and accomplished by the Parliament, forced Azerbaijan to abandon the path towards independence and consistent democratic change. Azerbaijan's joining the CIS shortly afterwards became a logical finale for the coup and clearly demonstrated the true aims of the June 4th insurrection. Intensive struggle surrounding this problem has been taking place in Azerbaijan for approximately two years. Now that Azerbaijan has joined the CIS, I would like to share some of my ideas regarding the reasons and the essence of the events of last year - the events which resulted in the coup. I. CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH WE CAME TO POWER To analyze what happened over the last year, one needs to take a brief look at past events, taking into consideration the circumstances under which the Popular Front of Azerbaijan (PFA) came to power and the legacy it has inherited. SOCIETY Many of us remember the condition of the Azerbaijani statehood in 1988. However, for some reason, we hardly remember the condition of the society or, to be more precise, of the self-governed civil society of that time. As a matter of fact, all spheres of human life were controlled and governed by the state, or rather the Communist Party. The Party went as far as to advise an individual whom to marry, it set up patterns for wedding parties and mourning ceremonies. Personal liberty and responsibility, self-governing and public control of the government - all factors which make up the basis of a democratic state - were non-existent. And, there did not even exist the notion of the possibility of and necessity for these factors. People gave to "Big Brother" the right to solve their destinies. This "Brother" made all the decisions for us and possessed our freedoms. Built in accordance with these principles, Soviet society was destined to lose in its competition with the West - with its freedom, personal initiative and diversity of opinions - and so it happened. Besides, people did not accept as theirs the existing power that was governed from the outside, it was alien to them. In the long run, all that resulted was deeply-rooted local corruption, conformism and immorality. Even under favorable conditions it would have been impossible to obliterate these problems in one or two years, and it is only natural that our society today still suffers these maladies. Thus, the Armenian aggression (which for some time was only ideological) took us by surprise. It became clear that we had neither the state nor a civil society capable of protecting the country and resisting the aggression. Remember how difficult it was for the Azerbaijani deputies of the USSR Supreme Soviet to express themselves and how absolutely perplexed they were at the parliamentary sessions under attacks by the Armenian propaganda statements. In order to rebuff the aggressor and organize a defense, there appeared two major tasks before the democrats of Azerbaijan: 1) to develop a self-governed civil society and 2) to create an independent democratic state that would express the will of the Azerbaijani people. We decided to achieve the second goal the independence through the formation of a civil society. The Popular Front, continuing its political struggle, made tremendous efforts to achieve social self-governing. Yet, already by 1991, Azerbaijan was not that helpless in the face of the Armenian aggression. Before the declaration of independence, the attacks by the Armenian army were repulsed by the local self-defense units created at the initiative of the PFA (they maintained the front line for two years), independent social organizations pressed the government to take measures against the aggression, while the independent mass media resisted the Armenian propaganda. Those who now slander the PFA should not forget that nearly two thousand members of this organization gave their lives for their country. DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE Despite the fact that under pressure from the democratic movement Azerbaijani independence was formally declared in October 1991, it was only formal because the Communists closely connected with Russia remained in power. The representatives of this regime used the Constitutional Act on the Independence of Azerbaijan to protect themselves against the democrats who were victors in the August putsch. As a matter of fact, they did not see Azerbaijan as a sovereign state independent from Russia. No independent steps in politics, economics, finance nor in the military were taken. Democrats' offers and draft laws aimed at the realization of these steps were rejected on various pretexts. However, the processes in Russia started to develop in the direction which proved quite unexpected for them. It became clear to the Russian leaders that it was impossible for them to restore the Soviet Empire. The collapse of the ramshackle administrative system, inter-ethnic conflicts, development of the democratic tendencies in Russia and the awareness of their backwardness paralyzed the empire forces. The liquidation of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union inflicted a severe blow on the mechanism of the colonial administration. As a result of the August 1991 putsch in Moscow, the freedom of the military circles was limited considerably. In this situation, the Communist leadership of Azerbaijan could no longer receive the necessary support from Moscow. The national-independence movements that grew in the peripheries shook the foundation of the empire. As has been acknowledged by the international community, the movement of the Azerbaijani people, led by the Popular Front towards independence and democracy, was one of the most active ones in the former Soviet Union. The Azerbaijani Parliament became a serious obstacle along our road to independence. The Parliament was elected on the basis of falsified results and it failed to reflect the real electoral distribution of forces in the society. It was hostile to the national interests and itself became one of the biggest crimes of the Communist leadership before the Azerbaijani nation. Struggling against our independence after the fall of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the leadership of the republic saw that it could only be saved by joining the CIS and especially its military organization which was, as a matter of fact, a new form of the Warsaw Pact. Initially, the CIS was a structure that served the restoration of the USSR. However, the historic developments that lead to the crises of the imperial system and made clear the implausibility for the empire to reawaken. The CIS was a stillborn child and the Azerbaijani democrats realized that. Despite the fact that in Moscow, President Mutalibov signed Azerbaijan's joining the CIS - without any knowledge on the part of the people - afterwards, in our time, the parliament refused to ratify this agreement. This laid the foundation for the future independence of Azerbaijan. In order to create conditions for Azerbaijan's joining the CIS military structure, hard-liners in the republic did everything to prevent the creation of our national army. Although the decision to create the Defense Ministry was adopted under pressure from the democrats, it virtually remained on paper. The government avoided concrete steps aimed at the formation of the army, trying to "convince" public opinion that it was impossible to create it, spreading among people doubts in its strength. Then Chief of the Army General Staff said in his speech in a parliamentary session that there were only 150 (!) people who expressed a wish to join the Army. Local units of self-defense were dismissed on various pretexts. Separate high-ranking government officials created their own armed units or submitted to themselves the volunteer units that already existed. As a result, the population accumulated a large amount of weapons. This jeopardized stability in the country. Certain neighboring states were interested in the further aggravation of the situation and pandered it, thus receiving the opportunity to incite a civil war in the country any moment.

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I N D E P E N D E N C E : SECOND ATTEMPT by President Abulfaz ELCHIBEY: Keleki, Nakhichevan, December 1993


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