Even the most atrocious and bloody military-feudal colonial establishment of human history-Tsarist Russian regime was unable to wipe out the statehood traditions of Azerbaijani people. The Russian Empire was willfully implementing the hideous annihilation policy towards the enslaved Turkish-Muslim creed with the intention of obliterating the awareness of national identity among them. In order to stamp out the centuries-old statehood traditions of the Turkish people the Russian Empire had converted the region of Southern Caucasus into the most horrible, gruesome battleground of its politics. The final and the foremost aim of all this ruthless politics was to clean the Southern Caucasus region of the Turkish-Muslim Azerbaijani population and do away with Iran and Turkey whereby the ages-old historical desire to attain an access to the warm seas and conquer India would be fulfilled. In order to bring about this end the Russians were moving various Christian groups with diverse origins from the different regions of the empire and relocating them in Azerbaijani lands on one hand and carrying out the policy of assimilation on the other so that the incorporation of the local community into Christianity and espousal of Russian cultural thought and values could concurrently be accomplished. And the fact that they were resorting to all means to trigger bloodshed and inflame the Armenian-Muslim massacres is even more dreadful. Along with this they were also employing the policy of stirring up the divergences and igniting clashes between Georgian community and Azerbaijani people in the Northern-western borders of the country. To put it bluntly, Azerbaijan had become the theatre of war and the worst front line in the experimentation of the Russian colonial oppression policy.
This is the reason why in the entire region of the Russian Empire especially Azerbaijan, a country owning early statehood traditions turned out to be the major battlefield of national resistance and rebellion movement against the callous imperial Tsarist regime. With the enlightening headship of the leading intellectuals and thinkers, as a country accustomed to rule and not being ruled Azerbaijan grew to be the principal steering power of all the other national liberation uprisings in Russia striving to fend off colonial imperialism.
At the beginning of the 20th century Russia was going through the phase of reform in order to emerge from the deep military-political and economic crisis unscathed. Since 1905, with the patronage of the renowned philanthropist and benefactor, H.Z.Taghiyev, the Azerbaijani intelligentsia had been struggling to attain adequate representation of the Turkish-Muslim population in the central governmental and legislative bodies of the empire along with larger participation in local governance and judicial organs as well as eradication of the discrimination and restrictions in these fields. Prominent jurists such as Alimardan Bey Topchubashov, Shamsi Abdullayev, Ahmad Bey Agayev, Adil Khan Ziyadkhanov, Ali Bey Huseynzade and so many other devoted patriotic Azerbaijani thinkers were the primary influential figures heading this national liberation movement.
North Azerbaijan had become a symbol of struggle against the Tsarist Russia for all the other subjugated and oppressed people of East who had been awakened to their sense of national consciousness and freedom. It was not a happenstance that the idea to unite all the Turkish-Muslim community of the Russian Empire against Tsarist command and a proposal to set up a joint political organization to this end were formulated in Azerbaijan.
It was namely the spokesperson of Azerbaijan Alimardan Bey Topchubashov who had delivered a robust lecture on “The State of Turkish People in Russian Empire and Their Problems” at the First Congress of the Muslims living all across Russia which was held in Nijni-Novqorod in 1905. The vigorous Azerbaijani delegates were also active in the drafting of the Charter and Regulations of the newly-created Union of the Russian Muslims at that time.
The exhaustive and rigorous struggle of Azerbaijanis under tough and complex circumstances finally resulted in the election of the recognized intellectuals of Azerbaijan — Alimardan Bey Topchubashov, Ismayil Bey Ziyadkhanov, Abdurrahim Bey Hakverdiyev, Mammad Taghi Aliyev, Asadulla Bey Muradkhanov to the first parliament of the Russia, to be precise I State Duma in 1906. Out of the six elected Azerbaijani members who were well-read, erudite intellectuals two were lawyers by profession: Alimardanb Bey Topchubashov had received his education at the Petersburg University whereas Ismayil Khan Ziyadkhanov had graduated from the Moscow University.
Alimardan Bey Topchubashov had been elected the head of the Muslim Faction of the State Duma of Russia which was one of the largest factions within the parliament. The Azerbaijani members were very ardent and emphatic in their activities and severely critical of the Russian policy in Southern Caucasus aimed at the ethnic cleansing and national extermination. In their addresses to the parliament they were explicitly condemning the overt discrimination policy and brutal relocation strategy put into practice against Azerbaijani people. By criticizing the enslavement and exploitation of the Azerbaijani people in the strongest possible terms, the deputies were in fact ultimately supporting the interests of all the Muslims living within the precincts of Russian Empire. Ismayil Bey Ziyadkhanov, one of the Azerbaijani members had attended to this issue in a downright resolute and unequivocal manner in his address to the parliament. “Azerbaijan was invaded and occupied a century ago. Since then we have been denied all the human rights. We have been downtrodden and browbeaten like slaves. Our national identity and esteem have been assailed. Strict bans and exclusions from several universities have been unbreakably imposed upon us. It’s hardly possible to encounter Turkish functionaries in governmental offices. Although we suffer from the dearth of soil, peasants from various parts of Russia are being continually brought to Azerbaijan in an endless stream. In this way, the residential settlements that you’ve planned to construct for Russian peasants will be erected upon the blood-spattered lands of Azerbaijan which have been besmeared by the slaughters committed through the direct complicity and sponsorship of state. This is nothing else, but the true manifestation of the “divide and rule” policy, surreptitiously devised and executed by the government. It’s now more than two years that we’re trampling on the corpses of our people in our own Motherland drowned in a bloodbath. Our patience is wearing thin and our tolerance draining out”.
Following the same course of their predecessors the members of the Second State Duma-Fatali Khan Khoyski, Khalil Bey Khasmammadov, Mustafa Mahmudov, Muhammed Agha Shakhtakhtinski and Zeynal Zeynalov were also vehemently active in opposing and censuring the overall prevalent policy of Tsarist Russia. They were in particular sternly reproachful of the all-pervasive discriminatory and biased state politics applied in the governance of the empire as well as far-reaching prejudiced and bigoted national and religious approaches.
Tsarist Russia was gripped by terrible fear as the strong and cogent criticisms of the Azerbaijani members leveled against the government and meant for the elimination of the deprivation of the civil rights of the Turkish-Muslim population of the Russian empire and ensuing stirring consequences of the awakening speeches gave a rise to the opening of new horizons for the emancipation of the persecuted people of the empire. All these incidents along with other factors played an enormously important role in the events leading up to the dissolution of the First and Second State Dumas and prepared the ground for the eventual disenfranchisement of the Turkish-Muslim people residing in the regions of Central Asia, Siberia and etc. in the elections for the Third State Duma, as well as divestment of Baku of right to nominate its own candidate of Azerbaijan to the parliament. This is the main reason why the Muslims of the whole region of Southern Caucasus were underrepresented by only one Member of Parliament, Khalil Bey Khasmammadov. Likewise, there was only one member representing all the Muslims of the Southern Caucasus at the Fourth State Duma who was Mammad Yusif Jafarov.
Almost all the Members of Parliament elected to represent Azerbaijan in State Dumas were the leading affiliates of the national liberation movement. Alimardan Bey Topchubashov, Ismayil Bey Ziyadkhanov, Fatali Khan Knoyski, Khalil Bey Khasmammadov, Mammad Yusif Jafarov were lawyers by profession. Muhammed Agha Shakhtakhtinski had been a student at Sorbonne University and later on had graduated from the faculty of philosophy of the Leipzig University.
The I World War created the actual historic and momentous opportunity for the breakdown of the “Prison of the Nations” and subsequent downfall of the Russian Empire. Azerbaijan, as a country holding centuries-old statehood traditions together with a masterful command on modern governmental practices was all set to be in this world as an independent and self-determining country. In contrast to the Southern regions of the country which had been under the rule of the Kajar dynasty of the Iranian Kingdom, North Azerbaijan had had the privilege of getting acquainted and familiarized with the democratic state building system and parliamentarian formation inherent to West through Russia.
The majority of the Azerbaijani intellectuals who were proficient jurists, especially Alimardan Bey Topchubashov, had gained an immeasurable experience in parliamentarian skills during their tenure in State Dumas of Russia. They were fully prepared to institute a democratic republic system wherein unlike the despicable tsarist autocracy and brutal colonial tyranny, all civil rights and liberties would be respected. The idea to set up the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan had been worked out by the Azerbaijani representatives of State Dumas. Therefore, it was the historical circumstances and realities which necessitated the establishment of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan with a parliamentarian government. The evolution of the processes and events succeeding the demise of Tsarist Russia dictated this inevitable end.
The development of the complex socio-political processes starting since the late 19th century produced significant changes in the Azerbaijani society and modified the course of events to the remarkable extents. Having breathed the air of this social environment, the distinguished public and political figures of Azerbaijan had become sophisticated enough to be able to respond to the summons of the century and meet the demands of the new era. All these events eventually paved the way for the foundation of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan.
In February of 1917, the autocratic and tyrannical regime ruled by the Romanovs dynasty was overthrown in Russia. The interim government, having assumed power after the collapse of the monarchy issued an order to set up the Special Committee for overseeing the governance of Southern Caucasus. But, the interim government could not maintain the power for a long time. Due to the coup d’état which took place in October of 1917 and resulted in overturning of the government, the members elected to represent Southern Caucasus in the Assembly of Institutors of Russia could not even set out for Petrograd and Moscow. Instead in 1918, on 14th of February they established the Assembly of Southern Caucasus in Tbilisi as a sole supreme power in Southern Caucasus.
The Muslim Faction was represented by 44 members in the Assembly of Southern Caucasus who had been elected to the Assembly of Institutors of Russia by gaining over a million vote cast by Turkish-Muslim electorate of Azerbaijan, as well as entire Southern Caucasus region. The Muslim Faction of the Assembly of Southern Caucasus was in effect functioning as the Muslim Council of Southern Caucasus, more precisely as the Muslim Parliament of Southern Caucasus. The fact that the most dedicated and zealous members of the Assembly of Southern Caucasus were Azerbaijani representatives as in the State Dumas of Russia is both interesting and not unforeseeable. It was specifically at their urging that the Assembly of Southern Caucasus proclaimed the independence of the Southern Caucasus on 9th of April in 1918 which in turn led to the creation of the United Republic of Southern Caucasus. But, the aggravated contradictions both in internal politics and foreign affairs and conflicting standpoints on national interest issues thwarted the Assembly of Southern Caucasus and United Republic of Southern Caucasus from taking solid, tangible measures in this respect. Consequently, on 25th of May in 1918, the Georgian members dropped out of the Assembly and declared the independence of Georgia on 26th of May.
On 27th of May, the members of the Muslim Faction of the Assembly of Southern Caucasus, that’s to say the Muslim Council convened a private conference and came to a decision to proclaim the independence and self-government of Azerbaijan. To achieve this end, the Muslim Council of the Assembly of Southern Caucasus renamed itself as the National Council of Azerbaijan, more accurately Parliament of Azerbaijan. In this way, the first parliament of Azerbaijan was introduced and the groundwork for the commencement of the first, pioneering parliamentarian republic in the East was laid. The election of the president and presidium of the National Council of Azerbaijan was determined at the same meeting and Muhammed Amin Rasulzade was favored to be the head of the Council.
On 28th of May, the historic meeting of the National Council of Azerbaijan was held. The momentous meeting was presided over by Hasan Bey Aghayev. The participants were Mustafa Mahmudov (Deputy Secretary), Fatali Khan Khoyski, Khalil Bey Khasmammadov, Nasib Bey Usubbekov, Mir Hidayet Seyidov, Nariman Bey Narimanbeyov, Heybat Kulu Mammadbeyov, Mehdi Bey Hajinski, Ali Asger Bek Mahmudbeyov, Asian Bey Kardashov, Sultan Majid Kanizade, Akber Agha Sheykhulislamov, Mehdi Bey Hajibabeyov, Mammad Yusif Jafarov, Khudadat Bey Malik-Aslanov, Rahim Bey Vakilov, Hamid Bey Shakhtakhtinski, Firudin Bek Kocherlinski, Jamo Bey Hajinski, Shafi Bey Rustambeyov, Khosrov Pasha Bey Sultanov, Jafar Akhundov, Muhammed Maharramov, Javad Malik-Yeganov and Haji Salim Akhundzade. On the same day, the Proclamation of Independence was drafted and adopted by the abovementioned members of the Council.
The Proclamation of Independence was a harbinger of the ever-first republican government in the Eastern world with democratic institutions, to be more exact an embodiment of a parliamentarian republic.
The proclamation encompassed the followings: Henceforward the Azerbaijani people will be the sole source of power since Azerbaijan is a self- governing, independent state occupying North-Eastern Caucasus.
The governmental structure of the independent state of Azerbaijan is the Republic of People.
People’s Republic of Azerbaijan has the determination and willpower to maintain close, friendly relations with all other nations, particularly with neighboring states and nations.
People’s Republic of Azerbaijan guarantees political rights and civil liberties to all its citizenry residing within the boundaries of Azerbaijan irrespective of the nationality, religion, class, strata or gender they belong to.
People’s Republic of Azerbaijan provides every opportunity and prospect for the unrestrained and free development of all the nations living within the territory of Azerbaijan.
The National Council elected by the people of Azerbaijan and the Provisional Government responsible before National Council will be in charge of Azerbaijan until the Assembly of Institutors is summoned.
The historic proclamation adopted by the National Council of Azerbaijan was a revelation of the primary principles of the newly-founded People’s Republic of Azerbaijan in terms of both internal politics and foreign affairs. The main beliefs expressed in the proclamation such as the right of Azerbaijani people for self-determination, holding the equality of rights in high respect, sustaining friendly and peaceful relationships with neighboring, as well as other foreign states, regarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the other states with utter reverence served to boost the image and international standing of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan.
The cabinet of the first Interim Government of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan was ratified by the National Council of Azerbaijan at the same meeting which was chaired by the independent member, Fatali Khan Khoyski. The cabinet comprised the following members:
- Fatali Khan Khoyski — President of the Ministerial Council and Minister for Internal-Home Affairs.
- Khosrov Pasha Bey Sultanov — Minister for Military Affairs.
- Mammad Hasan Hajinski — Minister for Foreign Affairs. Nasib Bey Usubbekov — Minister for Finance and Education.
- Khalil Bey Khasmammadov — Minister for Justice. Mammad Yusif Jafarov — Minister for Trade and Industry.
- Akber Agha Sheykhulislamov — Minister for Agriculture and Labor.
- Khudadat Bey Malik Aslanov — Minister for Communications and Transportation. Jamo Bey Hajinski — State Supervisor.
Hence, the centuries-old statehood traditions of Azerbaijan were revived in the form of parliamentarian republic in the Northern part of Azerbaijan against the backdrop of the growing events of I World War and the demise of the Romanovs’ autocracy in Russia.
The young state of Azerbaijan had come into being under extremely complicated regional and international circumstances. Having usurped the power in Baku, the Dashnak-Bolshevik faction headed by S.Shaumyan had started perpetrating atrocious crimes against the Turkish-Muslim population of the country.
The Armenian bands of gangsters armed and emboldened by Tsarist generals were incessantly committing bloody massacres and callous slaughters against the Turkish-Muslim people of the Eastern Anatolia and Western Azerbaijan. S.Shaumyan and Andronik who were the slayers and executioners of the Azerbaijani people were conspiring at the connivance of machinations for mass murders. Azerbaijani people were face to face with the danger of virtual decimation and total annihilation. The never-ending rivalry going on between the foreign powers for the seizure of the oil-rich city of Baku was on the verge of drawing to a close and the new menace for Southern Caucasus, the take-over by the Bolshevik Russia was looming in. Azerbaijani people were at the crossroads as to whether to strive for the national emancipation or reconcile themselves with being eliminated and wiped out from the ethnic-political map of the Southern Caucasus. That is why, the founders of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan had felt compelled and obligated to take the lead and guide the perplexed nation out of their miserable despair.
On 16th of June in 1918, the National Council and Interim Government shifted their headquarters to Ganja. Taking the existent, factual situation of the country into account, the National Council of Azerbaijan made two imperative decisions on 17th of June which included the temporary halting of its activities and handing both the legislative and executive powers over to the second Interim Government with the presidency of Fatali Khan Khoyski until the Assembly of Institutors would be convened.
The second Interim Government involved the followings: Mammad Hasan Hajinski, Nasib Bey Usubbekov, Alimaradan Bey Topchubashov, Khalil Bey Khasmammadov, Khosrov Pasha Bey Sultanov, Khudat Bey Rafibekov, Khudadat Bey Malik Aslanov, Abdul Bey Amirjanov, Musa Bey Rafiyev.
Since National Council of Azerbaijan was wary of losing the hard-earned independence, it had made a firm decision to press the exigency of convening the Assembly of Institutors and ensure the maintenance of power by the Fatali Khan Khoyski government until then without any concessions or compromises. Along with this, the National Council of Azerbaijan had also put forward a clear-cut definition of the authority and plenary powers of the Fatali Khan Khoyski government. In view of that, the government was sanctioned to operate autonomously and take action accordingly on all issues except for the invalidation of the state sovereignty of Azerbaijan and annulment of the existent political liberties in the country. The government was also not entitled to make alterations on the radical laws such as the laws concerning agrarian matters. The Interim Government was under imposition to summon the Assembly of Institutors in not later than six months.
Thus, National Council of Azerbaijan, the first Parliament of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan began taking its initial steps in this way. The National Council of Azerbaijan conducted 7 meetings during the first 20 days in power from 27th of May till 17th of June in 1918. Two major proceedings highlighted the significance of these meetings which included the declaration of the state independence of Azerbaijan and the adoption of the Proclamation of Independence, as well as the formation of the first Azerbaijani government under the presidency of Fatali Khan Khoyski in Ganja. This was the first time that Azerbaijan was enjoying independent, sovereign and self-regulating government since 1813. The creation of the republican system in North Azerbaijan was extraordinarily remarkable event.
The government of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan had to take huge responsibility of pulling the whole nation out of the horrendous whirlpool of atrocities, agonies and tribulations despite the complicated internal situation and thorny international circumstances. To achieve this goal, the state building process had to be launched straight away without any delays. The government was forced to take immediate and drastic measures in order to be able to undo this odious situation and reverse the dire circumstances prevalent in the country. On 19th of June, the Martial Law was declared throughout the whole territory of Azerbaijan. On 24th of June, the red flag with white crescent and eight-pointed star was endorsed as one of the state attributes of Azerbaijan. On 26th of June, the Muslim military corps was converted to the detached Military Corps of Azerbaijan and the rank of General was conferred upon the commander-in-chief of that corps. The commander of the Military Corps of Azerbaijan was assigned the authorities inherent to the commander-in- chief of the Division enabling him to enforce the special directives issued by the government which in fact meant the actual formation of the armed forces of Azerbaijan. On 27th of June, Azerbaijani-Turkish language was announced as the official ‘language of the state. In light of the expansion of the state building process, the decision was passed about inviting qualified teachers from Turkey and bringing in text books published in Turkish language. To this purpose, all schools were nationalized and new schools were inaugurated countrywide with adjoining training courses for teachers. The names of Yelizavetpol and Karyagi were changed with their historical names and reintroduced as Ganja and Cabrayil respectively. The National Army was mobilized and conscription was carried out. On 15th of June, the decision for the establishment of the Extraordinary Investigation Commission was passed by the Cabinet members. The Commission was accountable for the examination of the inquiries linked with the beastly, depraved massacres viciously committed against the Turkish-Muslim population of the entire Southern Caucasus region during the I World War and embezzlement of their possessions through looting and pillaging. The Commission was also liable to bring action against the perpetrators if these heinous crimes at a juristic level and inculpate the executers. As a matter of fact, the creation of the Investigation Commission laid the foundation for the establishment of National Security system in Azerbaijan. In addition to this, the government abruptly undertook the immense task of setting up communication and post-telegraph infrastructure in the territories under its control and stabilizing the situation by embarking on sweeping reforms. On 11th of August, the military service was made mandatory. On 23rd of August, a decree was issued on the citizenship of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan. But, the main mission of the Fatali Khan Khoyski’s government was to reinforce and underpin the authority of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan throughout the whole country and purge Baku and its outer reaches of the adversaries of the Azerbaijani people.
On 15th of September in 1918, after fierce battle and furious fighting Baku was liberated by the Islamic Army of Caucasus with the help of voluntary army groups of Azerbaijan. The Menshevik-Dashnak faction, “Centrocaspi Dictatorship” which had seized power in Baku after the collapse of the Bolshevik-Dashnak regime of S.Shaumyan was removed in this way.
On 17th of September in 1918, three months after the formation of the F.Khoyski’s cabinet, the headquarters of the government was moved to Baku. Baku was declared the capital of the government. As a result, People’s Republic of Azerbaijan obtained greater domain of power and larger sphere of influence through the release of Baku.
On 9th of November in 1918, the state banner of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan was replaced with three-colored flag with a white crescent and eight-pointed star on it. The state building process was further expanded and promoted both in social-political and economical fields and cultural areas of life. Adhering to the legal regulations and norms of the parliamentarian republic, the Fatali Khan Khoyski government was simultaneously making arrangements for convening the Assembly of Institutors as soon as possible. Even a special commission was created for this purpose. Although barely 6 months had elapsed since the enactment of the decree issued on 17th of June in 1918 by the National Council and government still possessed the authority to maintain the power independently, the National Council of Azerbaijan resumed its activities on 16 of November in 1918 at the initiative and appealing of Fatali Khan Khoyski. Moreover, National Council of Azerbaijan assumed the responsibility of summoning the Assembly of Institutors on the proposition of Fatali Khan Khoyski.
The meeting of the National Council of Azerbaijan held on 19th of November in 1918 and presided over by M.A.Rasulzade was marked by a few significant decisions which would shape the history of the parliamentarianism in Azerbaijan. Notwithstanding the extraordinarily complex and intricate circumstances under which the government had to function, People’s Republic of Azerbaijan rightly opted for the democratic values. It was wholly agreed upon that since Azerbaijan was a homeland not only to the Azerbaijanis, all the other non-Azerbaijanis dwelling within the boundaries of Azerbaijan should be adequately represented both in the National Council and Parliament of Azerbaijan. National Council of Azerbaijan was supposed to consist of 120 members with 1 representative per 24 thousand people (Overall population was 2 billion and 750 thousand people). The Muslims were supposed to be represented by 80 members, Armenians by 21 members, Russians by 10 members, whereas Germans and Jews by 1 member for each in the Parliament. Georgians and Polish people were granted the right to be represented by 1 member per each although the insufficiency of their numbers prevented them from being a part of the eligible electorate for parliamentary elections.
According to the resolution adopted by the National Council of Azerbaijan on 19th of November in 1918, 44 members of Turkish-Muslim community already elected to the Assembly of Institutors of Russia at the end of 1917 were supposed to be included in the new parliament. The other 36 members of Muslims as well as representatives of the non-Azerbaijanis had yet to be elected. Altogether the formation of the new parliament had to be concluded not later than 3rd of December in 1918.
Although no more than 6 months had gone by since the perpetration of the brutal massacre against the Turkish-Muslim people in March of 1918, the Armenians were allowed to participate in the elections and be represented by 21 members in the parliament. This a lucid testimony to the democratic nature of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan and clear proof to the respectful approach with regard to human rights even at a time when the Azerbaijani people were subjected to the insufferable afflictions.
M.A.Rasulzade had underscored this attitude as worthy and laudable stance in his address to nation on the convening of the new parliament on 29th of November in 1918. His words actually reflected the exact standpoint of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan: “Let’s put all the hostilities and antagonism aside, since our enmities and divergences have brought on nothing else except inflicting miserable poverty and grievous calamities upon us. History has obliged us all to live together side by side. In order to be able to carry the natural burdens of this new life without trouble and overcome the obstacles successfully we have to lead our lives in compliance with sensible and humane principles. In order to achieve this aim, we have to treat each other with mutual respect and compassion. Regardless of their national and religious identities, all the subjects of Azerbaijan are the off springs of the same motherland. That is why they have to collaborate and extend a helping hand to each other if they want to gain their lives by a joint effort and attain their happiness and wellbeing cooperatively on the same land”.
Appealing to the Azerbaijani people, in his address M.A.Rasulzade had underlined the importance of the representation of the minorities and provinces of the country in the parliament. He had described the new parliament as the mainstay and guarantor of Azerbaijan which would determine the fate of the country, form and safeguard the government as well as defending the interests and welfare of the Azerbaijani people.
On 7th of October in 1918, at 13.00 pm the Parliament of Azerbaijan was ceremoniously inaugurated in the premises of the Girls’ School founded by H.Z.Taghiyev. The Parliament of Azerbaijan was the ever- first parliament to be formed in the Eastern-Muslim world on the basis of the most democratic principles of that era.
M.A.Rasulzade, the chairman of the National Council of Azerbaijan delivered a congratulatory speech in the inaugural ceremony of the Parliament. At the proposal of the “Musavat” (Equality) faction, Alimardan Bey Topchubashov was elected to be the chairman of the parliament and Hasan Bey Aghayev the vice-chairman. Since Alimardan Bey Topchubashov was on a visit to France to participate in Paris Peace Conference, the parliament was provisionally chaired by Hasan Bey Aghayev. The dissolution of the Fatali Khan Khoyski government was ratified and creation of the new cabinet was endorsed. As with the previous ones, the formation of the new government was entrusted to Fatali Khan Khoyski.
On 26th of December in 1918, addressing the Parliament Fatali Khan Khoyski introduced the program of the new government as well as presenting the new Cabinet members for approval. Parliament ratified the proffered agenda and granted vote of confidence to the new government.
In spite of having been allocated 21 and 10 seats in the Parliament, Armenians and Russians didn’t even bother to partake in the augural ceremony of the Parliament. This taught a very good lesson to the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan about the ingratitude of the Armenians and Russians with whom they so wishfully wanted to mend the fences and achieve rapprochement by way of parliamentary elections. The National Council of Russia which was functioning in Baku at the time didn’t even recognize the secession of Azerbaijan from Russia and interpreted the declaration of independence on Azerbaijan’s part as a stimulus goading the disintegration of the “United and Indissoluble Russia”. This was the reason why National Council of Russia decided to settle on boycotting the Parliament of Azerbaijan. However, soon after the National Council of Russia was compelled to rescind this decision due to the overwhelming protests of the Russian-Slavyan community living in Azerbaijan.
Armenians who hadn’t been able to come to terms with the independence of Azerbaijan were wholeheartedly backing up the position of the National Council of Russia. They didn’t participate at the sessions and meetings of the Parliament for more than two months and when they finally joined, all they did was to make use of every opportunity to propagate against the Azerbaijani statehood by disloyal and treacherous means.
In addition to the abovementioned hurdles and hindrances deliberately put in the way of the newly- founded democracy, the existence of 11 factions and various groups within the Parliament which hardly consisted of 100 members, nonetheless considered to be the sole bearer of the supreme power in the country, added up to the obstacles impeding the independent state building process that had to be carried out under tremendously complex internal and international circumstances. The narrow interests and concerns of different factions and groups were often taking precedence over questions of national interest due to the partial and inadequate approach of their representatives. For instance, the Socialist Faction of Parliament was constantly advocating and promoting the accession of Azerbaijan to Soviet Russia manipulatively in the name of “defending the interests of the poor”. Socialist Faction had in this way succeeded in Mahmandarov creation of the diplomatic representation in Soviet Russia. Socialist Faction had also supported the deployment of Red Army in Azerbaijan which was nothing else, but a part of subversive and traitorous campaign to undermine and overthrow the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan.
Nevertheless, with the invaluable experience gained through the measures taken for the independent state building and practices attained through the advanced legislative bills along with rulings passed for the reinforcement of democracy, the Parliament of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan has left deep-seated and permanent marks in the history of Azerbaijan in terms of statehood traditions in general and parliamentarian culture in particular during its 17 month-old short, but unremitting performance.
The parliamentarianism history of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan can be categorized into two main stages when viewed in light of the undertakings and accomplishments. The first stage encompasses the time period from 27th of May in 1918 till 19th November of the same year. During this opening phase of 6 months, the Parliament of Azerbaijan which was functioning under the name of National Council of Azerbaijan with 44 Muslim-Turkish members had passed historic, ground-breaking decisions such as declaring the sovereignty of Azerbaijan on 28th of May in 1918, assuming power and shouldering governance of the country as well as adopting the famous Proclamation of Independence.
Declared at the headquarters of the vicegerent of Tbilisi-Caucasus by the National Council of Azerbaijan at a time when exceedingly complex and critical historical conditions prevailed, the momentous Proclamation of Independence still retains its thorough practicality and wide-ranging expediency as a legally valuable document signifying the democratic statehood traditions and parliamentarian culture of Azerbaijan.
Taken as a whole, including the Constituent Assembly, the overall number of the meetings conducted by the Parliament of Azerbaijan during the rule of National Council doesn’t surpass 10. The first meeting was held on 27th of May in 1918 in Tbilisi and the last one in Baku, on 19th November of the same year. The National Council of Azerbaijan was instituted on 27th of May only to suspend its activities on 17th of June for handing over all legislative and executive powers to Interim Government with the prerequisite of convening the Assembly of Institutors in not later than 6 months. Once People’s Republic of Azerbaijan shifted its headquarters to Baku on 17th of September in 1918, National Council of Azerbaijan recommenced its activities on 16th of November. On 19th of November National Council of Azerbaijan announced the discontinuation of its activities by passing a resolution that stipulated the institution of the Parliament of Azerbaijan on 3rd of December which had to be composed more inclusively than the Assembly of Institutors. Tbilisi, Ganja and Baku were the three cities that the Parliament of Azerbaijan was consecutively stationed during the first 6 months of its existence.
The second stage of parliamentarianism in history of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan which is occasionally referred to as “Baku phase” as well covers the time period of 17 months between 7th of December in 1918 and 27th of April in 1920. The first meeting of this relatively longer phase was held on 7th of December in 1918 and the final one on 27th of April in 1920. The number of the meetings held during this phase doesn’t exceed 145 though. However, all the meetings of the Parliament are characterized largely by the undeviating adherence to the principles enshrined in the Proclamation of Independence by way of endorsement and enactment of fundamental laws and crucial regulations aimed at preservation of the state independence and territorial integrity despite the thorny international circumstances along with establishing and strengthening the modern, secular, legal and democratic state wherein all human rights and civil liberties would be equally respected and promoted. Needless to mention that ratification of all these laws and regulations were essentially intended at the formulation of the legislative, executive and juridical branches of power.
Extraordinarily complicated internal situation and intricate international conditions arising from the fierce and decisive confrontations going on among the powerful states for division and distribution of the world in the course of I World War and subsequent emergence of the newly- surfacing invasion threat propelled the Parliament of Azerbaijan to dedicate most of its activities to the protection and maintenance of the state independence of Azerbaijan and reinforcement of the army-fortification process. It’s noteworthy that the members of the Parliament were displaying regular solidarity and unbroken unanimity in the deliberations held to discuss the adoption of the laws and regulations in this respect.
In spite of having to function under extremely complex circumstances and undergoing immeasurable hardships, both the government and parliament of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan had undertaken the huge task of providing a quality education and health service to the people of Azerbaijan and keeping the scientific development and enlightenment of the nation under constant attention in order to be able to achieve national awakening and revival. To this purpose, the campaign of opening schools of different levels, schools for girls, gymnasiums, kindergartens, short-term proficiency courses for training teachers, libraries was gathering speed countywide. Local hospitals and clinical centers created in villages were being connected to the medical attendance networks. What is more, special centers were being set up in different regions of the country for fighting communicable and contagious diseases.
Establishment of the Baku State University in accordance with the decision passed by the Parliament on 1st of September in 1919 carries a special weight among the countless other services rendered to the Azerbaijani people. The conception of the national university is accurately considered to be one of the most meaningful deeds of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan. Baku State University has played an incomparably significant role in the perseverance of the Republican dream even after the collapse of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan throughout the decades leading up to the ultimate restoration of the state independence in 1991.
Comprehending the enormous importance of encouraging development of science and education in the country, both the government and parliament of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan were working industriously in order to expedite the preparation and edification of the national experts in this regard. At the suggestion of the government, the Parliament of Azerbaijan had decided to grant a scholarship to 100 Azerbaijani students for receiving education in foreign countries. The fact that the Parliament had ordered the organization of competition among the would-be recipients of the scholarship under superintendence of the special commission responsible for carrying out the contest which comprised M.A.Rasulzade, Mehdi Bey Hajinski, Ahmad Bey Pepinov, Gara Bey Karabekov, Abdulla Bey Afandiyev is a manifestation of the magnitude given to this matter. The Commission had settled on sending 45 students to France, 23 students to Italy, 10 students to England, 9 students to Turkey for getting higher education at the corresponding universities of these countries. The 13 students selected to be sent to Russia had been unable to set out for Russia because of the Civil War which had enveloped the entire country.
The government and parliament of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan were also dynamic in bringing the activities of the newly-created state into light in the international arena in an attempt to ward off the looming danger of foreign invasion which had become increasingly palpable. On 28th of December in 1918, the Parliament had delivered a decision to delegate a special deputation to Paris Peace Conference. The prominent statesman of the Republican era, A.M.Topchubashov was appointed as the head of this mission. Although faced with inconceivable complications, A.M Topchubashov succeeded in getting several great powers to recognize the de-facto independence of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan. But, unfortunately, the diplomatic mission of A.M.Topchubashov was disrupted due to the incursion of Red Army and occupation of North Azerbaijan.
The strained relations and border disagreements with neighboring countries- were frequently engaging the attention of both the government and parliament of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan. As a result of fairly exhaustive and rigorous negotiations, the tense relationship with Georgia was finally straightened out, whereas relations with Armenia had remained knotty and unstable on account of the territorial claims and pretensions of the Armenian government. The Parliament of Azerbaijan had also ratified a number of treaties and contracts signed with Iran.
The rule of the People’s Republic ushered in the ever-growing culture of parliamentarianism and contemporary statehood traditions in Azerbaijan. The overall number of the meetings conducted during this period amounts to 155. However, the number of meetings held during the rule of the National Council of Azerbaijan doesn’t go beyond 10. The rest of the meetings have been held within the framework of the Parliament of Azerbaijan. More than 270 legislative bills have been presented for discussion and approximately 230 of them have been approved and adopted. The heated debates and fervent exchange of views are the depictions that can be used to typify the meetings of the Parliament. It’s worth mentioning that all legislative bills were usually adopted only after third hearing. The members of 11 different factions and groups used to take part in the preparation, deliberation and ratification of the laws and regulations in Parliament.
There were 11 commissions within the Parliament of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan. The Parliament was functioning in conformity with the guidelines defined in the “Regulation of the Parliament of Azerbaijan” set down exclusively for this purpose.
M.A.Rasulzade had evaluated the Parliament of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan in following terms: “National Assembly was a representative body embracing people of all nationalities and classes as well as being the sole determining power in the country. No action was taken, no outlay was disbursed, no warfare was waged, and no truce was signed without consent of the Parliament. The government could only survive if it gained a vote of confidence from the Parliament; otherwise it was doomed to a failure. There was no other intermediary power in- between. The Parliament was the only holder of the absolute power”.
Although North Azerbaijan was annexed to Russia for a second time after bloody and ferocious combat operations carried out by XI Red Army Divisions on the command of the Soviet Russia in contravention to all the standards of international law, People’s Republic of Azerbaijan still played an exceptionally vital role in the national liberation movement of the Azerbaijani people. Despite its 23 months- long short existence, People’s Republic of Azerbaijan once again proved the incapability and powerlessness of even the most brutal and repressive colonial regimes to exterminate the freedom ideals and independent statehood traditions of the people of Azerbaijan.
The national leader of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev has appraised the spirit of People’s Republic of Azerbaijan as valiant and laudable through these words: “Even though People’s Republic of Azerbaijan has managed to endure no more than 23 months under extremely complex and overwrought socio-political circumstances, the national liberation movement launched by the leaders of the People’s Republic will remain engraved in the minds of future generations as one of the most inspiring undertakings of our history. Although the commendable steps taken in the fields of state building, economy, culture, education, health services, and army fortification were left incomplete, the innumerable services and contributions rendered to the people of Azerbaijan in terms of statehood traditions and national enlightenment within a short span of 23 months have been ingrained in our memories. Above all, despite its short-lived lifetime, People’s Republic of Azerbaijan has achieved a great deal of success in strengthening the freedom ideals of our nation. Today our grateful nation holds the deeds of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan in high regard and pays a deep tribute to the founders of this Republic, Muhammed Amin.Rasulzade, Alimardan Bey Topchubashov, Fatali Khan Khoyski, Hasan Bey Aghayev, Nasib Bey Usubbeyov, Mehdi Bek Hajinski, Mammad Yusif Jafarov, Khudadat Bey Rafibeyov, Akber Agha Sheykhulislamov, Teymur Bey Makinski, Samad Bey Mehmandarov, Ali Agha Shikhlinski, Sultan Majid Kanizade, Khalil Bey Khasmammadov, Ahmad Bey Pepinov, Shafi Bek Rustembeyov who have had a remarkable share in the establishment of the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan”.
It’s noteworthy that People’s Republic of Azerbaijan was the ever-first parliamentary, democratic, legal and secular state to be created in the Eastern as well as Turkish- Islamic world. Furthermore, People’s Republic of Azerbaijan didn’t lag behind the time-honored, democratic republics of Europe neither in terms of its political structure and agenda, nor in the democratic state-building processes it carried out in consistency with the obligations and commitments it had undertaken.
Author: Yagub Mahmudlu
Source: AZERBAIJAN: SHORT HISTORY OF STATEHOOD
Translated by: Nigar Madatli
Edited by: Dr. Eynulla Madatli