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Azerbaijan celebrates Republic Day

Millions of Azerbaijanis around the world celebrate the founding of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan on May 28.

With the annexation of the South Caucasus by Russian Empire in the early 19th century, Azerbaijani lands were split into two parts.

In the north, the fight of the nation’s progressive forces for the liberation of the people and the development of the national consciousness led to the proclamation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.

This event was a logical continuation of the progress taking place in the region. By that time, the idea of a republic was firmly established in the public consciousness.

From May 28, 1918, to April 28, 1920, the founders of the ADR conducted fundamental changes in all spheres of national life. The ADR was the first parliamentary republic in the Muslim East and among Turkic peoples. May 28 ― the date of the proclamation of the ADR ― was widely celebrated during those two years.

In difficult circumstances, the founders of the ADR chose the most advanced and democratic form of government of their time. The Declaration of Independence ― the policy document of the new republic ― expressed commitment to the principles of democracy and a secular, parliamentary state. These principles were followed to the end. The state was governed on the basis of laws and regulations adopted by the parliament.

The territory of the ADR was 114,000 square kilometers, with a population of 3.3 million people. The parliament officially opened on Dec. 7, 1918, and operated for 17 months, during which it held 145 meetings and discussed more than 270 bills, of which 230 were adopted.

On June 21, 1918, the national flag consisting of a white crescent and a white eight-pointed star on a red background was approved, and on Nov. 9, the red cloth was replaced by a tricolor. On June 27, Turkic (Azerbaijani) was declared the state language.

The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic is the first democratic state in the East. The republic granted women the right to vote much earlier than the United States and several other Western countries.

The history of the republic is marked by significant events and great achievements of its citizens in economy and culture and other spheres, which many decades later allowed for the establishment of an independent Azerbaijan. An important achievement of the ADR is the creation of the Azerbaijani telegraph agency and the establishment of the Baku State University.

The Azerbaijani parliament adopted a law on the establishment of diplomatic missions in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the United States, Switzerland, Poland, Germany and Russia. Representative offices of the U.K., Greece, Belgium, Georgia, Armenia, Denmark, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Iran, U.S., Ukraine, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland began to operate in Azerbaijan.

The Azerbaijan Republic’s independence was endorsed by the most prominent figures and supported by the world democracy. However, the new Azerbaijan Democratic Republic faced challenges. On April 27-28, 1920, its borders were crossed by the Red Army, coming to establish the Soviet power in the region. Thus, on April 28, 1920, the Republic ceased to exist.

At the end of the 20th century, the restored independent Azerbaijani state declared its loyalty to the traditions of the First Republic. May 28 was officially declared the Republic Day and measures were taken to preserve the memory of major national historic events.

Today, Azerbaijan is a country that is highly respected in the world. Azerbaijan launched very serious, fundamental political and economic reforms, and introduced itself to the international community. In 2011, Azerbaijan was elected a nonpermanent member of the U.N. Security Council ― the highest and the most representative structure in the world ― with the support of 155 countries, was invited to G20 Summit held in Mexico in February 2012, and took part in nuclear security summits held in 2012 in Seoul and on March 24-25, 2014 in The Hague.

The country continues its active engagement with the European Union through European Neighborhood Policy and Eastern Partnership format and also manages to adjust its activity within Euro-Atlantic structures.

Although Azerbaijan faced many political and economic challenges in the early years of its independence, under the leadership of Heydar Aliyev, the National Leader of Azerbaijani nation, the country has managed to achieve unimaginable success in the economic sphere. Several oil and gas pipeline projects started in the mid-1990s were aimed not only at the economic development of Azerbaijan, but also at the broader regional cooperation.

The main objective of Azerbaijan foreign policy is the resolution of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. As a result of the 1991-94 war, the Nagorno-Karabakh and seven other regions of Azerbaijan remain under Armenian occupation. Currently, Armenia maintains an unrecognized regime in the occupied territories, which depends financially and administratively on Armenia, while promoting international recognition of the so-called “Nagorno-Karbakh Republic,” which Armenia itself fails to recognize. Not a single state in the world has recognized this entity, while Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity continues to be internationally upheld.

There are four resolutions adopted by the U.N. Security Council, OSCE decisions, resolutions of other international organizations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the Non-Aligned Movement and NATO demanding Armenia to withdraw its troops from Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized historical territories, which have not yet been implemented.

Although Azerbaijan faced many political and economic challenges in the early years of its independence, under the leadership of Heydar Aliyev, the National Leader of Azerbaijani nation, the country has managed to achieve unimaginable success in the economic sphere. Several oil and gas pipeline projects started in the mid-1990s were aimed not only at the economic development of Azerbaijan, but also at the broader regional cooperation.

Today Azerbaijan is the initiator of big regional energy, logistic and telecommunication projects such as the Trans-Adriatic Gas Pipeline project, Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project and Trans-Eurasian Information Super Highway project.

Azerbaijan was the first country to open up the hydrocarbon resources of the Caspian Sea to foreign investors, and total volume of investments in Azerbaijan’s economy exceeded $156 billion between 1995 and 2012. Around a half of the investments went to foreign countries; Azerbaijan ranks first among the Commonwealth of Independent States members in FDI volume per capita. The size of the economy has more than tripled, while other indicators are also at a high level.

Currently, Azerbaijan’s economy accounts for more than 70 percent of the entire economy of the South Caucasus. GDP has increased 3.4-fold ($73.4 billion in 2013), while GDP per capita has tripled in the last 10 years ($7,912 in 2013), an impressive rate driven by growth in oil and gas production, as well as other sectors. Industrial production has increased 2.5 times. The private sector makes up 85 percent in Azerbaijan’s GDP.

The country continues to diversify the economy and the bulk of the gross domestic product is generated outside of the oil sector. The country’s external debt is only 8.3 percent of GDP, while strategic currency reserves exceed external debt by up to 10 times. The poverty level has declined to 5.5 percent from 44.7 percent in 2003.

Economic diversification is one of the country’s main priorities. In order to reduce dependence on the oil sector, the government implements measures to modernize infrastructure, promote innovation and improve competitiveness.

President Ilham Aliyev, who is seeking to establish new industrial complexes, has declared 2014 the Year of Industry. The World Economic Forum ranks Azerbaijan at 39th in the world in terms of economic competitiveness. Azerbaijan’s socioeconomic achievements are also recognized by international ratings agencies (Fitch Ratings, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s) that have consistently raised their credit ratings of the Azerbaijani economy. According to the World Bank’s 2013 Doing Business report, Azerbaijan ranked 67th among 185 countries on the ease of doing business. It shows once again that the socioeconomic policy comprising development and durability will keep Azerbaijan’s sustainable development going to strengthen the country’s position in the world. Azerbaijan has entered the category of “high average income” countries in the World Bank’s gross national income classification. According to the U.N. Development Program’s Human Development report for 2010, Azerbaijan has left the group of countries with “average human development” to join the “high human development” category.

Today, the sphere of ICT is becoming a priority in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has already joined the small club of countries with a space industry. In February last year, Azerbaijan successfully launched its first satellite Azerspace-1, and this is only the beginning of its space industry development.

According to the targets set out in the national development concept, entitled “Azerbaijan ― 2020: The Vision of the Future,” the country’s objective is to more than double its per capita GDP to $13,000 by 2020. According to the World Bank, that year Azerbaijan is expected to become a “high average income country” and rank among the top countries in the UNDP human development classification.