Concept of national security of the Republic of Azerbaijan in government declarations of 1918-1919

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Baku, May 16, 2013 –

Submitted for the competition held by "” web portal on the occasion of the 95th anniversary of the declaration of the first secular and democratic republic of the Orient.

Grand geopolitical processes provoked by the WWI of 1914-1918 that came to a close with an overwhelming victory of the Entente over the Triple Alliance, heralded transition to the new world order, based on Versailles-Washington system of international relations. New sovereign states, some that partially restored their independence and some newly established ones, have emerged on the rubbles of the German, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and Russian empires.

February revolution of the 1917 and subsequent October Bolshevist coup ultimately lead to the collapse of the Russian empire and paved the way to the process of the emergence of national state entities on the post-empire space. However, if the process was developing quite dynamically and successfully in Poland and Finland, it was accompanied by fierce fighting between nationalist and Bolshevik forces and direct military intervention of foreign powers in other outlying national districts, especially in Ukraine and Transcaucasia. Similar events were taking place in Azerbaijan, particularly in Baku’s petroleum refining district, which were distinguished by interweaving of various external and domestic factors (1).

Dramatic military-political events in Azerbaijan in 1918-1920 were occurring on the backdrop of acute domestic conflicts and complex interethnic relations. Moreover, situation in the country was exacerbated by expansionist aspirations of foreign powers, yearning to oil resources of Baku that in the XIX-XX centuries became one of the major industrial centers of the Russian empire owing to booming oil business.

Bitter geopolitical rivalry, unfolding between the Entente and the Triple Alliance during the WWI and emergence of a new, military-political factor, hostile towards both of those – the Soviet Union, making control over the Black Sea-Caucasus-Caspian Sea geopolitical space a priority in the Middle East (2).

Revolutionary events unfolding in February and October in Russia have objectively lead to the environment of restoration of Azerbaijan’s statehood, lost in the wake of the first (1804-1813) and the second (1826-1828) Russian-Persian wars. Nevertheless, the path to the independence laid through most complex domestic and foreign military-political surroundings, severely exacerbated during the existence of an antinationalist Baku commune in the spring-summer of the 1918, on the backdrop of geopolitical rivalry between Turkey, Germany, England and Soviet Russia in the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea.

Aspirations of the Azerbaijani people ultimately led to the establishment of Azerbaijani Democratic Republic on 28 May 1918 – the first parliamentary republic in the Muslim Orient.

In the perplex military-political environment both within and around the Republic of Azerbaijan in the 1918-1920 and in the atmosphere of intense geopolitical rivalry between the large powers throughout Caucasus-Caspian region, the paramount objectives that stood before five consecutively changing cabinets of ministers were drafting and implementation of entire set of important practical measures to ensure the country’s national security.

Most distinctive and concentrated manifestation of the national security concept of the Republic of Azerbaijan was reflected in the official declarations of the third, fourth and fifth Cabinet of Ministers, announced from the parliamentary floor on 26 December 1918 and 14 April and 22 December 1919.

Declaration of the third Cabinet, announced by F.Khoyskiy during the fifth session of the Parliament on 26 December 1918, particularly mentioned that the "first and paramount objective” of the government was strengthening of Azerbaijan’s independence. Furthermore, according to the document, "independence and self-sufficiency by no means implied alienation from other nations by erecting a "great wall”. Instead, it meant that "free Azerbaijan was capable and would likely seek closest ties with other states established in the Russia’s territories and the Central Russia itself” (3).

In terms of solidifying an international position of the country, government had greatest expectations from the participation of Azerbaijani delegation in Paris Peace conference, which was to be employed to secure support of "free America, democratic England and republican France” that favored Azerbaijan’s independence and to ensure its international recognition. As to relations with the neighbors, declaration specifically stipulated that Azerbaijan held "no aggressive intentions against any country and sought to resolve all disputed issues by peaceful means” (4). Moreover, declaration expressed Azerbaijan’s readiness to broker peace in Armenian-Georgian armed conflict that broke out in late 1918. As a whole, peace loving policy of the Republic of Azerbaijan was manifested in its aspiration for "establishment of friendly relations in diplomatic and economic fields” will all its neighbors.

Succession in ensuring national security of the country was observed in the Declaration of the fourth Cabinet of Ministers, delivered by the Prime Minister N. Usubbekov during the 29th session of the Parliament on 14 April, 1919. Pointing out to viable threats to the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, related with rising separatism in Mugan area by the entrenched anti-Azerbaijani forces, and also to the fact that "certain contenders in Irevan and Tiflis provinces were attempting to spread and cement their authority in those areas”, the Prime Minister expressed hope for peaceful resolution of all disputed issues based on "mutual respect of legitimate rights of others” (5).

Referring to securing domestic political stability, Prime Minister specifically underlined that "Azerbaijani Turks, that suffered for centuries under the clique of "foreigners” and were restricted in their religious and economic life, must be equally tolerant to all ethnicities, inhabiting the territory of Azerbaijan, by granting them an opportunity to retain their cultural and national features along with their religion” and that the "government will do its utmost to ensure that Azerbaijan became a cherished homeland for all peoples inhabiting its territory… and spare no effort to prevent and t eradicate all outbursts of national hatred” (6). Declaration also expressed solidarity with Mountainous Republic that at the time waged difficult armed struggle against Volunteer Army of A. Denikin (7).

In the Declaration of the fifth Cabinet of Ministers, announced during the 109th session of the Parliament held on 22 December 1919, N. Usubbekov specified the threat of annexation of Zangezur district, while speaking of the Karabakh issue. Usubbekov highlighted that: - "For hundreds and thousands of years Zangezur has been an inalienable part of Azerbaijan, which only made it clear that this intrigue was doomed”. Meantime, the Prime Minister reminded of Azerbaijan’s adherence to peaceful resolution of disputed issues and indicated that "adoption of condition on recognition of cultural rights of the Armenian minority and assuming its patronage by the government” was a way of achieving that objective. Specifying the measures undertaken by the government in that direction, the Prime Minister emphasized that "future of Azerbaijan and Armenia is related to the issue of securing the rights of ethnic minorities” (8). Significant part of the government declaration was dedicated to relations with neighboring countries – Georgia, Armenia, Turkey, Iran and Russia.

It was with pleasure that the Prime Minister highlighted the significance and a role of the Azerbaijan-Georgia defense pact signed on 27 June, 1919 in terms of shielding the countries from external threats and expressed determination of his cabinet to further strengthen the pact. As far as Armenia was concerned, the Declaration expressed hope for peaceful resolution of all territorial disputes and that "close relations and long-lasting friendship will be established among the republics of the Caucasus”. It was particularly highlighted that "Republic of the North Caucasus had to be integrated into future confederation or other form of a union”. Reiterating solidarity with the mountaineers waging guerilla war against the army of Denikin in the North Caucasus, government acknowledged that "extermination of the mountaineers implied grave threat to our independence as well” (9).

Mentioning relations with Turkey that was busy with elimination of dire consequences of the war, Declaration expressed hope that "in the future closer interaction, eternal friendship and cordial neighborly relations would be established between the two Turkic states, free and independent”. Moving on to Iran, the Prime Minister stressed undertaking of significant positive steps towards the establishment of official diplomatic ties between "kindred states” (10).

Declaration deplored that "forces within Russia might or wanted to believe that it was possible to restore Russia to its previous borders and that establishment of a new great-power state over the self-determined nations was nothing but an empty chimera”. Taking into account a viable threat to the independence of Azerbaijan both from White and Red Russia, the government declared its resolve "to fight till death in defending the independence from menacing forces” (11).

Analysis of key content of all three declarations of the Cabinets of Ministers of Fatali-khan Khoyski and Nasib-bek Usuvbbekov enables the highlighting of several parameters of the concept of national security of the Republic of Azerbaijan in 1918-1920, that included a pursuit of peace loving policy, relying exclusively on peaceful resolution of territorial disputes through negotiations with all the neighbors; aspiration to ensure collective security in the region by establishing a union of Caucasian states in the confederate or any other form; strengthening of domestic stability, especially in the area of inter-ethnic relations, by rigorous observance of all democratic norms and liberties applied to all ethnic minorities inhabiting the country; using all means to suppress any manifestation of domestic separatist trends and safeguarding the territorial integrity of the state.

In general, proclamation of the Republic of Azerbaijan on 28 May, 1918 was an emblematic event in the history of Azerbaijan in the early XX century. Subsequently, almost two years long activity of national parliament and the government in the area of state building, military capacity building and ensuring territorial integrity of the country yielded tangible results.

In an extremely complex foreign and domestic environment, the government of the Republic of Azerbaijan drafted a concept of national security, implemented respective measures aimed at regular army building and other defense purposes. This activity was driven by the need to neutralize Denikin’s army in the north and to confront manifestations of militant separatism in the southern and western regions of the country – in Mugan, Zangezur and Karabakh in 1919-1920.

Simultaneously, actions had to be taken against subversive activity of local underground Bolshevik organizations that skillfully employed intense social-political situation in the country to plot an armed coup in Baku. Having found itself in the international isolation and hostile environment, and deprived of reliable allies and left head-to-head against Soviet Russia, Republic of Azerbaijan fell, in the wake of incursion of the XI Red Army in late April, 1920. However, establishment of the new authority in the country was confronted by anti-occupational guerilla movement in various districts of the country, which attested to aspirations of the Azerbaijani people to restore the independence of the country.

In the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, having restored its complete independence upon seven decades, Azerbaijan started a new chapter of its centuries-long history; tinged with most perplex military-political processes both in the region and its surroundings. Notwithstanding, even in the environment of geopolitical perturbations in the late XX century and a dynamically changing world of the early XXI century, and upon yet another, after the events of the 1918-1920, phase of aggressive policy of Armenia against Azerbaijan, in exceptionally short historical time span – just under two decades, the land of fire managed to naturally incorporate itself into global commonwealth of nations and gained considerable international prominence, and owing to its growing economic and defense potential became a true leader in the South Caucasus.

Parvin Darabadi,

D.Sc. (Hist.), Professor at the International Relations Chair of Baku State University




  1. Каземзаде Фируз. Борьба за Закавказье (1917-1921). – Стокгольм: CA& CC PRESS, 2010, с.83-125,159-168211-221; Гасанлы Дж. Внешняя политика Азербайджанской Демократической Республики (1918-1920 гг.). – Москва: Флинта, Наука, 2010, с.171,317-336. 469-479, 494.
  2. Черчилль У. Мировой кризис. – М.-Л.: Государственное военное издательство, 1932, с.50; Деникин А.И. Очерки русской смуты. – М.: Мысль, 1991, с.139; Людендорф Э. Мои воспоминания о войне 1914-1918 гг. – Том 2-й. – М.: Госиздат, 1924, с.187,219-220; Лавров С.В. Политика Англии на Кавказе и в Средней Азии в 1917-1921 годах// Вопросы истории, 1979, № 5, с.81.
  3. Aзербайджанская Демократическая Республика (1918-1920 гг.). Парламент (Стенографические отчеты). Баку: Изд-во «Азербайджан», 1998, с.81.
  4. See above source p.82.
  5. Азербайджанская Демократическая Республика (1918-1920 гг.). Парламент (Стенографические отчеты). Баку: Изд-во «Азербай­джан», 1998, с.349.
  6. See above source p. 350.
  7. Азербайджанская Демократическая Республика (1918-1920 гг.). Парламент (Стенографические отчеты). Баку: Изд-во «Азербай­джан», 1998, с.349.
  8. See above source p. 809
  9. Азербайджанская Демократическая Республика (1918-1920 гг.). Парламент (Стенографические отчеты). Баку: Изд-во «Азербайджан», 1998, с.811.
  10. See above source
  11. Азербайджанская Демократическая Республика (1918-1920 гг.). Парламент (Стенографические отчеты). Баку: Изд-во «Азербайджан», 1998, с.812.



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