Author: Shahin SEYIDZADE, Member of Parliament
There are more than 5,000 nationalities in the world. Only about 4% of them have their own country and own statehood. Azerbaijanis are fortunate enough to be part of the very small list of nations having their own statehood.
The development of statehood in modern Azerbaijan was not easy. 20% of its territory was occupied by neighbouring Armenia, it had one million refugees and internally displaced persons and suffered internal political crisis, which caused a risk of losing statehood.
According to the German sociologist and founder of geopolitics Friedrich Ratzel, "a state is born where the whole society unites in the name of common goals that can be achieved only through common efforts over a certain period of time." In the early 1990s, public society in Azerbaijan was fragmented and did not have common goals. Even the Garabagh problem failed to become a consolidating factor during the internal political chaos.
From preserving statehood to institutionalisation
Only Heydar Aliyev could formulate common goals and unite society around them. Shortly after coming to power, he formed the institution of the Azerbaijani statehood and laid a foundation for its improvement in the future. That is how the modern state of Azerbaijan began developing. Like a toddler, our state was learning to walk, to keep on its feet. Years passed, goals and objectives changed. During the rule of Heydar Aliyev, Azerbaijan has gone through an evolutionary path from preserving its statehood to its institutionalisation, while the Garabagh problem was still urgent.
Surely, the occupation of Azerbaijani land by Armenia was the biggest challenge for Ilham Aliyev when he succeeded to his father in 2003. Even after the reign of a strong, experienced leader, a successful anti-crisis manager Heydar Aliyev, there were still questions of regarding the fate of Azerbaijan.
The leader who restored the people's faith in itself
The 2003 elections, a new president. The first since the 1990s change of power in Azerbaijan without shocks. The head of state set new tasks and goals, while maintaining the continuity and consistency of evolutionary processes in the country's statehood. The government soon launched many political processes, state programs, and national projects. The state of Azerbaijan has embarked on a path of transformation growing from being "a small post-Soviet country” most often regarded as a supplier of energy resources for the main players in the world to “a country that itself is a player in many regional and international processes."
Azerbaijan also introduced a pack of internal political reforms. They did not always go smoothly and painlessly. Approaches, views, and opinions varied. But it was clear that no one would improve our country and solve its problems, especially the 30-year-old Garabagh problem, instead of us. Today the settlement of the Garabagh problem is regarded as an established historical fact. It is easy to talk about it here and now. But the path that led to this moment was thorny and difficult.
Many things have changed over the 18 years of Ilham Aliyev's rule. Only faith in the President remained unchanged and unshakable; a popular belief that Mr. President knows for sure “to do what, how, and when”. Ilham Aliyev assessed the realities soberly and clearly. He knew that much could be done and implemented but none of these endeavours would be enough until the Garabagh problem was settled. He knew and understood perfectly well that everyone in Azerbaijan was waiting for a solution to this problem. This was a serious challenge, since there were other tasks on the agenda. First, it was required to strengthen and develop our statehood. Secondly, we had to go from "process management" to "management by goals". Finally, it was important to strengthen the institutions of state power.
For the first time in 200 years
Undoubtedly, the 44-day war became a turning point in the history of modern Azerbaijani statehood. It had a shock effect not only for Armenia and the world, but also for ordinary Azerbaijanis. It put an end to trivial yet psychologically powerful statements like “for 200 years, we have only lost our lands,” “we will remain in history as a country that loses on the battlefields,” “it is impossible to return Garabagh”, etc. Ilham Aliyev proved that this was not the case. He united all Azerbaijanis regardless of their place of residence, political views and attitude to the internal processes taking place in the country. As a winner of the Second Garabagh War, Ilham Aliyev created new realities both in Azerbaijan and in the region. External players, although not always willingly, but began to accept these realities.
Before September 27, 2020, within 44 days, and in the post-conflict period, each interview of President Aliyev with the international media outlets, each bilateral meeting with the heads of foreign countries, all multilateral negotiations and meetings, final statements and protocols served one key thesis: “Garabagh is Azerbaijan!" A huge amount of work has been done. But much more will be done.
In the new year of 2022 we will continue to fulfil our tasks, improving the positions of Azerbaijan in Garabagh. In the meantime, after analysing the past year, it becomes clear that it was successful for Azerbaijan and for every Azerbaijani.
Garabagh is Azerbaijan!
The past year began with a trilateral meeting between the President of Azerbaijan, President of Russia, and the Prime Minister of Armenia. Two months after the signing of the ceasefire statement, on January 11, 2021, the leaders of Azerbaijan, Russia, and Armenia gathered to hold the first joint trilateral talks. Following the talks, they signed a joint statement, which reflected all the priorities and interests of Azerbaijan in the post-conflict period. The outcome of the trilateral and bilateral meetings of the leaders in Sochi and Brussels at the end of the year are also promising. In general, in 2021, Garabagh dominated the agenda of Azerbaijan's foreign policy, including with delimitation and demarcation of borders, a peace agreement, and unblocking of communications. Today, Azerbaijan is waiting for Armenia to fulfil all the points of the November 10, 2020 statement. But Azerbaijan does not stand still.
The key issue on the agenda continues to be the restoration, reconstruction, and development of Garabagh and Eastern Zangezur. President Ilham Aliyev demonstrates in deeds that Garabagh is Azerbaijan! indeed.
If in 1993-2003 Heydar Aliyev was able to preserve the statehood of Azerbaijan, then in 2003-2020 Ilham Aliyev not only strengthened and developed it, but also restored the territorial integrity of the country. As a result, in a little more than a year, Azerbaijan reached a completely different political and reputation level. If politicians and journalists have characterised Ilham Aliyev as a great patriot, a strong leader, and a skilful diplomat, now they call him the victorious Supreme Commander-in-Chief.