"Azerbaijan, where is it?" Any Azery could be asked this question outside the territory of the country - it was the USSR at that time. At present the world knows where we are: the Karabakh war, struggle for independence and democracy, oil "comtract of the century" has made us well recognizable in the world.

Now many people could find our country on the map... But no more. "Azerbaijan, what is it?" Is it something the world knows as being European or Asiatic. Or more Russian or Turkish?

Can we answer this question ourselves? Just recently we were not allowed to know our past. Today we still don't know how we shall live in the near future. We are in a process of self-indentification.

Shall we become a nation or will our future be guided somewhere in distant capitals? Shall we really love freedom or shall we give our will to a Big Brother? Will we be able to enter the world market or become supplier of raw materials to the world!

To answer these questions we should find out what resources are responsible for prosperous development of our people.

It's a complicated task to give my version of Azerbaijan situation, its present life and people's aspirations. I beleive that it's difficult for Azerbaijan to be recognizable in the aspect of comparison. But let's try...

Here is some information about Azerbaijan from reference books. Azerbaijan is an ancient country situated in the south western border of the Caspian Sea.

In 1828 Azerbaijan was divided Russia and Iran into Southern (present Iranian Azerbaijan) and Nothern (present Azerbaijan Republic). Since then Azerbaijanis have their own state called Azerbaijan Republic. Population of Azerbaijan Republic is 7.8 million people. Annual growth of population is 1%. Its territory is 86.600 which depends on the Caspian Sea level changes. Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan with the population of more than 2 million people.

After joining the United Nation on January, 1992 our republic as well as all republics of the former USSR received the status of a developed country. However, a deep crisis all over the collapsed Soviet Union caused by distruction of socialist economics made Azerbaijan in line with other newly established independent states appeal to the UN for providing a status of developing country which needs a world financial support.

Azerbaijan has a very remarkable nature. We have here 11 out of 14 existing climatic zones of the globe. It is not surprising that during the Soviet period Azerbaijan was considered to be republic with the best variety and quantity of plant kinds per square unit.

The majority of Azerbaijani population belongs to the turkic group of peoples. Azeri language is consequently, one of the west representatives of this group, as it is Turkmenian and Turkish languages. Persian and Caucasian tribes played a significant role in formation of the ethnos of the Azerbaijani turks.

Many thousands years of Azerbaijani history is full of rises and downfalls of numerous great states and religious associations. One can see the traces of all of them in present day face of Azerbaijan. It is here, in Azerbaijan, Zaratushtra expounded his theory of the good and the evil.

Having ruined the Persian empire, the Arabs brought Islam here. After that the turks ruled everywhere in the middle east. It was the time when Azerbaijan presented to the world a galaxy of outstanding figures: scientists, philosophers, poets, architectors, general military leaders.. .

But... who khows the real reasons of rises and downfalls of any society? Being defeated with the war with Russia in XIX century, Azerbaijan was divided into two parts and retired into itself. At the end of XIX century an industrial boom based on the first oil extraction in Baku raised Azerbaijan to action.

p i c t u r e: Alpic zone, North of Azerbaijan

New social relations were forming, new face of our cities, new features of our national character were being structured. Azerbaijan's contribution into the industry of the Russian Empire was 4% (contribution of Azerbaijan into USSR industry was 1,5%). New social organisations were established, new parties, more than 160 newspapers were published. Baku was one of the centres of social-democratic movement of Russia. In 1918, after the fall of tzarism a national state was proclaimed in Azerbaijan - it was the first republic in the east.

During short period of 2 years existance Azerbaijan republic did a lot to shape a self-awareness of Azerbaijanis, new civic society. Restructuring was our pressing necessity and we had to be transformed from a big part of ethnic and cultural community into a national minority of the Russian Empire. But such minority had completely different way of life .

In 1920 Russian troops headed by bolsheviks invaded Azerbaijan. democratic government was overthrown, our independence was lost again and the Soviet government signed a treaty according to which Azerbaijan joined the USSR.

By that time, to my opinion, Azeri character was already formed. its essence was influenced by turkic military-feudal code of honour. You can read about it a lot in our epos "Keroglu", for example: everything or nothing; courage higher than goal; defeat is dishonour and it's worse than death, it's better to rely on yourself than ask for help; all kinds of soul aspirations are comprehensible I would like to note that in Azerbaijan there was no serfdom which could have been any sort of influence on the nation's psychology.

We were influenced by the Islamic religion. Using modern language, the Koran is an islamic declaration of human rights, it proclaimed inviolability of person, equality of all people worshipping the only god (moslems, christians, jews). According to islam, one has to hold control over feelings and emotions, to be self-concentrated.

Secured priority of awareness and conscience. Rapid growth of capitalism in Azerbaijan at the end of xix century cultivated in Azerbaijanis such features as initiative, enterpreneurial trend, strive for constant broadening of their out look. Young people studied in the best universities of Europe. well-trained engineer personnel appeared in the country. Culture of industrial production became an integral part of our national culture.

During the 70 years of the soviet rule, our national psychology was completely changed. All peoples of the former ussr were surfering from the omnipotent power of the empire.Azerbaijan had its own bitter experience. In the 30s under the feigned "threat from the south", struggle with "panturkism and bourgeous nationalism" stalin and his apprentices started to execute a "number of bloody executions" accompanied by genocide of our people. 90,000 people, in particular, intellectuals, were repressed. Historacal memory of the people was extinguished in an unprecendented pressure.

p i c t u r e: Active volcanos in the environs of Baku.

They tried to invent a new history, enthogenez and culture for Azerbaijan. Azerbaijanis were declared persians being under turkish influence. The latin alphabet adopted in the republic was substituted by the russian kirillitsa. And all these things were done within the frames of tragicomical "cultural revolution" aimed on separation of our people from its root and culture as a constituent part of the middle east.

After the second world war the repressions against persons who thought a different way and Azeri as nation were renewed. In 1948, 100,000 of Azeri civilians who had been living in their own land for thousands of years in the territory of the present Armenia were forced to leave their homes for an unknown reason. Same number of people were moved from Georgia also. People were forced to leave the mountain places ang left to the mercy of fate. Many of them died during the first years because of malaria and tuberculosis...

Spiritual life became a crime. Moral was disappearing. Absence of legal rights, economic and ecological madness, actions against laws of nature and "sublaws" were the heritage of the personality cult period up to the stagnation period. It rouse the society to "self-protection" and mutual protection way. It was the only way to survive in such conditions. At that time we lost a lot of holy things, and not only us. The same could be said about all the peoples of the former USSR. even after restoration of our country's independence in 1991, this heritage is making itself felt as main obstacle in our way to democracy and progress.

Nevertheless we've succeded to save our most valuable features necessary for any society revival. "Great inquisitors" who had power over our lives failed to suppress our inner freedom. Idea of suppression of individuality for the benefit of state interests was spread everywhere but it could not squeese out the idea that state interests should consist of personal ones.

Azerbaijani always knew that any person were free to plan his future and settle all problems. As for attitude to the family and children, they are estimated more than career, success and spiritual concord. Desire for prosperity: no need to convince anybody that it is not good. Azerbaijani are initiative and enterprising. People are ready to take a commercial risk, they want to work and earn more. The Koran says: "money of a man adorn the world." What better can be said about the national features of Azerbaijani people? they are risky. Mostly they are in a good mood, they are friendly, like to banter each other. Azerbaijani are very musical.

p i c t u r e s : Temples of caucasian albania. Mausoleum of Momine khatin. Nakhichevan

As for their attitude to strangers their hospitality is well-known. Azerbaijani like bright colors: dark blue, red, turquoise, (they say turquoise stone brings happiness), they like to eat well ready to cook favorite dishes by hours much more often than in holidays. It is difficult for Azeri to say "no". But if you could get his "yes", sometimes it doesn't mean what you think exactly. To be economical is considered here to be greedy. Of course, they are individualists but it's more impressive to see their solidarity in the face of common danger and their sympathy towards a person who is in trouble. And we are optimists, too. We are confident in solving all the problems that are in our society. And we will do our best for that! A "new time" has come and we will never miss the opportunity given to us by history to return a glory to our land, to give a happiness to our people, to confirm the dignity for every citizen...

That is the way we are !

p i c t u r e : Shirvanshkh's palace

Used with exclusive permission from the author.
Copyright © 1996 by Hikmet Hadjy-zadeh.
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