by Abulfaz ELCHIBEY
The state coup, which began with the Ganja insurrection and accomplished by the Parliament, forced Azerbaijan to abandon the path towards independence and consistent democratic change. Azerbaijan's joining the CIS shortly afterwards became a logical finale for the coup and clearly demonstrated the true aims of the June 4th insurrection. Intensive struggle surrounding this problem has been taking place in Azerbaijan for approximately two years. Now that Azerbaijan has joined the CIS, I would like to share some of my ideas regarding the reasons and the essence of the events of last year - the events which resulted in the coup.
CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH WE CAME TO POWER
To analyze what happened over the last year, one needs to take a brief look at past events, taking into consideration the circumstances under which the Popular Front of Azerbaijan (PFA) came to power and the legacy it has inherited.
Many of us remember the condition of the Azerbaijani statehood in 1988. However, for some reason, we hardly remember the condition of the society or, to be more precise, of the self-governed civil society of that time. As a matter of fact, all spheres of human life were controlled and governed by the state, or rather the Communist Party. The Party went as far as to advise an individual whom to marry, it set up patterns for wedding parties and mourning ceremonies.
Personal liberty and responsibility, self-governing and public control of the government - all factors which make up the basis of a democratic state - were non-existent. And, there did not even exist the notion of the possibility of and necessity for these factors. People gave to "Big Brother" the right to solve their destinies. This "Brother" made all the decisions for us and possessed our freedoms. Built in accordance with these principles, Soviet society was destined to lose in its competition with the West - with its freedom, personal initiative and diversity of opinions - and so it happened.
Besides, people did not accept as theirs the existing power that was governed from the outside, it was alien to them. In the long run, all that resulted was deeply-rooted local corruption, conformist and low morale. Even under favorable conditions it would have been impossible to obliterate these problems in one or two years, and it is only natural that our society today still suffers these maladies.
Thus, the Armenian aggression (which for some time was only ideological) took us by surprise. It became clear that we had neither the state nor a civil society capable of protecting the country and resisting the aggression. Remember how difficult it was for the Azerbaijani deputies of the USSR Supreme Soviet to express themselves and how absolutely perplexed they were at the parliamentary sessions under attacks by the Armenian propaganda statements.
In order to rebuff the aggressor and organize a defense, there appeared two major tasks before the democrats of Azerbaijan: 1) to develop a self-governed civil society and 2) to create an independent democratic state that would express the will of the Azerbaijani people. We decided to achieve the second goal the independence through the formation of a civil society. The Popular Front, continuing its political struggle, made tremendous efforts to achieve social self-governing.
Yet, already by 1991, Azerbaijan was not that helpless in the face of the Armenian aggression. Before the declaration of independence, the attacks by the Armenian army were repulsed by the local self-defense units created at the initiative of the PFA (they maintained the front line for two years), independent social organizations pressed the government to take measures against the aggression, while the independent mass media resisted the Armenian propaganda. Those who now slander the PFA should not forget that nearly two thousand members of this organization gave their lives for their country.
DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
Despite the fact that under pressure from the democratic movement Azerbaijani independence was formally declared in October 1991, it was only formal because the Communists closely connected with Russia remained in power.
The representatives of this regime used the Constitutional Act on the Independence of Azerbaijan to protect themselves against the democrats who were victors in the August putsch. As a matter of fact, they did not see Azerbaijan as a sovereign state independent from Russia. No independent steps in politics, economics, finance nor in the military were taken. Democrats' offers and draft laws aimed at the realization of these steps were rejected on various pretexts.
However, the processes in Russia started to develop in the direction which proved quite unexpected for them. It became clear to the Russian leaders that it was impossible for them to restore the Soviet Empire. The collapse of the ramshackle administrative system, inter-ethnic conflicts, development of the democratic tendencies in Russia and the awareness of their backwardness paralyzed the empire forces. The liquidation of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union inflicted a severe blow on the mechanism of the colonial administration. As a result of the August 1991 putsch in Moscow, the freedom of the military circles was limited considerably. In this situation, the Communist leadership of Azerbaijan could no longer receive the necessary support from Moscow.
The national-independence movements that grew in the peripheries shook the foundation of the empire. As has been acknowledged by the international community, the movement of the Azerbaijani people, led by the Popular Front towards independence and democracy, was one of the most active ones in the former Soviet Union.
The Azerbaijani Parliament became a serious obstacle along our road to independence. The Parliament was elected on the basis of falsified results and it failed to reflect the real electoral distribution of forces in the society. It was hostile to the national interests and itself became one of the biggest crimes of the Communist leadership before the Azerbaijani nation.
Struggling against our independence after the fall of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the leadership of the republic saw that it could only be saved by joining the CIS and especially its military organization which was, as a matter of fact, a new form of the Warsaw Pact.
Initially, the CIS was a structure that served the restoration of the USSR. However, the historic developments that lead to the crises of the imperial system and made clear the implausibility for the empire to reawaken. The CIS was a stillborn child and the Azerbaijani democrats realized that. Despite the fact that in Moscow, President Mutalibov signed Azerbaijan's joining the CIS - without any knowledge on the part of the people - afterwards, in our time, the parliament refused to ratify this agreement. This laid the foundation for the future independence of Azerbaijan.
In order to create conditions for Azerbaijan's joining the CIS military structure, hard-liners in the republic did everything to prevent the creation of our national army. Although the decision to create the Defense Ministry was adopted under pressure from the democrats, it virtually remained on paper. The government avoided concrete steps aimed at the formation of the army, trying to "convince" public opinion that it was impossible to create it, spreading among people doubts in its strength. Then Chief of the Army General Staff said in his speech in a parliamentary session that there were only 150 (!) people who expressed a wish to join the Army. Local units of self-defense were dismissed on various pretexts.
Separate high-ranking government officials created their own armed units or submitted to themselves the volunteer units that already existed.
As a result, the population accumulated a large amount of weapons. This jeopardized stability in the country. Certain neighboring states were interested in the further aggravation of the situation and pandered it, thus receiving the opportunity to incite a civil war in the country any moment.
ON THE VERGE OF CIVIL WAR
The actual refusal of the government to create a fighting army and its reliance on the Russian army lead to dramatic consequences. The well-organized Armenian army inflicted upon us blow after blow.. The tragedy in Khodjali claimed the lives of a thousand unprotected civilians and very obviously demonstrated the criminal passiveness of the government in its regard of the army issue as well as its utter inadequacy. Having lost the trust of the people, the Mutalibov regime fell. Under pressure from an indignant society, Mutalibov resigned from the presidency and retired in peace with a high state-allotted pension.
However, the power remained in the hands of the party "nomenclature" which, together with Mafia structures started to take measures to preserve power. One of the possibilities was to immediately hold presidential elections. The "nomenclature" never doubted a successful outcome of the elections.
So, despite being worried by the rise of tension in the society, the PFA and other democratic forces were against holding the elections, especially while the war was going on, the Communists managed to have the parliament adopt the decision on holding presidential elections. We were forced to play their game and decided to participate in the elections scheduled by the Parliament for June 7.
However, as the election campaign drew nearer, it became obvious that the Communists would not be able to win the elections. Having realized that, the Communist government decided to do everything to prevent the elections. They launched a united provocative plan directed towards the destabilization of the situation in the republic. The surrender of Shusha and Lachin to the Armenians was the climax of this plan. Immediately after that, they began a mass withdrawal of the population from the front-line and borderline regions. Huge caravans of refugees started to move eastward in the beginning of May 1992. That was how the opponents of democracy were trying to push the country into chaos, towards civil war, in order to prevent the elections from taking place.
Losing in every way, the old regime now tried a new alternative in order to maintain power: the Communists decided to return Mutalibov to the presidency. And they did it: on May 14, in violation of the Constitution and without any public elections, a parliamentary session adopted the decision restoring Mutalibov's presidency.
However, the triumph of the reaction did not last long. The next day, the indignant people led by the PFA and other democrats ruined the plans of the Communists. The Constitution was restored. Mutalibov fled to Moscow on a Russian military aircraft.
Aggravated further by the political instability on the eve of the presidential elections, the economy of Azerbaijan was in a terrible condition, too. Virtually all economic mechanisms were out of order. Corruption and plundering of state property were rampant. Food-stores were empty, resources of fuel were close to nothing. There were only US $1.5 million and 10 million Russian rubles in the National Bank - and this was in a country with a population of seven million people. During the first four months of 1992, the industrial output dropped by 50 percent compared to the same period of 1991. Major industrial funds were not operating. The situation in agriculture was even more grim: the amount of grain and cotton planned for sowing dropped by 40 thousand and 20 thousand hectares respectively. As the economy of Azerbaijan fully depended on Russia and as there was no national currency, the country's financial system was entirely disorganized. As there was no cash available (as it was coming from Moscow), for more than 4 months (in some places even longer) people had not received their salaries.
With all that, Azerbaijan's southern borders were "protected" either by Russian border-guards or were uncontrolled at all which resulted in a large scale smuggling abroad of the country's strategic resources and goods.
As has already been indicated, illegal armed units were very active in the country. The situation in Baku was going out of control, shooting was heard at nights. Azerbaijan was on the verge of civil war. Having won at the elections, the Popular Front assumed the responsibility of a ruined country that was also loosing at the battlefront.
In order to restore the economy of the country and initiate economic reforms in the society, it was necessary to ensure stability in the society. Presidential elections held in a democratic atmosphere considerably reduced the possibility of civil war. The consistent struggle with illegal armed units and organized crime which we led during the first months of our administration, yielded its positive results soon.
Deliberate actions were taken to maintain civil peace in the country. Despite considerable radical moods among democrats, the new authorities rejected any "witch hunt". In the newly formed Cabinet of Ministers and in the apparatus of the state, along with the representatives of the victorious political forces, there was a considerable number of specialists who were representatives of the old regime. Practically, the country was administered by a democratic coalition which consisted, along with the PFA and the Musavat members, of the representatives of the People's Liberation Party, Ana Vatan (Motherland) Party, People's Democratic Party, People's Solidarity Party, Farmers' Party and others. As a matter of fact, about 80-90% of the government employees remained in their positions.
Thus, having come to power, the PFA agreed to leave most of the economic levers in the hands of the old regime.
No doubt, this was a risky thing to do. However, we did that for the sake of civil peace. Besides, there were no other specialists in the country then. For the same reason, amnesty was granted to those who had committed "economic crimes" that were the "products" of the old economic system. We also created conditions preventing capital, accumulated over the period of the administrative socialism, from being taken out of the country.
STEPS TOWARDS INDEPENDENCE AND DEMOCRACY
While in the opposition, we promised people a lot, and we did that sincerely. In reality, there was a resistance and those who resisted us were stronger than we had ever imagined. One can really see a gap between our promises and our actual achievements. However, a bigger gap exists between what the PFA government had accomplished and what the governments before and after us had and have accomplished.
Although the process was very slow indeed and we had to go step by step, overcoming obstacles, sometimes artificial ones, we were among the republics of the former Soviet Union which were persistently moving towards independence and democracy. This, of course, could not but concern those who had lost their power and privileges in the new Azerbaijan. Those two forces united and incited the Ganja insurrection.
As it has been indicated, our main goals under the new circumstances were the realization of our sovereignty, the creation of a standing army and the implementation of democratic reforms in the society.
From the very first day, all the potentials that the country possessed were directed towards the formation of an army. The occupation of the Azeri villages in Qarabag, the Khodjali genocide, the surrendering of Shusha and Lachin and the inability to protect the borderline districts from Armenian aggression caused people to loose their faith in their own strength. This also made the issue of the creation of an army not only a military and strategic one, but rather a social and psychological one. The draft was the first step that allowed us to change over from a system of volunteer battalions to a regular army. We started to create regular military units. As a result, our newly formed military units liberated the towns of Agdara and Geranboy and a considerable number of the villages in the Lachin District.
Our victories caused concern among those who opposed our independence and soon our internal and foreign adversaries began their subversive activities against the army. Rahim Gaziyev, the former Minister of Defense, joined the conspiracy of those forces struggling for power and used every opportunity to obstruct the normal development of proper army formation. Army property was plundered, money intended for defense purposes was stolen. Supported by the Russian Ministry of Defense, Gaziyev felt that he could go unpunished and here, we should admit here that we tolerated this for too long. To be sure, our army buildup continued, albeit slowly.
Despite all the criticism from the opposition, I still consider the withdrawal of the Russian Army from Azerbaijan a historic event in our movement towards independent policy making. Here, I would like to stress that Azerbaijan managed to be the first among the former Soviet republics to do this. The withdrawal of the Russian troops from our territory should be regarded as a logical outcome of a whole period in our people's national liberation movement.
Azerbaijan was also the first among the New Independent States to take its borders under its own control with the formation of Azerbaijani border troops. Due to this, the disorder at our borders was considerably reduced. In a short period of time, a customs system was created which reduced the smuggling of goods from the country.
In June, 1992, we inherited from the Communists an utterly plundered treasury and a dysfunctional financial system. Yet already by the end of the summer we have begun to create the country's gold reserve which, by June 1993, amounted to 1.5 tons of gold and other precious metals. Despite the huge military expenditures, by that time the currency reserves of the country grew by 100 times equaling $156 million, $40 million of which were created by the country's newly hard currency, stabilization and presidential funds. According to the information I have, these funds have been mercilessly looted by the new leadership during their first three months in office.
During the democrats' leadership, the state budget deficit never exceeded the 5% recommended by the International Monetary Fund whereas today, after five months of the new government, the state budget deficit grew almost by twice making 9.5% which meant hyperinflation and a deepening economic crisis.
The decline in industrial output was only 10% more than during the same period of the previous year, whereas in Russia it was 17%. The inflation rate in Azerbaijan was 1200% compared to Russia's 2700%.
We were among the very first New Independent States to put our own national currency into circulation. This step helped the republic with the shortage of rubles that we suffered due to the fact that by the end of summer of 1992, Moscow was not giving cash even to the countries of the CIS. The Manat became one of the most stable currencies on the territory of the former Soviet Union and practically became a regional monetary unit. The initial ruble rate 1:10 was maintained for eight months and dropped only by 13%. By that time the Ukrainian coupon's ruble rate had dropped by 700% and the Belorussian ruble's ruble rate by 500%.
Today, as a result of inadequate economic policies of the new leadership our national currency's price has dropped by 100% and 1 manat costs only 5 rubles.
The money reform undertaken by Russia in violation of all agreements in the end of the summer of 1993 completely confused the money circulation process in the CIS countries effecting Azerbaijan in the least degree. Today it has become clear that the opposition's and the present government's critics of our financial policies can only be explained by their criticism merely for political gain.
Decisive measures were taken to change the country's one-party Communist political system. It was necessary to move towards an open pluralistic society which was not at all easy. Totalitarism had collapsed, but after 70 years of the reign of only one ideology it was hard for democratic ideals to find their own place in people's minds. Totalitarism was deeply rooted in our consciousness and became a pattern of life. And, we did everything to set the society free and make irreversible the process of democratization in the country.
In the parliament, democrats passed progressive laws regarding political parties, public associations, mass media and others. Following that, about 30 political parties, more than 200 public organizations and more than 500 publications were registered and began functioning. All three branches of power were elected, thus acquiring legitimacy. As to the executive power, it was mandated directly by the people as a result of the democratic presidential elections that took place in June.
The law on elections that was drafted by the presidential staff and presented to the Milli Majlis for consideration, stipulated for the first time in Azerbaijan parliamentary elections on a multiparty-party basis. Unfortunately, the adoption of this law, which was coordinated with all political forces in the country, was postponed by the parliament from one month to the next other and remains to be adopted...
The law on the status of the court was supposed to help bring about the formation of an effective judiciary system. However, the draft law on changes and amendments to the Constitution (prepared by the presidential staff), which was supposed to eliminate the contradictions contained in the old Constitution, was also never considered by the Milli Majlis either.
Radical reforms were initiated in the field of law-enforcement. The penal system was transferred from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to the Ministry of Justice. I should note that this restructuring of the law-enforcement system, adopted in most democracies, continue to be met with great resistance and difficulties in the New Independent States, while in Russia, for instance, they are only discussing this issue.
In economics, we set two major goals:
First, to prevent the old economic system from collapsing prematurely, to protect it from being plundered, and to strengthen executive discipline and restore old economic ties, thereby accomplishing at least relative stabilization.
Second, to carry out consistent liberal reforms, restructure the economy on the basis of free market principles.
With this in mind, we adopted 34 laws regulating the new market-type economic relations (for comparison, I would like to note that the Mutalibov Government adopted only 17 and the Heydar Aliyev Government, after being in power for six months, has not adopted a single law). Among those were the laws on the privatization of the state property, a full package of laws on the banking system, ownership, protection of foreign investments, leasing, land taxation, and others. All these acts of legislation were approved by the IMF experts and other international financial organizations.
Moreover, presidential decrees were issued on the liberalization of trade, commercialization of the state trade enterprises, on leasing unfinished state-owned construction sites, on rendering assistance to small entrepreneurs and development of small entrepreneurship. State programs on privatization, assistance to private entrepreneurship and development of farms were prepared.
Thus, a legal basis for the restructuring of our economy on the principles of the market economy was built. Over a short period of time, scores of private banks, thousands of private (as well as joint) ventures appeared in the republic. Nearly 17 thousand control-free farm leases were created in the villages, and this was the first step in the development of farming. According to the Decree on the Commercialization of State Trade, most of the state owned enterprises became independent legal entities and the Decree on the Liberalization of Trade was put into practice. In the first step towards the realization of the privatization program, the privatization of a housing fund and taxis was launched.
It is a well-known fact that during the Soviet period, the republic was turned into a cheap raw materials base for the industrially developed northern part of the Soviet Union. Therefore, we began to take steps to put an end to this semi-colonial practice. In accordance with the program for developing the processing industry in the country, the construction of scores of enterprises processing original agricultural raw material (dying, spinning, sewing, wine-making, tobacco etc.) began.
Much was done to attract foreign investment into the country. According to the drafts of the contracts with U.S., British, Norwegian and Turkish oil companies was to bring nearly $10 billion to the country's industry was to be brought into the country.
As a result of our well thought-out policies, the existing communications (oil and gas pipeline, railways and automobile roads) connecting Central Asia and Europe were to pass through Azerbaijan bringing us considerable economic (hundreds of millions of dollars annually) and political benefit. It was only natural that this could not but concern the adversaries of our independence.
Fundamental educational and cultural reforms were undertaken, and those are the spheres that are very important for the future of the country. The Parliament adopted a law on education - though imperfect, it was still progressive. The law allowed the creation of independent private educational centers, and these were organized and perform successfully.
For the first time, we carried out examinations based on the system of tests and this should be considered one of the biggest accomplishments of the democratic government. The intellectual level of those who entered the higher educational institutions of Azerbaijan in 1992 is much higher than that of those who started their education in the old system. This testing process put an end to the comprehensive and "perfect" system of bribery and protectionism which had existed for decades. That is why the realization of the test system into practice went up against stubborn resistance. Nearly a thousand students were sent abroad for study, their selection done through tests.
After years of fruitless discussions, we managed to adopt the law on the change of the Azeri writing into the Latin graphic. If the country does not give up the notion of the alphabet our intellectual evolution will be more successful. I would also like to note that this step set an example for other Turkic republics of the former Soviet Union. In general, the new Azerbaijan became an inspiring example for the democrats of the Central Asian republics (who are close to us culturally) in their struggle against the legacy of the Communist past.
All in all, from May 15, 1992, till June 17, 1993, democrats managed to pass in the Milli Majlis 118 laws and 160 decisions. Thus, the legal basis of our independence was laid.
A general crisis in the territory of the former Soviet Union was obvious in the state of culture. For Azerbaijan, a nation at war, this problem was even more evident. Despite all this, we took desperate efforts to hold disintegration of cultural development. Besides budget expenditures, hard currency allotments were also made to culture from the Presidential Fund.
Thus, despite the bad legacy that we inherited from the Communist system and despite all the hardships of war time, and the resistance of the hard-liners at the Parliament and their supporters elsewhere, the formation of an independent Azerbaijan and the progressive reforms continued.
Here too, the Communists left their mark. Communists' inter-ethnic policies led to increased tensions everywhere in the former Soviet Union. Besides the problems that we inherited from the socialist system, there were additional problems were added by those who were trying to use inter-ethnic contradictions for their own political purposes. As a first step on the way to democratic settlement of these problems, we adopted the "Decree on Ethnic Minorities". According to international experts' evaluation, none of the former Soviet republics monitored their inter-ethnic relations in such a civilized way.
The measures that we took in this field did not let our adversaries in the country and abroad fracture our multi-ethnic society. Over a year of the democratic government, not a single separatist movement could master popular support. The failure of the "Talish-Mugan" adventure demonstrated once again that there is no serious ground for an inter-ethnic antagonism in Azerbaijan.
Following our decree, nearly 30 ethnic cultural centers came into being. Four newspapers published in the languages of ethnic minorities received endowments from the Presidential Fund. They were also given free access to radio and television.
Foreign policy was one of the most important aspects of our movement towards independence. In this sphere, too, we had both successes and losses. Unfortunately, we became victims of our own success.
While this subject deserves a separate article, briefly one can note that over the last year, Azerbaijan found its appropriate place in the international community and became a member of the United Nations, CSCE, Organization of the Islamic Conference and others.
Grounds were laid for equal and mutually beneficial partnership with our neighbors: Russia, Turkey, Iran, Ukraine and Georgia. Economic agreements with Kazahstan, Turkmenistan and Moldova were signed.
Inter-state friendship and cooperation agreements were signed with Russia, Turkey and Georgia. As a result of the agreements signed, our relations with Turkey took a new higher level.
We are blamed for the tense relationship with Iran by those who forget that Iran came in second after Russia in foreign economic ties in trade and this was the result of the mutually beneficial business partnership between the two countries.
Along with this, I would like to note that we always opposed putting all our eggs in one basket.
Basis was created for closer cooperation with the United States, England, Germany, Belgium, Egypt, Pakistan and Israel.
Actually, we gave priority to the development of the relations with the United States and Western Europe and had reached certain success in this regard. But our independent foreign policy created jealousy among both those who wanted to keep Azerbaijan within the sphere of their influence and those who looked upon democratization and progress in Azerbaijan as a threat to their own security.
As a result of hard diplomatic work, the attitude towards Azerbaijan by the world's major countries changed for the better. The heads of states of the United States and Western Europe more than once stated that Azerbaijan was definitely moving towards democracy. Azerbaijan became the object of close attention by the Western political scientists who saw in our democracy the confirmation of their ideas about the universal laws of the development of civilization.
Meanwhile, Western companies began to evaluate Azerbaijan as beneficially economic. Preparations were under way for signing contracts with the major industrial companies like AMOCO, British Petroleum, Statoil and others on cooperation in oil extraction and its transportation to the Mediterranean Sea. The realization of these plans would have meant tremendous economic and political benefit to Azerbaijan. It would have placed Azerbaijan within the spheres of interest of the Western countries creating grounds for their real assistance to our country.
One should not think that the interest of the Western countries towards Azerbaijan was only linked to "oil dollars". I am sure that public opinion in the West which considers human rights one of the main factors of the international security cared about democracy in Azerbaijan not less than the dollars.
Under the influence of liberal changes in our country, the democratic image of Azerbaijan started to take shape in the West. That is why a new period ushered in - that of Azerbaijan's support by the West while it was fighting for its territorial integrity.
In addition to bilateral unilateral relations, we also had contacts with international organizations, democratic institutions and the media. Prominent political and social figures of the world visited Azerbaijan on official and informal visits. All this had a positive influence on the perception of Azerbaijan by the world's democratic community.
We presented Azerbaijan to the world community as a democratic state. From then on, no one in the world could speak of Azerbaijanis as a nation of religious fanatics-fundamentalists - whose culture is alien to universal values.
However, during the year in power, there was much that we failed to do. There were many mistakes and miscalculations. No doubt, there were certain objective factors due to the Communist legacy and the war of aggression waged against Azerbaijan. But there were a lot of subjective factors, as well.
Economic reform was moving not as quickly and successfully as one would have liked. We were late with the distribution of land among farmers and the creation of farms (the draft law on the land reform given to the parliament in the) December of 1992 still has not been reviewed). All this led to negative consequences not only of and economic, but of a political nature, too.
Formation of the army was also not successful. Due to poor discipline and irresponsibility of the commanders, as well as the provocation's by certain forces both from within the country and abroad, we never managed to create a national army... We were not able to defend Kelbadjar.
Along with successes in foreign policy, one should admit that we were never successful in present Armenia to the world community as the aggressor state in the conflict. Nor could we create an effective administrative mechanism for the foreign service.
There were costly mistakes in "personnel policy". To be honest, we had little to choose from. Over 70 years of the Soviet socialism the mere notions of genuine education, honesty and professionalism were alien to our people; personal and social morale had undergone destructive distortion .
Nor could we establish the supremacy of law in society - and this generated very bad tendencies which were ultimately directed against our statehood.
We were ineffective in advertising our achievements and we could make a better use of mass media.
We could not convey to the people that for the sake of our independence we should all be more tolerant about the hardships of the wartime and the transitional period.
The executive discipline, especially when carrying out presidential decrees, was very weak.
And - we never managed to restructure our law enforcement bodies. Though building anew would have been better. Here, too, there were serious mistakes in the personnel policies. The deeply-rooted corruption continued in our time, too.
However, not only the above mentioned factors made the democratic regime fall. Those problems were mostly caused by the following objective circumstances over which we had very little control.
a) Objective difficulties in the economic restructuring:
These were, in the first place, caused by the general crisis of the Soviet socialist economy. Besides, as enterprises were granted more freedom and old economic ties both between the New Independent States and within Russia were broken, the industrial output took a sharp fall. It was only natural that, as with any reform, economic reform wreaked havoc on the industry. For Azerbaijan, with then nearly 400,000 refugees and territories seized by the Armenians , difficulties during the transitional period were especially acute.
b)Objective reasons for military failures:
If in Armenia the formation of the Army started in 1989, we began the process three years later, in 1992. We had vast shortage of officers and military experts. That is, the number of Armenian officers in the Soviet Army could not be compared with the number of Azeri officers. In my opinion, the main reason for our military failures was the fact that Russia had always regarded Armenia as its strategic ally in the Caucasus. That is why they continued to support Armenia militarily, diplomatically and economically. Suffice it to say, even Russian media reports that 57% of the Armenian budget was funded by the Russian aide.
A weak, or rather non-existent, Azerbaijani lobby versus the long-organized, wealthy and effective Armenian one, the political, financial and military support of Armenia by the Armenian Diaspora... These were important factors justifying the Armenian success.
c) Objective reasons for political instability:
The many years under the czarist power followed by the Communist Russia did not allow democratic traditions (like a multi-party system, alienation of individual and political human rights, change of power through free election, etc.) to form in the country.
The active interference by foreign states in the inner political processes, presence of an entire stratum of people who were trying to reclaim their lost privileges using foreign assistance, with government officials and opposition activists, lack of traditions of a normal political struggle - all lead, in the long run, to the fact that often political struggle went beyond law and violated stability in the society.
ON THE EVE OF THE MUTINY
In order to bring the political struggle under control channel, it was decided to hold parliamentary elections. With this aim, after numerous demands by the president, the consideration of the issue was at last put on the agenda for the parliamentary session.
As the elections got nearer, the forces craving for power suddenly became very active. They did everything to weaken the defense of Kelbadjar. And in the beginning of April 1993 Kalbadjar was surrendered to the Armenian troops. However, the hope that the surrender of Kelbadjar would de-stabilize the situation and lead to the fall of the government was not realized. Having checked the Armenian offensive and introduced the Emergency Law, we managed to restore control of the situation.
The fact-finding commissions appointed by the president around that time (February - April 1993) to investigate the situation regarding the army uncovered many ordinance and financial violations that had brought the army to the verge of collapse. After the dismissal of the Minister of Defense, the commission ,which took over the Ministry, discovered that no inventory was taken of light and heavy weapons. Mismanagement had led to the squandering of military resources while hundreds of millions worth in state property was looted. High ranking officers used names of non A9existent persons to steal finances allotted to the Ministry.
The results of the fact-finding commissions were sent to the Procurator's Office. A criminal case was filed and proceedings were instituted against Deputy Minister of Defense Baba Nazarli and other high ranking officials of the Ministry. As the investigation continued, it became clear that more high-ranking officers were involved in the crimes.
In a special decree, I had to insist that the Procurator's Office (which did not take firm ground in this matter) would hasten investigation into the surrenders of Khodjali, Shusha and Lachin . Some time after the decree, the Procurator's Office reported during a parliamentary session that the investigation would soon be accomplished and that those who were to blame for the events would be named.
Having realized that there was no way of escaping the responsibility, the officers who stepped on the path of treachery and criminal enrichment started to look for the ways out of the situation. That is why they began to gather around Surat Huseynov who refused to submit to the Government - in him they saw the person who would protect them.
After Rahim Gaziyev's removal from office, we continued the formation of the army with renewed vigor. We invited military experts who started to work very seriously. The spring draft to the National Army resulted in a 100% enlistment. I issued a special decree forbidding the sending of eighteen-year-olds to the front unless they had undergone special military training. At last ,the Azerbaijani regular army to take shape, and our adversaries realized that it would be impossible to use it as a crutch for coming to power.
WHY THE GANJA MUTINY STARTED AND WAS SUCCESSFUL
In part, I have already stated the main reasons of the Ganja insurrection.
But I would like to dwell on it once again.
We were heading for economic and political independence, and this could not but cause deep concern in our neighbors. Russia and, partly, Iran were trying to do their best not to lose their positions in Azerbaijan.
Contracts with Western oil companies were to be signed in the beginning of Autumn 1993. On June 30, during an official visit to Great Britain, the President of Azerbaijan was to sign the agreement on economic cooperation. The contract on the construction of the pipeline and transport communications from Central Asia to Europe through the territory of Azerbaijan was almost ready for review.
The diplomatic efforts that we were taking within the UN and CSCE resulted in the peaceful plan of the withdrawal of Armenian troops from Kelbadjar by June 15, and this schedule was signed by all parties involved. This would have put an end to hostilities and started the peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. All these would have ensured our political and economic independence. And from this standpoint, one should not regard as coincidence the timing of the insurrection of the Ganja military unit.
One of the main goals of the insurrection was to prevent our oil contracts with the West from being signed. Both Russia and Iran were trying to prevent this because the oil pipeline that was to go through the territory of Azerbaijan would have helped Azerbaijan as well as other Central Asian republics to get out of the Russian influence. There are many facts confirming the direct participation of Russian and Iranian military and political circles in the preparation and realization of the insurrection.
As to the internal reasons of the Ganja events, it was an attempt to restore in Azerbaijan the power of the Communist nomenclature. As it turned out, the demand in the beginning of 1993 of 150 "peoples deputies" to convene the session of the dismissed Supreme Soviet was only the first step in this direction.
THE RESULTS OF THE MUTINY
We had warned about the consequences of a possible insurrection. It is enough to say that while in our time Agdere and Geranboy were liberated and Kalbadjar was lost, five districts were surrendered to the Armenians over the first two months of the new government: Agdam, Agdara, Fizuli, Jabrail, Gubadli and later Zangelan. Today, the Armenian armed forces hold control over 161 km of Azerbaijan's border with Iran.
The Ganja insurrection created a real threat to the interests of Azerbaijan. It brought to a halt the movement towards the independence of Azerbaijan. The September 3 session of the Milli Majlis demonstrated the orientation of the new government. Obviously, loathing the "justice of history", Heydar Aliyev placed all the responsibility for bringing Azerbaijan back under Azerbaijan's power on the Parliament. Having asked the parliament for more powers (!), he started negotiations with Russia about it. This was another crime committed by the Communist bloc of the Parliament in the array of misfortunes that had befallen the Azeri people.
The crisis in the society and the occupation of our lands after the Ganja insurrection were very adeptly used by the new leadership to drag the republic into the CIS. Doing that, the new leaders could not understand that our situation was not linked with our membership in this organization. It was only the issue of our returning to Russian control, accepting Russian political and economic demands that infringed upon our sovereignty, and Russia did not care much if it happened within the CIS or not. Moreover, the recently-negotiated deployment of the Russian border troops along our borders with Turkey and Iran is a dangerous step in this direction.
Even during our worst periods we did not recognize the self-proclaimed government of Nagorno Karabakh as an equal party in international negotiations on the settlement of the conflict. Today, in order to strengthen their position, the new leadership has made every concession to the separatists: high ranking figures are authorized by the head of the government to sign agreements with the "Minister of Foreign Affairs" of Nagorno Karabakh.
As a result of the insurrection, today there exists a threat that Azerbaijan might recognize the structure created by the Armenians of Qarabag - with its own parliament, army and independent foreign policy.
Today, Azerbaijan is getting further and further from the West, the mutual understanding and business ties with the world's democracies (which were so hard to establish) are being ruptured. Russia is authorized to decide the fate of Qarabag. All these make null and void the hard-earned achievements of independent Azerbaijan.
We stick to the opinion that the Qarabag conflict can have its fair settlement only within the CSCE framework and if a decision is taken today that would infringe upon Azerbaijan's sovereignty, it would only lay basis for future conflicts. I am sure that the people of Azerbaijan will never agree to the loss of its own land.
Sooner or later, people will know the truth about the recent events and the true face of the persons craving for uncontrolled power. Even now a lot of people are beginning to see things clearly. And those who place traps for us will themselves be caught in them.
Certainly, the facts stated here are but a small part of what happened over a year, over the short but still historically notable period of the life of the country. Time will pass and new details will enlighten the picture of what has happened, enabling us to realize the causes of gains and losses of this second attempt in this century to build an independent and democratic Azerbaijan.
NEW PHASE, NEW TASKS
Notwithstanding our present loss, I can still state that our strategic course towards independence and democracy and liberal reforms is the only right direction that meets the interests of the people of Azerbaijan. And those who doubt Azerbaijan's ability to achieve these goals will very soon realize their mistake.
In answer to those who take part in the campaign to slander us and the Azerbaijani people on a whole, I would like to cite an extract from the report of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development issued in March 1993:
"Regarding all the work done in the movement towards the market economy, regarding the level of the development of the multi-party system and democracy, economic potential and mentality of the population, Azerbaijan ranks first among all the republics of the former Soviet Union which have already started economic reforms..."
At this stage, we could not accomplish the formation of an independent Azerbaijani state. The level of our society did not permit us overcome the hardships of both economic reforms and the war.
However, we managed to lay the foundation for a self-governed civil society which is the cornerstone of an independent democratic state.
One should not think that the case is hopeless. No matter how hard it is for us to take our loss, believe me, it is only temporary. The democrats of Azerbaijan should mobilize their strength and help people regain their lost faith in the possibility of our independence.
The promotion of education and enlightened democratic ideals
- supremacy of human rights, pluralism and humanitarian values
- should become our major tasks.
The democratic movement should stand firmly guarding the independence we have. All political means available should be used to avert possible steps by the present government that harm the sovereignty, territorial integrity and economic interests of Azerbaijan. We should not allow them to avert our country from the path of democracy and push it again into the abyss of totalitarism.
I believe that there is no alternative to an independent and democratic Azerbaijan.
Copyright © 1993 by Abulfaz Elchibey.
Used with exclusive permission from the author.
English translation copyright © 1996 by Hikmet Hadjy-zadeh.
Copyright © 1996 HTML Version by Adil Baguirov for Virtual Azerbaijan Page.
All Rights Reserved.