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Azerbaijan Modern History

Azerbaijan, which has been a Soviet republic since 1920, proclaimed independence shortly before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. After two years, former Communist leader Heydar Aliyev (Heydər Əliyev) took power and ruled until 2003, when he was replaced by his son Ilham Aliyev. Their rule has been authoritarian and the opposition has been suppressed. The conflict with neighboring Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region has been ongoing since the early 1990s.

After World War II, new industrial cities such as Ali Bayramlı (now Şirvan) and Sumqayıt were built, but the standard of living in Azerbaijan was among the lower in the Soviet Union. The Communist Party still had all the power and regime critics lived dangerously. The tops of the local Communist Party could also end up in turmoil before the Soviet Party in Moscow. In 1959, for example, communist leaders in Azerbaijan were punished for corruption and nationalism.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Azerbaijan. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

From 1960 and twenty years onwards, the industry continued to expand, agriculture was reformed and infrastructure (roads, railways, bridges, etc.) developed. More and more people moved into the cities and Baku became a cosmopolitan city.

Heydar Aliyev was a young colonel who was a local KGB commander and became communist leader of Azerbaijan in 1969. More than ten years later he became a member of the Soviet Communist Party's powerful Politburo. However, Aliyev's deep involvement in corruption led him to be deposed in 1987 by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who had then begun his reform policy under three keywords: glasnost (openness in the press and political debate), perestroika (transformation of mainly economic life), and democratization (democratization). of political life).

Contemporary History of AzerbaijanAt this time, the political environment in Azerbaijan had begun to change. As elsewhere in the USSR, a new group of younger intellectuals began to hold on to nationalist values ​​and come up with ideas of independence.

Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh

In 1988, new life was revived in the old conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, located in Azerbaijan but largely populated by Armenians (see Conflicts: Nagorno-Karabakh). The Karabakh Armenians' request that the area be connected to Armenia was rejected in both Baku and Moscow. In 1989, Nagorno-Karabach was put under direct control from Moscow, but Armenia's leadership explained Nagorno-Karabach to part of Armenia.

In Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijan People's Front was formed in 1989, led by Abulfaz Eltjibej (übülfəz Elçibey). The public front emerged as a broad nationalist democracy movement with independence as the ultimate goal, and it opposed Armenian demands on Nagorno-Karabakh.

In January 1990, severe unrest occurred in Baku. Radical members of the Popular Front attacked the Communist Party's buildings. Later, Armenians were also attacked, of whom at least 60 were killed. Along the border with Iran, protesters demanded freedom of movement across the border. On January 19, Soviet troops entered Baku. The public front is temporarily injured.

Former Communist Party leader Heydar Aliyev had established himself as the leader figure in his home province of Nachichevan (Naxçıvan). From there, he supported the opposition to Azerbaijan's new communist leader, Ayaz Mutalibov (Mütəllibov).

In August 1991, some old communists tried to stop Gorbachev's reform policy and seize power in Moscow, but they failed. Instead, the coup attempt strengthened precisely the processes that the coup makers wanted to stop, that is, the collapse of the Soviet Union and a dissolution of the communist system.

After the coup, Azerbaijan's highest sovereign voted for independence. Mutalibov was elected president, but the election was boycotted by the opposition. Independence gained legal force on October 18, 1991, two months before the Soviet Union was formally dissolved.

Already in 1990 there had been an armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. The violence continued in 1991 with sabotage, murder and terrorism by semi-military groups from both sides. In a December referendum, which Azerbaijan labeled illegal, the Armenians voted in the enclave for full independence.

Azerbaijan artillery attacked Nagorno-Karabakh's "capital" Stepanakert, the enclave's autonomy was revoked and placed under direct presidential control. In 1992, however, troops from Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh together opened a land corridor between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. The fighting caused almost all Azeris to flee from Armenian-occupied areas both in Nagorno-Karabakh and around.

Aliyev takes power

National Front candidate Abulfaz Eltjibej won Azerbaijan's first free presidential election in June 1992.

The transition from the Soviet era's centralized plan-driven economic system to market economy became painful. Trade in the Eastern Bloc broke down and the industry as a result of age-old equipment and lack of know-how and capital could not compete on the world market. Production collapsed, both in agriculture and industry, and the standard of living fell. In addition, there were costs for the war on Nagorno-Karabakh and the huge streams of refugees caused by the war.

However, the economy had deteriorated, while the country would provide for hundreds of thousands of refugees. The Armenian successes on the battlefield created friction within the People's Front. Russia, which had first supported Azerbaijan, switched to assisting the Armenians with weapons. In the summer of 1993, Colonel Surət Hüseynov, dismissed by Eltjibej, with his troops began marching towards Baku to oust the president. As Eltjibej fled, the old communist leader Aliyev took the opportunity to proclaim himself president. After Hüseynov took Baku, he and Aliyev agreed to share power, with Hüseynov as prime minister. Later in the year, Aliyev won the presidential election, boycotted by the People's Front.

The coup in Baku further weakened the Azerbaijani resistance in the war. In May 1994, the parties agreed on an armistice. The war had then taken at least 25,000 lives and caused large streams of refugees on both sides (see Population and Languages).

The alliance between Aliyev and Hüseynov broke after just over a year. Hüseynov was dismissed and fled to Moscow while Aliyev took over as head of government.

Alongside high-level mutiny and political assassinations, in 1994 and 1995, clashes occurred between forces loyal to Aliyev and the Ministry of the Interior's elite police force Opon. The end was that Opon disbanded after a bloody storm of its headquarters.

New Azerbaijan wins elections

Before the November 1995 parliamentary elections, 38 parties registered, but 30 were ratified, accused of falsifying names on their member lists. Among the remaining were the Popular Front and the Independence Party. Aliyev's party New Azerbaijan won an overwhelming victory. The election result was dismissed by the opposition as manipulated.

The 1994 ceasefire in the war on Nagorno-Karabakh and increased political stability under President Aliyev created better conditions for the economy. A stabilization and reform program started in 1995 in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had favorable effects. From 1996, GDP began to rise again slowly and the previously soaring inflation fell.

Before the 1998 presidential election, New Azerbaijan led an informal alliance in support of the president, and Aliyev won by more than 75 percent of the vote. The main opponent Etibar Mammadov (Məmmədov) from the Independence Party got 12 percent. Foreign observers reported irregularities.

New Azerbaijan won, as expected, the November 2000 parliamentary elections, but with "only" 62 percent of the vote. At the top of the party's candidate list was the president's son, Ilham Aliyev. The election was severely criticized by the opposition, since only two opposition parties have entered parliament - the People's Front and the Muslim Mussavat. The election was also criticized by observers from the OSCE and the Council of Europe.

Son Ilham Aliyev becomes president

In August 2001, Heydar Aliyev revealed that he intends to run again in the next presidential election. This was done even though the Constitution did not allow a third term of office. 79-year-old Aliyev was unanimously nominated as his party's candidate. For safety, son Ilham was also placed on the candidate list.

A series of constitutional changes in 2002 further strengthened Heydar Aliyev's position. The most contentious change meant that the prime minister would automatically step down as president, should the incumbent president die or retire prematurely.

In August 2003, Parliament approved Ilham Aliyev as new Prime Minister. A few weeks before the October presidential election, Heydar Aliyev suddenly announced that he was refraining from running for health reasons.

The election was won by Ilham Aliyev, who is said to have received close to 80 percent of the vote, against 12 percent for Isa Gambar (İsa Qəmbər) from Müsavat. The opposition complained that voters and candidates had been subjected to threats and pressures, and foreign observers again reported on election fraud. Awesome demonstrations erupted on Baku's streets when the election results were announced.

Ilham Aliyev continued to rule in the same authoritarian style as his father. However, suspicions that the authorities could have something to do with the March 2005 assassination of a popular regime-critical journalist managed the new president to allow increased freedom of opposition during the important time leading up to the November parliamentary elections. Far more were allowed to register than in previous elections, including voluntary opposition politicians, but the election was nevertheless won by New Azerbaijan. Along with independent candidates who were expected to support Aliyev, New Azerbaijan gained a large majority of seats in Parliament. Both international observers and the opposition claimed that there had been electoral fraud.

The result triggered fierce protests that lasted for weeks on the streets of the capital Baku.

The authoritarian regime continued, while Azerbaijan's growing oil revenues slowly began to trickle down to broad population stocks. Within the country, support for the opposition seemed to decline as soon as possible, and the harsh media climate meant that even leading opposition politicians remained virtually unknown to many citizens.

Aliyev was re-elected president in 2008 with just over 87 percent of the vote, even then in elections heavily criticized by the opposition. After the election, he announced a referendum on constitutional amendments, which meant that he could be elected an unlimited number of times. The opposition boycotted the vote, which was held in March 2009. According to official figures, over 90 percent of voters had voted for the changes, but there were accusations of irregularities.

In the November 2010 parliamentary elections, the New Azerbaijan power party went ahead and received 72 of Parliament's 125 seats. Other mandates also went to parties and candidates loyal to the regime. No real opposition party came into parliament. According to the opposition, there were large-scale cheats, with ballot boxes that were packed full, voters who voted multiple times, police who prevented voting and election observers, voters who were threatened.

In 2011, members of the opposition party Müsavat, inspired by the revolts in Arab countries, tried to conduct protests against the regime. Each time the police struck quickly and seized several hundred people in total.

A large number of opposites faced trial and were sentenced to prison for two or three years. At the same time, the Parliament greatly increased the fines for people arrested during illegal demonstrations - regime-critical demonstrations are rarely approved.

In 2012, the outside world turned its attention to Azerbaijan for an unexpected reason. When the Eurovision finals, the European Melody Festival, was held in Baku, some foreign media took advantage of the opportunity to highlight the human rights deficiencies in the country. Opponents managed to conduct a non-sanctioned demonstration, but many participants were reported to have been arrested. In 2013, more than 40 people were also sentenced to long prison sentences for planning attacks in connection with the tune festival. The convicted were accused of having contact with Iran.

In 2013, it became a criminal offense to "abuse" the internet and spread "slander" over the internet. At the same time, Parliament extended the maximum period of "administrative detention" from 15 days to three months. "Administrative detention" is often used to keep opposition activists locked in without trial or judgment.

Alijev fell over

Before the 2013 presidential election, the government was accused by international human rights organizations of further intensifying the persecution of oppositionists. Alijev won as expected - with almost 85 percent of the vote, against 5.5 percent for opposition alliance National Council (Milli Şuras) candidate Jamil Hasanli (Cəmil Həsənlı).

Aliyev described the outcome as a "triumph for democracy" and promised to spend the next term in fighting corruption (see Political system). As usual, the choice of cheating accusations from the opposition and international observers was surrounded.

It was considered a bitter irony that Azerbaijan took up the post of President of the Council of Europe's Council of Ministers in May 2014, just two weeks after the Council of Europe's Human Rights Commission severely criticized the country for its constantly deteriorating freedom of expression, assembly and association.

In 2015, the sharp fall in oil prices began to affect the economy. The central bank wrote down the value of the country's currency, urged, with prices rising during the year, which triggered nationwide protests in 2016. In several cities, the police turned down protests with tear gas and seized participants.

 
 

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