Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 103

Azerbaijan marked yesterday the 80th anniversary of the creation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, which existed for two years before being conquered by Soviet Russia. Addressing a special session of the Milli Majlis on the eve of the anniversary, President Haidar Aliev described today’s independent Azerbaijan as a legatee of the 1918-1920 republic and a beneficiary of that period’s lessons. Aliev listed the primary achievements since 1991 as: the consolidation of independent statehood, attainment of internal stability, creation of the prerequisites for economic growth and prosperity, and a “balanced foreign policy”–implying the move from the Russian to the Western orbit. While referring to the Karabakh problem as tragic, Aliev vowed that Azerbaijan would continue observing the armistice and seeking a negotiated solution.

The opposition, whose representatives boycotted the parliamentary session, organized yesterday a 4,000-strong rally, the first of this size since 1993, when the current opposition was in power. Held in a Baku suburb near the monument to the 1918 republic’s founder, Mamed Emin Rasulzadeh, the rally featured speeches by describing Rasulzadeh as a leading figure of the “entire Turkic world.” Opposition leaders addressing the rally attacked Aliev’s rule as “despotic.”

On the same day, five top opposition leaders issued a joint statement threatening a boycott of the upcoming presidential election, unless the recently adopted law on the Central Electoral Commission is changed. The five leaders are: the country’s former President Abulfaz Elchibey, head of the Popular Front; Isa Gambar of the Musavat party; Lala Shovket of the Liberal Party; Ilias Ismailov of the Democratic Party; and former Milli Majlis Chairman Rasul Guliev, who now lives in the United States. The opposition has thus far been unable to rally behind one common candidate. (Turan, Russian agencies, May 28)

As if to underscore the importance of learning from history, Azerbaijan’s rival Armenia also observed yesterday the eightieth anniversary of the founding of the Armenian Republic. The celebrations in Yerevan had a marked military note, unlike those in Baku. President Robert Kocharian awarded medals to officers and volunteers from Armenia proper who fought in the Karabakh war. (Noyan-Tapan, May 28). Azerbaijan and Armenia fought each other in 1918-1920, allowing Moscow to play them off against each other until both fell under Soviet Russian rule. On May 26, On Georgia’s independence anniversary, May 26, the government had to cancel almost all the scheduled events because of the debacle in Abkhazia. (Prime-News, May 27)