Address by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev
- Dear brothers and sisters.
Today, Azerbaijan celebrates the 100th anniversary of Great Leader Heydar Aliyev. As you know, 2023 was declared a “Year of Heydar Aliyev” by my Decree. From the beginning of the year to this day and until the end of the year, many events have been held and will continue to be held in our country and different countries. Azerbaijan reveres the memory of its prominent son.
I could have made this congratulatory address from Baku too. But I thought that I should be here today, I should be in Shusha, I should be in front of this building. Shusha is our Victory's symbol; Shusha is our Victory's crown. When Shusha was liberated from the occupation, the heroic Azerbaijani soldiers gave me a report about the liberation of Shusha from this square. The Azerbaijani flag was raised on the roof of this building, and the liberation of Shusha was the central part of our historic Victory. As you know, a day later, Armenia signed the act of capitulation.
Since the beginning of the year, many events and discussions related to the life and activities of the Great Leader have been held. At the same time, we must take advantage of these anniversary celebrations to clarify our outlook for the future. I have been in Karabakh and Eastern Zangezur since May 2, and many events have been held here. The groundbreaking of 10 villages has been made, and there have been many opening ceremonies. Having been here in Karabakh and East Zangezur for about 10 days now, I can see firsthand again that Karabakh and Eastern Zangezur are reviving, roads, bridges, tunnels, power plants, water reservoirs, schools, hospitals, residential buildings, mosques are being built, rebuilt or renovated, electricity transmission lines are being extended. The interests of the people of Azerbaijan are at the core of all this creative work.
Great Leader Heydar Aliyev's biggest dream wish was to see Shusha, Karabakh and Zangezur free. We have fulfilled his wish and that of all the people of Azerbaijan, all Azerbaijanis of the world.
Heydar Aliyev faithfully served his native people at all times. During Soviet Azerbaijan, in 1969-82, he led Azerbaijan from the most backward to the most advanced republic. The industrial and economic potential of independent Azerbaijan was established in those years. The personnel trained in those years contributed to the overall development of independent Azerbaijan and are still doing that today.
As a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and First Deputy Chairman of the Soviet Government in 1982-87, Heydar Aliyev always paid great attention and care to Azerbaijan. As a result of this care and attention, Azerbaijan was successfully developing in those years. The tragedies of the Azerbaijani people began after Heydar Aliyev had left the political stage. In 1987, less than two weeks after his resignation, Armenian nationalists and their patrons in the Soviet government raised the issue of withdrawing the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast from Azerbaijan and annexing it to Armenia. The tragedies of the Azerbaijani people began on that day.
Undoubtedly, if Heydar Aliyev had been in power, Armenian nationalists would never have dared to resort to such dirty deeds. Both the Armenian nationalists and the traitors represented in the then government of Azerbaijan joined their forces and conducted an ugly slander campaign against Heydar Aliyev. Heydar Aliyev's strength, wisdom and, in general, the Heydar Aliyev factor protected Azerbaijan like an umbrella. Although he stayed out of political activity, the Great Leader always lived with the interests of Azerbaijan, his heartbeat with Azerbaijan, and in difficult times for our people, after the tragedy of January 20, he raised our people`s voice of justice to the world. On January 21, he came to the permanent representative office of Azerbaijan in Moscow. He raised his voice, condemned this bloody act of the Soviet government and the leadership of the Soviet Union, and made a statement to the world about this massacre. I was there with him. I remember that day well. It was both a tragic day, but at the same time, it was a proud day. Azerbaijanis living in Moscow gathered in front of the permanent representative office. When Heydar Aliyev approached the building, it seemed like a corridor was opened before him. Although he was removed from all positions, an ugly campaign was carried out against him by the then-leaders of Azerbaijan in the Soviet media, he was always a great leader in the hearts of the Azerbaijani people.
After that historic speech – the collapse of the Soviet Union was still about two years away, and no one could have thought that the Soviet Union would collapse after two years, so that statement required tremendous courage, it required true patriotism – of course, after that statement, the repressive machine of the Soviet Union launched a massive attack against Heydar Aliyev. It was no longer possible for him to stay in Moscow. A few months later, in July 1990, he left Moscow for Baku, but the then leadership of Azerbaijan thought that even that was too much for him. His factor, his being a strong leader, seems to have worried them quite profoundly, and as a result of the pressure on him, he went to his hometown, Nakhchivan, and started living there.
Nakhchivan, too was going through hard times. Nakhchivan was in a complete blockade. In general, there were significant threats to the future survival of Nakhchivan. Just as the Armenians planned to seize Karabakh, they also planned to capture Nakhchivan. Invading Nakhchivan was a part of their plans. Heydar Aliyev protected Nakhchivan from invasion. The Armenian enemies were put back in their place, and Nakhchivan survived; even though it was under difficulty and blockade, it did not bend or break and remained standing.
The Nakhchivan period was of great importance for Heydar Aliyev's future activities. The people chose him as their leader, and this was a real celebration of democracy. The Azerbaijani government, both the communist and the so-called democratic authorities, tried their best to remove Heydar Aliyev from Nakhchivan. Nakhchivan could barely breathe under the blockade, but they were committing provocations, sending paratroopers to Nakhchivan and attempting a coup d'état. It was as if they wanted Nakhchivan to be occupied as well. However, the people did not allow that to happen. They closely united around their leader, and I want to say once again that it was precisely because of Heydar Aliyev's determination and activity that the lands of Nakhchivan were saved from the Armenian occupation.
The road to independence started from Nakhchivan. It was on the initiative of Heydar Aliyev that the tricolor flag of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was approved as the State Flag at the session of the Nakhchivan Supreme Assembly. The words “Soviet Socialist” were removed from the name of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, and the motorized rifle division, which was a military unit of the Soviet Union and then Russia, was removed from Nakhchivan. Heydar Aliyev left the ranks of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which he had served for many years, so the path to independence began in Nakhchivan.
At the same time, the modern political system of Azerbaijan is also associated with Heydar Aliyev’s name. The establishment of the New Azerbaijan Party in Nakhchivan in November 1992 and the election of Heydar Aliyev as chairman of the party led to the emergence of a modern political system in Azerbaijan since the New Azerbaijan Party was created as an opposition party to the incumbent anti-national government. The creation of this party, the New Azerbaijan Party, reverberated throughout Azerbaijan. There was an influx of people from different regions of Azerbaijan who wanted to join the party. In a short time, the New Azerbaijan Party became the leading political force in Azerbaijan, and it is still the case today.
Unfortunately, Azerbaijan's Karabakh problem remained unresolved. Those in power were only preoccupied with their personal interests. They were engaged in looting, robbery, arbitrariness, anarchy, and chaos, lands were being lost, and the then PFPA-Musavat government was selling fuel to Armenia. Look how much these people hated their own nation and resorted to these dirty deeds on such difficult days to fill their pockets. They even instigated a civil war to stay in power. Lands were lost, and Shusha was surrendered to the enemy due to national treason and betrayal in May 1992. Shusha is an impregnable fortress. Everyone knows that. They vacated Shusha precisely to come to power. A month after the occupation of Shusha, the PFPA-Musavat duo came to power and achieved their dreams. After that, our tragedies further increased. After the occupation of Shusha, Lachin was in great danger too, and ten days later, Lachin was also occupied. In April 1993, Kalbajar was also occupied, so a geographical link appeared between Karabakh and Armenia.
In this challenging period, the then government shed fraternal blood and instigated the civil war to stay in power and continue their looting. And the people stood up. The people wanted Heydar Aliyev and saw the way to salvation in the person of Heydar Aliyev. Heydar Aliyev, who came from Nakhchivan to Baku on popular demand in that difficult period, became the savior of the young independent state of Azerbaijan in the truest sense. Because our independence was lost, our lands were lost; separatism was emerging in different corners of the country, the country was on the verge of disintegration, and many armed groups had seized power or different government bodies in different directions. Arbitrariness, robbery, chaos, anarchy – this is what Azerbaijan was like in 1993. The younger generation can probably learn this from the books now. But those who witnessed that period remember those days too well and should never forget them.
The trust placed in Heydar Aliyev once again demonstrated the wisdom of the Azerbaijani people. Heydar Aliyev was elected President of the Republic of Azerbaijan in October 1993 by a large majority of votes. Serious reforms were launched immediately. Reforms were carried out in the political sphere, and all freedoms were guaranteed. The anti-democratic censorship introduced by the PFPA-Musavat duo was abolished. Azerbaijan opened its doors to the world, and international isolation ended. Although our lands were under occupation, the inept activities of the previous government created a perception in the world that it was actually Azerbaijan that was an aggressor. In other words, an enormous diplomatic effort was made to communicate the truth about Karabakh to the international community. International organizations adopted fair decisions and resolutions regarding the occupation, which strengthened our position.
The country’s future could only be associated with foreign investment. After all, the treasury was empty; inflation amounted to thousands of percent, the industry was paralyzed entirely, and even the oil and gas industry almost reached a standstill. Under such circumstances, attracting foreign investors to the country and convincing them required tremendous political skill. The Contract of the Century, signed on September 20, 1994, was another turning point. Today, 75 percent of the profit oil constitutes Azerbaijan’s share and strengthens our economy. The state of Azerbaijan did not invest a single manat in the Contract of the Century. However, 75 percent of the profit oil comes to Azerbaijan. Today, thousands of national personnel have been trained within the framework of the oil and gas operations carried out in cooperation with foreign companies. Today, 90 percent of the people working on implementing the Contract of the Century are Azerbaijani citizens, which we set as a condition when signing the contract. Personnel capable of working in any field have been trained. That gives us a tremendous competitive edge.
Of course, our internal and external enemies also understood that Azerbaijan had already embarked on a development path. They were not going to give up their evil deeds. Two weeks after the Contract of the Century had been signed, a coup attempt was staged in Azerbaijan. Again, the Heydar Aliyev factor and the people's confidence in him thwarted that attempt. More than one hundred thousand people gathered in Azadlig Square and voiced their support for their Leader while the elements involved in the military coup were crushed. The situation was about to stabilize when a second coup d'état was attempted in March 1995. This time the blow came from a different direction and shook our young state again. And yet, the people rallied around the Great Leader and did not allow that attempt to succeed either. In 1996, further attempts were made to destabilize the country, but they also failed. Only after that was stability in the truest sense of the word established in the country. We have maintained that stability ever since.
Stability is the main prerequisite of development and security. Today, stability has been disrupted in many countries worldwide. Wars, conflicts and clashes are taking place, dragging these countries backward. This is why everyone saw it clearly in the example of Azerbaijan that where there is stability, there are also peace and development. A strong leader is required for stability. The people of Azerbaijan chose a strong leader in the person of Heydar Aliyev, trusted him with their destiny and made no mistake. The people of Azerbaijan are wise, and they have repeatedly made the only right and wise decisions in the most challenging times.
Heydar Aliyev has made unparalleled contributions as President of the independent Azerbaijan. Today, Azerbaijan is successfully moving forward along the path he laid down. His activity here was broader than economic reforms. He played an immense role in the protection of national and moral values. He played a massive part in the upbringing of the younger generation in the spirit of patriotism. On his initiative, the first Youth Forum was held in Azerbaijan in 1996. Since then, Youth Forums have been held regularly. The youth liberated Karabakh and Zangezur, the youth of those years and those who have emerged in the last 20 years.
Heydar Aliyev was someone who was closely attached to his people. On his initiative, essential steps were taken to protect the Azerbaijani language. Relevant decrees were signed. Protecting the Azerbaijani language means protecting our national identity. Azerbaijani is a vibrant language, and Azerbaijan is the mother tongue of more than 50 million people worldwide. It is on the initiative of the Great Leader that the steps taken to protect our mother tongue are being continued, and this will always be the case.
Heydar Aliyev has made outstanding contributions to the field of army building. It was as a result of his activity that the regular army was created. Our financial resources were indeed limited at that time, and allocating sufficient funds to the army was impossible. Because the country's problems were severe, more than a million people were left homeless and lived in dire conditions. On the initiative of Heydar Aliyev, the first funds coming into the Oil Fund were spent on improving the living conditions of former IDPs. The first refugee settlement was built with those funds. Despite the shortage of funds, very serious steps were taken to build the army.
Today, Azerbaijan has become one of the transport hubs in Eurasia. I want to remind you that a prominent and prestigious international conference on the Europe-Caucasus-Asia International Transport Corridor was held in Azerbaijan on the initiative of Heydar Aliyev. It was in those years that the foundation of the project we refer to as the “Middle Corridor” today was laid – Europe-Caucasus-Asia. So the passage of this corridor through the territory of Azerbaijan was agreed upon in those years. However, some did not want that. Unfortunately, even today, some want to exclude Azerbaijan from this strategic project, but their dreams will remain unfulfilled.
Today, Heydar Aliyev's oil strategy allows us the opportunity to develop. It allows us to rebuild Karabakh and Zangezur. The Contract of the Century signed in 1994, and the Shah Deniz gas-condensate field agreement, signed in 1996, are our key economic drivers today. Everyone can see how vital Azerbaijani gas is today. The geopolitical importance of our country has significantly increased. Today, Azerbaijani gas is transported to six countries. If everything goes according to plan, the number of these countries will reach 10 within a year, and then it will cover an even broader geography. This both brings us income and increases our political weight and influence. The foundation of all this work was laid in those years. As a participant in all these projects, I know this very well. At that time, there were many myths and rumors about Azerbaijan's oil and gas potential, which still exist today. But life has shown that every single word we say has been materialized.
In other words, the Great Leader's contributions to Azerbaijan and its people are unparalleled, and we, his successors, follow in his footsteps. In 2003, in the run-up to the presidential election, I addressed the people and said that if they trusted me, I would remain loyal to Heydar Aliyev's policy. The people of Azerbaijan believed in me, and I have kept my word and will keep it in the future too. Almost 20 years have passed since 2003. These 20 years have been a period of rapid development and progress. Azerbaijan will only develop for many years to come. Our long-term strategy is very clear and underpinned by domestic resources. Following the path of the Great Leader, Azerbaijan has further strengthened its state independence. Today, there is a limited number of countries in the world that can conduct independent foreign and domestic policies in the literal sense of the word. Azerbaijan is among such countries; no external force can impact our determination. Because we have a strong will, a strong army, and at the same time, we have strong capabilities. Our financial resources and material situation allow us the opportunity to live at the expense of our own resources. We are rebuilding Karabakh and Zangezur at the expense of our own resources.
Independence is the greatest asset, the greatest blessing. Today, all of us, all Azerbaijanis, celebrate with pride that we live as an independent country in the truest sense. Security is guaranteed in Azerbaijan, and there is peace in Azerbaijan. There are wars, conflicts and confrontations in every part of the world today, and we see them daily. Azerbaijan is an island of stability, an island of security. This is a great asset, and the people of Azerbaijan know it very well because we experienced difficult times in the first years of our independence.
All freedoms in Azerbaijan are guaranteed. Azerbaijan is a democratic country. The people of Azerbaijan live freely. Representatives of all nations and all confessions live in Azerbaijan like one family. This is also an example for the world, and it is not just me saying this. This is acknowledged by many experts, politicians, statesmen, and heads of international organizations who are closely involved in this issue. This unique atmosphere strengthens our country today. Here in the center of the city of Shusha, where I am standing today, I want to say again that we are standing here at the cost of the blood and lives of all the peoples living in Azerbaijan. This is a great asset. But there are countries where there are conflicts and clashes on ethnic and religious grounds. There are countries where no representative of another nationality can live – take Armenia as an example. Look at Armenia – its population comprises Armenians by 99.9 percent. This number shows its fascist policy. However, there was a time when Azerbaijanis and representatives of other nationalities accounted for the majority of the population of present-day Armenia. Some European countries sympathetic to Armenia are overwhelmed by Islamophobia today. They adopt laws, commit dirty deeds against our religion, burn the Holy Quran and remain tight-lipped about that. In other words, by saying this, I want to stress again that our atmosphere is unique. This is our way of life, and, at the same time, this is our policy and our strength. It is the case today and will be the case in the future. Only in this case can we live comfortably and build our future.
Notice how much the international reputation of our country has enhanced. Today, Azerbaijan’s authority in international organizations is growing. We have been leading the world's second-largest international body, the Non-Aligned Movement, for almost four years. According to the general opinion, we are leading it with dignity. If this were not the case, our chairmanship would not have been extended by another year by the unanimous vote of 120 countries. Today, Azerbaijan has become an important country for Europe. We are a strategic partner with a third of the European Union member states – with nine countries. So our international positions are quite strong. We succeeded in having all the documents and resolutions we needed to adopt at the international level, which played a role in the successful conduct of the Second Karabakh War because we proved the truth. We aimed to prove the truth and succeeded – that this is our land. The land I am standing on is the land of Azerbaijan. We have created this legal and political framework thanks to our hard work in international organizations.
As for economic development, no other country in the world that developed as fast as Azerbaijan in the last 20 years. Our economy has increased more than three times. Our foreign exchange reserves have reached 65 billion dollars, and our foreign debt is slightly above 6 billion. So our foreign exchange reserves exceed foreign debt about 10 times. Foreign debt accounts for only 9-10 percent of our gross domestic product. In some countries that are eager to lecture us, it is 100 percent, perhaps even more. So what does this show? It shows that we do not depend on anyone and do not interfere in anyone's affairs. But we do not and will not allow anyone to poke their noses into our affairs, be it political issues, Azerbaijan-Armenia issues, or Karabakh, which is an integral part of Azerbaijan. We have not and will not allow anyone to do that. Our resolve and strength are in place to ensure this.
In parallel with this, in the last 20 years, following in the footsteps of the Great Leader, we have made tremendous progress in the social field; salaries and pensions have been regularly increased, settlements have been built for former IDPs, more than 300,000 former IDPs have been provided with new houses and apartments. And now we are building and will continue to construct houses for them in Shusha, Aghdam, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, Jabrayil, Kalbajar, Lachin, Khojavand, Hadrut, Aghaly, Talish and Sugovushan. As I mentioned, I spent the last few days in Karabakh and Zangezur, and the manifestations of our policy and decisions are visible everywhere. This is great happiness. Only two and a half years after the war, we have returned our former IDPs to two villages. As I mentioned, the foundations of 10 villages were laid in these last few days. Master plans of all cities have been drawn up, and large-scale construction is now underway in all cities.
Attaching great importance to advanced technologies, we have taken the correct steps calculated for developing high technologies in Azerbaijan. There are also issues of personnel capacity here, and at the same time, our investments – we have now become a space-faring nation. Azerbaijan has great potential for developing the space industry, and the future will be associated with this direction. Technologies from now on will decide everything. We must bring technologies and apply them in Azerbaijan. We must also create a strong personnel capacity to be the authors of these technologies ourselves.
Following the path of the Great Leader, one can talk about development and success in any field. Of course, all our work is based on a commitment to our national and moral values. Today, different trends are observed worldwide, and new values are emerging in different parts of the world. We build our future on a solid national and spiritual foundation by remaining attached to traditional values. This is how the younger generation should be brought up, and this is how we are bringing up the younger generation. The young generation should be attached to national and spiritual values, it should be attached to their literature, music, and art, and we see this. This is how we educate young people. We have brought up young people capable of putting a mountain on top of a mountain, and they did exactly that. The Second Karabakh War was a celebration of the indomitable spirit of the Azerbaijani people. We have raised such a young generation that, showing both high moral and physical qualities, liberated the lands that were occupied for many years, liberated an impregnable fortress of Shusha practically with light weapons and bare hands. What was driving us forward? Dignity and spirit!
Of course, we systematically worked on army building and are still doing that today. After the Second Karabakh War, we did not stop. On the contrary, we are still moving forward. Additions will be made to this year's state budget, and a large part of those additions is intended for military purposes. Why? Because we must always be ready. The threats and dangers are increasing, and we must be able to overcome every single threat. It is the case today. The Azerbaijani Army is among the most powerful armies in the world – both from the point of view of equipment and combat capability. Our army has been in the battle. Our army has shown its strength not in a parade but on the battlefield. During 44 days, not a single person took a step back. Not a single person was a deserter. This is what our army is. This is what our people are. Because the army is a part of the people, those who serve in the army are the people's children, the children we have raised. We have raised such wonderful children who defeated the enemy here in Shusha, drove the enemy out of our lands and raised our flag, a symbol of our pride, on this building and in all other liberated lands. Army building is provided at the required level today and will continue to be provided in the future.
Victory in the Second Karabakh War is our historic success and our historic Victory. This triumph will remain in history, in our hearts, memories, books and works for as long as Azerbaijan stands. It is a heroic saga. This is unprecedented heroism. For 30 years, Armenia, with the support of its patrons, fought day and night not to give these lands back to us. It also relied on geographical terrain. It relied on five, six, and sometimes seven lines of defensive fortifications and its patrons. They thought that we would come to terms with this situation. But I said no, we will not come to terms. I was saying this, and they should have listened to me. I said that we would come here sooner or later, throw the enemy out, raise our flag, and live in our native land. The Second Karabakh War showed the indomitable spirit of the Azerbaijani people to the whole world. This is what drove us forward.
As I mentioned, seeing Karabakh free was the primary dream of Heydar Aliyev and all Azerbaijanis of the world. We have fulfilled this dream, the dream of the people of Azerbaijan. November 8, 2020, will remain in history forever. On that day, after a military report on the liberation of Shusha was given to me from this square after our Flag was raised on this building, I visited my father's grave and said in my heart, “The mission has been accomplished. Reported by Supreme Commander-in-Chief Ilham Aliyev!” After that, I visited the Alley of Martyrs, bowed before the souls of our martyrs, and said in my heart that your blood did not remain unavenged.
Today, honoring the dear memory of the Great Leader, we must always live up to this Victory, each of us and everywhere. At the same time, this Victory puts additional responsibility on each of us. We must live up to this Victory, and I am sure it will be so.
Today, Karabakh is reviving, Zangezur is reviving, and we are building and creating in our native lands. We will successfully carry out the mission of restoring Karabakh and Zangezur. Just like we fulfilled the will of the Great Leader, liberated our native lands, and restored our territorial integrity. We established a border checkpoint on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border on April 23, raised the Azerbaijani flag there, and fully restored our territorial integrity. Our civilian mission will continue as well, and we will honorably fulfill the mission of restoring this beautiful land.
I am sure that the soul of my father is rejoicing today. The souls of all our ancestors are happy today, and we should always make their souls pleased with our activities.
Long live the people of Azerbaijan! Long live Azerbaijan!