The picture 26 years ago: chaos and anarchy, a deep political and economic crisis, civil confrontation, instability and despair…
The picture today: a properly working state and administration mechanism, dynamic social and economic growth, unity between people and government, strong stability and confidence in future…
See where we have come over the past 26 years: there is no other country in the world that has grown so much as Azerbaijan.
Nature has seasons like winter and spring. Countries and peoples also face stages that resemble spring or winter in their lives. Azerbaijan was living a cold winter of its history in the warm summer of 1993. We tried to briefly describe in our opening notes the picture in the country, which had restored its state independence just two years before. As for the details, I don’t think they matter. It is enough if the witnesses of those scary days refresh their memories.
The people of Azerbaijan were lucky in that they had a great son like Heydar Aliyev. In those fateful days, the people showed wisdom to invite their genius son to political power. It marked a transition from winter to spring and pale hopes started to blossom.
The great leader, who was elected President on 3 October 1993 and started to execute his authorities one week later by taking an oath of loyalty to his motherland, people and statehood, managed to overcome difficult obstacles by enduring countless sufferings. Invincible Heydar Aliyev succeeded in bringing Azerbaijan from a wavy sea to a calm harbor thanks to his iron will, determination, wisdom and innate talent of statesmanship. Stability, which was a key prerequisite for reconstruction, was ensured.
Year 2003. The people of Azerbaijan again showed wisdom to elect the worthy successor of the great leader, Ilham Aliyev, their leader and the country stepped into a qualitatively new stage of development. From the very first day in power, President Ilham Aliyev declared that Azerbaijan would follow the path of Heydar Aliyev because this path had no alternative. Azerbaijan, which has changed enormously, presents its brands to the modern world and is recognized as an island of safety, is here as a brilliant example of the triumph of political succession. I would like to share my thoughts and refresh memories as a living witness who has seen Azerbaijan’s progress over the past 26 years. I will talk about the most memorable moments of Azerbaijan’s spring, in which every month and every year is a saga.
Heydar Aliyev rose into Azerbaijan like the sun
In those days, Azerbaijan was like a dark world both figuratively and literally. Electricity was available only for few hours in most places and entire towns and villages were in darkness at night.
There was no gas and no water… factories and plants did not work. Four-digit inflations made people go bankrupt overnight.
The public purse was empty. There was war, separatism and civil confrontation on the other side.
Heydar Aliyev rose into Azerbaijan like the sun in this hard and complicated period. He brought the country an air of spring, warmness and light by coming to power.
It was probably my good luck that I was taking part as a correspondent of AZERTAC in the first meetings of the great leader with a group of intellectuals at the Academy of Sciences and ambassadors of foreign countries on 11 June 1993. Starting that time, I was entrusted to cover all the meetings and events held by Heydar Aliyev, as well as his foreign visits. Besides being the most unforgettable years of my life, that period of my journalistic activities gave me an opportunity to watch closely the grandiosity of this genius personality and his unprecedented activities for the sake of his country and people.
I remember well that great leader Heydar Aliyev was speaking with a pain in his heart about the difficult situation in the country at his first oath taking ceremony on 10 October 1993 and said: “The people of Azerbaijan are living the most complicated and tragic period of their history. I deeply realize the responsibility of this post on me and I would like to assure that I will devote all my activities and all my life to justify this confidence and the hopes of the people”. Time has proven many times that it was true.
While writing this article, I came across an interview given by national leader to a Russian newspaper when he was still the chairman of the Supreme Soviet. Replying to the question on dreams, Heydar Aliyev says: “When I was young, my first dream was to become an architect. I even studied a little to become one. But then I had to give up this dream although it is still in my heart. By the way, I did quite a lot for urban construction when I was the leader of Azerbaijan.”
Another question from the correspondent: “What is your first dream now?”
Heydar Aliyev replies: “I have no dream except prosperity and peace for my people. I have dedicated all my being and all my power and capabilities to this cause”.
Although Heydar Aliyev was not a professional architect by training, he built and created national statehood as a subtle architect. He did his best to put his people into prosperity and peace. His political successor Ilham Aliyev lives with the same mission. He is taking Azerbaijan to a brighter future in the light of the ideas of the great leader.
People supported succession in politics by electing Ilham Aliyev their leader
The people of Azerbaijan made another historical choice in October 2003. The new leader of the new century, President Ilham Aliyev came to steer the government after winning 76,8 per cent of the votes as a result of this choice, which came from great confidence in the political course of the great leader.
The 16 years since then have entered into our newest history as a period of unprecedented progress and fundamental reforms in all the areas of life. Azerbaijan is a leader country in the post-Soviet area due to the indictors of socio-political stability and economic competitiveness. This period is also characteristic of macroeconomic stability, economic growth, dynamics of social security, efficiency of public administration and other important factors.
Please, compare the theses in the speech by President Ilham Aliyev at his oath taking ceremony 16 years ago in October 2003 with the real picture of today. This comparison sets forth the realities of life and the unity of words and deeds without any comments:
– Azerbaijan will follow the path determined by great leader Heydar Aliyev…
– we will continue the oil strategy of the great leader and we will comprehensively develop our country in a short time…
– a strong army has been created in our country and this process will continue…
– I believe in the happy future of Azerbaijan. I am sure that our country will further develop, will become stronger and will turn into a modern state…
Now, let’s return and have a look at nowadays. All the areas without any exception have been developed and are developing in our country. Azerbaijan has turned into a rich and powerful state thanks to the successful continuation of the oil strategy. According to international ratings, the Azerbaijani army is among the most powerful armies of the world today. As for the scale of the reforms, the World Bank included Azerbaijan in the list of the most reformist 20 countries in its report.
Our President himself is the initiator of most projects and reforms underway in the country. “ASAN Xidmət” which is in the realm of interest of the entire world, is his idea.
Being a charismatic leader with modern mindset, who takes right and timely decisions, President Ilham Aliyev is also notable in his activities for the unity of words and deeds. We can bring enough examples to prove it.
In a nutshell, the past 16 years have been written down in our history as the chronicle of the magnificent triumph. Other key milestones, which are the glory of Heydar Aliyev’s policy, such as the signing of the New Contract of the Century, Azerbaijan’s improved reputation in the world, continuous implementation of transnational energy and transport projects, release of three satellites into the orbit, provision of the freedom of expression and press take a special place in this chronicle.
The fact that Ilham Aliyev gained more than 85 per cent of the votes in the last presidential election is indicative of the people’s great confidence in their leader.
The road from the Contract of the Century to the New Contract of the Century
The national leader signed the Contract of the Century, which was the turning point of the country’s economy, while his political successor Ilham Aliyev signed the New Contract of the Century, which promised greater dividends for Azerbaijan. If we draw parallels between these two historical events, what can we see?
Azerbaijan was considered to be a very risky country in 1994. It was required to convince foreign investors that investing in the oil fields of the Caspian Sea was not useless. Trust and confidence in the personality of Heydar Aliyev played a decisive role in this issue. The foundation of economic and social growth was laid with the Contract of the Century. The State Oil Fund was set up to use oil revenues efficiently for the interest of the people and the future of the country. Comfortable and wide roads and bridges were built, settlements for refugees and internally displaced persons were constructed and opportunities were created to carry out some other measures for the well-being of the people at the expense of the revenues accumulated in the Fund.
A contract on the extension of the mentioned contract until 2050 was signed on 14 September 2017. Azerbaijan was not that country which existed 23 years ago and was recognized as a stable country and a reliable partner. Therefore, it became possible to substantially change the provisions of the contract in our favor; SOCAR’s share in the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli fields was brought from 11,65 per cent to 25 per cent, moreover, the partner companies made a commitment to pay a bonus of 3,6 billion US dollars to the State Oil Fund.
At this point, we can remember one idea national leader Heydar Aliyev articulated at his oath taking ceremony 26 years ago. Mentioning that the economy of the country had been totally destroyed and the situation of the people had deteriorated, Heydar Aliyev was saying wisely: Azerbaijan’s geographic and political location and natural resources allow the republic to get out of this heavy crisis.
The oil strategy, which was designed with great sagacity at that time, has been enriched with a new content in line with the challenges of the time thanks to the political will of President Ilham Aliyev and it is serving the well-being of our people.
The world reinvented Azerbaijan
As I mentioned above, I was lucky to accompany President Heydar Aliyev in most of his foreign visits from 1993 to 2002 as a journalist. He took a map of the world every time he had a visit. He used to open the map, show where Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh were situated and gave explanations with a great deal of patience during meetings at different levels. Let’s admit that the world didn’t know us well at those times. Most of those who knew Azerbaijan did it for Heydar Aliyev and it is an undeniable truth.
Then, the Contract of the Century, which was signed with 11 foreign oil companies, made a noise in the world. As the years passed by, Azerbaijan’s voice started to be heard louder from reputable international tribunes. Finally, the world reinvented Azerbaijan, and its weight and reputation in the international arena started to rise every year as a result of President Ilham Aliyev’s successful foreign policy based on the national interests.
It is enough to remember only two of the many facts which testify to this process. Azerbaijan was elected a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council with the support of 155 countries and was admitted as a member to the Non-Aligned Movement represented by 120 countries in 2011. The 18th summit of heads of state and government of the Non-Aligned Movement is going to take place in Baku on 25-26 October and Azerbaijan will chair this reputable international organization in 2019-2022.
The number of countries which support our right position on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been increasing thanks to our president’s continuous efforts and consequent and flexible political moves. The view and position of the world on this conflict has significantly changed despite the fact that the Armenian propaganda machine works with full capacity and the Armenian lobby has strong means of influence on governments and parliaments. Now time works for us. Now the world is talking about Ilham Aliyev’s fierce statement to the leader of occupying Armenia and valid response to Pashinyan’s rave at the annual session of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi, Russia: “Karabakh is a historical and original land of Azerbaijan. So, Karabakh is Azerbaijan and an exclamation mark.”
We again witnessed the increasing interest of foreign businessmen and investors in Azerbaijan in the person of President Ilham Aliyev at the Davos Economic Forum this year: leaders of most globally reputable companies longed for meeting with our head of state and made beneficial proposals of cooperation with our country.
The thoughtful speech of our head of state at the annual session of the Valdai Discussion Club on the topic “The Dawn of the East” can be the latest example of his diplomatic proficiency. Being situated at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, Azerbaijan makes a maximum use of its geopolitical location and this has become possible due to the purposeful policy and titanic activities of our president, who has thorough knowledge of international relations.
How has the Azerbaijani army come to be among the 50 most powerful armies of the world
Almost nothing was done to build an army in Azerbaijan, which was in the state of war, in the two years after restoration of independence. There was no trace of a regular army subordinate to the central command when the great leader returned to power. Individual armed groups were not able to defend the country from the aggression of the enemy and we were losing our lands and entire regions one after another.
Let’s pay attention to two theses in the oath taking ceremony of the great leader in October 1993 and the oath taking ceremony of Ilham Aliyev 10 years later.
Heydar Aliyev: “The Republic of Azerbaijan must have an army capable of defending itself as an independent state. Unfortunately, very little has been done in this area over the past period since independence. It is our main duty to create a powerful army to restore Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and defend the republic.”
Ilham Aliyev: “The national leader did great work to build an army in Azerbaijan. A powerful army has been created in our country and this process will go on. This issue will always be in my focus. Azerbaijan must have a very strong army. It should be able to resolve all the challenges ahead.”
Succession in politics has allowed for achieving this important target, as well. The words were complemented with deeds. The military spending has risen 15 times since 2013. The army has been supplied with most state-of-the-art weaponry and military equipment. More than 20 military plants have been constructed in recent years at the initiative of President Ilham Aliyev. These plants manufacture 1200 types of military products. Here is the result: the Azerbaijani army is now among the 50 most powerful armies of the world. As our head of state put it, Azerbaijan is one of the rare countries in the world in terms of military logistics and supplies.
We saw in April 2016 and May 2017 that the Azerbaijani army is capable of carrying out any combat task. A total of 2,000 hectares of land in Fuzuli, Jabrayil and Aghdara districts and 11,000 hectares of land in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic were liberated following the successful military operations of our army. Both the enemy and the world saw the strength of the Azerbaijani army.
Dynamic economic growth, transnational projects and revolutionary reforms
According to statistics, there is no second country which has developed so much as Azerbaijan in the last 16 years. It is an open secret that the renovation of infrastructure, the well-being of people and army building are, first of all, dependent on economic power. The foundation of Azerbaijan’s economic growth was laid with the Contract of the Century, which our great leader achieved with strenuous efforts.
Since we talked about it above, we would like to bring one fact only: when Ilham Aliyev was elected president in 2003, the State Oil Fund had just 800 million US dollars. Today, the assets of the Fund are close to 43 billion US dollars. Azerbaijan has gained more than 143 billion US dollars in revenues since 2001 from the project of development of the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli oil and gas fields block.
Of course, it is not only about money, but also about purposeful and efficient use of oil revenues. There are some countries rich with oil, but they live in poverty.
As for our country, the key advantage of the modern oil strategy is about spending revenues on the diversification of the economy and social progress and turning the oil capital into the human capital. We can see the results of this wise policy in every corner of our country and every area of life – in the renewed face of Azerbaijan. Every citizen can see and feel it in his everyday life.
The number of appeals to the “ASAN Xidmət” centers, which was designed to simplify the life of people and eliminate bureaucracy and corruption, has exceeded 33 million. Only this year, minimum salaries were almost doubled and minimum pension was increased by 70 per cent. The package of revolutionary social reforms initiated by President Ilham Aliyev has positively affected the budgets of more than 4 million people.
The scale of gas supplies to households in our country has reached 95 per cent (it is a rare indicator in international practice). Once unable to supply itself with electricity, Azerbaijan now exports electricity to the countries of the region. Roads with a total length of 15,000 kilometers, more than 440 bridges, 4 new metro stations, the biggest international sea trade port in Baku’s Alat settlement, more than 3,200 newly built or renovated schools and about 650 healthcare facilities are just an incomplete list of the infrastructure projects over the past 16 years.
The transnational projects implemented under the leadership of Ilham Aliyev have a scale to change the energy and transport map of the world. These projects, which started with the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan main export pipeline founded by our national leader Heydar Aliyev in 2002, have been complemented with the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline, the South Gas Corridor and the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project. Work has almost been completed in the Azerbaijani parts of the North-South and East-West transport corridors.
Finally, another important point: Ilham Aliyev has included Azerbaijan into the rank of a handful of space-faring nations. Now, we have three satellites in the orbit, while once we could only dream about it.
As can be seen, succession in politics is turning legends and illusions into a reality.
Green light to pluralism of thoughts, freedom of expression and press
The national leader declared in the days of crisis in October 1993 that Azerbaijan would take the path of democracy and said: “Our way is towards democracy. A democratic and law-based state should be built in independent Azerbaijan. The state of Azerbaijan must function on the basis of democratic principles and must follow the path of democratic state building, benefiting from its historical and national traditions and making an efficient use of global democracy and universal values. This is our path and I again promise to you that we will follow this path.”
We, as pressmen, are witnesses of the efforts made by our national leader, as well as President Ilham Aliyev, to ensure freedom of expression and press and pluralism of thoughts, which are the main principles of democracy.
The total number of the media – news agencies, newspapers and magazines, TV and radio stations in the country is more than 5,000 and the number of internet portals is more than 20,000. A total of 80 per cent of the population is internet users and about 3 million people use social networks. There are 70 nationwide satellite, regional, cable and internet TV channels in Azerbaijan.
AZERTAC, which has a special place in the country’s media, has always felt the attention and care of our national leader and his political successor Ilham Aliyev, too. Now, AZERTAC has 22 correspondents abroad. AZERTAC prepares and spreads through its own channels 600-650 pieces of news in 8 languages every day. We have concluded official agreements of cooperation with about 50 news agencies of the world. Every year, the electronic resources of the regional and international entities, in which we have membership, and foreign agencies and media outlets, which we cooperate with, carry more than 15,000 news stories, photos and videos of AZERTAC. Against the background of these achievements, we remember very well one recommendation by our national leader to us: Try to get into the information space of the world and become members of international media entities. This will open up good opportunities to spread the truths of Azerbaijan to the world.
Once we were dreaming about becoming members of international media entities. But time has come and AZERTAC started to be represented in the management boards of those entities. Under the patronage of esteemed President Ilham Aliyev, with the support of the first lady Mehriban Aliyeva and with the organization of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and AZERTAC, Baku excellently hosted key forums of two prestigious international organizations – the 5th News Agencies World Congress (NAWC) and the 16th General Assembly of the Organization of Asia Pacific News Agencies (OANA) in 2016. AZERTAC was elected as chair of both organizations. Thus, Azerbaijan’s name has gone down in the history of the world press…
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The examples and events, which testify to the triumph of succession in politics and its unprecedented role in the growth of Azerbaijan, are so many. I have mentioned only some of them. There is another significant factor, which stipulates this magnificent path of glory. We have seen political will, determination, wisdom and ability to take timely and right decisions in the person of Heydar Aliyev some time ago and Ilham Aliyev now. The people trust their leader, follow and support him. The unity between people and government, which is the guarantee of the successes, will further take Azerbaijan to new heights and new victories.
AZERTAC Chairman of Board
President of OANA
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