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Sep 2, 2012

Azerbaijan Marks 30 August 1991 Independence Day

In 1988, calls by ethnic Armenians living in Azerbaijan's Nagorno Karabakh (NK) region to be incorporated into the Armenian republic led to open conflict which lasted until 1994. This predominantly Armenian area had been unsuccessfully claimed by the Armenians in the 1920s, at the time of the creation of Soviet Azerbaijan. Inability to solve the NK conflict was one of the problems which ultimately brought down Mikhail Gorbachev and broke apart the USSR. Ethnic and civil violence in January 1990 prompted the occupation of Baku by Soviet armed forces and Moscow's replacement of Abdulrakhman Vezirov with Ayaz Mutalibov as republic head. During this period of martial law, the legislature elected Mutalibov as president in May 1990. Independence was declared on 30 August 1991, and Mutalibov was reaffirmed as president in a popular, uncontested election in September 1991.
In December 1991, NK's Armenians held a referendum (boycotted by local Azerbaijanis) that approved NK's independence and elected a Supreme Soviet, which on 6 January 1992, declared NK's independence and futilely appealed for world recognition. Following a late February 1992 massacre of Azerbaijani civilians in the town of Khojaly in NK, Mutalibov was accused of failing to protect Azeri citizens and forced by the nationalist oppositionist Azerbaijani Popular Front (APF) and others to resign as president. His replacement, legislative head Yakub Mamedov, was also forced to resign in May 1992, in the face of further Azerbaijani military defeats in NK. Mutalibov was then reinstated by loyalists in the Supreme Soviet, but he had to flee two days later, when the APF seized power. Former Soviet dissident and APF leader Abulfaz Elchibey, was elected president in a popular contest in June 1992.
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Item Reviewed: Azerbaijan Marks 30 August 1991 Independence Day Description: In 1988, calls by ethnic Armenians living in Azerbaijan's Nagorno Karabakh (NK) region to be incorporated into the Armenian republic led to open conflict which lasted until 1994. This predominantly Armenian area had been unsuccessfully claimed by the Armenians in the 1920s, at the time of the creation of Soviet Azerbaijan. Inability to solve the NK conflict was one of the problems which ultimately brought down Mikhail Gorbachev and broke apart the USSR. Ethnic and civil violence in January 1990 prompted the occupation of Baku by Soviet armed forces and Moscow's replacement of Abdulrakhman Vezirov with Ayaz Mutalibov as republic head. During this period of martial law, the legislature elected Mutalibov as president in May 1990. Independence was declared on 30 August 1991, and Mutalibov was reaffirmed as president in a popular, uncontested election in September 1991. In December 1991, NK's Armenians held a referendum (boycotted by local Azerbaijanis) that approved NK's independence and elected a Supreme Soviet, which on 6 January 1992, declared NK's independence and futilely appealed for world recognition. Following a late February 1992 massacre of Azerbaijani civilians in the town of Khojaly in NK, Mutalibov was accused of failing to protect Azeri citizens and forced by the nationalist oppositionist Azerbaijani Popular Front (APF) and others to resign as president. His replacement, legislative head Yakub Mamedov, was also forced to resign in May 1992, in the face of further Azerbaijani military defeats in NK. Mutalibov was then reinstated by loyalists in the Supreme Soviet, but he had to flee two days later, when the APF seized power. Former Soviet dissident and APF leader Abulfaz Elchibey, was elected president in a popular contest in June 1992. The nationalist government took several moves to cut its ties to Russia, including demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops, refusing to participate as a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, negotiating with Western firms to develop its oil resources, and improving relations with Turkey. However, military losses in NK increased. In 1993, Heydar Aliyev, who had been the Communist Party leader of the republic from 1971–85 but then was ousted and disgraced by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, began to press for Elchibey's dismissal. An abortive attempt by the Elchibey government in June 1993 to disarm paramilitary forces in the town of Ganja precipitated the fall of the government and provided the opportunity for Aliyev to regain power. These forces were led by Suret Huseynov, formerly in charge of troops in NK, who had been fired by Elchibey. Huseynov's forces, supplied with Russian equipment, defeated an Azerbaijani Army attack and began to march on Baku. His government in chaos, Elchibey invited Aliyev to come to Baku, and on 15 June, he endorsed Aliyev's election by the legislature as its new speaker. Elchibey fled to the Nakhchiveni Autonomous Republic (NAR) on 17 June. On 24 June 1993, a bare quorum of legislators met and formally stripped Elchibey of presidential powers, transferring them to Aliyev. Huseynov demanded and was given the post of prime minister. On 3 October 1993, Aliyev was elected president with 98.8% of the vote. The referendum and election were viewed as not "free and fair" by many international observers because of suppression of APF and other opposition participation. In late September 1994, police and others in Baku launched a purported coup attempt. Aliyev darkly hinted at Russian involvement. After defeating the coup attempt, Aliyev also accused Prime Minister Huseynov of major involvement, and Huseynov fled the country. Other coup attempts were reported in 1995 and 1999. All of the alleged coup attempts triggered mass arrests of Aliyev's opponents. On 11 October 1998, incumbent President Aliyev defeated five other candidates and was elected to a second five-year term, receiving over 76% of 4.3 million votes cast. The major "constructive opposition" candidate running was Etibar Mamedov of the National Independence Party (NIP), who received 11.6% of the vote. Most international observers judged the vote not "free and fair," citing myriad irregularities, though also noting that the election marked some improvement in political pluralism. Read more: History - Azerbaijan - issues, area, system, power h Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Ali Hasan
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