As Visions has been reporting throughout this year, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, the first parliamentary republic in the Muslim East that existed for 23 months between 1918 and 1920.
Given that defending its vulnerable borders was one of the ADR’s top priorities, one of the government’s first moves shortly after its proclamation of independence in Tiflis on 28 May 1918 was to create an army.
This it did on 26 June 1918 by assuming the Muslim corps of the short-lived Transcaucasian Commissariat which itself was largely made up of former members of the Caucasian Native Cavalry Division of the Imperial Russian Army. It was led by Aliagha Shikhlinski, a former lieutenant general in the tsarist army and at its peak consisted of some 30,000 men.
Sadly, the ADR, and hence its army, came to a premature end when the Bolsheviks brought Azerbaijan back under Russian sway on 28 April 1920, albeit under a new banner of socialism.
Nevertheless, today’s army is seen as the successor to that formed under the ADR, which meant that this year’s Armed Forces Day doubled as the centenary of the establishment of the Azerbaijani army.
It was marked by an impressive military parade in front of Government House on Azadliq Square featuring the latest innovations in Azerbaijan’s military arsenal – over 270 units of military equipment and 70 aircraft, according to the local press.
The parade was supported by airforce flyovers and naval manouevres from air and sea, all geared towards demonstrating the country’s battle readiness, particularly in light of Armenia’s continuing occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh.
It’s worth pointing out that the parade took place about a month after reports surfaced that the Azerbaijani army had retaken 11,000 hectares of occupied land bordering Nakhchivan and just over two years after the Four-Day War, in which Azerbaijan reclaimed strategic heights (an area comprising 2,000 hectares according to Azerbaijani sources) near the village of Jojug Marjanli.
Azerbaijan will never put up with this occupation. Azerbaijan must and will restore its territorial integrity. To do that, we had to create a strong army. I can say with full confidence today that we have managed to achieve this goal, said President Aliyev in his official speech, according to the Azerbaijan State News Agency, Azertaj.
Azernews reported that the parade’s participants included about 4,000 military personnel of the ministries of defense, internal affairs, emergency situations, State Security Service, State Border Service and Special State Security Service, as well as the parade staff of the Armed Forces of Turkey. Approximately one hundred foreign dignitaries were also reported to have attended.
In his speech President Aliyev also noted that the country’s military spending had increased 15-fold since 2003. Prior to this, in the early independence years Azerbaijan had been hampered by political instability and the conflict with Armenia, which had prevented the development of a regular army until the influx of foreign investment in the late 1990s and early 2000s helped the economy to surge.
As a result the Azerbaijani armed forces now possess cutting edge facilities and equipment – among the latter are new multi-purpose armoured tanks and vehicles and the latest anti-aircraft systems, artillery installations and missile systems. Moreover, the country is now producing its own military hardware, as well as importing from abroad.
The president gave the following reason for all this military spending: We are doing all this for the Azerbaijani army to become even stronger and for our military potential to grow further. We are doing this because we see that international law does not work, and the developments unfolding in the world confirm that. If it did, Azerbaijani lands would have been freed from the invaders long ago.
Money and machinery aside, President Aliyev also highlighted the growing spirit of patriotism among the country’s servicemen and servicewomen and the improving conditions of service in the army.
In the gallery above we present a selection of the best photos from the event courtesy of the Azerbaijani State News Agency, Azertaj.