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Azerbaijan at the Crossroads of Eurasia

The Tumultuous Fate of a Nation Caught Up Between the Rivalries of the World’s Major Powers

Fazil Zeynalov

Modern Azerbaijan came into being in 1991 following a national struggle for the re-establishment of its independence, initiated long before the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is situated in a unique geographic location, at the crossroads of Eurasia and on the famous Silk Road that links Europe and Asia. It has been the stage of particularly rich historical events, testament to its ancient State traditions, the wealth of its cities, the violence of the imperial invasions. Today this secular country, facing war with Armenia, is central to the geopolitical stakes in the region, whether in terms of the international strategies of major powers or the geo-economic considerations of oil and gas exports to Europe. It has put in place a multi-faceted foreign policy and initiated political and economic reforms as it moves towards a better future.

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Chapter XII – Azerbaijan as part of tsarist Russia


Chapter XIIAzerbaijan as part of tsarist Russia

Following russia’s annexation of azerbaijan, the tsarist administration’s new policy in the region was built around its Christian dimension and sought to isolate Turkic-speaking Azerbaijanis, towards whom it adopted a reproachable attitude.1 During this period, an entire people was deprived of all of its political rights, condemned to ignorance by difficulties accessing education and reduced to the rank of servants, forgotten by the Emperor. The Russian administration’s main concern was to secure the unconditional obedience of the Azerbaijanis. This led its opponents to leave the territory of the Empire. Adil Ziyadkhanov points out that the people, maintained in the stranglehold of colonialism, were subjected to a long period of disappointments.2 This was a veritable national catastrophe.3 Efforts were made by intellectuals, who transmitted the ideas of the Enlightenment philosophers, to modernise the country, but they were unable to overcome the financial and political obstacles of their time. Then, the revolutionary movements of 1905 and 1917 created new opportunities and forced the tsarist regime to make certain liberal concessions. The intellectuals and politicians of Azerbaijan became politically organised and entered the political and cultural struggle to promote their cause, with the cooperation of wealthy oil barons who provided much-needed financial resources. They channelled their efforts into creating wider access to education, developing the press and reasserting their Azerbaijani identity. They chose to fight for national self-determination and take the destiny of their people into their own hands.

12.1. Administrative restructuring...

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