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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 XV – The third Republic of Azerbaijan

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Chapter XVThe third Republic of Azerbaijan

History has demonstrated that all imperial enterprises ultimately disappear, confirming Jean Baptiste Duroselle’s prophecy that “all Empires must perish”.1 While the tsarist Empire, which was not a union voluntarily formed by its peoples but rather an artificial creation2, fell victim to the increasing awareness of its oppressed peoples, combined with the international context, its successor, the Soviet Union, was also unable to resist the liberal and democratic aspirations of the people. The perestroika and glasnost policies sent out strong signals that a totalitarian regime was ready to open up to the world, but they were not sufficient to overcome the economic challenges of the time and endow the communist ideology with fresh legitimacy.

Beginning in 1988, the emergence of national movements in most of the Soviet Republics quickly led to increased nationalist sentiment, a rejection of totalitarianism and the spread of democratic values. The demand for individual and collective “recognition”3 ultimately rattled the foundations of the USSR and undermined its unity. Nothing could stifle the independent aspirations of the people or halt the march towards independence. In the space of a few years, all of this led to the fall of an empire which the West had wanted to eliminate since the beginning of the Cold War, and also confirmed the national sovereignty of the Union’s members.

For the second time, Azerbaijan was independent but faced political instability, armed attacks from Armenia and a highly sensitive...

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