Azerbaijan is among the areas of earliest human settlement, with evidence of human habitation since the Paleolithic age. Settlements engaging in agriculture and livestock-raising were widely distributed about this area in the seventh and sixth millennia BC. Rock paintings in Gobustan are dated by scholars to the XIII millennia BC.

The well-known Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, who made special trips to in 1979 and 1994 to study these rock paintings, believes that the shores of the Caspian Sea were the cradle of a civilization that then spread over water, southward and northward. Heyerdahl found support for his hypothesis not only in the Gobustan petroglyphs of reed boats, remarkably similar to those depicted centuries later by the Vikings on the walls of caves in Norway, but also in sagas written down in the middle ages. The Gobustan rock paintings of boats surmounted by an image of the sun also attest irrefutably to the ties between the early settlements of Azerbaijan and the Sumero/Akkadian civilization of Mesopotamia, whose cultural legacy includes very similar depictions.

The historical territories of Azerbaijan, bordered on the Great Caucasus from the North, the Alagoz chain, the basin of the lake Goycha and the Eastern Anatoly from the west, the Caspian Sea from the East and Sultaniye-Zanjan-Hamadan from the south, is a place of the primary cultures which gave the start to modern civilization. In those territories historically belonged to Azerbaijan people they established rich distinctive culture and the state system.

Sounding of 'Azerbaijan' regularly changed along the history. Historical sources reflect former names of Azerbaijan as Andirpatian, Atropatena, Adirbijan and Azirbijan.

The territory of Azerbaijan has been included into the map of 'The ancient settlers of the Europe'.

In the end of IV millennium BC and the early years of the III millennium BC, signs appear of the emergence of the first class societies, with a proto-urban civilization and embryonic state structures. It is at this time that the tribal alliances were formed of the Aratta, the Gutians and the Lullubites. According to Sumerian cuneiform sources, the first State to arise on the territory of historical Azerbaijan was the state of Aratta, which came into being in the first half of the third millennium BC in the area to the south and south-east of Lake Urmia. From about 2300 BC, the second State of ancient Azerbaijan sprang up in the area south of Lake Urmia - the state of Lullubum. The Gutian state was formed later in the second half of the third millennium BC in the area west and south-west of Lake Urmia. In 2175 BC, the Gutians conquered Sumer and Akkad and ruled over them for the next 100 years. The ancient states of Azerbaijan, which maintained political, economic and cultural ties with Sumer and Akkad and formed part of the wider civilization of Mesopotamia, were governed by dynasties of Turkic descent. The Turkophone peoples that have inhabited the area of Azerbaijan since ancient times were fire-worshippers and adherents of one of the world's oldest religions - Zoroastrianism. Over the period from the mid ninth to the seventh centuries BC, the Mannaean kingdom held sway in the area of Lake Urmia. The Cimmerian-Scythian-Saka kingdom flourished in the seventh and sixth centuries BC in the south-west of Azerbaijan. In the mid-sixth century B.C the Mannean kingdom was overthrown.

A vital role was played in Azerbaijani history by the kingdom of Atropaten, which came into existence in the southern part of the country in the 520s BC and which was heavily influenced by Hellenism.

The Caucasian Albanian state was created in the north of Azerbaijan in the end of IV and the early years of III millennium BC, with the river Araz as its southern frontier. The people of Albania included a number of different nationalities, most of which spoke Turkic languages. Christianity was adopted in Albania since 313.

Following invasion by the Arabs, the dominant religion from the early eighth century in Azerbaijan became Islam. Islam turned a strong push in the formation of unique people and the language and quickened this process.

In the middle of the 9th century Azerbaijan re-establishes its traditions of the state system and in the lands of the spread of Islam we see new states: Sajis, Shirvanshakhs, Salaris, Ravvadis, and Shaddadis.

In the period when separate feudal dynasties ruling Azerbaijan changed each-other, Islam played a prominent role in unification against foreign invaders of all Azerbaijan people, i.e. Turkic tribes, founding the base of our nation and non-Turkic ethnic groups integrated with them.

After Arabic Khilafet fell into decay since the mid of the 9th century Turkic-Islamic empires increased their role in the Caucasus, in all the Near and the Middle East. States ruled by such Turkic-Islamic dynasties as Sajis, Shirvanshahs, Salaris, Ravvadis, Shaddadis, Shaki governors, Saljugis, Eldanises, Mongols, Elkhanis-Hulakus, Chobanis, Jalayirs, Teymuris, Osmans, Garagoyunlus, Aggoyunlus, Safavis, Afshars, Gajars and others remained in the history of the state system of Azerbaijan, of the whole South Caucasus and the Near and the Middle East.

State system establishment of Azerbaijan progressed between the 15th and the 18th centuries and later. The great empires of the period Garagoyunlu, Aggoyunlu, Safavi, Afshar and Gajar were directly ruled by the Azerbaijan dynasties.

This fact found its positive reflection in the internal and the international relations of Azerbaijan; widened influence of the country and the people in military and political spheres, also intensified the usage of Azerbaijan language and thus created favorable conditions for the development of material and moral culture of Azerbaijan people. In that historical period Azerbaijan states played an important role in the international relations and military and the political life of the Near and the Middle East, took active part in the relations between the Europe and the East.

In the reign of the great statesman of Azerbaijan Uzun Hasan (Hasan the High)(1468-1478) the emperor of Aggoyunlu appeared as a great military-political entity in the whole Near and the Middle East. State system establishment of Azerbaijan had been developing. Uzun Hasan aimed to create strong centralized state embracing the territory of the whole Azerbaijan. For this purpose he composed 'Ganunname'(the about the Law). He made one to translate Gurani-Kerim (Koran) into azeri, ordered Abu Bekr Tehrani to write Oguzname (Oguz epic) in the name of 'Kitabi-Diyarbekerriye'.

The distinctive importance carries out the period of the late 15th and early 16th, when the prominent statesman and the grandson of Uzun Hasan Shah Ismail Khatai(1501-1524) realized his grandfather's wish and united all the territories of Azerbaijan under his control.

He created a centralized Azerbaijan state -Safavi; the capital was Tebriz.

During the reign of the Safavis state system establishment in Azerbaijan progressed. Azerbaijani had been the state language.

Reforms carried out by Shah Ismail, Shah Tahmasib and Shah Abbas and other Safavi rulers, their internal and foreign policy changed the state of Safavi to one of the greatest empires of Near and the Middle East.

After Savafi fell into decay Nadir shah Afshar(1736-1747), a prominent Azerbaijani commander, continued ruling traditions in Azerbaijan territories after Savafi fell into decay. Being of Turkic-Afshar origin from Azerbaijan, he strengthened the borders of the former empire and in 1739 occupied the Northern India including Deli. Despite of his great efforts he couldn't establish the great centralized state.

After Nadir Shah's death his great empire fell into decay and in the second part of the 18th century the struggle of Azerbaijan for freedom gave the birth to new smaller states; khanates and sultanates appeared in the territory of Azerbaijan.

At late 18th century the government of Iran passed to the dynasty of the Gajars (1796-1925) of Azerbaijani origin. Their main policy was to unite all the territories once ruled by their ancestors--the Garagoyunlus, the Aggoyunlus, the Safaviz and by Nadir shah and Azerbaijani khanates as well, under their government. This gave the start to long lasting wars between the Gajars and Russia, aimed to occupy the Southern Caucasus. Azerbaijan was oppressed in the middle of bloody struggle between two great states.

According to Gulustan (1813) and Turkmanchay (1828) agreements Azerbaijan was divided between the two empires. The north part of Azerbaijan joined to Russia, while the south of it to Iran kingdom ruled by the Gajars.

This historical event determines the origin of new political-geographical notions: "The North Azerbaijan"(or "Russian Azerbaijan") and "The South Azerbaijan" (or "Iranian Azerbaijan").

Since the mid-XIX century, the oil industry had been flourishing in northern Azerbaijan. The first ever industrial oil well was drilled in 1848. In the late XIX the-early XX th centuries was producing 95% of Russia's and about 50% of the world's oil production. The Nobels and Rothschilds were among the oil magnates of, and earned a considerable income. The fortune of the Nobels was largely derived from the profit on Azerbaijani oil.

The second half of the XIX th - early XX th century was also a progressive period for the national culture of Azerbaijan. In 1908, Uzeyir Hajibayov, famous Azerbaijani composer, wrote his "Leyli and Majnun", the first opera in the Muslim world. In general, the country's musical culture was so highly developed that Azerbaijan was known as the ''East's Conservatoire'' or the ''East's Italy''.

A national social and cultural awakening was to be found in other spheres too. From the mid-XIX th century the concept of mass enlightenment actively spread and, to that end, the "Azerbaijan" newspaper was published through the efforts of Azerbaijani intelligentsia in 1858 in Tabriz, southern Azerbaijan. It was the first newspaper in Azerbaijani language and was published under different names over several years.

In North Azerbaijan, between 1875-1877, the newspaper "Akinchi" (Ploughman) was published under the guidance of the visionary Hasan bay Zardabi. One of the main achievements of "Akinchi" was to lead the challenge of enriching the native language and to broaden its usage.

At the same time, a number of prominent literary figures emerged to provide further impetus to the nation's cultural development: Mirza Fatali Akhundov, Mirza Alakbar Sabir, Jalil Mammadguluzadah, Jafar Jabbarli, Firudun bay Kocharli, Ahmad Javad, are some that deserve special mention. Similar progress was made at that time in the spheres of fine arts, architecture, the theater and cinematography.

In the period of Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan parliamentary experience had been gained in two stages. The First period lasted from May 27th till November 19th of 1918. In May 28th the Parliament declared about independence of Azerbaijan, assumed governing of the country and adopted historical Declaration of Independence. During 6 month period the Parliament composed of 44 turkic-moslem members, functioned under the name of the National Board of Azerbaijan and adopted very important historical decisions.

The Second period of parliamentary experience of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan or the Baku period, started from December 7th of 1918 and lasted till April 27th of 1920; only 17 months. By its decision from September 1st of 1919 the parliament established the Baku State University. The establishment of the national University was the most important event in the history of our people. Though the fall of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, the Baku State University helped to preserve the ideas of Republic and played great role in re-gaining of the independence.

In April 28th of 1920 in the territory of Azerbaijan the Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan (SSRA) appeared instead of the Democratic Republic.

During the Soviet period, the territories of Zangezur, Goycha, part of Nakhchivan and other districts were hived off from Azerbaijan and attached to neighbouring Armenia. As a result, the country's area, which in the period of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic in 1920 was 114,000 square kilometers, was reduced in 1920-1921 to 86,600 square kilometers. In addition, on July 7, 1923 at the initiative of the Moscow leaders of the Bolshevists, the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region, with a predominantly Armenian population, was artificially carved out of a part of the territory of historical Garabakh, the majority of population of which constituted Azerbaijanis. That decision marked the first step in the political campaign to amputate Nagorno-Garabakh from the rest of Azerbaijan.

1948-1953 are characterized as new level of mass deportation of Azerbaijanis from their historical lands-the Western Azerbaijan (named as Armenia SSR). Armenians stabled their positions in the Western Azerbaijan and their quantity predominated on that area.

In the 60th of the 20th century for objective and subjective reasons Azerbaijan witnessed drawbacks in many spheres of its economy, industry and agriculture despite of former successful achievements of Azerbaijan people.

The situation changed in 1969 when Heydar Aliyev started his first period of governing Azerbaijan. To make Azerbaijan one of the most advanced republics of the Soviet Union under totalitarian regime, Heydar Aliyev being a great fanatic of his people implemented the programs of great reforms in all the spheres of life.

All creative works carried out by Heydar Aliyev in the first period of his government stirred up the national pride, national self-consciousness, the feelings of freedom and independence and in the 70th of the 20th century Azerbaijan made the next step towards the national liberty movement-the step of progress.

The late period of Azerbaijan state establishment has started with the adoption of the Constitution Act 'about the State Independence of Azerbaijan Republic' on October 18th of 1991, on the eve of the fall of the USSR and is still successfully going on.

Heydar Aliyev's return was decisive in salvation of Azerbaijan. He prevented the risk of the Civil War.

As a wise strategist he took into consideration the real conditions.

His decisions were not the result of emotions, which might bring to wrong solution; his decisions rested on drawbacks of "former" rulers, realities of changing world, the realities of life and international realities. He returned the ancient and eternal name of 'Azerbaijan' to our land, nation and language.

The authority and fame of Azerbaijan in the international world is growing continuously. Azerbaijan Republic is known all over the world as democratic, legal and secular state. The constitution of our state, being the result of Heydar Aliyev's mind, is one of the most democratic and perfect one in the world. The stability in our country and carrying out internal reforms positively affect the extension of the international relations.





Source:    www.azerbaijan.az