To safeguard your sacred land,

To hold high your honored flag,

All the youngsters are too glad!

Glorious land, glorious land!

Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan!

(Azerbaijani National Anthem, Ahmed Cevad)

 

The tricoloured Azerbaijani flag is flown around the world as the symbol of Azerbaijan’s sovereignty and is the most important sign of Azerbaijan’s independence on the international stage. The Azerbaijani flag has a history of struggle. It is the symbol of resistance in Karabakh, was used in protests against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (UUSR) and finally became the symbol of resurrection of the Azerbaijani state. The Azerbaijani flag that is flown the Olympics, in cultural events and in successful strategic investments has also come to signify the development of Azerbaijan over the recent years. To take a brief look at the historical processes through which the Azerbaijani flag has past, the roots of today’s flag can be found a century ago.

 

The Meaning of Colours and Symbols on the State Flag of Azerbaijan

 

The flag of the Azerbaijan People’s Republic that was founded on May 28th 1918 resembled that of the Ottoman Empire’s. The flag accepted by the Azerbaijan People’s Republic was the same as that used by the Ottoman Empire until 1848. At the time some claimed that the acceptance of the flag meant recognition of Azerbaijan as a part of the Turkish world.[1]  The flag featured a white crescent and eight-pointed star on a red background. The only difference between the flag used by the Ottoman Empire after 1844 and that of Azerbaijan People’s Republic is that the latter’s star had eight instead of five points. For this reason, the two flags were often confused with one another and even caused the misperception that the independent Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was a part of the Ottoman Empire.  After this flag, which was used between June 21st 1918 and November 9th 1918, the Azerbaijani flag that we know today, which has a white crescent and eight-pointed star on bands of blue, red and green came to be used. The intellectual atmosphere of the time of the Turkism movement were influential in adopting of the tricolour flag. Intellectuals such as Mehmet Emin Resulzade, Hüseyin Cavid, Üzeyir Hacıbeyov, Ali Merdan Topçubaşı, Ahmed Ağayev, Alibey Hüseyinzade and Celil Memmedguluzade were foremost figures contributing to exchange of ideas between Anatolia and Azerbaijan and contributed to the development of Turkism. The reflection of Alibey Hüseyinzade and Ziya Gökalp’s idea of “Turkization, Islamization, Modernization” and Mehmet Emin Resulzade’s motto “”The flag once raised will never fall!” are seen clearly on the flag of Azerbaijan. The colour blue on the Azerbaijani flag denotes being Turkish, red; civilisation and green; Islam.

 

Other than the colours which impart significant symbols to the flag, the use of the eight-pointed star on the flag of Azerbaijan has been interpreted in various ways.

– According to one view, the eight-pointed star refers to the eight characters used to spell ‘Azerbaijan” in the old alphabet.

– According to another perspective, the eight-pointed star stands for the eight principles adopted by the Azerbaijan People’s Republic. These are Turkism, Islam, Azerbaijanism, modernism, étatism, democracy, equality and civilisation.

– Another claim holds that the eight-pointed star is on the flag as an ancient symbol used by Turks.

– On the other hand, in Azerbaijani mythology the moon symbolises the male element and the star the female element. The crescent and eight-pointed star on the Azerbaijani star is accordingly a reference to the equal rights granted to women and men in the Azerbaijan People’s Republic.

 

Raising the Azerbaijani Flag Once More in Nakhchivan  

 

The Azerbaijani flag could not be used under the rule of the USSR, until 1990. Experienced statesman Heydar Aliyev, who led the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan was the leader of the decisions taken to use the Azerbaijani flag again before the independence of Azerbaijan. The 12th session of the High Council of the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan was held under the presidency of Haydar Aliyev on November 17th 1990 and there the decision was taken to adopt the tricolour flag as the state flag of the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan.[2] This contributed to the development of the national spirit in Azerbaijan at a time in which Armenia launched claims threatening the territorial integrity of Nakhchivan and under the continued rule of the USSR. Thus, Nakhchivan formed an important model for the re-independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

 

The Azerbaijani flag became a symbol of resurrection in the independence demonstrations held against the USSR regime in Azerbaijan. In addition, the Azerbaijani flag became a symbol of resistance in the struggle of Azerbaijani Turks in Karabakh, where they protected the flag to the last drop of their blood. After Azerbaijan regained its independence on October 17th 1991, the flag became the official symbol of the Azerbaijani state.

 

In later years  the Azerbaijani flag was used in state decorations and the Order of the Flag of Azerbaijan is considered an important bestowment. According to the 1993, law, the order can be bestowed on citizens of Azerbaijan and other countries for serving in the Azerbaijani independence movement and social-political achievements, contributions to the development of military science and techniques, services for the protection and continuation of the territorial integrity and independence of Azerbaijan, protection of order in the state, military service and protection of state borders.[3]

 

Records Set by the Azerbaijani Flag

 

Recently, the Azerbaijani flag, a symbol of independence and sovereignty has also become a symbol of modernity and development.  By decree of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev dated November 17th 2007, a State Flag Square was constructed in Baku and a square was constructed on the shore of the Caspian Sea, with the flag in it being visible from many locations in the city. By decree of Ilham Aliyev signed on November 17th 2009, November 9th was declared the Azerbaijani State Flag Day. This date, which is an official holiday, was celebrated for the first time a year later, on November 9th 2010. The 162-metre tall flag pole that was inaugurated on September 1st 2010 entered the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s tallest flag pole on May 29th 2010. The significance and sensitivity given to the flag in Azerbaijan was once displayed with the hoisting of a gigantic Azerbaijani flag that is 35 metres to 70 and weighs 350 kilogrammes.  The square also features a state flag museum. For technical reasons, work is underway to move the State Flag Square from its present location.

 

The Azerbaijani Flag Will Fly Over Karabakh

 

In addition to Baku, cities such as Gence and Mingechevir have their own flag squares. Similarly, in 2015, a 76-metre tall flag pole was placed in Haydar Aliyev Park in the settlement of Göychay.[4] One of the most pleasing developments is that the Azerbaijani flag is once more flying over ancient Azerbaijani territory that has been occupied by Armenia in breach of international law. The village of Cocuk Mercanli in the province of Cebrayil, which is under Armenian occupation was liberated during the April War of 2016.  Later, the State Flag Day was celebrated with enthusiasm in Cocuk Mercanli. Initiatives were also held to organise flag rallies in Bayraktepe and Leletepe, which were also liberated during the April War.

 

Our greatest wish is that the tricolour flag of Azerbaijan will fly over every corner of ancient Azerbaijani territory that is unlawfully occupied by Armenia in coming days.

 

A happy November 9th Azerbaijani State Flag Day to all!

 

(This article was published in the November 2018 issue of The Diplomatic Observer.)

 

[1] Azərbaycan Xalq Cümhuriyyəti – Bayraq, http://axc.preslib.az/az/page/6HvLQhaeJq (Accessed: 24 October 2018)

[2] Nahçıvan ÖC Haydar Aliyev Döneminde, http://www.azerbaijans.com/content_764_tr.html (Accessed: 24 October 2018)

[3] Azərbaycan Respublikasının “Azərbaycan Bayrağı” Ordeninin Statutunun və Təsvirinin Təsdiq Edilməsi Haqqında Azərbaycan Respublikasının Qanunu, http://www.e-qanun.az/framework/8723 (Accessed: 23 October 2018)

[4] Göyçayda Bölgənin Ən Hündür Bayraq Dirəyi Ucaldılıb, https://azertag.az/xeber/864633 (Accessed: 24 October 2018)