DiplomacyIR & Politics

Historical background of the Azerbaijan’s foreign policy

It is a fact that people have formed families, villages, cities and, ultimately, states. Today, we live in a world where nation-states exist. This makes certain relations between them inevitable. Namely, these states are interconnected in many areas and with one another. For example, economic scarcity, people’s endless desires. Socially friendship, enmity, marriages, population growth or famine. Political power, power, influence, diplomacy, as well as military coalitions, alliances or wars. All these factors together are the factors that shape international relations. One of the main factors contributing to the formation of a state in international relations is foreign policy. Foreign policy is the principles that shape the foreign relations of states. This is often confused with diplomacy, but it is a completely different phenomenon. However, it should not be forgotten that foreign policy within a state is carried out using diplomatic means. It is important to note that foreign policy is regulated in accordance with domestic policy and, above all, national interests are considered (Heywood, Global Politics, 2011, p.1-2). Strategic interests, economic and military potential, geographical position and other factors in the domestic policy of the state are taken into account when formulating foreign policy. In addition, there are some external factors. For example, when formulating the foreign policy of one state, it takes into account the behavior and policies of other states, the global economic and political situation. In modern international relations, 193 states are currently legally represented. One of those countries is the Republic of Azerbaijan. Thus, this article examines the historically existing foreign policy background of the Republic of Azerbaijan and its current foreign policy.

Foreign policy of the Republic of Azerbaijan during the first independence

When the Transcaucasian Democratic Federal Republic collapsed in 1918, independent states began to emerge in the South Caucasus. The future founders of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan also used these opportunities to decide on May 27, 1918 to establish the Provisional National Council. On May 28, 1918, the first meeting of the National Council was held and a decision was made to declare Azerbaijan an independent state. Historically, the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan as a sovereign state was based on democratic traditions, because at the first meeting of the National Council on May 28, 1918 They adopted the “Act”. Although many studies link the foreign policy of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan to the Paris Peace Conference, the acts of the foreign policy of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan do not begin directly with the Paris Peace Conference. Azerbaijan’s foreign policy initially focused on territorial claims with its current neighbors, Georgia and Armenia. The mass resettlement of the Armenian nation in Nagorno-Karabakh by Tsarist Russia in the 19th century led to the Armenians committing radical mass genocides against the Azerbaijani people in the 20th century, beginning in 1905. The genocidal policy of the Armenians against the Azerbaijanis was more tragic in Karabakh. Therefore, after declaring its independence, the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan began to contact the Armenian state on May 29, 1918 to put an end to this issue. The foreign policy of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan was first initiated on the basis of an appeal by the Armenian National Council, and the subject of the appeal was the decision of the City of Yerevan to make concessions to the Armenians if they renounced their claims to Nagorno-Karabakh. Later, after resolving this issue with the Armenian National Council, the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan began to resolve the next foreign policy acts with Georgia. At that time, the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan had a border problem with Georgia. Georgians demanded Zagatala district from the Azerbaijani government and wanted to appropriate it. However, based on a referendum held in the Zagatala region of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, the Zagatala constituency remained in the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. After resolving the territorial dispute with the current neighbors, the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan began to establish relations with the Ottoman Empire by pursuing a broader foreign policy. Thus, on June 4, 1918, the Batum Treaty was signed between the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and the Ottoman Empire, and as a result, the Ottoman Empire became one of the first states to recognize the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.

After the recognition of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan as an independent state, the next problems in foreign policy were with the Baku Council of People’s Commissars, the first authorized body of the Soviet government. The desire of the Baku Council of People’s Commissars to seize Baku, the current capital of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, became one of the foundations of the foreign policy conflict between the Soviet government and the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. There have been historical disagreements with the German and British authorities in the foreign policy of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan. Thus, after the collapse of the Baku Council of People’s Commissars, the “Central Caspian dictatorship” was established. As one of the supporters of this organization is the British government, it can be noted that the next major historical conflict in Azerbaijan’s foreign policy is also with the British government. Or Germany’s desire to own 25% of Baku’s oil, its desire to sign a secret agreement with the Soviet Empire, and the subsequent emergence of this plan as a result of the Ottoman and Azerbaijani diplomatic steps meant that the next clash in the foreign policy of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was with the German government. However, the success of the foreign policy of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan did not last long. The defeat of the Ottoman state in an alliance with Germany in the First World War and the signing of the Mudros Reconciliation Agreement with the Allies on October 30, 1918, which had very difficult conditions, had a very negative impact on the foreign policy of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The defeat of Turkey deprived the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan of its only support and played a miserable role in its future. This incident once again caused a disagreement in the foreign policy of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan with the authorities of the Allies. According to the agreement, Turkish troops were to leave the South Caucasus as soon as possible, leaving Baku no later than a week and all of Azerbaijan no later than a month. Baku was to be occupied by Allied forces. According to the agreement, with the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Baku and Azerbaijan, on November 17, 1918, the British army, a member of the Entente, entered Baku under the leadership of General Thomson. At a time when our independence was under threat, the ADR’s policy saved Azerbaijan from foreign occupation by convening a legislature, the Western European model of democracy, and forming a coalition government on December 26, 1918. On December 28, the coalition government formed under the chairmanship of General Thomson F. Khoyski, the Allied representative in Baku, recognized Azerbaijan as the only legitimate government. After that, the British government officially recognized the Azerbaijani state and in the summer of 1919 withdrew my troops from Azerbaijan. Thus, as a result, despite the conflict with the Allies and the British government, the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan was able to prolong the life of the state in foreign policy thanks to certain steps.

Later, the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan began serious steps in its foreign policy to establish lasting peace in the region. Azerbaijan’s justified territorial claims and Georgia’s unjustified land claim to the Zagatala district initially strained relations between the two countries. However, the attack of Tsarist General Denikin’s army on Dagestan and its advance to the south made Azerbaijani-Georgian cooperation a vital issue. On June 16, 1919, a three-year military-defense pact (union) was signed between the two countries. According to this pact, if the independence and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and Georgia were subjected to military intervention by any state, the parties had to provide each other with all kinds of military assistance. Although Azerbaijan and Georgia tried to involve Armenia in the pact to ensure peace and security in the region, their attempts failed.

The foreign policy of the newly independent Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan was not as good with its northern neighbor as it was with its southern neighbor. For example, during the talks of Azerbaijani diplomats with the Ghajar state (now Iran) in Istanbul and Paris, the Ghajar side stated the historical necessity of Muslim unity and brotherhood in the current situation. However, at the Paris Peace Conference, they claimed the entire territory of the Republic, demanding the restoration of the borders before the Gulistan Peace of 1813. However, after a while, Tehran changed its policy and chose to create a buffer zone between Russia and itself, recognizing Azerbaijan and other South Caucasus republics, rather than being a neighbor of the aggressive Soviet Russia. On November 1, 1919, an agreement was signed between the two countries in Paris, and the Ghajar government recognized the independence of Azerbaijan. As a result, diplomatic relations were established between the two countries and embassies were opened.

After solving the regional foreign policy, the global policy of the Republic of Azerbaijan has become very complicated. The government of the republic sent a delegation led by Alimardan bey Topchubashov to participate in the Paris Peace Conference, which began on January 18, 1919. The main goal was to achieve the recognition of Azerbaijan’s independence by the Supreme Council of the Paris Peace Conference. The Allies who won the war (USA, England, France, Italy) played a key role in the Supreme Council. The Azerbaijani delegation was received on May 28, 1919 by US President Woodrow Wilson. The memorandum, consisting of six articles presented to Wilson by the head of our delegation Alimardan bey Topchubashov, demanded the recognition of Azerbaijan’s independence, its admission to the League of Nations, the establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States and US military assistance to Azerbaijan. For three or four months now, Armenians in Paris, who have been carrying out extensive propaganda against Azerbaijan and Turkey, have provided Wilson with a large number of false information about the events in the Caucasus. On the other hand, President Wilson has kept the issue of recognizing Azerbaijan open, as the United States, like Britain and France, is committed to maintaining a “united and indivisible Russia.” At a time when Russia’s threat to the Caucasus was growing, the independence of Azerbaijan and its ally Georgia was de facto recognized by the Paris Peace Conference on January 11, 1920, at the suggestion of the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon. Although Japan joined the conference on February 7, the United States formally rejected it. considered the issue of providing assistance to the army. However, on the grounds that the Allies did not have the ability to send troops to the South Caucasus republics, it was decided to provide only arms, ammunition and food aid to Azerbaijan and Georgia.

However, unfortunately, on April 27, the Azerbaijani Parliament, under pressure from the Russian army, decided to hand over power to the Azerbaijani Muslim Communists. In the agreement on the transfer of power, the preservation of Azerbaijan’s independence, the government created by the Communist Party of Azerbaijan will be an interim body. The Red Army will not be allowed to enter Baku by battle, and so on. Although very important conditions were reflected, none of the conditions were met. A few hours after the agreement, the 11th Red Army entered Baku and occupied the city. Thus, contrary to all norms of international law, as a result of Russia’s military aggression, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, recognized by the world community, collapsed.

Foreign policy of the Republic of Azerbaijan during the second independence

After the occupation of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan by the USSR in 1920, it remained an occupied entity within the USSR until 1991. As early as 1990, the USSR was beginning to change its political position. The world system began to change when Gorbachev, the last leader of the USSR, told the UN General Assembly in 1988 that he supported the growing power of the United Nations and its peacekeeping role in world affairs. He added that the states, especially the United States and the USSR, should reconsider their ideologies and the world should stop waging war with each other and cooperate. In his September 1990 speech to the US Congress, George Herbert Bush outlined his views on how the world would shape after the Cold War. He said the United States should lead the post-Cold War era because only the United States could protect international law, regulate relations with the USSR, and help the USSR emerge from its closed economy and join the global economy. can also lead the world as a whole to a safer place. This new world system, which was to be established after the Cold War, immediately experienced its first tests. The independent states that emerged with the collapse of the USSR began to move out of the closed economy and politics and join the global economy and politics. One of those countries was Azerbaijan, which gained its independence for the second time.

After gaining its independence on October 18, 1991, the Republic of Azerbaijan, like other post-Soviet countries, began to join the global regime from a closed regime. On November 9, 1991, the Republic of Turkey, followed by Romania, Pakistan, Switzerland and Iran, and in early 1992, the United States and Russia recognized Azerbaijan as an independent state. At the beginning of 1993, Azerbaijan’s independence was already recognized by 116 states. The Republic of Azerbaijan initially wanted to try to maintain peace in the region with the newly independent states. For example, on November 20, 1991, Azerbaijan, together with representatives from Russia and Kazakhstan, wanted to launch a peace mission to Nagorno-Karabakh to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with the Armenians, but this did not happen. However, when Azerbaijan became independent, it managed to join global systems diplomatically, despite being the biggest problem in the early years, such as Nagorno-Karabakh. For example, the Republic of Azerbaijan joined the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in December 1991 and the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) in February 1992. On March 2, 1992, the Republic of Azerbaijan became a member of the United Nations (UN). Thus, the Republic of Azerbaijan became a subject of international law. In the following processes, the introduction of the manat, the national currency of Azerbaijan, on August 15, 1992, further strengthened the foundation of the subject of international law.  The official and business visits of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, the People’s Republic of China, Japan, cooperation with other countries of Asia and the Pacific, as well as Africa and Latin America were of great importance. In May 1994, the Republic of Azerbaijan joined NATO Joining the Partnership for Peace program also showed that at the end of the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, the Republic of Azerbaijan was globalized in foreign policy along with the war.

The activities of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) play an important role in Azerbaijan’s foreign policy. Azerbaijan joined this organization on July 10, 1992. As a result of the diplomatic efforts of the Azerbaijani government, a ceasefire agreement was signed between Armenia and Azerbaijan on May 12, 1994, with the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group and Russia. In December 1994, at the summit in Budapest, Hungary, the OSCE Minsk Group was established at the initiative of the President of Azerbaijan and the Government of Azerbaijan. The results of the OSCE Lisbon Summit in December 1996 were an important achievement of Azerbaijani diplomacy. Thanks to the resolute position of the President of Azerbaijan at the summit, 53 of the 54 OSCE participating States supported the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan in the Declaration on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In 1997, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova established GUAM to accelerate economic growth. At the next summit in Istanbul in November 1999, a new charter was signed, reflecting the dramatic changes that have taken place in the world since the charter signed in Paris in 1990. Azerbaijan has once again proved its commitment to peace and security in the world. The signing of an agreement on the Baku-Ceyhan main export oil pipeline at the summit is of great importance for the future of Azerbaijan.


  • Tadeusz Swietochowski, Russia, and Azerbaijan: A Borderland in Transition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995).
  • Michael G. Smith. Anatomy of a Rumour: Murder Scandal, the Musavat Party and Narratives of the Russian Revolution in Baku, 1917-20. Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Apr. 2001).
  • Tsutsiev, Arthur (2014). Atlas of the Ethno-Political History of the Caucasus. Translated by Nora Seligman Favorov. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Selim Özertem, Hasan. “Independence of Kosovo and the Nagorno-Karabakh Issue”. TurkishWeekly. Retrieved 24 April 2008.
  • Black Garden, by Thomas De Waal (Aug 25, 2004).
  • Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War, by Thomas De Waal (Aug 25, 2004), pages 152-153, 143.

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Ali Mirzazada

Ali Mirzazada is a Research Fellow at the Caucasian Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies, Azerbaijan
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