Autumn 2000 (8.3)
Abulfaz Elchibey, Azerbaijan's
first democratically elected President, died on August 22, 2000.
He was being treated in the Gulhane Turkish Military Hospital
in Ankara for advanced prostrate cancer and diabetes. He was
Elected as President in June 1992, six months after the collapse
of the Soviet Union, Elchibey remained in power for only one
year of his five-year term. His presidency was marked by discontent
the economic upheaval brought on by the collapse of the USSR
and the enormous military losses in Nagorno-Karabakh, a war fought
against Russian-backed Armenian troops, which cost Azerbaijan
nearly 20 percent of its territory and left approximately 1 million
Azerbaijanis as refugees.
Elchibey shocked the nation in June 1993 by fleeing Baku only
to reappear in self-imposed exile in his native village in Nakhchivan
several days later. He claimed that he left office to prevent
a military-led civil war from breaking out. Afterwards, he was
never able to regain political strength.
Elchibey was born on June 14, 1938 in the village of Kalaki in
the Ordubad province of Nakhchivan. He graduated from the Oriental
Studies Department at Baku State University, where he majored
in Arabic; he was later assigned to Egypt as an interpreter.
To Elchibey's credit, he dared to envision the establishment
of an independent, self-governed Azerbaijan long before most
people ever dreamed that the disintegration of the USSR was possible.
During his tenure as a university professor at Baku State University
in 1975, he was imprisoned for 18 months for his dissident political
beliefs. Afterwards, he was not allowed to teach and took up
research at the Institute of Manuscripts, a post he held until
the Karabakh war broke out and he became Chairman of the Popular
Front Party, a position he held from 1989-2000.
During his short leadership, he initiated the following:
(1) The tendency to develop relations with the West and explore
the concept of pluralist democracy as a model for government.
(2) Ridding Azerbaijan of all Russian troops (a feat that has
not been carried out by any other Caucasus state or any other
former Soviet Republic, except in the Balkans).
(3) Establishment of Azerbaijan's currency - the manat - to replace
the Russian ruble.
(4) Standardization of university entrance exams.
(5) Re-adoption of the Latin alphabet to replace Cyrillic, which
had been imposed in 1939.
A State Funeral was organized by Azerbaijan government led by
Speaker of Parliament, Murtuz Alaskgarov. The Funeral Ceremony
was held at the Academy of Sciences and attended by President
Heydar Aliyev. Elchibey is buried in Baku's "Fakhri Khiyaban"
- Avenue of the Honored Ones- along with Azerbaijan's most beloved
and respected musicians, writers, academicians and statesmen.
(8.3) Autumn 2000.
© Azerbaijan International 2000. All rights reserved.
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