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The Rise and Fall of Popular Front of Azerbaijan: 1992–1993 

 

Introduction

Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic regained its independence on October 18, 1991 from the USSR and Ayaz Mutallibov, the Secretary General of Azerbaijan Communist Party, continued to be the first president of the country afterwards. Meanwhile, another development took place during the same period. Azeri intelligentsia turned out to be very influential thanks to perestroika and glasnost, launched by Mikhail Gorbachev towards the late 1980s. The opportunities of perestroika and glasnost were efficiently used by Azeri nationalist-liberal intelligentsia and, as a consequence, the movement of Popular Front emerged in that era. Following its establishment in 1989, through the effects of the external and internal facts, the Front gained strength and came to the position of being the single alternative of the old regime in Azerbaijan.

The most significant features of the movement were as follows: i) it was mainly benefited from the freedom atmosphere of perestroika and glasnost era, ii) its cadres consisted of local nationalists and liberals, and iii) it flourished against the incumbent regime in the country. Therefore, it had characteristics of being both an opposition and a social movement in the early history of newly independent Azerbaijan state.

Abulfaz Elchibey, the leader of Popular Front of Azerbaijan (PFA), came up as the movement’s candidate for the presidential elections in 1992. He managed to take 54 per cent of the total vote in the elections and became the new president. Elchibey was an important figure not only for newly independent Azerbaijan but also for the other post-Soviet states, because he was the first elected anti-communist leader throughout the region. He gained his reputation and eminent position along the 1970s, in which he struggled against the communist regime in Azerbaijan. He was prisoned in his early years in 1975 because of his political activities.

The distinguishing features and personal history of the movement’s leader as well as the conditions that helped to form the movement profoundly influenced policies, which were implemented in the era of 1992-1993 when the PFA ruled the government. Remaining from the movement’s two years governing was a parameter for both the country and the region in terms of the establishment of democratic culture, the development of civil society and NGO culture, introduction of democratic norms and rules, the attempts for the building of alternative nation- and state-identities against the Soviet produced ones and finally, reforming and redesigning electorate behaviors and plural democracy culture inside the country. 



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