On May 28 Azerbaijani Americans will celebrate the 103rd anniversary of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR), the world’s first predominantly Muslim secular democracy. Within two years of its existence prior to the Soviet Bolshevik occupation in April 1920, ADR established functional democratic institutions, including the parliament, and elected a multi-party representative government. Other key achievements of Azerbaijani democracy were the 1919 universal suffrage law, which preceded its U.S. equivalent in granting women the right to vote, and the development of a uniform civic identity independent of ethnic, racial or religious differences.
Sharing impressions after his meeting with the Azerbaijani delegation at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson remarked that Azerbaijani leaders “talked the same language” when it came to ideas and notions of liberty and justice.
After World War II, some exiled descendants of ADR founders settled in New Jersey and in 1957 established Azerbaijan Society of America — the first Azerbaijani grassroots organization on American soil. Throughout the decades of Soviet domination in Azerbaijan, the ASA preserved the heritage of the first republic. It continues to do so today.
This May 28 I will join in celebration of Azerbaijani National Day, to reflect on this historic democratic experience in a predominantly Muslim society.