Azerbaijan during the reign of Ilham Aliyev became a full-fledged, strong, wealthy and established sovereign state. This is a rare case among the states of the post-Soviet space, since not all have managed to cope with the fact that they truly ensure the sovereignty and development of their own country.
Of course, in the case of Ilham Aliyev, an important factor was the high conjuncture of oil prices and the availability of natural resources in this republic. However, there are a lot of cases where the excess revenues from the export of natural resources simply disappear in the pockets of officials or corrupt dynasties, and the people, the state, and society do not see anything at all and are in a state of decay.
The case of Azerbaijan is not that: Aliyev clearly realized that a favorable price environment for energy resources should be used as a historical opportunity to strengthen sovereignty, build a reliable defense system, modernize the army, rebuild the capital, and put other regional centers in order, including rural communities. Finally, he clearly realized that it was necessary to fight corruption by introducing transparent mechanisms, in particular in the provision of services, where the “ASAN” system actually brought corruption to this sector, previously extremely criminalized, to almost zero. So, Aliyev and his government made Azerbaijan truly sovereign.
Foreign Policy of Azerbaijan
Aliyev conducted and conducts a very balanced foreign policy, watching the fate of those countries of the former Soviet Union (and not only) that rely solely on the United States and each time find themselves in a situation of loss in conflicts with Russia, losing territorial integrity (for example, Georgia and Ukraine).
Aliyev, following the dictates of his father, Heydar Aliyev, built the balance and balance between the two geopolitical beginnings, poles – between Russia and the US, between the West and Russia. And this allowed him to ensure stability and security in foreign policy, to avoid provocations, which he was pushed by Western partners, and to preserve and strengthen his sovereignty.
Therefore, Aliyev’s positions have grown in the international sphere, the state of Azerbaijan has become an independent and powerful player. Strengthening and developing successes, Aliyev takes a cautious but very confident line in foreign policy, helping to build Russia’s relations with Turkey at the time of the crisis, participating in the rapprochement between Moscow, Tehran and Ankara in a quadrilateral format, thus becoming the geopolitical pole of the South Caucasus, which greatly enhances the power and power potential of this state.
Secular State Policy: Positive Results
Aliyev relied on the policy of the secular state. He called this the term “multiculturalism”, which, despite its similarity with the western term, means something different in Azerbaijan. If in the West it is a forced renunciation of ethnic identity, in the case of Azerbaijan it is rather an attentive, calm, balanced attitude to various religious, ethnic minorities, and at the same time, the marginalization and even the prohibition of the dissemination of extremist forms of philosophy (primarily radical Salafi Islam).
Azerbaijan, first of all, the Shiite state. This is a country where the Muslim population is mostly Shiite. Accordingly, Shiites Vahabism is not inherent at all. And nevertheless, consistency in this direction has eliminated its prerequisites for the emergence of centers of radical Islam with all the destructive consequences that usually follow: terrorist acts, persecution of heterodox, etc., by lawless acts.
Thus, the secular model of Azerbaijan, without exerting pressure on legitimate forms of growth of religious consciousness, still relies on a balanced secular culture, which in fact fully corresponds to the social psychology of the Azerbaijanis themselves. Accordingly, in this matter, Aliyev pursues a policy that gives its results, turning Azerbaijan into a developing, stable, balanced state.
Opposition of Azerbaijan has no chances
Of course, Aliyev also has opposition, but this opposition is now marginalized and in principle is under the control of the authorities. Its first segment consists of liberals supported by the West, but liberalism in the Azerbaijani society practically has no chance of becoming a truly important ideology. Since the society is traditional, it is built on other grounds.
The second segment of the opposition is the nationalists, who continue the line of the Popular Front. But if we apply the theses put forward by this opposition to Aliyev (sometimes extremist, nationalist), we will see that the “People’s Front of Azerbaijan” in the Elchibey era was the source of the policy that led to the loss of Nagorno-Karabakh and the other seven regions occupied by Armenia.
So in this sense Ilham Aliyev did much more to strengthen the national identity and sovereignty of his country than those who criticize him. That is, from the point of view of national policy, he conducts it more successfully, efficiently, constructively, and fruitfully. Accordingly, this deprives the nationalist position of the main argument, and liberalism in Azerbaijan, especially, has no chance.
Nevertheless, this opposition is supported by the West. Part of it was integrated into Gülen’s structures, but after an attempted coup in Turkey, Baku was very sensitive to this threat and dismantled the Gülenist networks associated with terrorist plans that, in the guise of charity, education and mild Islam, are preparing a system for organizing coups, and pursue a policy in the interests of the United States, as was discovered in Turkey. Aliyev quickly finished everything.
More than 120,000 inhabitants of Azerbaijan – the Russian Diaspora
Relations within the framework of multiculturalism and within the framework of a balanced secular policy toward the Russian diaspora are also very indicative. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russians lived in large numbers in the South Caucasus. After this disintegration, out of all countries – from Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan – a very rapid outflow of the Russian population began. By the way, in Azerbaijan itself this was the policy of Elchibey and the “Popular Front”, that is, of the liberal Russophobic nationalism, which, in fact, was supported by the West. Therefore, both from Baku and other cities of Azerbaijan there was a stream of Russian refugees
But if there are practically no Russians in other countries of the South Caucasus (the microscopic number in Georgia and in Armenia), in modern Azerbaijan there is still a significant segment of the Russian diaspora, it is more than 120 000 people who feel absolutely valuable citizens of the state. Of course, this is only part of those Russian people who lived in Azerbaijan, but nevertheless, the part is so significant when compared with the situation in Georgia and Armenia, that this is an indicator of the effectiveness of that secular model that we are talking about.