Constitution Day Date: November 12
Constitution Day is a public holiday in Azerbaijan.
Article 2, section 1 of the Azerbaijan constitution says that the “sovereign right of the Azerbaijanian people is the right of free and independent determination of their destiny and establishment of their own form of governance.”
That right—the right of the Azerbaijan people to determine their destiny—has taken many years to fully enjoy. In fact, it was a right they had in the past, but was yanked directly from their clutches before they could make it formal. It wasn’t until November 12, 1995 that the Azerbaijan people truly regained that right with the adoption of their constitution, a day now celebrated as a public holiday.
History of Azerbaijan’s Constitution Day
Before the country of Azerbaijan fully enacted its constitution in 1995, the people had some experience with constitutions and independent republics. When the Russian Empire collapsed after World War I, the country experimented with democracy, declaring itself the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) in 1918. This event made the ADR the first democratic parliamentary republic in the Muslim World.
Effectively naming Mammed Amin Rasulzade the national leader, the country went on to a brief but productive period of development and growth. One of the more notable accomplishments of the ADR was to give women suffrage, a first in the Muslim community, even pre-dating the suffrage granted by the U.S. and U.K. Parliament went on to establish the Baku State University, another first in the modernization of the Muslim East.
However, Soviet Russia would go on to re-conquer the country in 1920, stripping the country of its previous democratic reforms. Azerbaijan remained a part of the Soviet system into the ‘90s. When Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost reforms brought about reminders of the former democracy, the people took to the streets provoking riots and rallies with cries for independence fresh in the air.
In 1990 and 1991, numerous changes swept through the region culminating in the drafting of a Declaration of Independence on October 18, 1991. Due to conflicts with Armenia, a true constitution wasn’t put into place until President Heydar Aliev commissioned a special group to draft a constitution for public consideration. The final copy was approved on November 12, 1995.
Azerbaijan’s Constitution Day Traditions, Customs and Activities
The presiding government officials usually speak in the Republic Palace, and the people take to the streets in traditional clothing, its style well-preserved. Folk dances with fast rhythms—all based on musical styles over 1000 years old—can be found in the streets and at organized celebratory events.