In 1918, Azerbaijan became the first democratic and secular republic in the Muslim world. Called the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR), its creation marked a watershed for governance of a mainly Islamic society in that it granted equality to all citizens and provided for universal women’s suffrage years before many Western countries.
Yet, a century later, commemorating the event is proving to be a complicated affair for Azerbaijan’s present-day government.
Many observers regard Azerbaijan’s current political system as nominally democratic, yet authoritarian in practice. Thus, it is fitting that President Ilham Aliyev’s administration is taking a delicate approach to celebrating the establishment of a genuinely pluralistic government.
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Rebeka Foley is an analyst on political developments in Eurasia, with a focus on the Caucasus and Central Asia.