Heydar Aliyev and the Azerbaijani Language

Heydar Aliyev and the Azerbaijani Language

May 10 is the birthday of the national leader of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev.

Heydar Aliyev, the unforgettable genius and great statesman, had started to realize the national language policy since the late 1960s. 

Obtaining the status of the state language of Azerbaijan and its conformation in the legislation, expansion of the scope of application of the language, implementation of appropriate measures to protect the purity and wealth of the language created great opportunities for the revival of the spirit of national freedom in Azerbaijan, along with national self-determination and self-awareness, the renewal of the meaning, essence and content of national literature, the expansion of the range of literary and artistic thought. The Decree signed by the national leader “On improvement of the Application of the State Language” dated June 18, 2001, the Order “On approval of the composition of the State Language Commission of the Republic of Azerbaijan” dated July 4, 2001, the Order “On the establishment of the Day of the Azerbaijani alphabet and the Azerbaijani language" dated August 9, 2001, and, finally, the Law “On the State Language of the Republic of Azerbaijan”, which came into effect on January 2, 2003, laid the eternal foundation, built on a deep sense of dignity, love for the motherland and the people.

Today, among these documents, we present the text of the Decree “On improvement of the Application of the State Language”, which gives the impression of a masterly written scientific article on the history, essence and future of the Azerbaijani language with deep language consciousness,  analytical analysis, style and narration rather than an official document.




The state language of the Republic of Azerbaijan is the Azerbaijani language. A favourable ground has come for the broad application and free development of the Azerbaijani language - the official language of the independent state. At present, there is a very favorable condition in the country to eliminate injustice, oppression and distortion that took place against our language in different periods of history. Although the language develops by its own internal law, the wide range of opportunities created for its exploration and application will open up avenues for its faster and fuller development.  

As with all peoples throughout the world, the Azerbaijani language is considered as one of the main factors determining its national identity of Azerbaijanis. In all historical stages of its development, our language has been associated with the people, with their fates and faced with the people’s problems. Even during the hard times of the people, it protected and strengthened their faith in the national identity and confidence in a happy future. The people with a developed rich language culture are immortal and have a great future. Therefore, every Azerbaijani must guard this valuable national wealth that was inherited from our ancestors as the apple of the eye, and must always love, protect, cherish and defend it. This is the sacred duty of every citizen.

Azerbaijani is one of the languages that today has the power to express clearly the deepest thoughts with the nuances of our words and the shades of meaning attached to the word. Any nation needs to pass through a few millennia in order to reach the perfection of the depths of thoughts and the fullness of the senses. Today's level of development of the Azerbaijani language confirms once again that the Azerbaijani people are one of the ancient people in the world.

Notable representatives of many nations have repeatedly confessed that the Azerbaijani language is one of the most brilliant languages among the world languages. In their works, most authors compared this language with the French language that was widely spoken in Europe in the nineteenth century, and it was praised as a language used throughout Eurasia. This language, which is now considered as a mean of cultural developing for millions of Azerbaijanis, had historically been spread not only in the Caucasus, but also used as a common language by people with different languages who settled in large swaths of territory for certain periods.

The history of the language as well as the history of our people - the founder of many great civilizations, is quite ancient. Until the Azerbaijani language emerged on the basis of an alive national speaking dialect of Turkish origin and turned into a verbal literary language, later on, became as a written branch of the Azerbaijani literary language, it had passed through a complicated way for centuries.

The Azerbaijani language belongs to the Oghuz (also known as southwestern Turkic) group of the Turkic languages family and its ancient and rich history goes back to BC period. The language, which was a common communication tool for various Turkish-speaking peoples, had begun to function as a national speaking language since IV-V centuries. Since ancient times, the core of the Azerbaijani language had based on the language of the tribes and descendants of Turkic origin who settled in the territory of Azerbaijan.

Therefore, this is the main reason for the fact that the Azerbaijani dialects are so colourful and almost reflect all peculiarities of Turkish ethnic groups spreading throughout Eurasia. Early generation and evolution of oral literary samples - oral epics, tales, bayaties, ladders and other verbal literary languages have been created.

The written literary language has also been formed in a favourable historical condition on the basis of the common national Azerbaijani language. Later, in order to eternalize the samples of oral literature the people started to document them. This process was of great importance in the formation and stabilization of the writing language. From this point of view, ‘The Book of Dede Korkut’ is quite characteristic. The uniqueness of the artistic language of the book once again shows that the Azerbaijani language should have passed a great historical and literary preparation stage so that ‘The Book of Dede Korkut’ could be created.

Even though the first and the oldest manuscripts in the Azerbaijani language from the distant past haven’t survived to our time, the existence of ancient alphabets in the territory of our country, as well as the artistic sense of our writing language and other factors proves that this language has historical roots.  Such masters of the word as Hasanoglu, Gazi Burhanaddin and Nasimi created their works in this profound Azerbaijani literary language.

The 16th century is characterized by the strengthening of the positions of the Azerbaijani language. With the establishment of the Safavids state, the Azerbaijani language got the status of the national language and was used in official and interstate correspondence. In the Safavid era, the Azerbaijani language was dominant in the palace and at the army as a national language. The great masters of the native language Shah Ismayil Khatai and Mohammad Fuzuli, the first powerful figure of our folk literature, Ashig Gurbani were brought up in this period. If the spoken word poetry was reflected in Ashig Gurban's works, the written branch of the folk poetry was represented by the works of Shah Ismail Khatai and Mohammad Amani. The richness of Fuzuli’s language was scientific and philosophical, and it had national character as well.

The processes that took place in the folk poetry of the 17th century are characterized by an influence of oral folk literature on the artistic language of the 18th century. During this time, when the inclination towards the simplicity and livelier elements in the literary language increased, a new stage in the development of the Azerbaijani language began with Molla Panah Vagif’s works.

In the 18th century, a process of enrichment in the Azerbaijani literary language went on. The grounds had been laid for the formation of the scientific style, and many scientific books on various branches of science had appeared then.

The development of our literary language in the 19th century is closely linked to a radical phenomenon that took place in the life of our people. The phenomenon that divided the territory of Azerbaijan into two parts eventually forced the people to live in a different cultural environment under the authority of two separate states. Along with the policy of colonialism, Russia’s civilizing mission in Northern Azerbaijan has created the basis for the development of linguistics, as well as other fields of science. Since the middle of the 19th century, a number of Azerbaijani textbooks and supplies have been written and published. As the national intellectuals considered that the main way of learning and preserving their mother tongue was closely connected with the education in the native language at schools, they started to write textbooks and dictionaries in the Azerbaijani language. The first textbooks in the Azerbaijani language were written by prominent scholars of that period Mirza Kazim bey, Mirza Shafi Vazeh, Seyid Azim Shirvani, Aleksey Chernyayevski, Mirza Abulhasan bey Vezirov, Seyid Unsizade, Rashid bey Efendiyev, Sultan Majid Ganizade, Mammadtaki Sidqi, Nariman Narimanov, Uzeyir Hajibeyov, Abdulla Shaig and others.

Over time, the use of the Azerbaijani language has been expanded to meet the demands of the time, and the need for its application and development on scientific grounds has emerged. Russian-Azerbaijani and Azerbaijani-Russian dictionaries, experimental-teaching books have been published. From that time on, the theoretical and linguistic ideas of the Azerbaijani literary language became apparent. From this perspective, Mirza Fatali Akhundov's theses on the literary language, which correspond to the realistic content of the national literature, draw particular attention.


In the 19th century, when language of drama, satire and the realist prose appeared, we come across the first examples of modern scientific philosophical language as the basis of the scientific style. The language of the press is also the product of this century. The national press starting with the “Əkinçi” ("The Cultivator") - the first Azerbaijani-language newspaper played an important role in the development of the language.

The 20th century is the fastest prosperity and flourishing period for the Azerbaijani literary language. The literary language issue has been an integral part of the social-political struggle since the early century. At that time books on the mother tongue were designed, textbooks were issued, and reading-books were compiled. Books on the sound structure and grammar system of the Azerbaijani language were designed as well.

Press was in the first rows in the struggle for literary language. All prominent intellectuals were involved in defining the literary language norm. Through the edition of the Molla Nasreddin magazine, the doors of the folklore treasury were opened to the literary language. Stage art was also established this period and through the artistic speech it also contributed to the literary language in the new national-cultural context.

At that time none of intellectuals was indifferent to the native tongue and prominent word masters, such as Jalil Mammadguluzade, Mirza Alekper Sabir, Uzeyir Hajibeyov and Omar Faik Nemanzada were courageously fighting for the purity of the Azerbaijani language.

The next stage in the history of the Azerbaijani literary language begins with the Soviet era. In 1921, the Alphabet Committee was created to replace the Arabic alphabet with a more appropriate alphabet and was commissioned to compile a Latin alphabet for the Azerbaijani language. A little later, the new alphabet was applied. In 1926, the first International Turkological Congress was held in Baku. It was an event of great historical significance for the Turkic world. Holding of the Congress in Baku can be characterized as an expression of great appreciation given to the scientific potential of Azerbaijan in the field of linguistics of 20-30 years.

It is a pity that later artificial obstacles were created in the fulfilment of the Congress decisions, and this noble work that aimed at cultural integration of all Turkic-speaking peoples fell victim to political considerations. Most of linguistic scholars of Azerbaijan were exposed to the repressions of the totalitarian regime. In 1939, there was a new decree according to which it was obligatory and categoric to change, once and for all, the new Azerbaijani writing from the Latin alphabet to the Cyrillic graphic. Thus, during the past fifteen years from 1924 to 1939, the people's writing culture received two heavy blows one after the other. Nevertheless, despite the difficulties, the Azerbaijani language could preserve its purity throughout these years and could demonstrate its great potentiality in science and literature, and in journalism.

Establishment of the Independent Linguistic Institute at the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan in 1945 also gave impetus to the development of our linguistics as a science. The Azerbaijani linguistic science rapidly developed in the twentieth century. A great ‘army’ of researchers, represented by Bakir Chobanzade, Abdulazel Demirchizade, Mukhtar Huseynzade, Aliheydar Orujov, Selim Jafarov, Alovsat Abdullayev, Farhad Zeynalov and others were brought up. With great pride, we can note that tremendous works were carried out in all fields of linguistics thanks to the efforts of scientists-linguists; valuable studies were conducted in the field of language history, dialectology, modern language and lexicography, and compiling dictionaries. Azerbaijan was one of the most important centers of Turkic studies in the former Soviet space, as well as internationally. Thus, the 20th century is a period when the Azerbaijani language embarked on a true way of writing culture. Just in this period, the functional capacity of our language expanded, styles enriched, and the writing rules based on language internal development trends were polished.

In the Constitution of the independent Azerbaijan Republic, adopted on November 12, 1995 by referendum the Azerbaijani language was recognized as an official language. Any recognized official language is undoubtedly directly linked with the formation of a state. In the history of the Azerbaijani people, the Azerbaijani language became an official language in the 16th century - during the Safavids Empire, but as a result of the loss of the national statehood, that tradition didn’t exist too long. With the establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918, great opportunities were created for the wide application of the Azerbaijani language. Although some steps were taken in this area, a short life of the young republic did not allow the Azerbaijani language to be fully positioned as an official language in society.

The first Constitution adopted after the establishment of the Soviet power in Azerbaijan, in general, didn’t have any article on the official language.  After joining the USSR, even the Constitution of Azerbaijan adopted in 1937, didn’t have any article on the related issue. Only in 1956, by the decision of the Supreme Soviet of the Azerbaijan SSR an article on the official language was added to the 1937 Constitution. But the authority of that time wasn’t successful in promoting the Azerbaijani language as an official language of the country.

Finally, in spite of all the obstacles of the Central Government in Moscow, an article on the official language – Azerbaijani was included in the 1978 Constitution of the Republic. This was a very courageous and decisive step of that time.

After restoration of its independence, there appeared a wide horizon for the further development of the Azerbaijani language in the Republic. Unfortunately, as a result of the incompetence of the ruling authority of that time, the name of the state language was illegally altered against the will of the people. The issue of the state language was discussed in the Milli Majlis of Azerbaijan in December 1992 and the anticorruption law that stipulated the change of the name of the official language was adopted. Unfortunately, it was enough to have 26 representatives’ positive voting on such a fateful issue. Whereas, the Article on the official language was in the Constitution and any amendment to it could be made only through public discussions and at least by two-thirds majority vote of the members of the Supreme Legislative Body. But that time the ordinary rules of the Legislation were ignored, and a voluntarist and irresponsible decision was made against the will of the people. During the consideration of the draft of the first Constitution of the independent Azerbaijan Republic, the article on the official language, or rather on the name of the official language, was the subject of a broad discussion. This issue was thoroughly discussed in a free and democratic environment, at the Constitutional Drafting Commission, in mass media, at various scientific forums, meetings, organizations and institutions. Finally, the people expressed their opinion on the referendum held on November 12, 1995 and voted in favour of the Azerbaijani language to be the official language of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The injustice against our native tongue was eliminated, the truth triumphed, and its position in the society was completely restored. Presently the Azerbaijani language has a perfect grammatical structure polished by a special Law on the Language, rich vocabulary, broad expression capacity, perfect alphabet and high-level norms of writing. Nowadays, in all spheres of the society the Azerbaijani language is freely used.

Along with all good aspects of the language development, the experience of the last ten-year shows that, as in other areas, there is still much to be done in the field of study and application of our mother tongue. There is a need to improve the teaching of Azerbaijani language at secondary schools and higher educational institutions in order to meet the modern world standards in the education sphere and as well as, the requirements of national-cultural development history. In many mass media means, official correspondence, office work, etc., the norms of the Azerbaijani literary language are not fully followed. There are serious flaws in using the Azerbaijani language in advertising. In spite of the sharp criticisms, in most cases, foreign languages are largely applied and preferred in advertising. Advertising boards in foreign languages damage the views of the cities and towns, have a negative psychological impact on the upbringing of the younger generation in the spirit of patriotism. Most television channels broadcast in the country operate in foreign languages. You can rarely find foreign movies having been dubbed into Azerbaijani at cinemas and on the TV, and even if there’re such films, the quality of dubbed screenshots is quite low. Use of the Azerbaijani language in foreign policy, especially at embassies, foreign missions and companies operating in our country, is inadmissible. Our compatriots living abroad are not satisfied with provision of textbooks, teaching aids, scientific and literary literature, mass media means in Azerbaijani, press and so on.

However the rapid growth of Azerbaijani linguistics during the Soviet era has decreased recent years, and there is a stagnation observed in this field. There is a great need for the research and regulation of speech culture in Azerbaijan. The scope of application of the Azerbaijani language is sometimes artificially restricted. The state of the official and scientific style is not so heartwarming. Preparation and printing of the Azerbaijani spelling, explanatory, terminological and other dictionaries in Latin script, compiling and publication of bilingual translation dictionaries are postponed. Though it's been about ten years since the adoption of the law on restoring the Latin script, its implementation is quite slow. There is a need for an only centralized body to coordinate and regulate all these and other issues and manage a control over the solution of processes.

In order to increase the state care for the application and improvement of the Azerbaijani language – one of the main symbols of the state independence of Azerbaijan, to study the native language, to enhance scientific research, to expand the scope of the language in society and to strengthen control over it, I hereby resolve as follows:

1. Establish a State Language Commission under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. To charge the Executive Administration of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan to prepare and submit ‘The Regulations on the Commission’ to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan within a month.

2. Charge the Executive Administration of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan to prepare and submit to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan a draft law "On State Language in the Republic of Azerbaijan" within a month.

3. Heads of the ministries, offices, organizations and institutions shall charge the bodies under their authority to prepare and implement long-term action plans for the improvement of the state language and the use of the Latin script in their subordinate bodies and inform the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan on the preliminary results by August 1, 2001.

4. The Ministry of Education of the Republic of Azerbaijan shall take profound measures in the sphere of teaching of the Azerbaijani language, as well as in the quality of education at secondary schools and higher institutions, and prepare appropriate proposal program and submit it to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan within a month.

5. The Azerbaijani National Academy of Sciences and the Union of Writers of the Republic of Azerbaijan shall prepare and submit to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan the republishing program of scientific and artistic works, dictionaries and textbooks with the Latin script within a month.

6. The National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan shall review and approve current and perspective plans of scientific researches on different fields of the Azerbaijani linguistic within a month and report  to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan every six months on the progress of the implementation.

7. The heads of the city and district executive authorities of the Republic shall:

- take measures to bring the boards, billboards, slogans, posters and other visual aids used in places in line with the rules of the Azerbaijani literary language, and report  to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan on the implementation of the task by August 1, 2001;

- enhance the control over the application of Azerbaijani and Latin graphics in places and report to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan about the progress of this work by August 1, 2001.

8. Charge the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company on establishment of dubbing of films and television products produced abroad and their demonstration in Azerbaijan, and prepare proposals on the related issues and submit them to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan within a month.

9. Charge the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan to:

- ensure the transition of newspapers, magazines, bulletins, books and other printed products in the country to the Latin script and carry out their publication in the Latin script by August 1, 2001;

- develop a draft Legislative Act determining the responsibilities to be carried out when: illegal or open propaganda acts are discovered against the state language; obstacles are created for the use and development of the state language; attempts are made to restrict the rights of the state language; and attempts are made to impede the application of the Latin script in the Republic of Azerbaijan and submit it to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan within a month;

- provide clerical activities in the Latin script at central and local executive authorities by August 1, 2001;

- Resolve other issues dictated by the decree.