Millions of Azerbaijanis around the world celebrate the 103rd anniversary of the tricolor Azerbaijani flag, a state symbol of the country and legacy of the first democratic republic in the Muslim and Turkic world.
“Our flag is our source of pride. Our flag is our soul, our heart,” Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said in 2010 at the inauguration ceremony of National Flag Square, located along the Caspian Sea promenade in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku.
On November 9, 1918, following the collapse of the Russian empire and shortly after the formation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic - the predecessor of the modern-day Republic of Azerbaijan, the central government ordered to change an earlier version of the flag, which had a white crescent and a white eight-pointed star on a red background. The design of the flag was changed for three horizontal bands in equal size, of blue, red, and green colors, with a white crescent and an eight-pointed star in the center. The decision was ratified unanimously on November 9, 1918, and paved the way for the adoption of an all-new tricolor flag of the newborn democratic republic.
The independent Azerbaijan Democratic Republic existed for 23 months before it was occupied by the Bolsheviks on April 28, 1920, and later incorporated into the Soviet Union. During the Soviet rule, the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic adopted eight different flags with first in 1921 and last in 1952. The eighth and final flag depicted a horizontal bottom blue band and a red upper band. A converged image of a hammer and sickle, as well as a five-point star, which were the official symbols of the Soviet Union, was added to the left upper corner.
The fall of the red Soviet flag took place in 1991 when Azerbaijan regained its sovereignty and brought back the national flag, nicknamed “Üçrəngli Bayraq” (the tricolor flag).
In 2009, President Aliyev signed a decree making the ninth of November a public holiday, called State Flag Day, to commemorate the country’s history and pay respects to a flag that withstood the tests of time.
The uppermost band of blue on the flag symbolizes the Turkic origin of the Azerbaijani nation. The middle band of red is symbolic of modern society, democracy and progress. The green band represents Azerbaijan’s connection to Islam, the predominant religion in a country of 10 million.
Some historians and researchers are divided over the reasons why an eight-pointed star and a crescent were put on the flag of Azerbaijan.
While the crescent and star are acknowledged as the signs of Islam, Fatali Khan Khoyski, the first prime minister of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, wrote that eight points of the star testify to the eight letters in the word “Azerbaijan” as written in Arabic. Others claim the star is also a symbol of Turkic ideology, which together with the crescent creates a complete Turkic identification of the Azerbaijani nation. Eight points symbolize the eight branches of Turkic peoples.
Historically, each of the eight points of the star has its own meaning, which is explained in eight different values: Turkism, Islamism, modernism, statehood, democracy, equality, Azerbaijanism, and culture. The star was widely used in the Azerbaijani architectural style.
Specifications for the tricolor are enshrined in Clause 23 of the country’s constitution. The flag is considered one of the state’s symbols, alongside the state anthem and the emblem.
This year's celebrations of State Flag Day follow the first anniversary of Azerbaijan's victory in the Second Karabakh War. On November 8, 2020, the Azerbaijani forces liberated the strategic Shusha city in the country's Karabakh region from a decades-long Armenian occupation. Liberation of the city had a crucial impact on the surrender of Armenia's forces and signing a ceasefire statement on November 9, 2020, which was the last day of the 44-day war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the latter's Karabakh region.
Armenia and Azerbaijan had been in an armed conflict for nearly 30 years over the Karabakh (Garabagh) region, which is an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan. Armenia launched a full-blown military aggression against Azerbaijan following the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991. The bloody war lasted until a ceasefire in 1994 and saw Armenia occupying 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories. Over 30,000 Azerbaijanis were killed, and one million were expelled from those lands in a brutal ethnic cleansing policy conducted by Armenia. Although the United Nations Security Council adopted four resolutions in 1993 demanding the immediate withdrawal of the occupying forces from Azerbaijani lands and the return of internally displaced Azerbaijanis to their ancestral lands, Armenia failed to comply with all four legally binding documents.
On September 27, 2020, the decades-old conflict took a violent turn after Armenia’s forces deployed in the occupied Azerbaijani lands shelled military positions and civilian settlements of Azerbaijan. During the counter-attack operations that lasted 44 days, Azerbaijani forces liberated over 300 settlements, including the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha, from nearly 30-year-long illegal Armenian occupation. The war ended in a tripartite statement signed on November 9 by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia. Under the statement, Armenia also returned the occupied Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan.
President Ilham Aliyev hoisted the Azerbaijani flag in all of the liberated lands.
"In my remarks at the inauguration of the magnificent National Flag Square in Baku [in 2010], I said the day would come when Azerbaijan's flag is hoisted in the occupied territories, including Shusha. And this is the day," President Aliyev said after hoisting the country's flag in Shusha in January 2021.
"We raised our flag. Azerbaijan's flag is flying in all the liberated lands," he added.