On November 10, 2020 a trilateral agreement was signed between Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia on the cessation of hostilities in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. The important symbol of victory was the liberation on November 8 of the Azerbaijani city of Shusha, located at an altitude of almost 1,400 meters above sea level, which has been considered an impregnable fortress since ancient times.
Shusha was founded in 1752 as a fortress to protect the Karabakh Khanate and was originally called Panahabad, and for Azerbaijanis Shusha has always been the capital of the country’s culture, the city of Azerbaijani poets, singers and musicians. The author of the anthem of Azerbaijan, composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov, and many great representatives of Azerbaijani culture were born and worked here. Therefore, the day of liberation of the city of Shusha became the Victory Day in the Second Karabakh War for the Azerbaijanis. And for me, as an Israeli, it is important to understand why on November 2020, when the victory was celebrated in Azerbaijan, thousands of people exited to the streets – they held flags of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Israel in their hands.
The roots of these warm relations have been laid throughout the centuries of the history of the life of the Jewish community in Azerbaijan. Surprisingly, there has never been anti-Semitism in Azerbaijan, a Shiite Muslim country, and Jews have always deserved respect here… Of the fifteen republics that were part of the USSR, Azerbaijan was the only republic in which anti-Semitism never existed. In Russia – there was, in Ukraine, in the Baltic States, in Armenia, in Moldova and in all other Soviet republics – anti-Semitism has always taken place. But in Azerbaijan, no, it has never been. Mountain Jews, Ashkenazim and a community of Georgian Jews lived and still live in Azerbaijan.
Jews have always taken an active part in the life of Azerbaijan and enjoyed well-deserved authority in the country, occupying the highest and most honorable positions. And today there is a very active Jewish life in Baku, and besides, the memory of fellow Jews is carefully preserved in the country. This is evidenced by numerous memorial plaques on buildings where prominent representatives of the Jewish community lived, such as a Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist Lev Landau, Honored Doctor of Azerbaijan Solomon Gusman, Doctor of Pedagogical Sciences Professor Lola Barsuk, and many others. Monuments to Jews – hero of the Karabakh War, National Hero of Azerbaijan Albert Agarunov, thrice Hero of Socialist Labor Colonel-General Vannikov – have been erected in Baku…
The people of Azerbaijan have always treated the Jews of Azerbaijan with respect and warmth, and in turn, the Jewish community of the country returned love and loyalty to the land of Azerbaijan. As tankman Agarunov, who left the factory to defend the country after the attack by Armenian forces with the support of Soviet army units, was asked: “What makes a Jew defend Azerbaijani land?”, Agarunov replied: “I live on this earth, I was born here, I grew up here, nothing else makes me.” A few days later, he died in battle. At his funeral, at the request of his family, the rabbi read Kaddish, and the mufti read the Muslim prayer… The Jewish community of people from Baku keeps the warmest relations to Azerbaijan in their hearts and is an important connecting bridge between our countries. Close and trusting relations between Israel and Azerbaijan they are a logical continuation of friendship for generations between the Jewish and Azerbaijani peoples…
In addition, today Israel and Azerbaijan are linked by the most important strategic interests.
Azerbaijan has stronger ties with Israel in the field of technology exchange, energy, education and culture. In turn, Armenia has the closest ties with Iran. Azerbaijan is pursuing a wise, balanced policy in the region aimed at stabilizing the situation and “smoothing out sharp corners.” It would not be an exaggeration to say that Azerbaijan is an important guarantee of stability and prosperity. One example is that the current rapprochement between Israel and Turkey was largely due to the mediation efforts of Azerbaijan
Brief history of Victory Day on November 8.
The first Karabakh war began in 1992, during the collapse of the USSR. As a result of the aggression against Azerbaijan, the Armenian armed forces, with the support of Soviet army units, were able to occupy 20 percent of the territory of the sovereign Azerbaijan. The occupation lasted for almost thirty years, until 2020. During the occupation, the UN Security Council adopted four resolutions condemning the Armenian aggression and demanding the withdrawal of Armenian armed formations from the occupied territories. And, although none of the UN Security Council resolutions has been implemented, the international community has done absolutely nothing to implement its own resolutions and comply with the norms of international law.
Over a million Azerbaijanis were expelled from their homes in those dark years – from villages in Armenia, from captured cities and villages in Azerbaijan … And only in 2020, after a successful counteroffensive, the Azerbaijani army was able to liberate the territory of its country, fulfilling the decisions of the international community and the requirements of international law. The people of Azerbaijan celebrate this victory on November 8. We want to believe that this victory put an end to the long-term bloody conflict and the peoples of Azerbaijan and Armenia, after the restoration of justice and law, will be able to work together peacefully for the sake of economic prosperity and stability in the region. In this case, I think it’s fair to say that our friend’s holiday is also our holiday.
Roman Gurevich is a political scientist who is an honorary ambassador on behalf of the Jewish Agency in Azerbaijan.