Edited by Anna Popper

Every year on 28 May, Azerbaijan celebrates its Independence Day, a momentous event in its history. This day marks the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan, recognized as the first secular democratic state in the Muslim world, occurring 106 years ago in 1918. Remarkably, Azerbaijan was also the first Islamic nation to grant women the right to vote. The Declaration of Independence highlighted sovereignty and importance of maintaining friendly relations with all nations, especially neighbouring states, as a core aspect of the country’s foreign policy.

Although Azerbaijan’s initial independence was short-lived, lasting only until 1920, the Republic of Azerbaijan, as the successor to the Democratic Republic, restored its independence in 1991. This achievement was made possible by the people’s resilience and unwavering pursuit of progress. Independence Day is celebrated with great pride and enthusiasm both in the country and by Azerbaijani communities abroad.

On the occasion of Independence Day H.E. Tahir Taghizade, Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to Hungary and Mrs. Irada Rustamova hosted a reception at an exceptional venue, the Aranybástya with its open-air terrace in Buda Castle, offering a stunning view of Budapest.

Fortunately, the weather was nice, providing a perfect setting for the event, which brought together Hungarian officials from political circles, members of the diplomatic corps accredited to Hungary, representatives from business, cultural and academic sectors, as well as the Azerbaijani diaspora in Hungary. The guest of honour was Mrs. Boglárka Illés – State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The celebration started with the national anthems, followed by the remarks of the Ambassador:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honoured to welcome you all as we gather here to celebrate the Independence Day of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Today we commemorate a significant milestone in our nation’s history, the establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) on 28 May 1918. This historic event laid the foundations of our modern state, and since the restoration of our independence on 18 October 1991, Azerbaijan has proudly continued the legacy of the ADR.

First and foremost, I would like to extend my heartfelt acknowledgments to our distinguished guests: Mr. Sándor Lezsák, Deputy Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly, Mr. Zsolt Bunford, Director of Foreign and Security Policies at the Prime Minister Cabinet and Mr. Farid Gayibov, Minister of Youth and Sports and Vice-President of the National Olympic Committee of Azerbaijan since 2021. Your presence here today is a testament to the strong and enduring friendship between our nations.

During these years of independence, Azerbaijan has achieved remarkable progress in the political, economic and social spheres. We have successfully restored our territorial integrity and established ourselves as a reliable partner on the international stage.

Azerbaijan and Hungary established diplomatic relations in 1992. The ties between the two countries have developed successfully in the political, economic and cultural fields over the past 32 years. Our strategic partnership is a shining example of dynamic and comprehensive collaboration. We anticipate a year full of mutual high-level visits, including by President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, President Tamás Sulyok, and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary.

Last April, we hosted the 10th meeting of the Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation between the Governments of Azerbaijan and Hungary in Baku. Minister Péter Szijjártó led a delegation of 34 company leaders, highlighting the strength of our economic ties. Our bilateral trade reached a record high of USD 120 million in 2023. Hungary’s KÉSZ Group is actively involved in reconstructing Soltanli village in Karabakh, set to be completed by 2025. Meanwhile, Hell Energy Group is building a plant in Azerbaijan, and Gedeon Richter is contributing to our pharmaceutical industry. Direct flights by WizzAir further strengthen our connection.

High-level visits significantly enhance our multifaceted cooperation. Last year alone, we witnessed more than 15 visits at ministerial level. Ms Sahiba Gafarova, the Speaker of Milli Majlis (National Assembly of Azerbaijan), participated in the Demographic Summit in Budapest, and the First Deputy Speaker of the Azerbaijani Parliament, Mr Ali Huseynli, attended a cultural event in Hungary. We look forward to welcoming Minister of Defence Zakir Hasanov to Hungary soon. Additionally, First Deputy Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly Ms Márta Mátrai was invited to the TURKPA 13th plenary session in Baku in June.

Energy cooperation is another pillar of our partnership. Azerbaijan has commenced supplying natural gas to Hungary. 55 million cubic meters have already been delivered, with another 50 million to follow. MOL Group is an active participant in our energy market, holding shares in the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli field and the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. MVM is set to become a major player in Azerbaijan’s natural gas market. Furthermore, our countries collaborate in green energy development, with regular meetings among the Ministers of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Romania and Hungary.

Cultural ties between our nations are equally vibrant. In 2023, thanks to the efforts of Deputy Speaker Sándor Lezsák, we unveiled a bust of the prominent Azerbaijani poet and philosopher Nizami Ganjavi in the Hungarikum Park in Lakitelek.

Photo: MTI/Ujvári Sándor

Our Embassy hosts a series of cultural events, including an exhibition by People’s Artist of Azerbaijan Arif Huseynov and a concert by the world-renowned Azerbaijani composer Eldar Mansurov.

On the multilateral level, our cooperation extends to the Organization of Turkic States, where the Representation Office in Budapest plays a crucial role. We welcome Ambassador Prof. Dr. István Vásáry as the new Executive Director and look forward to further collaboration under his leadership.

2024 is a significant year for Azerbaijan as we prepare to host COP 29 to be convened in Baku from 11 to 22 November 2024.

This year has been declared the “Year of Solidarity for the Green World” by President Ilham Aliyev. We are committed to climate action, developing smart cities and achieving net-zero emissions in Karabakh, East Zangazur Economic Zones, and Nakhchivan by 2050. Renewable energy will comprise 30% of our electricity generation capacity by 2030.

We extend our best wishes to Hungary as it assumes the EU Council Presidency. Our mutually beneficial cooperation will undoubtedly continue to thrive and reach new heights in the coming years.

Let us raise a toast to the eternal independence of our countries! Long live the friendship between the Magyar and Azerbaijani people!

Joining the Ambassador in the toast, Guest of Honour Ms. Boglárka Illés, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, expressed her delight to be present at such a momentous celebration. In her speech, she praised the multifaceted strategic relationship and profound friendship between the two countries. She also conveyed congratulations and extended best wishes to the Ambassador and the people of Azerbaijan on Independence Day.

Exhibition by Arif Huseynov – Dedicated to the Independence Day

On 27 May, a solo exhibition of works by Arif Huseynov, the National Artist of Azerbaijan, was inaugurated at the Yunus Emre Institute in Budapest in the presence of the artist. The event was organised by the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to Hungary and the Azerbaijan-Hungarian Friendship Society with the support of the National Commission of Azerbaijan for UNESCO.

In his opening remarks, H.E. Tahir Taghizade, Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Hungary, highlighted the flourishing cultural cooperation between Azerbaijan and Hungary. He emphasized the significance of such events in strengthening bonds between the two nations.

Arif Huseynov expressed his gratitude to all guests of the event and stressed the importance of the exhibition, which was opened on the occasion of the Independence Day of his homeland.

Mr. Ziyadkhan Aliyev, an Honoured Art Critic, spoke about Azerbaijan’s rich cultural heritage, including the collection of this recognised artist showcasing at the exhibition and the cultural ties between Azerbaijan and Hungary.

In addition, the audience also enjoyed a screening of the documentary film Karabakhname, based on engravings from Arif Huseynov’s book Karabakhname. Pages of History. This book-album showcases Karabakh’s cultural heritage, featuring the artist’s works depicting ancient monuments, landscapes and portraits of historical figures from the region. Speaking about the film, Arif Huseynov mentioned that the concept of documentary art graphics, initially presented in the book, was then brought to life in the film.

Arif Huseynov has dedicated years to revitalizing the ancient traditions of miniature art, harnessing his boundless creative potential in both mechanical and graphic arts. Through his unwavering commitment, he breathes new life into these time-honoured techniques, infusing them with a contemporary perspective and a refined artistic-aesthetic sensibility. His series of paintings on national folklore, traditions and cultural artifacts represent an innovative interpretation of Azerbaijan’s ancient miniatures. Huseynov has also created contemporary illustrations for fairy tales, skilfully blending tradition with modernity in his designs for children’s books.

His exhibitions have been successfully showcased in Baku, Prague, Istanbul, Tokyo and Moscow, and some of his works are in museums and private collections.

Guests viewed the paintings of this outstanding artist with great interest and were captivated by the enchanting world depicted in his art. His work is a testament to his deep respect for tradition, coupled with an innate ability to innovate. This unique style and vivid storytelling drew the attention of everyone present.

Source: Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Budapest

Photos by the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Budapest and DPA