|Founders||Mammed Amin Rasulzade, Abbasgulu Kazimzade, Taghi Nagioglu|
|European affiliation||Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party|
The Müsavat (Equality) Party (Azerbaijani: Müsavat Partiyası, from Arabic مساواة / musāwāt, meaning "equality, parity") is the oldest existing political party in Azerbaijan. Its history can be divided into three periods: Early (old) Musavat, Musavat-in-exile and New Musavat.
Musavat was founded in 1911 in Baku as a secret organization by Mammed Amin Rasulzade, Mammed Ali Rasulzade (cousin of Mammed Amin Rasulzade), Abbasgulu Kazimzade and Taghi Nagioglu. Its initial name was a Muslim Democratic Musavat Party. The first members were Veli Mikayiloghlu, Seyid Huseyn Sadig, Abdurrahim bey, Yusif Ziya bey and Seyid Musavi bey. Early Musavat members also included future Communist leader of Azerbaijan SSR Nariman Narimanov. This initiative was coming from Mammed Amin Rasulzade, who was then living in exile in Istanbul.
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In its early years before the first world war, Musavat was a relatively small, secret underground organization, much like its counterparts throughout the Middle East, working for the prosperity and political unity of the Muslim and Turkic-speaking world. Although Musavat espoused pan-Islamic ideology and its founder was sympathetic to the pan-Turkic movement, the party supported the tsarist regime during the First World War. Russia's social democrats received the foundation of Musavat in what they considered "imperial, orientalist terms, governed by the long-standing ideological categories of Muslim backwardness, treachery and religious fanaticism", as a betrayal of historic proportions.
The Musavat's programme, which appealed to the Azerbaijani masses and assured the party of the sympathy of the Muslims abroad, announced the following aims:
During this time, the Musavat party supported some pan-Islamist and pan-Turkist ideas. Pan-Turkic element in Musavat's ideology was a reflection of the novel ideas of the Young Turk revolution in Ottoman Empire. The founders of this ideology were Azerbaijani intellectuals of Russian Empire, Ali-bey Huseynzadeh and Ahmed-bey Agayev (known in Turkey as Ahmet Ağaoğlu), whose literary works used the linguistic unity of Turkic-speaking peoples as a factor for national awakening of various nationalities inhabiting the Russian Empire.
The Menshevik and Social Revolutionary parties of Baku, both largely dependent upon the support of selected Georgian, Armenian and Jewish cadrees, as well as upon the ethnic Russian workers, had long vilified the Muslims as "inert" and "unconscious". For them as well as for Bolsheviks, Constitutional Democrats and Denikinists, the Musavat, by default, was the false friend of social democracy, just a party of feudal "beks and khans". These accusations, centerpieces of a paranoid style in social-democratic politics, have endured in the historical literature far beyond their origins. But this form of attitude also alienated predominant Muslim groups from Russia's mainstream social democrats, as Musavat's shifting politics and populist slogans started receiving bigger appeal among the Muslim worker audience. Musavat leaders were largely well-educated professionals from the upper class echelons of Azeri society; its mass membership, most recruited between 1917 and 1919, comprised the poorly-educated Muslims underclass of Baku.
After the Amnesty Act of 1913 dedicated to the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, Mammed Amin Rasulzade returned to Azerbaijan and undertook party leadership. Despite the party still being secret, Rasulzade managed to found newspaper the newspaper Achig Soz (1915–1918), in which Musavat's aims and goals, this time polished and defined in Rasulzade's interpretations, were implicitly advocated. Only after the February Revolution, when Musavat ceased to be a secret organization and became a legal political party did the newspaper officially become the party's organ.
The Baku Committee of Muslim Social Organizations, as well as the Musavat, were quite radical during the early days of the February Revolution: they wanted a democratic republic, which would guarantee the rights of Muslims. The Soviet historian A. L. Popov writes that the Musavat cannot be a priori classified as a reactionary party of Khans and Beks, because in the early revolutionary period the Musavat stood on the positions of democracy and even socialism. "Until a certain time the Baku Committee of Muslim Social Organizations and the Musavat party successfully fulfilled the mission not only of representing the general national interests but also of guiding the Azerbaijani workers' democracy".
On June 17, 1917, Musavat merged with the Party of Turkic Federalists, another national-democratic right-wing organization founded by Nasibbey Usubbekov and Hasan bey Agayev, taking on a new name of Musavat Party of Turkic Federalists. Thus, Musavat became the main political force of Caucasian Muslims.
In October 1917 Musavat convoked in its first congress where it adopted new covenant, with 76 articles.
Particularly, new covenant said:
During the period from February until November 1917 Musavat shared the idea of federalism without separating from Russia. In accordance with the doctrine accepted by the Special Transcaucasian Committee (OZAKOM)) the Georgian, Armenian and Aerbaijan territories were authorised to rule independent domestic policy, leaving to the Provisorial Russian government only foreign affairs, army and defense, and customs. However, Musavat as well as the other Muslims unions got quickly disappointed in cooperation with the Provisorial government, as it had no wish to delegate to the Muslim territories more independence.
Having got the news about the October Revolution in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) Transcaucasia did not accept the new Bolshevik power. In February 1918 Transcaucasian Council (“Sejm”) started its work in Tbilisi. Musavat entered the Sejm as one of the ruling parties, having 30 deputies of 125. The other parties represented in the new intritution were Georgian mensheviks (32 deputies) and Armenian “dashnaks” (27 deputies). At this stage Musavat started propagating the pan-Islamist and pan-Turkish ideas and aimed at creation of United Muslim State under protection of Turkey (Ottoman Empire). The majority of the Party's members were merchants, white-collars and partially peasantry.
After the disintegration of the Russian Empire and the Declaration of Independence, Musavat became the leading party of the newly established Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, holding the majority of mandates in its parliaments, at first in Azerbaijani National Council and then in Parlaman ("parliament"), Rasulzade being its first head of state (28 May 1918 – 7 December 1918). Under the Musavat's leadership, the name "Azerbaijan" was adopted; a name that prior to the proclamation of the ADR was solely used to refer to the adjacent region of contemporary northwestern Iran. Azerbaijan became in 1918 the first secular democracy in the Muslim world. A year later, in 1919, Azerbaijani women were granted the right to vote, before the U.S. and some European countries.
The following Musavat members held positions in successive ADR governments:
After the fall of the first Republic in April 1920 as a result of the Bolshevik invasion, Musavat switched to secret activities again, by forming a secret committee, in which even famous Azeri playwright Jafar Jabbarli participated. The committee's most famous action was the preparation of the Rasulzade's flight from the Russian SFSR to Finland. Overall, Musavat prepared and conducted several armed insurgency operations, e.g. the rebellions of Ganja, Karabakh, Zagatala and Lankoran. But the Soviets also repressed Musavat by arresting at least 2,000 members of Musavat up to 1923. Most prominent Musavat members thus were killed, exiled or escaped abroad and the party ceased all its activities within Azerbaijan in 1923.
Activities of Musavat in exile begin in the end of 1922 and in the beginning of 1923. in order to coordinate and lead these activities Mammed Amin Rasulzade established a Foreign Bureau of Musavat in 1923, but also created the Azerbaijani National Center in order to coordinate their activity with other Azeri political immigrants not affiliated with Musavat. Istanbul became the center of Musavat-in-exile in the 1920s and early 30s, before moving to Ankara in the late 1940s.
The resurrection of Musavat in Azerbaijan came in 1989, during the second independence of Azerbaijan. A group of intellectuals created the "Azerbaijan National Democratic New Musavat Party". Later that group formed the "Restoration Center of the Musavat Party" and was recognized by Musavat-in-exile. In 1992 delegates of New Musavat and Musavat-in-exile gathered in the "III Congress of Musavat" and formally re-established the party as the Musavat Party. One of the leaders of the Popular Front, Isa Gambar was elected its chairman. He remains its leader as of 2013. The party structure consists of "Başqan" (Leader), "Divan" (Executive Board), and "Məclis" (Congress).
Since 1993, Musavat has been in the opposition to the ruling New Azerbaijan Party. Due to a split between its nationalist and its liberal wing, the party failed to adopt a unified programme at the October 1997 congress. At the 2000/2001 elections, the party won 4.9% of the popular vote and two out of 125 seats. As the party's candidate, its leader Isa Qambar won 12.2% of the popular vote in the 15 October 2003 presidential elections. At the parliamentary elections of 6 November 2005, it joined the Freedom alliance, and won inside the alliance five seats. Musavat is also known for its protests against the Azerbaijani government such as that took place on 16 October 2003, after Isa Qambar had lost the election, as well as on March 12, 2011.
When Musavat applied for membership of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR, now Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party, ALDE), some members considered Musavat's ideology to be incompatible with Western liberalism. Board member Nasib Nasibli even resigned, stating that the party was committed to Turkic nationalism rather than liberalism. Nevertheless, Musavat was eventually admitted to ELDR.
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M.A. Resuloğlu (1962). "Müsavat Partisinin kuruluşu", Müsavat bülteni, 14, İstanbul, 10
Until 1918, when the Musavat regime decided to name the newly independent state Azerbaijan, this designation had been used exclusively to identify the Iranian province of Azerbaijan.
The region to the north of the river Araxes was not called Azerbaijan prior to 1918, unlike the region in northwestern Iran that has been called since so long ago.