Türkİye, World

Türkiye's gateway to Turkic world: Nakhchivan

Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic has Azerbaijan's only land border with Türkiye, measuring 17.7 kms, and acts as the gateway from Türkiye to the Turkic world

Ruslan Rehimov  | 25.09.2023 - Update : 26.09.2023
Türkiye's gateway to Turkic world: Nakhchivan

BAKU, Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited on Monday, stands out as a homeland that is important not only for Azerbaijan and Türkiye, but also for the entire Turkic world with its historical and geographical features. 

Nakhchivan has Azerbaijan's only land border with Türkiye, measuring 17.7 kilometers (11 miles), and serves as the gateway from Türkiye to the Turkic world.

Nakhchivan, which has been an important transition and connection point between east and west, north and south due to its geographical location throughout history, over the centuries has been under the rule of the Seljuks, Eldiguzids, Khwarazmshahs, Ilkhanids, Timurs, Aq Qoyunlu, Qara Qoyunlu, Ottomans, Safavids, and Qajars. Nakhchivan, ruled by local khans in the 18th century, was annexed by Czarist Russia in the early 19th century.

Nakhchivan, whose population is mostly made up of Azerbaijani Turks, remained within the borders of Azerbaijan, which declared its independence on May 28, 1918, following the 1917 Revolution in Russia. Suffering greatly from the attacks of Armenians from 1918 to 1921, Nakhchivan showed heroic resistance with the help of a small number of Turkish officers and soldiers and the weapons left by the Turkish army during its withdrawal in order to ward off the Armenian danger.  

Türkiye becomes guarantor of Nakhchivan

Soviet rule was established in Azerbaijan in 1920, but the Soviets ceded the Zangezur region, a piece of land between contiguous Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan, to Armenia. Thus, Nakhchivan's land contact with other regions of Azerbaijan was cut off.

Nakhchivan gained an autonomous structure with the Treaty of Moscow signed between Türkiye and the Soviet Union on March 16, 1921, and was left to Azerbaijan on the condition that it would not be abandoned to another state.

The same issue was confirmed by the Treaty of Kars signed between Türkiye, the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia on Oct. 13, 1921, and Türkiye became the guarantor of Nakhchivan remaining an autonomous republic affiliated with Azerbaijan. In the following years, Armenia tried to annex Nakhchivan, like Zangezur, but in line with the provisions of the Moscow and Kars treaties, Nakhchivan continued to exist as an autonomous republic within Azerbaijan.  

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk: ‘Nakhchivan is the Turkic gateway’

In history, Yusuf Kemal Bey, later Turkish foreign minister, who was a member of the delegation that went to Russia for negotiations before the 1921 Treaty of Moscow, met with Mustafa Kemal Pasha one day before leaving Ankara and said, "Pasha, what should we do if the Russians insist on Nakhchivan?" and Atatürk replied, "Nakhchivan is the Turkic gateway. Do your best, taking this into consideration."

With Azerbaijan declaring its independence in 1991, Nakhchivan retained its "autonomous republic" status as an integral part of the country.  

Governed by authorized representative of Azerbaijan’s president

The Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, with a population of about half a million, is governed by an authorized representative of the president of Azerbaijan.

Legislative duties are carried out by the Supreme Assembly (parliament) of the republic.

There is also a Cabinet appointed by Azerbaijan’s president. Organizations responsible for intelligence and customs work directly under the central government in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku.  

Where the Organization of Turkic States was founded

The Turkic Council, founded in 2009by Türkiye, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan in Nakhchivan, was renamed the Organization of Turkic States at a leaders' summit in November 2021 in Istanbul.  

Igdir-Nakhchivan Natural Gas Pipeline to benefit Nakhchivan

Ground was also broken on the Igdir-Nakhchivan Natural Gas Pipeline during President Erdogan's visit to Nakhchivan.

Nakhchivan's natural gas needs are currently supplied from Iran. In Dec. 15, 2020, Türkiye and Azerbaijan signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the Supply of Natural Gas in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic to reduce Nakhchivan's dependence on Iran for natural gas to zero.

Under the pact, a new 85-km (53-mi) pipeline will be built to Nakhchivan as a continuation of the Igdir Natural Gas Pipeline, which exits via the Eastern Anatolia Natural Gas Main Transmission Line. The pipeline, which will have an annual transport capacity of 500 million cubic meters, will meet all of Nakhchivan's natural gas needs when it comes into operation.  

Zangezur Corridor to boost importance of Nakhchivan 

The lack of a land connection with the western provinces of Azerbaijan is the biggest obstacle to the development of Nakhchivan. Azerbaijanis have to reach Nakhchivan either by air or via Iran.

After the second Karabakh war in fall 2020, an article was included in the tripartite declaration signed between the two countries and Russia confirming Azerbaijan's Karabakh victory with Armenia accepting its defeat, at the request of President Ilham Aliyev, and regarding the opening of transportation lines between Nakhchivan and the rest of (contiguous) Azerbaijan.

Although Azerbaijan has largely completed the railway and road work on its territory, which it calls the Zangezur Corridor, Armenia has not yet taken any steps in this regard.

When the Zangezur Corridor becomes operational, it will connect the western provinces of Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan via Armenia, and will also be one of the routes of the Central Corridor, which extends from China to Central Asia, the Caspian Sea, the Caucasus, and Türkiye. Thus, the importance of Nakhchivan will increase even more.  

Homeland of Azerbaijani statesmen

Throughout history, Nakhchivan has produced many statesmen and scientists, artists, architects, poets, and men of letters. Among them, the most prominent is late President Heydar Aliyev, who was born in Nakhchivan on May 10, 1923.

Azerbaijan’s second president, the late Abulfaz Elchibey, is also from Nakhchivan.

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