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The history of science in Azerbaijan


The men living in primitive communal system were interested in the reasons of natural phenomena taken place around them and tried to expand their knowledge on the world. The Neanderthal men who lived 200 thousand years ago knew about medicinal plants. The change in the places of the celestial bodies was also of interest to the ancients.
From this point of view things found in Azykh cave of Azerbaijan are of special interest. Here were found things prepared and used by men living there 300-400 thousand years ago. Among them one can see the skulls of the cave bears with special characters engraved in it. According to the scientists, they could mean the numeration characters. Supposedly the men living in the Azykh cave were watching over the motions of the celestial bodies and tried to count days and months. About 300 thousand years ago, the Azykh dwellers began to build of stones first primitive “dwellings”. No doubt that it should have required special skills and knowledge with the ancients.
At the end of the 2nd and the beginning of the 1st millenium BC first state structures appeared in the territory of Azerbaijan. Manna was the most powerful and largest. Manna had the culture of literacy being the most important condition of the scientific achievement. They engraved their knowledge on the medicine, astronomy and geometry with cuneiform (special hieroglyphs) in clay slabs. The ancient Assyria sources informed on the existence of these writings and used the expression “a man of Manna will write a book…..”. 
The monarchs of Manna Iranzu (737-718/17 BC) and Asheri (died 659 BC) paid a great attention to the development of science and culture. The people of Manna had an idea about mineralogy, chemistry, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, agriculture, etc. At that time, the irrigation channels were built in the territories around Lake Urmia. There were a lot of cultivation areas, warehouses of grain, barley and wine. The organization of the agrarian sector at such a high level required deep scientific knowledge. The Manna who learned the peculiarities and behaviours of domestic animals, tried to select local domestic species (horse, cow, bull, zebu, ship and goat). The thoroughbred horses of Manna rated highly in neighbouring states. The new varieties of wheat, barley and many cultivated plants were cultivated as a result of a long-term selection carried out by the local population of the ancient Azerbaijan territories and then spread to other states.
Another field of activity developed in Manna and requiring scientific education was record keeping. The collection of taxes from the population, planning the state budget, calculation of receipts and expenditures stimulated the development of the knowledge of mathematics and law. The study of minerals allowed the Manna to carry out large scale mine works and develop metallurgy. This is proved by the home appliances and adornments made of gold, silver and bronze dating from IX-VII centuries BC found as a result of the archaeological excavations carried out in Ziviyya and Goytepe situated in the south of Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijani craftsmen being familiar with the physical and chemical properties of the metals made various alloys. In the 1st millennium BC they can obtain various alloys of bronze (copper-lead, copper-manganese, and copper-arsenic). Local craftsmen studied the properties of iron, tin and lead and made various things.
Geometry and mathematics developed in Azerbaijan in IX-VI centuries BC. The precise geometrical calculations allowed the architects of Manna to lay the foundations of towns, build palaces and sublime castles. They first elaborated the design of a building before constructing it. The construction works (digging the foundations, grinding the stones and columns of equal sizes, their enrichment, etc) were based on the precise calculations requiring skills in mathematics and geometry. 
The state of Media was founded in VII centuries BC in Azerbaijan and Iran. The science and literacy were of great importance in Media. The secretaries working in the public institutions were called “dipiri” (from the Akkadian language). Then this word was adopted by the Persian from the Median language assuming the form of “debir”. The Median people used the alphabet of “arami” (the ancient Syria) being the most ancient alphabet in the world. The Roman and Greek sources inform about written literature and culture of books existing in Media. For example, a Roman historian Plini, referring to a Greek scientist Hermipp wrote that the magicians (Zoroastrians) had books of 2 million lines. Unfortunately, none of these books, but Avesta, have reached nowadays.
Media was rich with oil fields. A part of the fields were located on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The Medians studied oil properties and applied technical innovations and novelties in the oil industry. For example, for the first time in the world here was invented a special mechanical facility to extract oil from the oil well. The specialists prepared various drugs from oil (drops, oils, etc.). The specialists of military and chemical sciences obtained firearms from the crude oil and certain minerals.
The priests of Media were the most educated class of society. They knew by heart the ancient texts and developed theology. Media became the centre of the Azerbaijan religion of Zoroastrism during the period of his successor Atropathene. The major principles of Zoroastrism (benevolent idea, benevolent word and benevolent deed) underlined the importance of intellectual and moral standards. After Media was occupied by the Persian dynasty of Achaemenids, it remained to be the scientific and religious centre in the Western Asia. Philosophy and theology were rapidly developing in the country. In VI-V centuries BC the Greek scientists benefited from instructions of the Median magicians. When the ancient Greek philosopher Empedok (about 490-430 BC) said that all things consisted of four elements (water, air, fire and soil), he relied upon a Zoroastrian idea about sacred matters (water, air, fire and soil).
After Alexander, the Macedonian (356-323 BC) put an end to Achaemenids Empire and conquered a wide territory from Greece to India the period of “Hellenism” was set in the Eastern culture and science. This period characterised with interaction of the sciences of ancient Greek and East, had an effect on Azerbaijan too. At these times an independent state of Atropatena was founded in the territory of Azerbaijan. The regional power positively influenced on the development of sciences. Aterpat (Greek – Atropat, IV century BC), the first tsar of Atropatena was a follower of a doctrine of Zoroastrism philosophy and tried to protect the state against the influence of the Greek culture. But it was unreal to be fully isolated from the influence of the Greek culture in the period when the Macedonian monarchs were powerful.
Some Azerbaijani scientists, aristocrats and merchants knew the Greek Language well enough. Even literate people living in the small towns and villages had an idea about the theses of the Greek science. The written parchments dating back to the Hellenism period were found in the course of archaeological excavations in the Avroman region of Atropatena. These documents bearing the marks of the Greek influence contained the information on law and agriculture of that time.  In that period the Greek scientists arranged two sea expeditions to develop an exact map of the Caspian Sea and neighbouring regions. The first expedition was arranged during the reign of Alexander, the Macedonian (headed by Heraclitus) and the second in 285-280 BC (headed by Patroki). Nevertheless the expeditions was not successful at large, it broadened the knowledge on the Azerbaijan geography.
Atropatena statehood was put to an end. It was occupied by Sassanid Empire. But nevertheless it turned into one of the scientific, religious and cultural centres of the Empire. During this period the prestige of a Zoroastrian philosophy and the Greek science was enhancing. The works of Quale, Hippocrates, Euclid, Ptolomaeus translated from the Greek were spreading in Azerbaijan. Afterwards, there was created a number of works on astrology.
In IV-VII centuries secular sciences were also developing in Azerbaijan. The major scientific professions popular during that period were cited in the source named “The letter of Tansar”: “secretaries, persons who processed letters and documents, specialists in arithmetic, doctors, geographers and astrologists”. The children of aristocrats got their primary education at home but after 8 they were sent to school. Schools taught medicine, arithmetic, geography, music and astronomy.
The various sciences developed in I-VII centuries in the Caucasian Albania covering the major territory of the present Azerbaijan Republic. Khazar, savir, Hun and other Turkic tribes inhabited in Albania had “run” alphabet . Orkhon-Yenisei cliff writings being the cultural legacy of all the Turkic nations were created with this alphabet.
Other sciences were also developing in Albania along with history. There were specialists in mathematics, agriculture, medicine working in Albania. The Greek language was wide spread in the Caucasian Albania as in the other Christian countries and the works of the scientists and philosophers of ancient Greek and medieval Byzantine, were well known here. The priests (shaman) of the Turkic tribes were very educated. Some of them assimilated religio-philosophical ideas of Christians and some remain devoted to the ancient Turkic theology. The skills of Oghuz tribes in medicine were reflected in “Kitabi Dada Gorgud”. In spite of these achievements of the ancient period, exact sciences developed comparatively slow in Azerbaijan before the religion of Islam. The reason for this in Caucasian Albania was the creation of the alphabet only in 4th century and the lack of the unitary state language.
During the reign of caliphates (VII-IX) Azerbaijan was occupied by the Arabic troops and became the part of the Arab Caliphate extending from Spain to India. The unification of various nations in the unified state and their intercommunication led to the rapid development of sciences and cultures. This growth initiated in IX century continued till the end of XIV century. It can be pointed out without exaggeration that Islamic world constituted the pinnacle of the mankind’s civilization in IX-XIV centuries. The largest madrasas (universities), observatories, hospitals, drug stores and libraries were located in the Muslim East and the most experienced scientists worked here. Caliph Harun-ar-Rashid and caliph al-Mamnun played a special role in the prosperity of science. Caliph al-Mamnun layed the foundation of “Beytul-hikmet” (“The House of Knowledge”) academy in about 827 year. The academy that played a particular role in the development of science in Muslim East, including Azerbaijan was founded to be a match for the famous Jundishapur Academy of Sassanid state. In “Beytul-hikmet” the scientific books in ancient Greek, Hindu, Arami and other ancient languages of the East were translated into Arabic and spread in various regions of the Caliphate, as well as Azerbaijan. Thus, in IX-XIV centuries the Renaissance period in Azerbaijan can be divided into two stages: the first staged began with the activities of Abbasi caliphs and covered IX-XII centuries. The humanitarian sciences developed best of all during this period. The second period covers the period of the reign of Elkhanids (XIII-XIV centuries) and is characterised with the strong development of the exact sciences (medicine, mathematics, astronomy, geometry, etc.).
The weakening of Arab Caliphate in IX century resulted in restoration of national statehood in Azerbaijan. The formation of such powerful independent states as Sajids, Salari, Ravvadids, Shaddadids, Atabey and Shirvanshah stimulated scientific and cultural growth. Shirvanshah and Atabey patronized science and culture. They kept the prominent scientists with their palaces and ordered them to write scientific works. At that time the most developed fields of science were philosophy, law, literature, linguistics, mathematics, astronomy, medicine and chemistry.
In XIII-XIV centuries all the fields of science, especially exact sciences were rapidly developing. The decay in science after XIV century shouldn’t be only put down to the Mongolian slaughters and destructions. Generally, bloody wars and destructions took place at all the stages of history. But it was very seldom that they crucially slowed down the development of science. 
During the reign of Elkhanids science reached an all-time high. The outstanding scientists lived and worked in Tabriz, Maraga, Urmia, Khoy, Ardabil, Shamakhi, Beylagan, Ganja and other cities. The famous Maraga observatory was founded in the vicinity of Maraga city in 1259. The order to build the observatory was given by the Mongolian governor Kazan khan on the advice of Nasraddin Tusi.
During the period of the Mongolian rule, the Azerbaijan science experienced new ties and influences. The Mongolians propagandized a Chinese science, culture and art in Azerbaijan. The effect of the Chinese culture to Mongolia bordering on China was very high.
The Azerbaijan science also influenced upon the Chinese one. For example, Fao Mun Chi and a number of other Chinese scientists studied astronomy in Maraga observatory and improved their skills. After working in Maraga observatory for some time, Fao Mun Chi and Jamaladdin Bukhari went back to Beijing with the scheme of the observatory. This was the only reason that they could build observatory in Beijing.
During this period of time a number of prominent figures appeared in various fields of science. The mathematician Ubeyd Tabrizi wrote “Risalat ul-hesab” (“The book of arithmetic”), Najmaddin Ahmad Nakhchivani wrote comments and notes to Ibn Sina’s works on medicine and philosophy. The rapid development of medicine in Azerbaijan dates back to XIII-XIV centuries. Abu Abdulla Mahammad ibn Namvar Tabrizi wrote “Advar ul-hamiyyat” (“The most important drugs”). “Jameyi-Bagdadi” (“The digest of Bagdad”) written in 1311 by Yusif ibn Ismail Khoylu well-known with the pseudonym of Ibn Kabir who was the most prominent pharmacist of Azerbaijan and generally of Muslim East, was considered to be a complete work on pharmacy in the East.
In XIII-XIV centuries only in the south of Azerbaijan there were 67 hospitals with specialists in medicine and pharmacy working there. The scientific centre called “Dar ush-shafa” (“The house of healing”) was founded in Tabriz early in XIV century. Besides training institution there were also medical institution and a hospital in the Centre. Here worked specialists invited from China, India, Syria and Egypt along with Azerbaijan scientists and teachers.
The sciences developing in Azerbaijan were divided into two categories by medieval thinkers. The first category was composed of sciences called theology and they included the following subjects: figh, kalam (theology that researches religion), linguistics (the grammar of the Arabic), literature (the rule of writing of poetry and publication) and history (especially, the history of Islam).
In its turn, secular sciences were called “philosophy” and divided into two big parts (theoretical philosophy and empirical philosophy). The theoretical philosophy included the natural history sciences (medicine, meteorology, mineralogy and chemistry), mathematics, Greek philosophy and theology and the empirical philosophy was generally composed of morals (ethics), tadbir ul-manzil (housewifery) and politics. This classification system was reflected in the works of a number of eastern thinkers.
Science and culture was more rapidly developed in the states of Garagoyunlu and then Aggoyunlu with the capitals in Tabriz. A number of famous scientists lived and worked in Tabriz during this period. Badraddin Amir Seyid Ahmad Lalavi was a specialist in logic, grammar, literature and mathematics and an author of many scientific works.
The state of Shirvanshah was also strengthened a lot. The strengthening of the central power and economic recovery caused the growth of science. Shamakhi, Baku and Derbend were famous as scientific and cultural centres.
At this time geography was also developing in Azerbaijan. Medieval Azerbaijan scientists had precise geographical information on the most states of the world. Abdurrashid ibn-Saleh Bakuvi in his work of A Short Description of the Monuments and Magical Deeds of the Almighty Lord gave information on the cities, geographic settlements and historical monuments of the world, as well as Azerbaijan.
The Azerbaijan science in XVI century. The formation of a powerful Safavi state in Azerbaijan positively influenced on the development of science and culture. The Safavi Empire attached great importance to the development of the national language. Shah Ismail the First, his descendants spoke and wrote in Azerbaijan language and patronized the use of the national language in record keeping. There were schools and madrasas in all the cities of Azerbaijan in XVI century. They taught theology, mathematics and logic. The first capital of the Safavi Empire Tabriz was famous for being scientific and cultural centre. There was a rich library with rare manuscripts and miniature books. Another large library was in Ardabil, the Motherland of the Safavi. The valuable works on astronomy, historiography and philosophy were created during this period. The Safavi monarchs attached great importance to astronomy and other sciences.
As in XVI century Azerbaijan and Iran were a part of the unified Safavi Empire, it played a great role in the rapprochement of the two states. A lot of Azerbaijani writers, poets, historians and scientists lived in the various regions of Iran and made valuable contributions to the Persian culture. The representatives of the Iranian science closely cooperated with the Azerbaijani scientists and assigned a wide place to Azerbaijan in their works. That is why a number of Azerbaijani scientists were at the same time considered to be Iranian scientists and some representatives of Iran and other nations lived and worked in Azerbaijan and were considered Azerbaijan scientists.
The science of medicine developed and a lot of hospitals and chemist’s shops operated in Azerbaijan. The French traveller Jan Sharden who visited Azerbaijan in 60th of XVII century wrote that there were three municipal hospitals in Tabriz and they were quite clean and neat. The patients took strong medication here.
In 1801-28 when Russia occupied the southern khanates of Azerbaijan, the influence and prestige of the west science began to grow here. The schools were founded in the country to operate on the basis of the western education system and the Azerbaijanis got education in Russia and Europe. The progressive Azerbaijani scientists began to benefit from the achievements and methods of the up-to-date European science along with developing the centuries-old traditions of the western science.
The new works on the science of history were created in Azerbaijan in XIX century. In comparison with the previous ones most of the historical researches were already written in Azeri language. The history of Garabagh that is an ancient land of Azerbaijan was specially highlighted in this research. The events taken place in Garabagh in 1736-1828 were interpreted in the work “Garabaghname ” written by Mirza Adigozel bey in 1845. One part of the work translated into Russian was published in “Kaspi” newspaper. Mir Mehdi Khazani wrote “Kitabi-tarikhi Garabagh”, Rzagulu bey Mirza Javanshir -“Tarikhi-Garabagh”, but Hasanli khan Garabaghi –“Garabaghname”. The facts highlighted in these works prove once more that historically Garabagh belongs to Azerbaijan and they are important in terms of studying the history of Garabagh.
As a result of gradually developing scientific and cultural ties between Azerbaijan and Russia, some scientists of Azerbaijan began teaching in the universities of Russia and after a while became famous there thanks to their knowledge and scientific achievements. Late in XVIII century and early in XIX century Azerbaijan scientists began to play an important role in the orientalism of Russia. Nasirov, Abuturab Vazirov, Mirza Mahammad Shafi, Osmanov, Sadikhbey Jafarov, Mirza Abdulla Vezirov, Mirza Hasan Tahirov, Mahammad Aliyev, Mirza Abdulla Gaffarov, Mirza Jafar Rizayev and others can be cited among the Azerbaijanis working in Russia as teachers and translators during this period.
Some Azerbaijanis arranged the training of Azerbaijani, Persian and Arabic in the universities of Petersburg and Kazan and taught eastern philosophy, law and literature. As their role grew in the middle of XIX century, this made it possible to claim that Russian orientalism was developed by the Azerbaijani scientists.
The role of Azerbaijani scientists in the Russian orientalism kept growing in the first half of XIX century. Azerbaijan intellectuals educated in Russia and Europe in their turn familiarized Russian scientists with the culture, literature, history and philosophy of the ancient East, as well as Azerbaijani, Arabic and Persian languages.
One of the famous orientalists of that period was Mirza Kazim bey. He wrote his first scientific work “Abridged grammar of the Arabic language” when he was 17. From 1826 Kazim bey taught Persian and Turkish-Tatar (Azerbaijani) languages in Kazan University, later he was conferred a title of professor and became a dean of the faculty. Kazim bey studied the scientific grammar of the Azerbaijani language. His book “The grammar of the Azerbaijani language” was published for the first time in Russia (in 1839 and 1846).
Some changes took place in the science of philosophy in Azerbaijan, as well. The Azerbaijani philosophers with a western education began to familiarize themselves with the ideas of the European philosophers of that time like Yungun, Kant and others along with analysing the works of Aristotle and al-Gazali. M.F.Akhundzade who mastered and propagandized the western philosophic ideas reflected his philosophical meetings in his work “Kamaluddovla letters”.
Some scientists of that period wrote in a medieval scientific manner, were devoted to the principles of the centuries-old eastern science and didn’t recognize scientific innovations. Nevertheless, they created a number of progressive and excellent works. The famous geographer Haji Zeynalabdin Shirvani who travelled to Iran, Turkey, Arabia, India, Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, etc. overcame a distance of 60 000 km during 36 years. The economy, cultural life and traditions of many countries were highlighted in his works written to summarize these journeys.
The greatest achievement of the Azerbaijani science in XIX century was the development of the natural and technical sciences. The development of chemistry and petrochemistry began in the second half of XIX century with the progress of the oil industry in Azerbaijan. Baku branch of Imperial Russian Technological Society was founded. The major research on petrochemistry was carried out in the laboratory of the branch. The Russian scientist D.I.Mendeleyev visited Baku in 1878 and 1880 and studied the problems of oil processing here. The facility for obtaining kerosene through thermal decomposition was founded in Baku for the first time in the world in 1885. This project was improved by Shukhov and Gavrilov in 1891.
At this time a lot of experienced chemists were growing up. After getting an education at the Russian and West universities they carried out scientific research. Movsum bey Khanlarov, an Azerbaijani chemist, doctor of chemistry who got his education in Strasburg University of Germany in 1880-90 carried out research on the organic chemistry. His first article “The effect of acetic thioacid on ethyl-thiocyanate” was published in 1882 in Germany.
There was a great shortage in the professional biologists in Azerbaijan but a number of physicians and teachers carried out enlightenment works and tried to familiarize the population with principal biological knowledge. Their main aim was to familiarize the Azerbaijani community with the achievements of the European science in biology. The development of biology and rural economy in Azerbaijan is bound to the name of Hasan bey Zardabi and Najaf bey Vazirov.
The overabundance of the vegetation cover of Azerbaijan attracted the attention of the biologists and caused them to study the vegetation cover of the country. Here exists about 4 thousand of higher plant species. But the number of works describing the vegetation cover of Azerbaijan was few. The first research for the study of the vegetation cover of the Caucasus was carried out by Najaf bey Vazirov.
Health care system in Azerbaijan during the Russian Empire was poor. There was a lack of hospitals there and no medical institution at all. The tsarist government never backed up the idea of establishing schools for getting medical education in Baku and other cities of Azerbaijan. The children of wealthy families got higher medical education in Moscow, Petersburg and the European countries and came back to serve their nation. The only medical public organization located in Baku was the Baku Medical Society. Here M.M.Vakilov, A.Akhundov, A.M.Mehmandarov and others carried out scientific research in medicine.
The science of history kept developing in Azerbaijan early in XIX century. Some of the written works bore the marks of medieval history whereas the others were with a trace of modernism. The book of Rashid bey Ismailov “Concise history of the Caucasus” narrating about the history of Azerbaijan and neighbouring states was published in 1905.
The philology was also developing in Azerbaijan. Firidun Kocharli, Seid Huseynov and other outstanding scientists carried out activities in this field.
The development of the science in Azerbaijan was lingered because the tsarist government didn’t permit to establish institutions of higher education (universities), scientific societies and research institutions here. The first institution of higher education for training national human resources - Baku University was established only during the period of Azerbaijan People’s Republic in 1919. The science of Azerbaijan became rather developed during Azerbaijan People’s Republic (1918-20) and Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic (1920-91).
The Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences founded in the middle of XX century played an exceptional role in the effective organization of the intellectual potential of the Azerbaijan people, determination of strategic trends of science in accordance with the requirements of that period and development of fundamental and applied sciences.
The scientific achievements of Azerbaijan during the Soviet period can be generalized as follows:
 Discovery and exploration of oil and gas fields, construction of scaffold bridges, the extraction of oil and gas on deep foundations, the solution of scientific problems related to the seabed and other spheres;
 the solution of scientific problems related to the oil and engineering industry, as well as deep excavations in the sophisticated geological environments;
 the solution of scientific problems related to the formation of raw materials base for the development of petrochemistry and petrochemical industry and establishment of chemical-engineering systems;
 geographical, geological and geophysical research, exploration of ore deposits, non-metallic and other mineral resources deposits;
 carrying out important research in mechanics, physics, mathematics, astronomy, informatics and foundation of influential scientific schools;
 the solution of scientific problems of agriculture, pedology, melioration and water industry;
 the solution of scientific problems as to conservation and effective use of flora, fauna, soil and species composition of the area;
 the creation of tens of new highly productive species of plant and agriculture animal as a result of research in physicochemical and molecular biology, genetic engineering, bionics and selection;
 laying foundations of influential scientific schools in protozoology, phytosociology and physiology;
 carrying out research in the varied areas of medicine, discovery of local natural drugs and mineral springs, elaboration of new methods of diagnostics, treatment and preventive treatment for the health care system;
 the study of ethnogeny, archaeology, ethnography, political and socioeconomic history and historiography of our nation;
 the study of manuscripts of Azerbaijani philosophers and thinkers, published in Arabic, Turkish and Persian during Middle Ages, as well as their rich legacy;
 the study of philosophic and socio-political ideas of the Azerbaijani people and its main development stages;
 the study of the history of public and literary idea, major issues of literary criticism and the history of literature;
 the compilation, cataloguing, classification, publication and study of rich Azerbaijani folklore;
 the study of history, literature, philology, languages, public idea and religious history of the eastern nations, translation and publication of the written monuments, research of social and political, as well as ethnic and cultural processes running in the eastern countries;
 the development of scientific discipline of documentation, as well as the research for the study of historical national architectural schools, foundation of the up-to-date schools of architecture and restoration of landmarks;
 the study of the traditional national musical culture and foundation of modern professional school of musicology;
 the study and interpretation of the Azerbaijani language, the history of literary language and dialects, translation, compilation of  dictionaries of terminology and dialectic atlas.
A favourable ground was set up for the reforms in science after Azerbaijan restored state independence. The President of the Azerbaijan Republic Ilham Aliyev with his Decree dated January 4, 2003 broadened the range of activities of the Academy by conferring the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences a status of high state scientific organization that organizes and provides the development of science in the Azerbaijan Republic, carries out state policy in science and technology, coordinates and directs research activities of all the scientific institutions and higher schools in Azerbaijan and represents Azerbaijan in the field of scientific and technological activities in foreign countries.
The national strategy for the development of science in Azerbaijan Republic during 2009-2015 and State Program on the implementation of the national strategy for the development of science in Azerbaijan Republic during 2009-2015 was ratified by the Order of the President of the Azerbaijan Republic Ilham Aliyev dated May 4, 2009.

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