A look back at the remarkable events of 2021 in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan marked 2021 with several remarkable events in the political, economic, cultural and sports fields. More importantly, the past year marked the beginning of a process of rebirth in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan after decades of illegal Armenian occupation and destruction. Here’s a look at some of the biggest events from the past year.

January 4: Azerbaijani chess grandmaster Teimour Radjabov has won the prestigious Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Airthings Masters tournament featuring the world’s elite chess players.

January 11: Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan held the first post-war meeting on the initiative of Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Moscow. The summit ended with the signing of a trilateral declaration for the unblocking of all economic and transport links in the region.

January 30: The Turkish-Russian Joint Monitoring Center was launched in Aghdam district in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. The main task of the center is to monitor compliance with the ceasefire in the region.

May 12-13: The city of Shusha in Azerbaijan hosted the grand Kharybulbul Music Festival, a cultural extravaganza that marked the return of Azerbaijan’s multicultural traditions to the city after its nearly 30-year illegal Armenian occupation.

May 29: “November 8” metro station went online in the capital Baku in honor of Azerbaijan’s victory in the 44-day war with Armenia in the Karabakh region in 2020.

June 15: The Presidents of Azerbaijan and Turkey sign the Shusha Strategic Declaration in the city of Shusha. The document deals with coordinated and joint Turkish-Azerbaijani activities in the event of a threat or aggression by one or more third States against the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, inviolability of internationally recognized borders or security of each country.

July 23 – August 8: Forty-four Azerbaijani athletes competed in the 2020 Summer Olympics in the Japanese capital of Tokyo. The country’s male and female competitors won a total of 7 medals, including 3 silver awards and 4 bronze awards.

August 24-September 5: Paralympic athletes from Azerbaijan took to the stage at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Summer Games. Fifteen of the 36 sportsmen and women won 14 gold, 1 silver and 4 bronze medals, showing the most prolific result in the history of Paralympic sports of Azerbaijan and ranking 10 in the overall medal standings.

August 30: “Vagif Poetry Days”, a cultural event honoring the great Azerbaijani poet and public figure Molla Panah Vagif, began in Shusha. President Ilham Aliyev inaugurated the Vagif Mausoleum after a major overhaul on the first day of the festival. The mausoleum was destroyed and looted by Armenians during the occupation of Shusha for 28 years since 1992.

October 26: Fuzuli International Airport, the first premier air port in liberated Azerbaijani lands, was launched in a ceremony attended by President Ilham Aliyev and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkish and Azerbaijani companies completed construction of the airport in eight months. The airport has been recognized by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

November 7: President Ilham Aliyev inaugurates the brand new “Victory Road” highway which connects the Fuzuli district to the city of Shusha in the Karabakh region over a 101 kilometer route.

November 8: The first anniversary of the liberation of Azerbaijani lands from the almost thirty-year illegal Armenian occupation, known as “Victory Day”, was solemnly celebrated. Azerbaijani forces liberated the strategic city of Shusha in the Karabakh region on this day in 2020, which was considered the pinnacle of the Azerbaijani army’s 44-day counter-offensive operations, dubbed “Iron Fist”, against the Armenian occupiers. Azerbaijan liberated more than 300 settlements, including five major cities that had been under Armenian occupation since the early 1990s. The war ended after the signing of a tripartite declaration on November 10, 2020 by Armenia, the Azerbaijan and Russia. Armenia returned three more districts to Azerbaijan’s control as part of its obligations under the deal.

November 26: President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan met in the Russian city of Sochi at the initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The joint statement signed at the meeting confirmed the aspirations of Azerbaijan and Armenia to unblock regional transport communications and create border delimitation and demarcation mechanisms.

December 10: Azerbaijani football club Qarabağ FK qualified for the UEFA Conference League play-offs. This is the best result ever achieved by an Azerbaijani team in a competition organized by UEFA. Qarabağ FK’s play-off rival is Marseille of France.

December 14: President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan were received by European Council President Charles Michel in Brussels on the sidelines of the Eastern Partnership Summit. Azerbaijan and Armenia agreed to build transport communications through Armenian territory that would restore a direct connection between the Azerbaijani mainland and its exclave of Nakhichevan.

December 15: Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders met in an informal meeting at the initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron in Brussels. Some analysts explained the meeting by Macron’s desire to strengthen relations with Baku and Yerevan after the 2020 war, which radically changed the geopolitical realities of the region.