Diana Galstyan, Varujean Geghamyan1

In developed countries the so-called Think Tanks (TT) play important
role in making decisions on state and social levels. National security
is more than ever conditioned by the ability to arrange and to use
intellectual resources in accordance with the national interests
and think tanks take special place in that process2. Modern states
cannot meet internal and external challenges without developed,
independent expert community. If in the West these are long ago
established institutions, in post-Soviet countries think tanks or
centers which undertake similar functions are just being formed and
try to be involved in decision making.

Azerbaijan is not an exception either. The analytical centers which
exist in the country mostly tend to approach the standards of the
western centers, thus using their experience, but, nevertheless,
they have some peculiarities which will be considered further.

General characteristics According to "The Global "Go-To Think Tanks"
report presented by the University of Pennsylvania on January 18,
2011, today there are 6480 think tanks in the world3. The report was
prepared based on the survey held among several thousand scholars
and experts who evaluated the activity of those institutions. There
were 12 Azerbaijani centers on the list (to compare in Armenia and
Georgia there are 14 centers): list was headed by the "Center for
Social and Economic Development", which took 14th position among 25
top think tanks in Eastern Europe.

According to the data for 2010 the Azerbaijani think tanks list were
topped by "Free Minds Association".

Let us see in what measure those 12 centers meet the criteria of the
think tanks.

>From the organizational point of view the analytical centers in
Azerbaijan are:

1.Academic research and educational institutions; 2.Centers formed
under the state structures; 3.NGOs.

The presence of the last group is conditioned by the fact that the
Azerbaijani think tanks are mainly registered as non-governmental
organizations, in order to avoid some issues connected with the taxes
and due to the absence of appropriate legal status. Considerable part
of 2467 NGOs registered in the country exist only on paper, But among
those NGOs there are the ones which undertake eager activity including
research and propaganda, Very often their activities are similar to the
functions of the think tanks. This is proved by the presence of the
representatives of a number of NGOs at the "Brain Storm in the 21st
century. Issues and Challenges" round table arranged by the Center
for Strategic Studies under the president of Azerbaijan in 20104.

Due to the aforementioned reasons it is sometimes difficult to specify
whether one or another organization is a think tank or it is not. So,
the leading research organizations submitted the legislative changes
which would allow forming separate think tank field.

Despite the form of organization the main trends of their activities

1.Economic studies 2.International relations 3.Propaganda
(pro-governmental and anti-Armenian) 4.Intra-social issues 5.Issues
devoted to the Turkic world.

Let us considered what kind of activity is carried out by each type
of the structures.

Thus, among the academic research institutions the Khazar (Caspian)
University (1991) and the Diplomatic Academy of Azerbaijan (2006) with
their research centers can be singled out. They prepare top-class
specialists who meet western standards and who even during their
study are involved in the researches.

The research structures working under the universities is rather
wide-spread practice in developed countries and it allows with the
help of the students involving new expert personnel in the works of
the analytical centers.

Among the centers formed under the auspices of the state structures the
Center for the Strategic Studies under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
as well as the Institute for Scientific Studies and Economic Reforms
under the Ministry of Economic Reforms can be mentioned. The "research
product" of those institutions is mainly used in restricted circles.

The most well-known center established on the state initiative is
the Center for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic
of Azerbaijan (SAM) which claims to be a think tank. It serves the
interest of the authorities and receives considerable financial aid
from the state. The Center expands its activity on different spheres,
including participation in anti-Armenian propaganda. The head of the
center and its experts take any opportunity to present the stance
of Azerbaijan on the Karabakh conflict and events in Khojalu at
any event arranged in the country or abroad as well as to spread
anti-Armenian propaganda.

On June 2011 the Center for Strategic Studies propounded to establish
the National Expert Council which will systematize the work of the
Azerbaijani think tanks. The purpose of the initiative is to create
general analytical "product" in Azerbaijan, in the creation of which
all academic and research analytical centers will be involved5.

In February 2011 Gulshan Pashaeva who had been the deputy of the
former director Elhan Nuriyev was appointed an alternate director of
the center. On January 21, 2011 Nuriev was dismissed from office on
the order of the Ilham Aliyev.

Among the non-governmental organizations the well-known is
the Center for Sociological Services "Pulse R", which with the
assistance of Friedrich Ebert Fund carries out surveys on social
and economic situation in Azerbaijan, its living standards, the
income of the population, trust to the authorities, activity of the
public institutions, the attitude of the population to the events in
Azerbaijan and in the world. Taking into consideration the fact that
the surveys are edited also by Rasim Musabekov who was the elected as
the deputy in Milli Majlis in 2010 and knowing about the restrictions
of the freedom of speech in Azerbiajan the results of those surveys
must not be taken for granted. However, they present some kind of
information about the Azerbaijani society.

There are purely economic centers in Azerbaijan either, and they are
comparatively independent, rather professional and cooperate with
western and developed Asian countries. Among them is the Center for
Social and Economic Development (established on June 1, 2005)6, which
has been recognized the leading economic think tank in Azerbaijan and
occupied 14th position in the top 25 think tanks in Eastern Europe,
The center mainly undertakes researches concerning economic, social,
energy spheres and provides consultations.

The leading think tank for 2010 "Free Minds Association" is considered
to be the first liberal think tank (established in 2005) which aim is
to spread free thought, justice, human rights, tolerance. It closely
cooperates with the liberal organizations from the CIS, Europe and US.

In 2007 the founder and the president of the center Tural Veliyev
won Stockholm network Golden Umbrella award in the Best Think Tank
in New Market Economies nomination7.

The Center for Economic Research (established on June 1, 2005)
implements the analysis of the social and economic developments in
the country, provides economic consultancy, carries out preparation
of the programmes of economic reforms and periodically submits the
accountings of consumer prices.

Internal cooperation While studying Azerbaijani research organizations
it turned out that there is almost no cooperation between them. Such a
situation was characterized in the report made during the round table
arranged by the Center for Strategic Studies under the president
of Azerbaijan: "According to the international data, there are 13
(in 2009) think tanks. I would like to ask those present who knows
about other 12"8.

During the aforementioned discussion the Center for Strategic Studies
under the president of Azerbaijan put forward an initiative of
cooperation, which was supported by other research organizations. In
particular, besides the formation of the expert council of think
tanks, a mechanism of announcing competitions (e.g. "The Best Think
Tank of the Year", "The Idea of the Year" and etc), making ratings,
providing dialogue with the state bodies and, finally, creation of the
"analytical market" were proposed.

External cooperation Azerbaijani think tanks cooperate with
different international organizations, banks, foundations9, as well
as foreign centers. The most active in the field of setting relations
with the partners from abroad is the Center for Strategic Studies
under the president of Azerbaijan. In short terms it set ties with
think tanks from Turkey, US, Great Britain, Israel, Germany, China,
Russia10, Georgia, Poland, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Norway and other
countries. This cooperation is manifested in joint academic and
analytical projects - conferences, round tables, bilateral visits
of the heads and the experts of the think tanks, exchange of the

Especially active is the cooperation with think tanks from Turkey. The
Azerbaijani centers have relations with The Turkish Asian Center
for Strategic Studies (TASAM), The International Strategic Research
Organization (USAK), USAD, SETA Foundation for Political, Economic,
and Social Research (SETA). Before 2008 the relations with the Eurasian
Strategic Research Center (ASAM) had been active11. On March 7, 2011 a
memorandum of cooperation was signed between the Center for Strategic
Studies under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey and the Center
for Strategic Studies under the president of Azerbaijan. It can be
supposed that this fact provides possibility for additional ties
and influence for the Turkish diplomatic corps in order to impact
Azerbaijani analytical center.

In its turn the Center for the Strategic Studies of the Diaspora and
Lobby came forward with an initiative to coordinate the activity of
think tanks in Turkic countries. It should also be mentioned that
this center has also created database of the intellectual resources
of the Azerbaijanis from all over the world.

At the same time a part of the think tanks in Azerbaijan, just like
the similar Turkish organizations, pay much attention to the issues
of the Turkic world. Some of them have appropriate sections on their

Some Azerbaijani centers are involved in "The Analytical Centers for
Turkic Dialogue" project which was initiated in April 200812. Besides,
the Azerbaijani think tanks participate in the forums of the
Organization of the Islamic Conference; they are involved in PASOS
independent think tank network, European "Stockholm" network, Atlas
Network, Global Developed Network.

Azerbaijani think tanks tend to expand the scope of their cooperation,
thus being present at the conferences or arranging conferences. Very
often the main goal of their participation is to sound the Azerbaijani
stance on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Research Centers or Think Tanks?

Though the first Azerbaijani research centers were established in
1994-9513, they can hardly be called think tanks in the classical sense
of this word. Azerbaijani think tanks still have serious obstacles
on their way of turning into classical think tanks14. Can think tanks
in Azerbaijan have serious impact on decision making, which is one of
the primary functions of think tanks? We believe at given stage it is
impossible, taking into consideration the authoritarian regime. The
activity of the think tanks in Azerbaijan is directed by authorities
and here direct and one-way connection between government and think
tank is active. According to the expert in economics Zohrap Islamaili,
on practice Milli Majlis fully depends on the executive authority,
and even if Azerbaijani think tanks manage to influence decision
making process on 30-40%, nevertheless, the decisions initiated by
the executive authority will pass15.

Another issue is financing. With some exceptions Azerbaijani
centers have restricted material resources. It is remarkable
that the Azerbaijani expert circles came out with a proposal to
establish "State Support Fund for Think Tanks" just like other
similar organizations. Among such organizations are "State Support
Fund for Mass Media Development under the president of Azerbaijan",
which allots rather big sums to the mass media in order to implement
their projects, but it is clear that in this way they lose their
independence. Under such circumstances you can understand in what
"The State Fund for Think Tanks Support" will turn.

Generally, the foreign governments and funds promote the creation of
research centers in Azerbaijan. This support is mostly in the format
of the programmes directed to the formation of the civil society. This
mechanism allows think tanks to act freely to some extent, but at
the same time it does not provide full freedom. Meanwhile, freedom
is a precondition for the efficient activity, which in our opinion,
is impossible in modern Azerbaijan. The activity of the Azerbaijani
think tanks is controlled by the ruling regime. Thus being financed by
the government or other organization the centers are obliged to follow
their demands. Naturally, the authorities, which merged with the state,
do not finance the centers which have alternative ideas and which
do not present their interests. Under such conditions it is almost
impossible to speak about independent, objective and efficient think
tanks. "Peace and Democracy Institute", which director Leila Yunusova
was one of the initiators of establishing think tanks in Azerbaijan,
firstly spread rather eager activity, but over the recent period
it became passive due to the scanty funding. The absence of funding
is conditioned by the anti-governmental statements made by Yunusova
periodically16. It is known that a case was initiated against Yunusova.

Prospects So what are the prospects of the Azerbaijani research

Considerable activity can be observed over the recent period: a number
of steps are taken in order to create think tanks which meet the modern
standards. Among them sending 8 representatives from Azerbaijan to
the US within the framework of USAID programme in 2009, in order to
study American experience and activity can be mentioned. A long-term
cooperation with the centers from different countries promotes the
development of Azerbaijani think tanks.

It is remarkable that in 2011 new "E-Think-tank" project was started
in 2011. It is implemented by the "Alumni Network" (Azerbaijan) and
Marshall Foundation (Germany). The goal of the project is to study
the ways of solution of the problems of the Azerbaijani society
and creation of think tanks. And in this project Adnan Hajizade is
involved; he was one of the two bloggers arrested in 2009 for the
political dissent.

On the other hand the administration of the president of Azerbaijan is
interested in unification of think tanks. We have already mentioned
"Brain Storm in the 21st century. Issues and Challenges" round table
held by the Center for Strategic Studies under the president of
Azerbaijan. Its purpose was to provide real picture of think tanks,
to assess available intellectual resources, real activity of the
organizations, which consider themselves think tanks, mechanisms
of cooperation, expert environment and other issues. The heads of
a number of analytical and research organizations of Azerbaijan
participated in the round table and discussion17.

Thus, the further development of Azerbaijani think tanks, in our
opinion, can proceed in the following way. According to the first
option, they, eventually, will be able to turn into free centers
with diverse sources of funding and will attach new quality to
the intellectual and state management of Azerbaijan. According to
the second option, they will become mainly free analytical centers
which are financed by the state. And in accordance with the third
variant Azerbaijani authorities will establish even more control over
intellectual, analytical community, they will become the main if not
only "consumer" of "intellectual product" and thematic orientation by
funding only pro-governmental centers and restricting the activity of
the adherents of independent or alternative views. Two first options
are hardly probable under the current Azerbaijani regime; the most
probable is the third option.

1Experts at the Center of Information Studies, "Noravank" Foundation

2Գագ"կ [email protected]ա[email protected]ոO~BթյոO~Bնյան,
"~HO~Bղեղայ"ն կենտ[email protected]ոննե[email protected]ը" O~G ազգայ"ն
անվտանգոO~BթյոO~Bնը, "[email protected]դ ԴԱ~P", # 1 (35),

3The ratings were carried out within the framework of "Think
Tanks and Civil Societies Program". For the first time they
were presented in 2009 and now they have become annual. See

4Among the participants were "Doctrina" Journalist Center for
Strategic Studies, "Mil Az" information agency, the Caucasian Center
for Strategic Studies, "3rd View" analytical and information agency,
"Organization of Liberation of Karabakh", "Areat" Center for the
Study of Modern Sociological Processes, "Inam" (Faith) Pluralism
Center, "Free Minds Association", "Azerbaijan-Atlantica Partnership
Association, the Center for the Strategic Studies of the Diaspora
and Lobby, Public Union of Social and Economic Studies, Center for
Synergetic Studies and etc.


6See Դ"անա Գալստյան, Ա[email protected]աO~Dս "աշայան,
"Ադ[email protected]բե"ան" ո[email protected]ոշ հետազոտական
կենտ[email protected]ոննե[email protected]" գո[email protected]ծոO~BնեոO~BթյոO~Bնը",
"ԳլոբոO~Bս Ազգայ"ն անվտանգոO~BթյոO~Bն" 5
(9), 2009թ.O~I

7 See details about the center on


9Among the partner organizations are World Bank, Asian Development
Bank, WTO, Public Association of Open Society Protection, the US
International Development Agency, Open Society Institute, "Eurasia"
foundation, Marshal Foundation, George Soros Foundation and others.

10On March 14, 2011 the cooperation memorandum was signed between the
Russian Institute of Strategic Studies (*~XС~X) and the Center
for Strategic Studies under the president of Azerbaijan

11This well-known Turkish strategic center was closed in 2008
because of losing financial assistance See ~M"մավո[email protected]յան
Ա[email protected]եստակես, Թո[email protected]~Dական վե[email protected]լոO~Bծական
կենտ[email protected]ոննե[email protected] տեսոO~BթյոO~Bն O~G
ա[email protected]դ"ականոO~BթյոO~Bն, "ԳլոբոO~Bս
Ազգայ"ն անվտանգոO~BթյոO~Bն", 3 (7), 2009թ.,

12On April 7-12, 2008 the representatives of the analytical centers
from 24 countries gathered in Turkey to discuss international and
regional issues, to set cooperation and create communication network
for the analytical centers.

13See Դ"անա Գալստյան, Ա[email protected]աO~Dս "աշայան,
"Ադ[email protected]բե"ան" ո[email protected]ոշ հետազոտական
կենտ[email protected]ոննե[email protected]" գո[email protected]ծոO~BնեոO~BթյոO~Bնը",
"ԳլոբոO~Bս Ազգայ"ն անվտանգոO~BթյոO~Bն",
5 (9), 2009թ.O~I

14See Գագ"կ [email protected]ա[email protected]ոO~BթյոO~Bնյան,
"~HO~Bղեղայ"ն կենտ[email protected]ոննե[email protected]ը" O~G ազգայ"ն
անվտանգոO~BթյոO~Bնը, "[email protected]դ ԴԱ~P", # 1 (35), 2011:




"Globus National Security", issue 3, 2011

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