Written by: Nia S. Amira, an Indonesian author, journalist, and linguist. She writes on culture, international affairs, multiculturalism, and religious studies.
Azerbaijan, a sovereign country located in the Caucasus region, at the crossroad of Europe and Southwest Asia, borders Russia in the north, Georgia and Armenia in the west, and Iran in the south. Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic (an exclave belonging to Azerbaijan) borders Armenia in the north, Iran in the south, and Turkey in the west. Azerbaijan has a distinctive name, the land of fire, bordering the Caspian Sea, the country has quite a lot of oil resources for the welfare of its people. A lot of heartbreaking events have happened to the Azerbaijanis who are known as a friendly nation and always welcome their guests who come to visit with big hands, including those from neighboring countries. The Azerbaijanis have a distinctive character, bringing eastern hospitality and the modern western mind, and this character shows to other nations that the Azerbaijani people always want to move forward with other nations by holding hands together.
Azerbaijan's history is full of blood that has been given by its people to defend their homeland since 101 years ago. The people from the origin country of the famous poet Nizami Ganjavi could not forget the bloody massacres committed against Azerbaijanis on March 31, 1918. Flash back to the rapid development of petroleum industry in Baku in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, attracted a wave of migration of Armenians to the city. As one of the main industrial centers of the Russian empire, Baku regarded the emergence of the industrial proletariat and revolutionary spirit. The Armenian workers increased rapidly at the beginning of the 20th century, and were active in Baku's revolutionary and socialist movements.
That night was the first Russian Revolution (1905-1907), and the Armenian Dashnaksutyun party began to spread nationalist ideas among Armenian workers in Baku. By using revolutionary ideas to promote their own ideas on the nationalistic agenda and was inspired by the ideas of creating "Greater Armenia," a series of bloody massacres of Azerbaijanis was carried out in the period of the first two years of the Russian revolution. Without any conscience, a hundred of Azerbaijani settlements were destroyed, flat on the ground, and thousands of civilians were killed.
The 1918 massacre was a more skilled action and was cruelly implemented than the attacks in 1905-1907. The victory of the Bolsheviks during the 1917 Russian revolution and collaboration with the Bolsheviks gave way to the Dashnaksutyun Party to realize its nationalistic goals easily. Taking advantage of the situation that followed the October 1917 Revolution in Russia, Armenian nationalists began to pursue the implementation of their plans under the banner of Bolshevism. In 1918, Russian Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin appointed Stephan Shaumyan of ethnic Armenian as an Extraordinary Commissioner of the Caucasian Region. At that time, the Bolsheviks seized power in Baku and viewed the Armenian Party Dashnaktsutyun as a source of support to eliminate the influence of the Azerbaijan National MusavatParty in Baku and also in the regions. In this case, the interests of the Bolsheviks and Dashnaks in March 1918 coincided.
Genocide Day of Azerbaijanis Victims. Source: Internet
On March 2, 1918, while speaking at a meeting of the Baku Soviet, Shaumyan vehemently criticized the Musavat Party, which wanted to separate Azerbaijan from the Soviet Union. 1. Right at the beginning of the tragic event, Baku Soviet, under the pretext of fighting counter revolutionary elements, regulated the plan to dissolve Azerbaijani citizens throughout Baku province.
2. By the acknowledgement of Stephan Shaumyan, 6000 Baku Soviet armed soldiers and 4000 armed men from the Dashnaksutyun Party participated in the massacre of Azerbaijani civilians. On March 30, the Armenian-Bolshevik unit targeted Baku with long-range fire from the ship. Later, armed members of the Dashnaks attacked the houses of Azerbaijanis and carried out merciless massacres. On March 31 and in the first days of April, the massacre became increasingly violent. Thousands of Azerbaijani civilians were killed simply because they were ethnic Azerbaijani. During this period, the Armenian-Bolshevik unit destroyed more than 20,000 Azerbaijani civilians in Baku: people were burned in their homes, killed and tortured with inhuman cruelty. As a result, more than 16,000 people were killed very savage in Guba province in the first five months of 1918; so that a total of 167 villages were destroyed, 35 of them are no longer exist today.
Armenians had installed machine guns in various places in the city to shoot those who tried to escape. AvanesApresyan, an Armenian officer, one of the active participants in the massacre of Azerbaijanis, wrote in his memoir "Men were like this," that in Baku they killed 25,000 Azerbaijanis in the March massacre. However, the genocide of Azerbaijanis by Dashnaks was not limited to Baku. Within a short period, Armenians committed massacres in Shamakhi, Guba, Irevan, Zengezur, Karabakh, Nakhchivan, and Kars. The discovery of mass graves in Guba province, Azerbaijan in 2007 confirmed the inhumanity of Armenian. Research on the burial site revealed that during the Armenian armed attack on Guba in 1918, people were subjected to violence that was unprecedented and severely murdered. The tomb contains remnants of the mass burial of local residents. Along with the Turkish Muslim population, Armenian forces also massacred Jews and Lezgins. Even those who demanded an end to the massacre, including Russians or Georgians, were brutally victimized.
Shaumyan bragged about Armenian brutality against Azerbaijanis: "We have obtained brilliant results in the battle with Azerbaijan. The enemy has been completely annihilated. We imposed conditions on them and they signed them." Shaumyan unashamedly confirmed the involvement of the armed forces of the Dashnaksutyun Party in the massacre of Azerbaijanis in Baku. In a letter dated April 13, 1918, addressed to the Board of Commissioners of the People's Soviet Russian Federation Socialist Republic, Shaumyan justified the heinous crime by saying, "The presence of the national division has partly marked the civil war as a national massacre, but it is impossible to do the opposite intentionally. Poor Muslims who have suffered in a great deal, but now have come together with Bolsheviks and Soviets ... oil is ready at our disposal. "German researcher ErikhFigle in his research "Truth terror. Armenian terrorism - roots and reasons" speaking about Shaumyan's activities in 1918 emphasized that the aim was to armenianize Baku "in any way".
According to various estimates, 12,000 to 30,000 people died in Baku in just three days. However, Shaumyan, Chairman of Soviet Baku, did not hide his satisfaction: "We are afraid of the national structure of our city. We are afraid that the fight might produce unwanted colors. We even have to use the Armenian Dashnak Regiment. We cannot even allow ourselves to refuse their service, the Armenian National Council made arrests, searches, requests, etc. by themselves. The victory was so great that it did not overshadow the reality”. Soviet Baku dependency on Dashnak forces caused outrage among Bolsheviks from other countries. One witness to the Azerbaijani genocide, Bolshevik Blyumin, was later recorded in his memoir, "With the event of 1918, we used Dashnak forces, because we did not have our own armed forces. However, Dashnak forces did their dirty work. They turned civil war into a national cleansing, after massacring up to 20,000 Azerbaijani poor people".
The March 1918 event became the focus of attention after the proclamation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR). The Extraordinary Investigation Commission (EIC) was established by the ADR on July 15, 1918 to support resistance to the Azerbaijani population. An important feature of this commission consists of the best representatives at this time representing various countries - Russia, Jews, Poland, Georgia and even Armenia. These factors prove EIC's competence and impartiality. Materials collected by EIC in August 1919 were sent in 36 volumes and 3,500 pages. Based on this evidence, EIC submitted 128 reports and designs to file lawsuits against 194 people accused of various crimes against peaceful participation. So, in mid-August, 24 people in Baku and around 100 people in Shamakhi were arrested. This is the first attempt made on political and legal policies against the policy of genocide committed against Azerbaijanis. However, the collapse of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic made it impossible to complete this work.
After restoring independence in 1991, the Republic of Azerbaijan continued its assessment of the political genocide in March 1918 and committed to resolving the unfinished ADR efforts to bring about justice. Ahead of the 80th anniversary of the tragedy, President HeydarAliyev issued a Decree to announce March 31 as a national day of mourning. The decree has become a key document for carrying out political and legal assessments of acts of genocide committed against Azerbaijanis in the early twentieth century. This decree also signifies the dedication of the Azerbaijan people to their national values, historical roots and homeland. At the same time, the commemoration of the Azerbaijani Genocide Day aroused awareness of the world community on the facts of the massacres and ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijanis in the past and present.
Articles published in the “Your Views & Stories” section of en.tempo.co website are personal opinions written by third parties, and cannot be related or attributed to en.tempo.co’s official stance