Bərdə rayon Mərkəzi kitabxanası

Bərdə rayon MKS
Azərbaycanlıların soyqırımı
28 İyun , 2016

This article is about 1918 massacres of Azeris. For Polish student and intellectual protests of 1968, see 1968 Polish political crisis.

The March Days, or March Events, refer to an inter-ethnic strife and massacres of between 3,000 to 12,000 Azerbaijanis and other Muslims that took place between March 30 and April 2, 1918 in the city of Baku and adjacent areas of the Baku Governorate of the Russian Empire.

Facilitated by a political power struggle between Bolsheviks with support of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun)[8][9][10] on one side and Azerbaijani Musavat Party on another, the events led to a suppression of Muslim revolt by Bolshevik and Dashnak forces and establishment of a short-lived Baku Commune in April 1918.

Azerbaijan officially refers to March Days as soyqırım ('genocide'). Other sources interpret the March events in the context of civil war unrest.


Following the February Revolution, a Special Transcaucasian Committee, including Armenian, Azerbaijani and Georgian representatives, was established to administer parts of the South Caucasus under the control of the Russian Provisional Government. After the October Revolution, on November 11, 1917, this committee was replaced by the Transcaucasian Commissariat, also known as the Sejm, with headquarters in Tiflis. The Sejm opposed Bolsheviks and sought separation of the South Caucasus from Bolshevik Russia. To prevent that, on November 13, 1917, a group of Bolsheviks and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries (SR) proclaimed the Baku Soviet, a governing body which assumed power over the territory of Baku Governorate under the leadership of Bolshevik Stepan Shahumyan. Although the Baku Soviet included Azerbaijanis and Armenians who were neither Bolsheviks nor necessarily sympathetic towards the Bolshevik ideas, the two nationalist parties and members of the Sejm ― the Musavat[18] and Armenian Revolutionary Federation ― refused to recognize its authority. The Baku-based Musavat dominated Muslim National Councils (MNCs), a representative body which eventually formed the first Parliament of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR). Mammad Hasan Hajinski chaired the Temporary Executive Committee for the MNCs, while Mammed Amin Rasulzade, Alimardan Topchubashev, Fatali Khan Khoyski and other prominent political figures were among the 44 Azerbaijani delegates to the Sejm. Meanwhile, the ARF, which was established in Tiflis, formed a 27-member Armenian delegation to the Sejm. The leader of the Baku Soviet, Shahumyan, kept contacts with ARF and viewed it as a source of support for eliminating Musavat influence in Baku. It is noteworthy that during the March Days of 1918, one of the ARF founders, Stepan Zorian, was present in Baku.

            After the October Revolution, the Russian army fell apart and its units fled the front lines en masse, often harassing local residents. Concerned with the situation, the Sejm established a Military Council of Nationalities, with Armenian, Azerbaijani and Georgian representatives, which had troops at its disposal. When a large group of Russian soldiers withdrew from the Ottoman front line in January 1918, the head of the council, Georgian Menshevik Noe Ramishvili, ordered to disarm them. The Russian soldiers were stopped near Shamkhor station and, upon a refusal to surrender, were attacked by Azerbaijani bands in what became known as the Shamkhor massacre The Baku Soviet played out this incident into its favor against the Sejm.

            On February 10–24, 1918, the Sejm adopted a declaration of independence, proclaiming the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic. In the mean time, to support Armenian resistance against the Ottoman Empire, the British government attempted to re-organize and train a group of Armenians from the Caucasus under the leadership of General Lionel Dunsterville in Baghdad. The Allies had also provided Armenians with 6,500,000 rubles ($3,250,000 of 1918 value) in financial assistance. In addition, the Armenian National Organization of the Caucasus formed an Armenian Military Committee in Petrograd under General Bagradouni and called upon all Armenian military personnel scattered throughout Russia to mobilize on the Caucasus front. In response to this call, by early March 1918, a large number of Armenians gathered in Baku, joining a group of 200 trained officers accompanied by General Bagradouni and the ARF co-founder Stepan Zorian (Mr. Rostom)

            The Azerbaijanis grew increasingly suspicious that Shahumyan, who was an ethnic Armenian, conspired with the Dashnaks against them. The units of Savage Division, composed of Caucasian Muslims who served in the Imperial Russian Army, disarmed a pro-Bolshevik garrison in Lankaran, and Dagestani insurgents under Imam Najm ul-din Gotsinski drove the Bolsheviks out of Petrovsk, severing Baku's land communications with the Bolshevik Russia. The Armistice of Erzincan, followed by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk signed on March 3, 1918, formalized Russia's exit from World War I. According to Richard G. Hovannisian, a secret annex to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk obligated the Bolsheviks to demobilize and dissolve ethnic Armenian bands on territories previously under Russian control. At the subsequent Trabzon Peace Conference, the Ottoman delegation called for a unified position of the Sejm before the negotiations could be completed. The Bolsheviks grew increasingly concerned about the emerging Transcaucasian Federation, and in a given situation, had to choose between Musavat and ARF in the struggle to dominate Transcaucasia's largest city. Thus the Baku Soviet was drawn into the nationalistic struggle between the Azerbaijanis and the Armenians, trying to utilize one people against the other.

As Baku produced 7 million tons of oil per year (about 15% of the global oil production), during World War I the city remained in sight of the major warring powers. Even though most of the oil fields were owned by Azerbaijanis and less than 5 per cent by Armenians, most of the production/distribution rights in Baku were owned by foreign investors, primarily the British. At the beginning of 1918, Germans transferred General Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein from the Sinai and Palestine Campaign to establish the German Caucasus Expedition with the aim of capturing Baku. In response, in February 1918, the British dispatched General Lionel Dunsterville with troops to Baku through Enzeli, in order to block the German move and to protect the British investments. Meanwhile, the Bolsheviks lost control of Grozny oilfields at the end of 1917, and Baku became the single source of oil. Vladimir Lenin even asserted in one of his speeches that "Soviet Russia can't survive without Baku oil."

Demographics and armed groups.

 Before World War I, the population of Baku, including the Bailoff promontory, the White Town, the oil fields and the neighboring villages, amounted to over 200,000 and distributed as follows: 74,000 temporary migrants from various parts of Russia, 56,000 Azerbaijani natives of the town and district, 25,000 Armenians, 18,000 Persians, 6,000 Jews, 4,000 Volga Tatars, 3,800 Lezgins, 2,600 Georgians, 5,000 Germans, 1,500 Poles and many other nationalities numbering less than 1,000 each. Azerbaijanis formed the majority among natives and owned the greater part of land including the oil fields. They also constituted most of the labor force and small trading class as well as some commercial and financial posts. The petroleum industry was largely owned by a small number of foreign capitalists.

Prior to 1918 March events, the major armed groups in Baku consisted of 6,000 men from the remnants of Russian Caucasus Army that withdrew from the Ottoman front line, about 4,000 men of the Armenian militia organized under the ARF Dashnaktsutiun, and an number of soldiers of the Savage Division disbanded in January 1918.

Events of March 30 - April 2, 1918.

When the staff of the disbanded Savage Division arrived in Baku on March 9, 1918, the Soviet immediately arrested its commander, General Talyshinski. The move sparked protests from Azerbaijani population, with occasional calls to offer armed resistance to the Soviet. According to Firuz Kazemzadeh, Shahumyan could have prevented bloodshed, had he been less impulsive and stubborn. Only a few days earlier, Shahumyan received a telegram from Lenin, in which he was advised "to learn diplomacy", but this advice was ignored.

The March 1918 confrontation was triggered by an incident with the steamship "Evelina". On March 27, 1918, fifty former Savage Division servicemen arrived in Baku on board of this steamship, to attend the funeral of their colleague Mamed Tagiyev, son of a famous Azerbaijani oil magnate and philanthropist Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev. M. Tagiyev was killed in a skirmish with the Russian-Armenian forces in Lenkoran. Some sources state that when soldiers got back on the "Evelina" to sail out of Baku on March 30, 1918, the Soviet received information that the Muslim crew of the ship was armed and waiting for a signal to revolt against the Soviet. While the report lacked foundation, the Soviet acted on it, disarming the crew which tried to resist. Other sources claim that Azerbaijanis were alarmed by the growing military strength of the Armenians in Baku, and called for help of the Savage division units in Lenkoran. Their arrival caused great concerns among both Bolsheviks and Armenians, and when officials were sent down to the dockside to try to discover what their intentions were, they were driven back by gunfire, a number of them being killed. Eventually, however, these Savage Division soldiers were disarmed by a stronger Bolshevik force.

By 6 p.m. on March 30, 1918, Baku was filled with fighting. Trenches were being dug, barricades erected, and preparations made for warfare. The Soviet side, led by Shahumyan, realized that full civil war was starting and its own forces were insufficient against Azerbaijani masses led by Musavat. Allies were found among the Mensheviks, SRs, and the Kadets (right-wing liberals), which promised support the Bolsheviks as the champions of the "Russian Cause." In response to these, Musavat's Achiq Söz newspaper noted that while Bolsheviks and Mensheviks were fighting all year, both were uniting against Musavat even with the Kadets and the Dashnaks. The paper attributed such alliance to national factors, and concluded that the Soviet's attempt to provoke "one nationality against another, instead of fighting a class war, was a tragic capitulation of democracy"/

In the morning of March 31, Azerbaijanis opposed to the Bolshevik disarming of Savage Division held protests in Baku, demanding to arm the Muslims. The Azerbaijani Bolshevik organization Hümmet attempted to mediate the dispute by proposing that the arms taken from the Savage Division are transferred to the custody of the Hümmet. Shahumyan agreed to this proposal. But on the afternoon of March 31, when Muslim representatives appeared before the Baku Soviet leadership to take the arms, shots were already heard in the city and the Soviet commissar Prokofy Dzhaparidze refused to provide arms and informed the Hümmet leadership that "Musavat had launched a political war".The talks broke off abruptly after the Soviet's soldiers were fired upon. Bolsheviks accused the Muslims in the incident, stopped negotiations, and opened hostilities. Later Shahumyan admitted that the Bolsheviks deliberately used a pretext to attack their political opponents:

We needed to give a rebuff, and we exploited the opportunity of the first attempt at an armed assault on our cavalry unit and began an attack on the whole front. Due to the efforts of both the local Soviet and the Military-revolutionary committee of the Caucasus Army, which moved here (from Tiflis and Sarikamish) we already had armed forces - about 6,000 strong. Dashnaktsutiun also had 3,000 - 4,000 strong national forces, which were at our disposal. The participation of the latter lent the civil war, to some extent, the character of an ethnic massacre, however, it was impossible to avoid it. We were going for it deliberately. The Muslim poor suffered severely, however they are now rallying around the Bolsheviks and the Soviet.


Armenians initially remained neutral as the Muslim rebellion against the Soviet began. The Musavat Party proposed an alliance with the Dashnaks, but was given a rebuff. The Armenian leadership withdrew its forces to the Armenian areas of Baku and limited its action to self-defense. On the evening of March 31, machine-gun and rifle fire in Baku intensified into a full-fledged battle. On the morning of April 1, 1918, the Committee of Revolutionary Defense of Baku's Soviet issued a leaflet which said:

In view of the fact that the counterrevolutionary Musavat party declared war on the Soviet of Workers', Soldiers', and Sailors' Deputies in the city of Baku and thus threatened the existence of the government of the revolutionary democracy, Baku is declared to be in a state of siege


Forced to seek support from either Muslim Musavat or Armenian Dashnaktsutyun, Shahumyan, himself an Armenian, chose the latter. Following initial skirmishes in the streets, the Dashnaks proceeded to initiate a massacre, wildly killing Musavat military elements and Muslim civilians alike without mercy or discrimination in both Baku and the surrounding countryside.

No quarter was given by either side: neither age nor sex was respected. Enormous crowds roamed the streets, burning houses, killing every passer-by who was identified as an enemy, many innocent persons suffering death at the hands of both the Armenians and Azerbaijanis. The struggle which had begun as a political contest between the Musavat and the Soviet turned into a gigantic ethnic-religious riot. There were descriptions of Dashnak forces taking to looting, burning and killing in the Muslim sections of the city. According to Peter Hopkirk, "Armenians, seeing that at last they had their ancient foes on the run, were now out for vengeance". In Balakhany and Ramany districts of Baku, the majority of Muslim workers stayed at their places and avoided the battles, while the peasants were not moved to join the anti-Soviet rebels. The Persian workers remained passive during all of the fighting, refusing to take sides. Left-wing Muslim leaders, including those of SRs and Hümmet Party, such as Narimanov, Azizbekov, Bunyat Sardarov and Kazi-Magomed Aghasiyev, supported the Soviet forces During the battles, Bolsheviks decided to use artillery against the Azerbaijani residential quarters in the city.

On the afternoon on April 1, a Muslim delegation arrived at the Hotel Astoria. The Committee of Revolutionary Defense presented them with an ultimatum[notes  and demanded that representatives of all Muslim parties sign the document before the shelling stopped. Early in the evening, the agreements were signed and the bombardment stopped. The fighting did not subside, however, till the night of April 2, 1918, when thousands of Muslims started leaving the city in a mass exodus. By the fifth day, although much of the city was still ablaze, all resistance had ceased, leaving the streets strewn with dead and wounded, nearly all of them Muslims. So the armed conflict between the Musavat and the joint Soviet-ARF forces ended on April 3, 1918 with the victory of the latter.


 The May 1918 dispatch of the New York Times stated that "2000 were killed and 3000 were wounded in struggle between Russians and Mussulmans". Later 1919 publication by the New York Times concluded that 12,000 people were killed during the March Days of 1918. The same publication wrote that according to Azerbaijani representatives, Bolsheviks crushed Muslims with assistance from Armenians who wanted to "wipe out old enemies and seize their lands". The post-1920 New York Times editions used the same figure of 12,000 victims, as did several historians.

Azerbaijani delegation to the 1919 Paris Peace Conference provided the following interpretation of the March Days:


In that bloodthirsty episode, which had such fatal effects upon the Muslims, the principal part was played by the Armenians, who were then in Baku, clustering as elsewhere around their nationalist party [ARF]... The truth is that the Armenians under the guise of Bolshevism, rushed on the Muslims and massacred during a few frightful days more than 12,000 people, many of whom were old men, women, and children.

 The leader of Baku Soviet, Stepan Shahumyan, claimed that more than 3,000 killed in two days/ However, in his October 1918 article for the Armenian Herald, publication of the Boston-based Armenian National Union of America, one of the prominent ARF leaders, Karekin Pastermadjian, asserted that over 10,000 Azerbaijanis and nearly 2,500 Armenians were killed during the March Days of 1918.


 In the immediate aftermath of the March Days, many of the Muslim survivors fled to Elisabethpol (Ganja) in central Azerbaijan. While the Temporary Executive Committee of the Muslim National Councils and the Musavat ceased their activities on the territory of the Baku Governorate, the left-wing Azerbaijani political groups, such as the SRs and the Hümmet, benefited from the developments and became effective leaders of the Azerbaijani community in Baku. The Muslim Socialist Bureau appealed to the Committee of Revolutionary Defense to redress some of the grievances of some of the Muslims.

On April 13, 1918, within few days of the massacres, the Bolsheviks under the leadership of Stepan Shahumyan proclaimed the Baku Commune. This new body endeavored to nationalize Baku's oil fields, drawing ire from the British, and to form the "Red Army of Baku", an undisciplined and poorly managed force composed largely of ethnic Armenian recruits.Although the majority of the Commissars (leaders of Baku Commune) were ethnic Armenians, two of them were ethnic Azeri revolutionaries, Meshadi Azizbekov and Mir Hasan Vazirov. Nevertheless, in Azeri psyche, the Baku Commune symbolized the Bolshevik - Armenian collusion born out of the March Days bloodbath.

 March Days of 1918 had a profound effect on the formulation of Azerbaijani political objectives as well. While before Azerbaijani leaders only sought an autonomy within the Russian domain, after the Bolshevik-perpetrated massacres in Baku, they no longer believed in Russian Revolution and turned to the Ottomans for support in achieving total independence. Therefore when Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was proclaimed on May 28, 1918, its government immediately dispatched a delegation to Istanbul for discussing a possibility of the Ottoman military support for the young republic. The Ottoman triumvir, Enver Pasha, agreed to Azerbaijani requests and charged his brother, Nuru Pasha, with forming an Ottoman military unit, known as the Caucasus Army of Islam, to retake Baku. When in July 1918, the Ottoman-Azerbaijani force defeated the "Red Army of Baku" in several key battles in Central Azerbaijan, Bolshevik power in Baku started crumbling under pressure from the Russian Socialist Revolutionaries, Dashnaks and British agents in the city. On August 1, 1918, the Baku Commune was replaced by the Centrocaspian Dictatorship, which desperately invited a 1000-strong British expeditionary force led by General Lionel Dunsterville to the city. But this was a futile effort and, in face of an overwhelming Ottoman-Azerbaijani offensive, the Dunsterforce fled and the Caucasus Army of Islam entered the Azerbaijani capital on September 15, 1918.

The March Days brought the underlying tension between the Armenians and Azerbaijanis to the fore. Less than six months after the March massacres, when the Ottoman-Azerbaijani force entered Baku, the city fell into chaos and nearly 10,000 Armenians were massacred. A special commission formed by the Armenian National Council (ANC) reported a total of 8,988 ethnic Armenians massacred, among which were 5,248 Armenian inhabitants of Baku, 1,500 Armenian refugees from other parts of the Caucasus who were in Baku, and 2,240 Armenians whose corpses were found in the streets but whose identities were never established. Although these figures were gathered by the Armenian National Council, and have been questioned by some, given the general run of events, they were unlikely to be too exaggerated.

While trying to escape Baku amidst the Ottoman-Azerbaijani offensive, the Bolshevik Baku Commissars were taken by a ship across the Caspian to Krasnovodsk, where they were imprisoned by the Social Revolutionary Transcaspian Government with alleged support of the British. Few days later, on September 20, 1918, between the stations of Pereval and Akhcha-Kuyma on the Trans-Caspian railway, 26 of the Commissars were executed by a firing squad.

Analysis and interpretations.

According to Michael Smith, Muslims faced a crushing defeat at the hands of Baku Soviet followed by an "unrestrained brutality of Dashnak forces". While in the aftermath of the tragic events, Musavat used them to foster a national memory of pain, its leader M. E. Rasulzade provided an analysis which seems to reflect the essence of witness accounts. In Rasulzade's view, Bolsheviks and their supporters sought to diminish Musavat's influence among Azerbaijani masses for a long time, and Muslim elites felt frustrated and powerless in face of this pressure. March Days were a violent culmination in this assault of Russian Bolshevism against the unprepared Azerbaijani people.

Analysis and interpretations.

According to Michael Smith, Muslims faced a crushing defeat at the hands of Baku Soviet followed by an "unrestrained brutality of Dashnak forces". While in the aftermath of the tragic events, Musavat used them to foster a national memory of pain, its leader M. E. Rasulzade provided an analysis which seems to reflect the essence of witness accounts. In Rasulzade's view, Bolsheviks and their supporters sought to diminish Musavat's influence among Azerbaijani masses for a long time, and Muslim elites felt frustrated and powerless in face of this pressure. March Days were a violent culmination in this assault of Russian Bolshevism against the unprepared Azerbaijani people.

Foto Qalereya