Farhad Jabbarov: "If it was not for Islamic Army of Caucasus, Baku would not be Azerbaijani city"
September 15 marks the 100th anniversary of the liberation of Baku by the Islamic Army of the Caucasus under the command of Turkish General Nuri Pasha. In mid-September 1918, the capital of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic was liberated from the Bolshevik-Dashnak occupation and the British invaders. The academic secretary of ANAS National Museum of Azerbaijan History, Ph.D. in history Farhad Jabbarov told Vestnik Kavkaza about the events of those years.
- The day of Baku's liberation by the Islamic Army of the Caucasus is quite widely celebrated in Azerbaijan - they hold a lot of events; Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives to celebrate the anniversary. Why is this date so important for the history of Azerbaijan?
- I will answer that question by quoting [one of the founders of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic Muhammad Amin] Rasulzadeh. He said that the September 15th is a date as significant for the history of Azerbaijan, as the May 28th, when the independence of the state was declared. After the ADR was created, the state could not actually control the huge industrial, cultural, and economic centers, in particular Baku - the heart of Azerbaijan. In order to consolidate independence, it was necessary to get this city back. First, it is the primordial right of the Azerbaijani people. Second, Baku is a strategic port, a strategic city. Therefore, all the activities of the young ADR, when it declared its independence, were directed, on the one hand, to bring this news to the world community, and on the other, to the liberation of Baku.
If it was not for the Islamic Army of the Caucasus, Baku would not be an Azerbaijani city now. Plans of those forces that ruled in Baku at that time were aimed at tearing the city away from Azerbaijan, subordinating it to Russia. Therefore, the Day of the liberation of Baku is no less important for us than the Day of Independence.
- The Islamic Army of the Caucasus consisted of Azerbaijanis and Ottoman Turks. Were leadership positions held by Turks?
- On the eve of the declaration of independence, Azerbaijan did not actually have a regular army. Considering the previous historical experience, when Azerbaijanis were not called up for mandatory military service, there were very few military personnel. When the Batumi Treaty between the Ottoman Empire and the Transcaucasian republics (Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia) was concluded on June 4, 1918, it included the clause that if Azerbaijan requests military assistance from the Ottoman Empire, then it should be provided. Turkish officer-instructors who arrived in Baku held executive positions, but there was a significant number of Azerbaijanian volunteers in the Islamic Army of the Caucasus. Baku was their ultimate goal, but there were other regions that were controlled by the Bolsheviks as well.
Azerbaijani officers Aliaga Shikhlinsky, Samad bey Mehmandarov and others were part of the Islamic Army of the Caucasus. It was a joint military operation of the Turkish-Azerbaijani forces to liberate Baku, in which the Azerbaijanis took no less part than our Turkish brothers.
- Is it possible to talk about the rise of national self-awareness, that people have risen to defend their homeland?
- Of course. There were the 1918 March events before that, resulting in thousands of casualties among Azerbaijanis not only in Baku, but also in other settlements. Ethnic cleansing was also carried out in Northern Azerbaijan. This caused a negative reaction among the population. People realized that the forces that ruled in Baku are the same ones that killed Azerbaijanis since March 1918. The impulse to free the city from foreign forces was dictated precisely by the rise of national self-consciousness.
- What would have happened if it were not for the Islamic Army of the Caucasus?
- Baku would not be an Azerbaijani city in this case. The power would have been in the hands of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, Dashnaks. Considering that the Centrocaspian Dictatorship invited the British here, Baku would not be the territory of Azerbaijan both territorially and legally either.
- What was the intelligentsia's reactions to this army? Are there any records?
- Unfortunately, there are few archive materials, but there are memories of how the army entered Baku. A parade was held here. People on a mass scale took to the streets to meet this army as a liberator. A banquet was held in honor of Nuri Pasha and the command of the Islamic Army of the Caucasus, he was staying at the house of [Azerbaijani millionaire and philanthropist Haji Zeynalabdin] Taghiyev.
Our billionaires, patrons financed this army, provided outfit, weapons and products. The position of both ordinary people, the intelligentsia and entrepreneurs was unequivocal - the city should be liberated, and it is necessary to exert maximum efforts to this. Even when the Turkish army left Baku in October 2018, it was accompanied very warmly. Annually, when the anniversary of Baku's liberation was celebrated, articles were written, and this event was rated as a real holiday. Our emigration never forgot this date as well.
- Then why two years later, when the XI Red Army invaded Baku and occupied Azerbaijan, there was no such Turkish-Azerbaijani rallying?
- Big geopolitical changes took place in two years. In 1918 the situation was different, and the Ottoman Empire was not able to provide military assistance to Azerbaijan. In 1920, when Turkey was fighting for its own survival, it was difficult for it to provide assistance. First, Turkey was fighting against foreign aggression. Second, in fact, there were two governments - the Sultan government in Istanbul and the government of the national assembly in Ankara. There were no conditions for Turkey to help Azerbaijan anymore.
- An exhibition dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Baku's liberation was opened today at the National Museum of History of Azerbaijan. Does it present the exhibits of the History Museum or others?
- All of them are from our collection! Since 2008, we have held such exhibitions for the 90th anniversary, 95th anniversary, and this year - for the 100th anniversary of the liberation of Baku. Each time, of course, the concept of the exhibition is changed, being complemented by new exhibits. But weapons, carpets, in particular a carpet made in honor of Turkish officers who came to liberate Baku, documents, photographs are all from the museum's collection. Thus, we try, on the one hand, to demonstrate what we have in our funds, and on the other hand, to tell about our history.
This is already the third exhibition in 2018, which is held within the framework of the 100th anniversary of the ADR. The first one was dedicated to the ADR leaders, the second - to the military case in Azerbaijan, the third - to the liberation of Baku by the Islamic Army of the Caucasus.