Salavat Iskhakov: "Bolsheviks attaches great importance to Azerbaijan"
The scientific conference titled 'National Unity, Historical Heritage and Challenges of the 21st Century', dedicated to the centenary of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, was held in Baku. On the sidelines of the event, Vestnik Kavkaza talked with the Russian historian, doctor of historical sciences, senior scientific employee of the Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Salavat Iskhakov, who addressed the conference with a report 'The history of relations between Russia's Bolshevik authorities and Azerbaijan (based on the materials of the Second Moscow Congress of the Peoples of the East 1918-1919)'
- How do you assess the Bolsheviks' activities in Azerbaijan in 1918-1920?
- On June 19, 1919, Lenin took part in the a meeting of the Politburo, at which it was decided to "recognize the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan," although it does not exist. There was a completely different republic. The plan to capture Baku was prepared by people from Stalin's entourage - [member of the Baku Revolutionary Defense Committee Nariman] Narimanov, [a member of the Baku committee of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party Movsum Nazhmeddin] Israfilbekov, a Bolshevik revolutionary [Bünyad Medat oglu] Sardarov and others ... Many were repressed because they knew too much, Narimanov was killed. These people have done their work and were no longer needed. Moreover, such a policy was carried out not only against Azerbaijan. There were politicians who performed Stalin's combinations, and then they were simply eliminated in order not to leave witnesses to his deeds.
Six months before the of the Red Army's invasion in Baku, Narimanov said: "We will come and capture the city without a single shot." And that's what happened. There were those in Baku, who participated in the implementation of the Bolshevik plan, but we have not yet found the documents proving it.
One way or another, the seizure of power took place, Narimanov received the post of chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of Azerbaijan SSR [until 1922], while [founder of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic] Mammad Emin Rasulzade emigrated.
- By the way, in your opinion, was the proclamation of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918 logical?
- Some historians think it was an accident, others - a pattern. Many circumstances are still unknown.
- Did the Bolsheviks attach any particular significance to Azerbaijan or viewed it like Armenia and Georgia?
- Stalin was surrounded by Azerbaijani politicians, because Baku was the center of the revolutionary movement. Stalin carried out his plans using these people. The politicians I named - Sardarov, Israfilbekov and others - were interlocutors of these plans. Stalin needed them.
A struggle for power erupted, and Stalin used it - he came up with different combinations, appointed one person, the other one, play both sides against the middle.
Of course, great importance was attached to Azerbaijan, because it was possible to solve other issues through it, because Stalin had support neither in Georgia nor in Armenia. Stalin regarded Azerbaijan as a kind of "bridge", saying: "You are mediators, we will implement all our plans with your help."
This is a blessed land: an economy, oil and a reliance on people who had their ambitious plans, who believed Stalin, but then disappeared one by one for various reasons. Political disagreements became one of the reasons why the Bolshevik plan was implemented. It would hardly have been possible if political leadership of Azerbaijan was united. The split of Azerbaijan's political elite began in 1919, when Stalin's people intervened in the matter, causing the de facto takeover of the country.
- Even back then Baku was famous for its 'advanced' intelligentsia...
- It was an intellectual, spiritual center. Before the revolution, there were many newspapers and educational and cultural institutions here. Until 1917, people from other Turkic regions came to Baku to receive education. It was not just a revolutionary city, but also a cultural center, and there was relative freedom here compared to the situation in Kazan, in Kazakhstan. People went to Baku to receive education, not to Tbilisi or Yerevan. It was extremely important to seize such a center for Stalin, and it was done with the assistance of the internal opposition, including the Muslim clergy, the Ittihad Party, which became one of the Bolsheviks' allies.