Events of 1918 in Quba. Part 3 Background

Events of 1918 in Quba. Part 3 Background

Killing people on the basis of ethnicity cannot be justified by anything, but it is even more frightening when people die during ethnic cleansing just because they are ethnically close to those who are considered to be the culprits of the killer’s troubles.

The events of 1918 on the entire territory of Azerbaijan are described as ethnic cleansing by historians, who say that the riots were part of ambitious plans of nationalists, who were seeking to maximize the reduction in the number of Muslim population in all regions of Azerbaijan. However, it is not entirely clear why the Armenian massacres of 1915 in the Ottoman Empire became the basis for the ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijanis in 1918.

Vestnik Kavkaza provides the historical documents on the events of March and their background.

When the South Caucasus became a part of the Russian Empire, the Russian authorities, who traditionally called all Turkic nations ‘Tatars’, began to call them Azerbaijani/Aderbeijani or Transcaucasian Tatars to distinct them from other Turkic nations. The so-called Azerbaijani ‘Tatars’ lived in the city of Quba itself and in villages which had names of numerous Kypcjak, Oguz, and other Turkic tribes which used to populate them (Quba, Allan, Shabran, Bayat, Gadzhar, Samur, Chul, Khuch, Chalakhar, and so on). They spoke the Turkic language, belonged to both Shiah and Sunni branches of Islam. (73) As for Iranian-speaking peoples, mainly the Tats, successors to the Iranians who were resettled in Transcaucasia in the 3rd to 7th centuries for protection of the northern borders of the empire, lived in Quba Province. There is a view that the Tats, who were the most numerous residents of Shirvan, replaced Albanian tribes during the rule of the Sasanids in the early 13th century. They divided into three religious groups: Islam, Judaism, and the Gregorian Church. (74)

Villages of the Muslim Quba Tats, whise names contained roots of the Tat language (Gendov, Afurdzha, Rustov, Zukhur, and so on), overlapped Turkic-speaking Azerbaijani villages. The Tats were traditionally Shiahs. And only a small number of them were Sunnis. They spoke the Tat language, but communicated with other people in Turkic. (75) A large number of Muslims in Quba were Lezgians – ancient residents of the territory, who lived mainly in the northeastern regions which bordered Dagestan, on the right bank of the Samur. The merger of South Dagestan with the state of the Shirvanshahs, or staying under their control, contributed to the migration of the Lezgians from Dagestan to neighboring areas (including the Quba Khanate). They gave the names of their previous villages to the new ones. Thus, villages of Quba Province where Lezgians lived – Zeikhur, Murug, Murugoba, Leger, Gedezeikhur, Eni Zeikhur – were founded by natives of the Dagestani villages with the same names. (76)

The Lezgians were Sunnis and spoke the Lezgian and Turkic languages. Along with the Lezgians, other numerous Caucasus peoples lived in the Quba Province. They belonged to the Shakhdag language subgroup of the Lezgian language: the Khinalugs, the Kryzs, the Budugs. The Khinalugs were the successors to ancient Caucasus Albania. They lived in the village of Khynalug, high in the mountains; they were Sunnis and spoke the Khinalug, Turkic and Lezgian languages. The Budugs were people of the East Caucasus; they lived in a village of the same name, which was situated 64 km southwest of Quba; due to the lack of farming lands, they migrated to neighboring territories. Budug migrants founded new villages in Myushkyur and Shabran – the kishlaks of Velioba, Azizoba, Gadzhialibei, Ag-Yazy-Budug, Digyakh-Budug, Yalavandzh, and others. The Budugs were also Sunnis and spoke the Budug and Turkic languages. The Kryzs were apparently successors to ancient Caucasus Albania as well; they lived densely in the mountain village of Kryz. Later, some of the Kryzs migrated to the valley and founded 58 Kryz settlements in the Myushkyur Mahal. Villages which appear in the valley – Gadzhigazma, Gadzhiahmedoba, Sherifoba, Mandzharoba, Tikanlyoba, and others – were included in the rural mountain community. The Kryzs were Sunnis and spoke the Kryz, Turkic and Lezgian languages. It was known that in the 18th century Fatali Khan brought some Jews to Kryz; this was confirmed by a Jewish cemetery in the village. The majority of Jewish residents of Quba, who were a sub-ethnic group of the Jews of the East Caucasus, who were called ‘Mountain Jews’, lived densely in the Jewish settlement. According to linguistic and historical data, the penetration of Jews to East Transcaucasia started no later than the 6th century. They settled in eastern and northeastern regions among a population which spoke the Tat language. And gradually, the Jews shifted to the language. There used to be a big area of villages of Mountain Jews between the Laytak and Shemakhi Regions. In the middle of the 18th century there was a Jewish village, Kulgat, in the Quba Khanate 2-3 km from  the true Jewish settlement, on the left bank of the Gudial River, near the village of Kurchal.

In 1742 the Jews had to flee from Nadir Shah, who destroyed the village completely. During the rule of Husein Ali Khan, former residents of Kulgat settled on the territory of the current settlement, which extended during the rule of Fatali Khan, who encouraged the migration of the residents of Mugana, Shirvan and Dagestan to the Quba Khanate. The Mountain Jews called themselves ‘Jeudi’ (Hebrews) or ‘Dzhuur’ (Persian ‘Jihud’ – Hebrews). As for the word ‘Mountain’, they were called so in the 19th century, as all Caucasus nationals were called ‘Mountain’ in Russian official documents. Linguistically, they belonged to the Persian-speaking Jews. This factor is the main argument of some scientists who believe that, considering the similarity of the languages of the Mountain Jews and the Caucasus Tats, Mountain Jews are representatives of ‘the Iranian tribe of the Tats’ which converted to Hebrew in Iran and later migrated to Transcaucasia. (77) As it was mentioned, the Mountain Jews lived in Quba densely in the Jewish settlement and in some villages of Quba Province. According to some sources, the Armenian population of Quba Province settled in the area in the late 18th century during the last years of the rule of Fatali Khan. It populated mainly the villages of Kilvar and Khachmaz. Belonging to the Christian Gregorian Church, the Quba Armenians spoke Persian; that is why in many sources of articles of the 18th to 20th centuries, they are called ‘Armenian Tats,’ ‘Christian Tats,’ or ‘Gregorian Tats.’ However, these residents of the Tat-speaking villages identified themselves as Armenians and spoke Armenian. (78)

Relations between the residents of the Quba Khanate and Quba Province had always been good-neighborly; there were no conflicts on religious or inter-ethnic grounds. It should be stressed that there were no big confrontations between the Muslims – Sunnis and Shiahs; on the contrary: “… in Quba Province one part follows Omar’s religion, another part – Ali’s religion. The contradictions between them don’t cover social duties. When they have to protect their lands from an enemy, they unite and act together, not touching on religion.” (79) In the 1840s another village, called 'The Russian Settlement' or 'Indoor Farm', where the royal military officials settled, was established in the north-western part of Quba. Russians began to settle in Quba Province immediately after the conquest, and it was accompanied by an intense displacement of the local population, which will be described below more fully. A similar ethnic pattern existed in the city of Quba, where the major ethnic group consisted of its original inhabitants – Azerbaijanis. The second-largest ethnic group in the city were Mountain Jews and Tats. Other ethnic groups, Russians, Armenians, etc., did not differ in number or ethnic stability. The temporary departure from Dagestan and the northern provinces of Iran, South Azerbaijan, had a certain influence on the formation of the national structure of Quba. At different periods Quba was home to several ethnic groups in Dagestan: Avars, Dargin people, Lezgians, Ossetians and others. A considerable number of them, as well as Persian subjects – ethnic Azerbaijanis hired as day laborers, servants, laborers in Quba; a certain part worked in crafts and trade. (80)

 

 

The top positions in the social hierarchy of the city were occupied by lords and clergy. The apical layers of the city, except for agricultural enterprises, were engaged in trade, some impoverished lords engaged in a craft, hired into service clerks, translators, etc. The immigration policy of the Russian authorities, the oppression of the urban and rural population, excessive taxes and duties, illegal exactions and the outrages of the king's commanders and the lords strengthened the discontent of the population, accumulated during the first two decades. "Although all of these villages show obedience to your Government, they pay the tribute imposed upon them under compulsion," the king's official K.K.Krabbe warned. (81) The last drop in the cup of patience of the people was the order of the king's officials in 1836 about collecting of 31,414 pounds and 19,248 pounds of wheat barley from the peasants of Quba Province, the size of the cash taxes, which amounted to 12,973 rubles in gold, were also incredibly increased. When the bread and the money were recovered, the authorities demanded a payout of arrears for 1835. In addition, farmers were obliged to serve in favor of the execution: to maintain the postal stations and posts, to provide carts, fuel and manpower at the disposal of the commandant, to transport construction materials for state-owned buildings, and to build a road from Baku to Derbent through Quba. (82)The difficult economic and political situation led to mass protests, and a peasant uprising broke out in 1837 in Quba Province. The reason for it was the demand of the Russian government on the recruitment to the Warsaw Muslim cavalry regiment. However, the resentment of the peasants wasn't due to an unwillingness to serve in the army, but to the fact that a set of riders had become a new source of plunder. The consequence of the abuse of local officials was that the outfit of every rider in the Quba province managed to cost 350 rubles, while in other provinces it cost only 130 - 150 rubles. (83)The foreman of the village, Hulug Haji Mohammed, led the uprising, his assistant was a peasant, Yar Ali, who could influence the rural population of the province. The peasants demanded a reduction in the number of feudal obligations, the removal of the Commandant of the province, Colonel Gimbut, who enraged the population with his extortions and harassment, as well as two naibs and the most hatred lords. The authorities, who at the beginning refused to deal with the rebels, were forced to withdraw Gimbut and the two naibs, so that the peasants temporarily went home. However, they did not satisfy the demands of the peasants on the integration villages and reducing taxes. General Reutt, who was in Quba and who was addressed by the head of the insurrection, Haji Mohammed, bluntly refused to conduct any negotiations. The struggle of the highlanders under the leadership of Shamil also had some influence on the course of the uprising. When the population of Quba appealed to Shamil with a letter and told him that the authorities promised to meet their demands, Shamil urged the farmers not to believe the king's officials. In August 1837 the struggle of the peasants of the Quba province broke out with renewed vigor and turned into an armed uprising. By September the number of rebels had reached 12 thousand. Many lords, dissatisfied with the tsarist policy, joined the uprising, some of them were appointed naibs by Haji Magomed. Soon, the rebels moved to Quba and besieged it. On the night of September 4-5, the storming of the city began. During the fight, 4 thousand people of Quba joined with the rebels. As Haji Mohammed said, "the inhabitants of the city helped us with everything: women gave bread, axes, the townspeople loaded guns and even shot." (84)But the rebels failed to sieze the fortress. A new attempt at assault launched in September was also unsuccessful. The uprising become so serious that senior commander G.V. Rosen ordered that the military units of General Feze, who fought with the troops of Shamil, be moved from Dagestan. Not only the king's troops were moved against the rebels, but also the cavalry forces of the Shirvan lords, and the Kurin and Gazikumukh Khanates. (85) The divisions who came to help the besieged garrison of Quba crushed the rebellion. The rebels had to withdraw from Quba. But then a series of mountain villages of Quba Province continued resistance to the tsarist authorities and evaded taxes. General Golovin in a report on the situation in the Caucasus in 1838 said: "After the disturbances in Quba Province, which was pacified only in the vicinity of Quba, the upper villagers openly disobeyed." (86)In 1838 tsarist troops undertook two military expeditions into the mountain villages. In June, near Adzhiahur, there was a battle with armed detachments of rebels. The rebels suffered a defeat, and were forced to to take an oath of loyalty to Russia and committed to pay tribute. A considerable part of them, led by Agha-bek from Rutul, took refuge in the mountains. (87) An uprising in Quba was brutally suppressed, Haji Mohammed and a number of leaders were arrested and executed, Yar Ali fled into the mountains. The authorities massacred other active participants. However, it was necessary to do something with this province and its "unquiet and unreliable" population. So, simultaneously with the Quba uprising and after it, there were a number of other peasant's speeches. In 1838 Sheki Province also hosted a speech. They understood that the commandant's control of the Caucasus had no future. The commander from 1827 to 1831, Earl Paskevich, wrote about the need to eliminate the commandant's control. This system not only causes hostility and anger among the local population, being a blatant form of colonial rule, but also inflicted damage on the economic interests of the Russian state, as the costs of ruling and maintaining the province were high, and a significant portion of the proceeds in the form of various taxes and duties found their way into the pockets of commanders and other members of the administration. (88) In 1837 a commission led by Senator P.V. Gan, who in early 1838 presented a draft of 'Institutions for Ruling in the Transcaucasian Territory' was sent to Transcaucasia.73. Geibullaev G.A. The Toponymy of Azerbaijan74. Bunyadov Z.M. A few remarks about ethnic processes in Shirvan (up to the first third of the XIII century). Reports of the Academy of Sciences of the Azerbaijan SSR, 1986, XIII vol.75. Ibid.76. Geibullaev G.A. The toponymy of Azerbaijan77. Anisimov S.I. Caucasian Jewish Highlanders, St. Petersburg, 1888; Bunyadov Z.M. A few remarks about ethnic processes in Shirvan78. Veliyev M.G. The population of Azerbaijan is a museum of ethnographic treasures. Azerbaijani desk calendar, Baku, 1924-1925, 391 p.; Buniyatov Z.M. A few remarks about ethnic processes in Shirvan... 73 p.79. St. Petersburg, a subsidiary of the Archives of the RAS, fund 99, inventory 2, document 41, folio 13280. Mammadov N.R. History of the City of Quba, 17 p.81. RSMA, the Military Scholar Archive, document 301, folio 52082. History of Azerbaijan, v.1, Baku, 1954, 233 p.83. Sumbatzade A.A. Quba uprising in 1837 in Baku, 1961, p.6784. Ibid, 92 p.85. Ibid, 86 p.86. Ibid, 87 p.87. Ibid, 93-95 p., 88 p. History of Azerbaijan, v.2. Baku, 1960, 87 p.88. Ibid, 88-90 p. In the 1840s another village, called 'The Russian Settlement' or 'Indoor Farm', where the royal military officials settled, was established in the north-western part of Quba. Russians began to settle in Quba Province immediately after the conquest, and it was accompanied by an intense displacement of the local population, which will be described below more fully. A similar ethnic pattern existed in the city of Quba, where the major ethnic group consisted of its original inhabitants – Azerbaijanis. The second-largest ethnic group in the city were Mountain Jews and Tats. Other ethnic groups, Russians, Armenians, etc., did not differ in number or ethnic stability. The temporary departure from Dagestan and the northern provinces of Iran, South Azerbaijan, had a certain influence on the formation of the national structure of Quba. At different periods Quba was home to several ethnic groups in Dagestan: Avars, Dargin people, Lezgians, Ossetians and others. A considerable number of them, as well as Persian subjects – ethnic Azerbaijanis hired as day laborers, servants, laborers in Quba; a certain part worked in crafts and trade. (80)
The top positions in the social hierarchy of the city were occupied by lords and clergy. The apical layers of the city, except for agricultural enterprises, were engaged in trade, some impoverished lords engaged in a craft, hired into service clerks, translators, etc. The immigration policy of the Russian authorities, the oppression of the urban and rural population, excessive taxes and duties, illegal exactions and the outrages of the king's commanders and the lords strengthened the discontent of the population, accumulated during the first two decades. "Although all of these villages show obedience to your Government, they pay the tribute imposed upon them under compulsion," the king's official K.K.Krabbe warned. (81) The last drop in the cup of patience of the people was the order of the king's officials in 1836 about collecting of 31,414 pounds and 19,248 pounds of wheat barley from the peasants of Quba Province, the size of the cash taxes, which amounted to 12,973 rubles in gold, were also incredibly increased. When the bread and the money were recovered, the authorities demanded a payout of arrears for 1835. In addition, farmers were obliged to serve in favor of the execution: to maintain the postal stations and posts, to provide carts, fuel and manpower at the disposal of the commandant, to transport construction materials for state-owned buildings, and to build a road from Baku to Derbent through Quba. (82)

The difficult economic and political situation led to mass protests, and a peasant uprising broke out in 1837 in Quba Province. The reason for it was the demand of the Russian government on the recruitment to the Warsaw Muslim cavalry regiment. However, the resentment of the peasants wasn't due to an unwillingness to serve in the army, but to the fact that a set of riders had become a new source of plunder. The consequence of the abuse of local officials was that the outfit of every rider in the Quba province managed to cost 350 rubles, while in other provinces it cost only 130 - 150 rubles. (83)

The foreman of the village, Hulug Haji Mohammed, led the uprising, his assistant was a peasant, Yar Ali, who could influence the rural population of the province. The peasants demanded a reduction in the number of feudal obligations, the removal of the Commandant of the province, Colonel Gimbut, who enraged the population with his extortions and harassment, as well as two naibs and the most hatred lords. The authorities, who at the beginning refused to deal with the rebels, were forced to withdraw Gimbut and the two naibs, so that the peasants temporarily went home. However, they did not satisfy the demands of the peasants on the integration villages and reducing taxes. General Reutt, who was in Quba and who was addressed by the head of the insurrection, Haji Mohammed, bluntly refused to conduct any negotiations. The struggle of the highlanders under the leadership of Shamil also had some influence on the course of the uprising. When the population of Quba appealed to Shamil with a letter and told him that the authorities promised to meet their demands, Shamil urged the farmers not to believe the king's officials. In August 1837 the struggle of the peasants of the Quba province broke out with renewed vigor and turned into an armed uprising. By September the number of rebels had reached 12 thousand. Many lords, dissatisfied with the tsarist policy, joined the uprising, some of them were appointed naibs by Haji Magomed. Soon, the rebels moved to Quba and besieged it. On the night of September 4-5, the storming of the city began. During the fight, 4 thousand people of Quba joined with the rebels. As Haji Mohammed said, "the inhabitants of the city helped us with everything: women gave bread, axes, the townspeople loaded guns and even shot." (84)

But the rebels failed to sieze the fortress. A new attempt at assault launched in September was also unsuccessful. The uprising become so serious that senior commander G.V. Rosen ordered that the military units of General Feze, who fought with the troops of Shamil, be moved from Dagestan. Not only the king's troops were moved against the rebels, but also the cavalry forces of the Shirvan lords, and the Kurin and Gazikumukh Khanates. (85) The divisions who came to help the besieged garrison of Quba crushed the rebellion. The rebels had to withdraw from Quba. But then a series of mountain villages of Quba Province continued resistance to the tsarist authorities and evaded taxes. General Golovin in a report on the situation in the Caucasus in 1838 said: "After the disturbances in Quba Province, which was pacified only in the vicinity of Quba, the upper villagers openly disobeyed." (86)

In 1838 tsarist troops undertook two military expeditions into the mountain villages. In June, near Adzhiahur, there was a battle with armed detachments of rebels. The rebels suffered a defeat, and were forced to to take an oath of loyalty to Russia and committed to pay tribute. A considerable part of them, led by Agha-bek from Rutul, took refuge in the mountains. (87) An uprising in Quba was brutally suppressed, Haji Mohammed and a number of leaders were arrested and executed, Yar Ali fled into the mountains. The authorities massacred other active participants. However, it was necessary to do something with this province and its "unquiet and unreliable" population. So, simultaneously with the Quba uprising and after it, there were a number of other peasant's speeches. In 1838 Sheki Province also hosted a speech. They understood that the commandant's control of the Caucasus had no future. The commander from 1827 to 1831, Earl Paskevich, wrote about the need to eliminate the commandant's control. This system not only causes hostility and anger among the local population, being a blatant form of colonial rule, but also inflicted damage on the economic interests of the Russian state, as the costs of ruling and maintaining the province were high, and a significant portion of the proceeds in the form of various taxes and duties found their way into the pockets of commanders and other members of the administration. (88) In 1837 a commission led by Senator P.V. Gan, who in early 1838 presented a draft of 'Institutions for Ruling in the Transcaucasian Territory' was sent to Transcaucasia.

73. Geibullaev G.A. The Toponymy of Azerbaijan

74. Bunyadov Z.M. A few remarks about ethnic processes in Shirvan (up to the first third of the XIII century). Reports of the Academy of Sciences of the Azerbaijan SSR, 1986, XIII vol.

75. Ibid.

76. Geibullaev G.A. The toponymy of Azerbaijan

77. Anisimov S.I. Caucasian Jewish Highlanders, St. Petersburg, 1888; Bunyadov Z.M. A few remarks about ethnic processes in Shirvan

78. Veliyev M.G. The population of Azerbaijan is a museum of ethnographic treasures. Azerbaijani desk calendar, Baku, 1924-1925, 391 p.; Buniyatov Z.M. A few remarks about ethnic processes in Shirvan... 73 p.

79. St. Petersburg, a subsidiary of the Archives of the RAS, fund 99, inventory 2, document 41, folio 132

80. Mammadov N.R. History of the City of Quba, 17 p.

81. RSMA, the Military Scholar Archive, document 301, folio 520

82. History of Azerbaijan, v.1, Baku, 1954, 233 p.

83. Sumbatzade A.A. Quba uprising in 1837 in Baku, 1961, p.67

84. Ibid, 92 p.

85. Ibid, 86 p.

86. Ibid, 87 p.

87. Ibid, 93-95 p., 88 p. History of Azerbaijan, v.2. Baku, 1960, 87 p.

88. Ibid, 88-90 p.

 

 

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