Ilgar Niftaliev: "Studying the events of March 1918, Azerbaijan just wants to restore the historical truth"
Today, Azerbaijan marks the sad anniversary of the events of 1918. 103 years ago in Baku and other cities, militants of the nationalist Dashnaktsutyun party and the Bolsheviks began massacres of Azerbaijanis. The head of the department of the history of Azerbaijan of the Soviet period of the Institute of History named after V.I. A.A. Bakikhanova, Doctor of Philosophy in History, Associate Professor Ilgar Niftaliev.
- Why did the topic of genocide of Azerbaijanis begin to be covered in detail relatively recently?
- During the Soviet period, historians covered these problems, but they mainly used Soviet sources, since the archives were closed, and materials related to the bloody events of March 1918 were classified as classified. But the theme of the "genocide" of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 was actively promoted in Armenian historiography. The Armenian diaspora abroad played an important role in this, as well as the fact that in 1965 the Soviet Union actually recognized the "genocide" of the Armenians, that is, Soviet historiography officially allowed coverage of this issue, since while Turkey, as a NATO member, was an enemy of the USSR.
In the late 1980s, in the wake of the beginning of the separatist movement in Nagorno-Karabakh, historians began to investigate not only the causes of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but also the Armenian-Azerbaijani relations in general. Then the topic of the genocide of Azerbaijanis came to the fore. In the late 1980s - early 1990s, the first publications appeared on the pages of the press, primarily in academic journals, about the events in Shamakhi, about the events in Baku. After the restoration of independence by Azerbaijan, the first monographs on this topic were also published.
In 1998, Heydar Aliyev issued a decree according to which March 31 is annually celebrated as the Day of the Genocide of the Azerbaijani people. This decree was the first political and legal assessment of the events of 1918. After that, Azerbaijani scientists began to systematically and consistently study those events, since the bans on many documents that were stored in the archives were lifted. The materials of the commission of inquiry, which was created during the period of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) and studied the events that took place in the territory of the Baku province: in the territory of Baku and Baku district, Shamakhi and Shamakhy district, Guba and Guba district, as well as in Lankaran, were also made public. and Goychay. These documents have become available to researchers. Numerous collections of documents have been published on the genocide of Azerbaijanis in various regions of the Baku province. The geography of the study of the problem expanded, studies appeared related to the aggression of Dashnak Armenia against the ADR; in Nakhchivan, in Karabakh ... Today, the topic of the genocide of Azerbaijanis is quite deeply covered by Azerbaijani historians. Numerous collections of documents have been published, many works have been translated into foreign languages, published in Moscow and in some European countries.
- What was the true goal of the Dashnaks, given the geography of atrocities against the civilian population, especially in Baku, Shamakhi, Karabakh and Nakhchivan?
- The goal of the Bolsheviks was to prevent the development of the national democratic movement in Azerbaijan, to preserve the South Caucasus as part of Soviet Russia. The Bolsheviks could not allow the creation of independent states and tried to preserve these territories by Sovietization of the national outskirts. Those events took place in the regions of Azerbaijan, where Armenians and Azerbaijanis lived next to each other or mixed.
The territorial claims of the Armenian nationalists were based on an attempt to expand the borders of the Armenian state at the expense of the Azerbaijani lands. And what happened in Baku, in Guba, in Shamakhi - here the goals of the Bolsheviks and Dashnaks coincided. The Bolsheviks wanted to secure the territory of the Baku province and the city of Baku, which was the center of the oil industry in the Russian Empire and the largest oil center. What the Armenian nationalists did, I think, was revenge for the events of 1915. It's my personal opinion. They decided to take revenge on Muslim Azerbaijanis for what was happening on the territory of the Ottoman Empire. Some Armenian nationalists took part in the 1905 events in Karabakh; the genocide of Muslims in Eastern Anatolia in 1915; in the events in Guba in 1918. These are the same executioners who, wherever they find themselves, whether on the territory of the Ottoman state, whether on the territory of the Caucasus, took part in the genocide of the Muslim population.
At the end of the 19th century, Armenian political organizations set a goal to achieve the creation of an Armenian autonomy. At the end of the 19th century, it was the territory of the Ottoman state, and at the beginning of the 20th century, the party's program also included the territory of the Russian Empire. They wanted to clear the territory of Muslims to create their own Armenian state, resettling Armenians on it.
- Can we say that the March 1918 events led to the growth of the national movement in Azerbaijan?
- Of course, those March events became a turning point - the Azerbaijani democratic movement took the path of independence. Then the Bolsheviks showed their true colors. Contrary to the declarations on the right to self-determination of the peoples of the former Russian Empire, these bloody events, attempts to forcibly establish Soviet power on the national outskirts, they actually exposed their true essence. This was the same policy as that of the tsarist government, which first entered into treaties with our khanates, recognizing their independence, and then after a while liquidated these khanates and turned them into their provinces. In fact, the Bolsheviks took this path. They first recognized the right of peoples to self-determination, and then they occupied these territories. One way or another, the March events became a turning point for the activities of the Azerbaijani national forces to achieve the independence of Azerbaijan.
- In your opinion, how far in the future is it possible to obtain an international legal assessment of the events of 1918?
- I cannot speak for politicians, we are historians. When we investigate those events, we are not pursuing political goals. The main goal of the historian is to give an objective assessment of the past, so that the past becomes a lesson for the future generation, so that descendants know the truth. The rest is, of course, politics. Remember, the Turkish government called on the Armenian government to open the archives and give an objective assessment of the events of 1915. At the same time, the Turkish government, opening the archives, did not pursue the goal of demanding any compensation from the Armenians, some territories in the future. It raised this question in order to give an objective assessment of the past.
However, Armenian nationalists pursue purely political goals in order to expand the territory of Armenia in the future, to demand compensation from the Turkish government.
I think that the Azerbaijani government just wants to restore the historical truth, exploring these issues, so that the future generation will know where the historical border of Azerbaijan lies, what territories constituted the historical territory of Azerbaijan. The President has repeatedly said that we have no territorial claims to any state. We just want to restore historical justice and objectivity.