The 1905 Baku Incidents

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Prof. Dr. Nesrin Sarıahmetoğlu

The forced relocation of the Armenians to Azerbaijan at the beginning of the 20th century caused the balance in the region to change completely. With the implementation of the “Great Armenia” plan, many events occurred in the Caucasus. The scale of the events increased in 1905-1906 and they did not remain just in Baku, but spread to all of the Caucasus.

There is detailed information on these events in the book Kanlı İller (Bloody Provinces) of Mehmed Seid Ordubadi and the book 1905-1906-ci İller Ermeni Müselman Davası (The Armenian-Muslim Issue in the Provinces of 1905-1906) of Mir Möhsun Nevvab. The book Kanlı İller was hidden from the public for more than 80 years. After its publication at the “Seda” printing house of Hashim Beg Vezirov (1911), the book was not allowed to be printed and to reach the young generations. In addition, the article written by V. Mayevski, who had worked at the Russian embassy in various cities in the Ottoman State since 1895 and who was a witness of the incidents carried out by the Tashnaks in those cities, on the “Armenian-Tatar Dispute in the Caucasus” was not published in 1906. The Caucasus Military Administration printed this work as a booklet and under the expression “Top Secret” in 1915 (Ordubadi 1991, Nevvab 1993, Mayevskiy 1915). Therefore, most of the generation after 1940 and 1950 could not obtain any information about the 1905 Incidents. The publications that have been published in the West regarding the 1905 Incidents created the impression that those who suffered the heaviest losses were the Armenians (A. To 1907, Zarevand, Leiden 1971, Walker, 1980, Villari, 1908, Henry, [t.y] pp. 157-160, 174). The incidents of this period does not attract much attention. However, the first phase of the ideal of creating a “Great Armenia” started in this period.

Nevvab (1833-1918), who talked about the Armenian-Muslim (Azeri) conflicts of 1905-1906 in his work “Tawareekh-i Razm wa Shurishi Taaife-i Erameniyye-i Qawqaz wa Firqa-i Musulman,” wrote the incidents that took place were as a result of the Armenian committees targeting the innocent people (Nevvab, 1993, pp. 1-4). In the book he gave information on the terror actions of the Armenians that targeted the Azeri Turks in Shusha and Nagorno Karabagh in 1903-1904 and the incidents that were experienced in relation to this. From what the author wrote, it is understood that the relations between the center and these two communities were very different. Nevvab stated that the Azeri Turks were prohibited from carrying weapons with an order from the Tsar, but the Armenian gangs took advantage of this and they captured and killed the unarmed Azeri Turks easily. Nevvab also wrote that the Armenian nationalists established a special organization firstly in the Ottoman State and then in the cities in Russia, and intellectuals, young people, artists, and other representatives of the Armenien community were called there. According to Nevvab, what made possible for these organizations to survive was notifications, damages, assasinations against the Azerbaijan Turks and the Ottomans, and also the collecting of money from rich Armenians to bribe the civil servants and officers of the Tsar in order to seize the war materials that were necessary to be used in the armed clashes.

Nevvab talked about the relationship between the Azerbaijan Turks and the Armenians before 1905 as follows:

In 1260 (1844), an Armenian named Isaballi made fun of Azeris together with other Armenians. As soon as the Azeris heard about this incident, they closed their shops, went to Khan Bag and brought Jafarkulu Khan, who was the ruler of the city. A big conflict erupted in the city and everybody sided with the ruler. The ruler panicked in this situaiton, he wanted to calm down the Azeris, but it was not possible. He brought Ala Bey, who was in Shushakend, in order to stop the incidents. When Ala Bey entered the city on his horse, the people surrounded him. A sayyid named Mirhadi pulled him from his horse and dropped him to the ground. All of the Armenians got out of their shops and fled. Some of them closed their shops, some of them closed their doors, and some of them could not do either and just fled. Some of the far-sighted Muslims took some of the Armenians into their houses, they tried to protect and calm them down. Igonarnt Muslims followed the fleeing Armenians and attacked them. In sum, the ruler of the city calmed down the Muslims in this way and saved the Armenians from a big disaster.

In 1904 the Armenians realized that they could not live together with the Turks and increased their activities. The first phase of that was to pressure the Azeri Turks everywhere and to demoralize them. Although the local government dealt with the small scale crimes, it was not able to prevent such important things. From this, it can be understood that two nations that cut off the ties of friendship were pushed into a conflictual situation. Some of the Armenians did not support this development, but they thought that the earlier the clashes started, the better it was.

On 26 February 1905, a Muslim named Ağarıza Babayev, who was one of the residents of the Sabuncu village, was killed while he was traveling in a horse drawn carriage in the Kuba Square. The news of the killing of Babayev rapidly reached his relatives, siblings, friends, and acquaintances in the industrial center of Balahani-Sabuncu, which was very close to Baku. The Azeri Turks who went to the streets in small groups after the killing of Babayev were fired upon from the houses of the Armenians. The unarmed Turks scattered and tried to get weapons. However, it was not possible to stop the incidents anymore. Blood was shed and many innocent people also became victims. According to the first findings, those who died were 7th grade student Yakov Lebedev and technical school pupil Ivan Volkov.

Mehmed Seid Ordubadi narrates the February incidents, “which turned our world in to a bloodbath,” as follows in his work “Kanlı Iller” (Bloody Provinces):

“On February 7th, the clashes were happening everywhere now. Since the Armenians started a general massacre, the Muslims also acquired guns and rifles and prepared for war. As a result, the Armenians could not stop the attacks of the Muslims and they started to take refuge in their homes. They were firing on the Muslims and those who were passing on the streets from the rooftops and windows. Shots were fired from the house of Krasilnikovs, the Madrid Hotel, and from the other houses of Krasilnikovs on the corner of Bazar and Guberinski streets .. (…) At that time, there was no place left in Baku and the factories of the city where there were no clashes. All of the people got mixed up and everybody became armed. Women were holding the hands of their children and running here and there, but they could not find help anywhere. A large fire took place in Balahani. Those Muslims who spoke other languages protected the Armenians (…) As a result of this confusion and clashes, the soup kitchens and shops of most Muslims were vandalized and looted… (Ordubadi, 1991, pp. 12-14).”

According to the information given by the Mihail Hospital, 18 people died and 33 people were injured on February 6th. Among these people, 6 were Russians, 34 were Azeri Turks, 6 wee Armenians, and 5 people belonged to other nationalities. The number of the dead and injured reached 100 on February 7th. On 7 February, 20 people from the Cossacks were in Shamahinski and Bazar in divisions of 20 and 10. The situation of the city became worse at midnight. Voluntary Azeri Turks fought against the regular units with great courage. The Turks protected the Armenians when they could. At that time, the government sent a division of soldiers composed of 10 people everywhere, but this did not produce the desired result. Ordubadi narrates that women also protected the Armenians with which they lived together in the same geography and he gives the example of 3 Turkish women protecting 50 Armenians. He narrates that the women hid 50 Armenians for 4 days and fed them (Ordubadi, 1991, pp. 14-15; Sarıahmetoğlu, 2006, pp. 268-270 ).

While the clashes on the Krasnovodsk and Surahanski streets continued with great force, Azeri Turks protected many Armenians. In house no. 195, Akim Isayevic and his family were protected and were saved from death and looting. The people who protected them wer Ağakiş Aliyev and Aliyev’s brother, Hüseyinkulu Kerbelayı Abdullaoğlu. On this subject, the Armenians showed their satisfaction with their signatures: Many Armenians were hidden at the home of Ağadadaş Veliyev in Malakan: Mikayıl Artyomyans, Babacanov Sarkis Mihayeviç Ovenesov, etc. One of them was an Armenian named Arshak Durniyans. Arshak Durniyas stayed there together with two children of his who were students at a high school. The same Armenian family was protected by Hüseyinkulu Mahmudov and Mashadi Henife Jafarov as well. Starting on February 6th, Stephan Avedisov, Arzumanovs, etc were also protected as well as Arshak Durniyans. A Turkish family saved the whole family of Davud Ohenesov and other Armenians by hiding them even though Ağa Rıza Babayev, who was the son of their paternal uncle, had been killed by the Armenians.

On 8 February, the goods in the store of Mirza Aramyants were taken from the looters and brought to the police station with cars in order to keep them safe. Just before 10 pm, some people who came from Surahanski and Voronsovski streets to Aslanov’s house and wanted to burn, destroy, and loot it were prevented. Looting continued in extreme fashion on the corner of those streets and in the boulevards (Ordubadi, s. 16).

The number of those killed and the lootings increased on 9 February. The Armenians started to gather in the homes of rich Armenians and to fire from the windows and rooftops. Famous rich Armenians such as Mantaşev Mirzaberkyan, Ter-Gukasov, Melikyants, and Shahbazyan, who had earned millions from the Baku oil, were running the activities of the Armenians covertly. The Baku incidents, which started on 6 February, continued without interruption until 10 February. Disruptions also took place at the oil refineries in Balahani.

The Tashanks had emerged in order to kill the Turks, to loot their property, to burn their houses and work places. Committee member Nikol came to Baku together with a squadron named Tuman, which had received military training, attacked the Turkish neighborhoods, burned many houses to the ground, and caused the death of many Turks. The Governor of Baku, who took action in order to calm down the Armenians, gave Nakashizada the death sentence. He was killed by a bomb that was thrown by a gang leader known as Drastamat Kanayan, who was also known as “Dro,” in order to carry out this sentence. General Alihanov was also killed on the same day (Hüseynov, 1928, p. 117; Mansurov, 1991, p.212; Ordubadi, p. 17; Daşnaki, 1990, p. 11. ).

The basis of the relations between the Armenians and Azeri Turks in the Southern Caucasus was laid down when the Armenians started to be settled in Baku, Nagorno Karabagh, Shanahi, Nakhchivan, Genje, etc. with the help of A. Griboyedov, Knez Argutyan, General Lazarev, and General Ter-Gukasov. After Azerbaijan started to come under Russian rule, the Armenians became a sort of intermediary between the rule of the Tsar and the local people; they acquired prestige and they were given posts in the civil service. Separate representatives of the state generally did not trust the Azeri Turks, they saw them as an enemy people who fought the Russian armies, who were foreign in terms of religion, tradition, and customs, who resisted assimilation, and who were ready to protect their independence using weapons. This situation was also provoked by the Armenians and this led the administrators to look down on the local people, the committee heads’ hatred of the Azeri Turks, and then the emergence of the bloody incidents.

The terror that the Armenians started in the Southern Caucaus created unrest in all of Russia. The people constantly went to St. Petersburg and conveyed their complaints about the Armenians. The Tsar declared general martial law in the Caucasus in order to resolve the disputes and a delegation of 60 people came to Baku on 2 March 1905 for the incidents of 6-10 February under the leadership of Kuzminski, who was the head of the Court of Appeals, with the special permission of the Tsar. Kuzminski indicated the conclusions of the investigation, which took three months, in a two volume report, which he sent to the Tsar Nicola. The report recommended taking of the measures that were necessary to capture the Armenian gangs, which would come by passing the Ottoman border (Mansurov, pp. 212-214).

The Azeri Turks wanted the negative ideas that had fomed in the government about their religion to be changed, and the Muslims, like the other naitons that lived in the Empire, to be given political rights. These explanations completely belonged to the city of Baku. The Azeris had always been the dominant people there, while the Armenians started to be influential at the beginning of the 1870s when the oil industry started to be established in Baku. However, the Armenians became the majority at the Baku State Bank from the 1890s until the beginning of the 1900s. Major wealthy Armenian people such as Mantashev, Lalayan, Adamyan, Ter-Gukasov, and Aramyants, etc. started to emerge. In time, they became competitive with international capitalists such as Nobel and Rothschild. The rich Armenians, whose business grew with the money they earned from oil, used their money to support the national Armenian parties (Hinchak, Tashnaksutyun, etc.) materially. Such a development was experienced in Georgia as well and wealthy Armenians such as Mantshev and Arakelov bought Georgian territories and even churches and settled there the Armeinans who emigrated from the Ottoman State (Nedjefov, p. 36).

After the 1905-1906 incidents, more than 200 settlement units in the states of Yerivan and Elizavetpol that belonged to the Azeri Turks were destroyed and their populations were massacred. The quantitative data show that Turks lived in 959 villages out of the 1301 in the Yerivan region and in 314 of the 406 villages in the county of Zenzegur between the years 1905-1906. Out of the 1273 Turkish villages in the Yerivan state of that time and Zenzegur, no Azeri Turks have remained except for those in the Nakhchivan region.

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