Научная статья на тему 'Azerbaijan at the crossroads of epochs: the first attempt to join the free world (1917-1920)'

Azerbaijan at the crossroads of epochs: the first attempt to join the free world (1917-1920) Текст научной статьи по специальности «Политологические науки»

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Аннотация научной статьи по политологическим наукам, автор научной работы — Hasanli Jamil

The author covers a wide range of issues related to the establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and its struggle for the right to become part of the world community. The article is an extremely detailed account of the contradictory processes that unfolded across the Central Caucasus in 1917-1920; the highly complicated developments in Azerbaijan in the spring and summer of 1918; and the clash of the Great Powers over Baku at the concluding stage of World War I. The author analyzes the position of the Azeri delegation at the Paris Peace Conference and the first attempts of the young republic to integrate into the free world. Dr. Hasanli relies on newly discovered archival documents to demonstrate that the Supreme Council at Versailles recognized de facto the Central Caucasian republics and to describe the Western countries' futile attempts to stem the Bolshevik occupation of the Caucasus.

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Текст научной работы на тему «Azerbaijan at the crossroads of epochs: the first attempt to join the free world (1917-1920)»



D.Sc. (Hist.), professor at Baku State University, deputy of the Milli Mejlis (parliament) of the Republic of Azerbaijan

(Baku, Azerbaijan).



The author covers a wide range of issues related to the establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and its struggle for the right to become part of the world community. The article is an extremely detailed account of the contradictory processes that unfolded across the Central Caucasus in 1917-1920; the highly complicated developments in Azerbaijan in the spring and summer of 1918; and the clash of the Great Powers over Baku at the concluding

stage of World War I. The author analyzes the position of the Azeri delegation at the Paris Peace Conference and the first attempts of the young republic to integrate into the free world. Dr. Hasanli relies on newly discovered archival documents to demonstrate that the Supreme Council at Versailles recognized de facto the Central Caucasian republics and to describe the Western countries’ futile attempts to stem the Bolshevik occupation of the Caucasus.

I n t r o d u c t i o n

The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) was born and existed during a hard and very contradictory stretch of history. Destroyed by the 1917 Revolution, the Russian Empire tried to restore its


1914 borders, which meant that in 1918-1920 the young ADR had to demonstrate no mean diplomatic ingenuity and skill to capitalize on the twists and turns in world politics. In 1920, the Supreme Council at Versailles recognized de facto Azerbaijan as an independent state. This was possible not only thanks to the political changes obvious since the fall of 1919, it can also be described as a great diplomatic achievement of the Azeri delegation at the Paris Peace Conference. The postwar geopolitical processes made it impossible to consolidate this historic achievement. In April 1920, the ADR ceased to exist. It was destroyed by complicated diplomatic maneuvers on a world scale rather than by domestic or regional contradictions. In fact, the newly independent states that sprang into being in the territory of the former Russian Empire found it hard to integrate into the world community mainly because Russia belonged to victorious Entente. Convinced that Bolshevism was a short-lived phenomenon, Russia’s former allies still hoped to restore it within its former borders, which demanded great caution from them. The Fourteen Points of President Wilson, the architect of the new world and a friend of smaller nations, can be described as the Western program of the future world order. Seventy years later, 14 republics detached themselves from Russia: in 1918 Woodrow Wilson had not planned this.

The 1917 Russian Revolution and the Beginning of Diplomatic Struggle for the Caucasus

Azerbaijan declared its independence on 28 May, 1918, although the Central Caucasus was involved in international relations much earlier. By the end of World War I, the growing need for fuel forced the warring sides to turn their gazes to Baku. The contradictory developments on the Caucasian Front and the political upheavals triggered by the 1917 Russian revolution inevitably shook the Central Caucasus, and Azerbaijan as its part.

The 1917 February revolution in Russia not merely deposed the monarchy—it dealt a heavy blow to the vast country’s imperial pillars: the “inmates” of the “prison of nations” rose up to demand their liberation. This accelerated political developments in the Caucasus. On 9 March, the Central Caucasian deputies of the State Duma initiated a Special Committee with Constitutional Democrat Vassili Kharlamov as its head to administer the region.

On 11 November, after the October 1917 coup in Petrograd, the political organizations of the Central Caucasus gathered in Tiflis to discuss the situation. Leader of the Georgian Mensheviks Noah Zhordania delivered a long speech in which he reminded the meeting that for the last one hundred years the peoples of the Transcaucasus had been toiling together with Russia and considered themselves to be an inalienable part of the Russian State. He lamented the lost ties with Russia and complained that the Transcaucasus had been left to its own devices. He called on the gathering to rise and rescue themselves in order not to perish in the ocean of anarchy.1 A Transcaucasian Commissariat was set up at his suggestion to administer the region until the Constituent Assembly settled the problem of power in Russia. On 14 November, the composition of the Commissariat was made public: it included representatives of all the Transcaucasian nations with Georgian Menshevik Evgeni Gegechkori at the head.

This put the Russian army on the Caucasian Front in a quandary, yet everyone knew that the war with Turkey was over.2 Late in November 1917, Enver Pasha instructed Commander of the Third Turkish Army Mehmet Vahib to invite Commander of the Caucasian Front General Przhevalskiy to sign a truce. The Transcaucasian Commissariat accepted the suggestion on the condition that the Turks would

1 See: N. Zhordania, Za dva goda, Tiflis, 1919, pp. 51-52.

2 See: Z. Avalov, Nezavisimost Gruzii v mezhdunarodnoy politike (1918-1921), Paris, 1924, p. 30.


not start moving their troops so as not to provoke the Entente.3 On 21 November, General Przhevalskiy informed the Turks about this decision. Several days later, a small delegation of A. Smirnov, V. Tevza-ya, General Vyshinskiy, and member of the Dashnaktsutiun Party Jamalian arrived in Erzincan. On 5 (18) December, they signed a truce of 14 points.4

It was a stop-gag agreement. In a letter addressed to General Odishelidze and dated 16 January, 1918, Vahib Pasha invited the Transcaucasian Commissariat in the name of the Turkish government to take part in the talks in Brest-Litovsk and promised to do everything to achieve official recognition of the new state. This was an important step toward independence.

It took the Commissariat quite a while to decide how to respond to the Turkish invitation. After long deliberations the issue was referred to the Transcaucasian Sejm (parliament) scheduled for 10 (23) February. The Turks were duly informed about this. After preliminary discussions about the future body of supreme power, the Georgian faction suggested that the newly born parliament be called Sejm (like in Poland, which had also detached itself from the Russian Empire). During the last days of the Interim Government, the Transcaucasian Bolsheviks supported this idea.5

The factions discussed the peace treaty and related issues and specified the positions of the sides. The Azeri faction met on 26 February; Chairman Mohammad Emin Rasulzade offered a detailed analysis of the situation in Azerbaijan and around it; the faction was very much disturbed by the fact that the Armenian military units chose to stop in Baku on their way home from the Caucasian Front; that the British units in the Middle East moving toward Northern Iran-Southern Azerbaijan threatened Baku; and that the Germans were displaying much more activity in the Caucasus and much more interest in Baku oil. The Azeri faction in the Sejm wanted peace with Turkey and stability in the Transcaucasus.

On 3 March, 1918, Soviet Russia signed the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, under which it officially renounced the Decree on Turkish Armenia Lenin and Stalin had worded two months earlier and promised to do its best to evacuate Eastern Anatolia before returning it to Turkey, as well as pull its army out of the Ardahan, Kars, and Batum provinces.6

Later, at the Trabzon Conference (officially opened on 14 March), the Transcaucasian delegation lodged its official protest against the Brest-Litovsk Treaty in the part related to the Caucasus.7 The Turks argued that if the Transcaucasus had wanted a different treaty it should have registered its rights on an international legal basis and sought official recognition from other states. Today, the Turks pointed out, no recognition would allow the Transcaucasus to regain the lost opportunities.8 On 24 March (6 April), Turkey’s patience snapped: it laid an ultimatum on the table demanding a clear answer from the Transcaucasus in the next 48 hours. The delegates had to decide whether they accepted the Brest-Litovsk Peace or not. The document specified that talks between the sides would be possible after the Transcaucasus gained its sovereignty.9

Meanwhile in Tiflis, events were going in a somewhat different direction. E. Gegechkori, I. Tsereteli, Kh. Karchikian, Iu. Semenov, and others called on the urgently convened Sejm to decline the demands and, in fact, urged the parliament to declare war on Turkey. The Georgian and Armenian delegates likewise stopped short of a declaration of war. On 13 April, the Sejm declared war, which proved to be short affair. After eight days of fighting, in the course of which the Turks

3 See: Dokumenty i materialy po vneshney politike Zakavkazia i Gruzii, Tiflis, 1919, pp. 11-12.

4 See: A.N. Kurat, Turkiye ve Rusiya, Ankara, 1990, pp. 332-333.

5 See: S. Belenkiy, N. Manvelov, Revolutsia 1917 goda v Azerbaijane, Baku, 1927, p. 28.

6 See: Iu. Kliuchnikov, A. Sabanin, Mezhdunarodnaia politika noveyshego vremeni v dogovorakh, notakh i deklar-atsiiakh, Part II, Moscow, 1926, pp. 123-127.

7 See: Report of the Delegation of the Transcaucasian Sejm at the Peace Talks with Turkey, 1918, State Archives of the Azerbaijan republic (further SA AR), rec. gr. 970, inv. 1, f. 3, sheet 4.

8 See: i. Berkuk, “Boyuk Harpda §imali Kafkasyadaki faaliyetlerimiz ve 15. firkanin hareketi ve muharibeleri,” Askeri mecmua, No. 35, 1934.

9 See: A.N. Kurat, op. cit., p. 472.


took Batum on 15 April, the victors invited the Sejm to the negotiation table.10 This time the invitation was accepted.

The delegates in Trabzon did not remain idle; as soon as the talks had been indefinitely suspended, Enver Pasha visited Trabzon and Batum. In Trabzon he met the Azeri delegates,11 who wanted his opinions about the future political structure of the Transcaucasus and, more importantly, about the future relations between two kindred peoples—the Azeris and the Ottoman Turks. Enver Pasha, the key political figure in his country, saw Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia, with a common Sejm, as a federation or a confederation in close cooperation with Turkey. If this did not happen, Azerbaijan, which had a common border with Turkey, could form much closer ties with the Ottoman Empire. By way of comment on the Trabzon talks, Mamed Hasan Hajinski informed that Nuru Pasha, brother of Minister of War Enver Pasha, would shortly arrive in Azerbaijan from Iran together with 300 military instructors.12

In the morning of 22 April, 1918, before attending the sitting of the Sejm, the Muslim factions gathered for their meeting. They agreed to stand by Akaki Chkhenkeli, who wanted independence and peace talks.13 The same day, late at night, the Sejm majority declared the establishment of the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic.14 On 26 April, it endorsed the Cabinet and listened to its statement. The greater role the Azeris had been playing in the developments earned them several Cabinet posts. F. Khoyski became Minister of Justice; N. Yusifbeyli (Usubekkov), Minister of Education; Kh. Melik-Aslanov, Minister of Railways; M. Hajinski, Minister of Trade; and I. Heydarov, State Controller in the Chkhenkeli Cabinet.15 On 28 April, the Ottoman Empire recognized the newly formed Transcaucasian Independent Democratic Federative Republic. This opened the road to a new round of peace talks in Batum. Fully aware of their importance, Turkey raised the status of its delegation by appointing Khalil Mentesh, acting Minister of Justice and Foreign Minister, as delegation head. Naval Minister Jamal Pasha arrived in Batum from Istanbul. The new state dispatched a delegation of 45 members, the number explained by the highly difficult political situation in the Transcaucasus. 16 Chkhenkeli and Nikoladze from Georgia, Rasulzade and Hajinski from Azerbaijan, and Kac-haznuni and Khatisian from Armenia were the central figures.17

On 14 May, in Batum, Khalil bek handed in a note to the Transcaucasian delegation which demanded access to the Transcaucasus to prevent a British offensive on Baku. He explained that the field commanders were instructed to spare civilians if no resistance was offered.18 The Azeri delegates demanded that the Turkish troops be allowed to enter the Transcaucasus to stop the troops of the Baku Soviet of People’s Commissars, which were pressing on toward Ganja. The rapidly developing complications in the region had different effects on the interests of the rivaling neighbors, causing disagreements in the Transcaucasian delegation in Batum. The Turks knew that Germany planned to cross Azerbaijan to invade Central Asia, Afghanistan, and India to deliver a blow at the enemy positions there.19

In mid-May, the Azeri and the Georgian factions were resolved to invite military forces from abroad; on 14 May, the Georgian National Council gathered for a secret meeting, which decided to

1 See: Dokumenty i materialy po vneshney politike Zakavkazia i Gruzii, p. 199.

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11 See: Protokol sovmetsnogo zasedania vsekh musulmanskikh fraktsiy Zakavkazskogo sejma, 01.05.1918 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 970, inv. 1, f. 1, sheet 31.

12 See: Ibid., sheet 33.

13 See: Protokol sovmetsnogo zasedania vsekh musulmanskikh sejmovykh fraktsiy, 22.04.1918 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 970, inv. 1, f. 1, sheet 25.

14 See: T. Swietochowski, Russia and Azerbaijan. Borderland Transition, Columbia University Press, New York, 1995, p. 66.

15 See: Dokumenty i materialy po vneshney politike Zakavkazia i Gruzii, p. 229.

16 See: A.N. Kurat, op. cit., p. 464.

17 See: T. Swietochowski, Russian Azerbaijan, 1905-1920: The Shaping of National Identity in Moslem Community, Cambridge, 1985, p. 125.

18 See: Dokumenty i materialy po vneshney politike Zakavkazia i Gruzii, pp. 269-270.

19 See: R.G. Gatamov, Azerbaidzhanskiy faktor v germano-osmanskikh otnosheniakh (1917-1918), Avtoreferat dis-sertatsii na soiskanie uchenoy stepeni candidata istoricheskikh nauk, Baku, 2005, p. 18.


ask Germany through General von Lossow to establish its patronage over Georgia. In fact, at this moment, the Georgian emissaries in Berlin had already acquired Germany’s agreement.20 A commission with Noah Zhordania at its head was set up to talk to the German general.

Under the secret agreement of 25 May, Germany dispatched first 5 thousand troops and later 12 thousand more to Georgia.21 On 26 May, the Georgian National Council declared Georgia an independent country and formed a Cabinet with N. Ramishvili as the prime minister. The new government rubber-stamped the pre-prepared document. On 28 May, Georgia acquired Germany’s patronage.

Azerbaijan Declares Independence

On 27 May, the Azeri faction of the Sejm met to discuss the crisis caused by the disbandment of the Sejm. The situation called for prompt decisions. In view of this, the faction unanimously decided to shoulder the functions of the government and announced itself as the National Council of Azerbaijan with M. Rasulzade as its chairman. On 28 May, the Council met for its first sitting attended by 26 members. The stormy discussions ended with a decision to immediately declare state independence and issue a corresponding document.22 The Council instructed F. Khoyski to form the Cabinet; an hour alter it approved the Cabinet’s personal composition: Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Fatali Khan Khoyski; War Minister Kh. Sultanov; Foreign Minister M. Hajinski; Finance Minister and Minister of Education N. Yusifbeyli; Minister of Justice Kh. Hasmamedov; Minister of Trade and Industry M. Jafarov; Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Labor A. Sheykhulislamov; Minister of Railways and Minister of Posts and Telegraph Kh. Melik-Aslanov; and State Controller J. Hajinski.23

This means that the National Council of Azerbaijan performed its historic mission of creating the first secular Muslim state. M. Rasulzade had the following to say on this score: “By making public its Declaration of 28 May, 1918, the National Council confirmed the existence of the Azeri nation. From that time on, the word “Azerbaijan” was no longer a geographic, ethnographic, and linguistic term but a political reality.”24

On 30 May, as soon as the Cabinet was formed, a radiogram was sent to the foreign ministers of the world’s leading countries which said: “Since the Federative Transcaucasian Republic was broken down after Georgia became separated from it, the National Azeri Council announced on the 28th of the current month the independence of Azerbaijan formed by the Eastern and Southern Transcaucasus and declared the Azerbaijan Republic. By informing you about the above developments, I have the honor to ask Your Excellency to notify your Government of this. Elizavetpol has been selected as a temporary seat of my government. Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Azerbaijan Republic Fatali Khan Khoyski.”25

Each of the newly established national republics remained in Batum with its own peace conditions. On 4 June, the process ended with a Treaty on Peace and Friendship, which the three republics signed with Turkey. The same day, the Imperial Ottoman Government and the Azerbaijan Republic signed a friendship treaty; the Turkish side was represented by Minister of Justice Khalil Mentesh and Commander-in-Chief of the Caucasian Front Vahib Pasha; Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan M.H. Hajin-

20 See: H. Baykara, Azerbaycan Istiklal Mucadilesi Tarihi, istanbul, 1975. pp. 257-258.

21 See: T. Sunbul, Azerbaycan Dosyasi, Ankara, 1990, p. 84.

22 See: Protokol No. 2 zasedania Musulmanskogo natsionalnogo soveta, 28.05.1918 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 970, inv. 1, f. 1, sheet 50.

23 See: Sobranie uzakoneniy i rasporiazheniy pravitelstva Azerbaijanskoy Respubliki, 1919, No. 1, Art. 1, p. 6, SA AR, rec. gr. 970, inv. 1, f. 4, sheet 3.

24 istiklal, 28 Mayis 1933 (Berlin).

25 Radiogramma predsedatelia Soveta ministrov F.Kh. Khoiskogo ministram inostrannykh del riada gosudarstv o provozglashenii Azerbaidzhana nezavisimoy respublikoy, 30.05. 1918 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 970, inv. 1, f. 4, sheets 9-10.


ski and Chairman of the National Council M.E. Rasulzade signed the document for Azerbaijan. This was the first treaty the Azerbaijan Republic signed with a foreign state. Under Art 4, the most important for Azerbaijan, the Ottoman government pledged to extend military assistance to the government of the Azerbaijan Republic if it needed to maintain law and order in its territory.26

As soon as it received detailed information about what was going on in the republic, the Azeri delegation in Batum decided to ask for Turkish military assistance on the strength of Art 4. Rasulzade and Hajinski discussed this with members of the Ottoman delegation.27 Turkey, in turn, had to move cautiously so as not to alarm Germany. It was decided to set up a joint Caucasian Islamic Army out of Turkish regular units and Azeri volunteers which, Enver Pasha was convinced, would cushion German response.28

Ottoman units started moving toward Ganja, while the 5 th Division under Mursel Pasha (staffed with 257 officers and 5,575 rank-and-file soldiers)29 entered the city early in June. Nuru Pasha and his headquarters joined them in Ganja.

After spending its first eighteen days in Tiflis, the National Council and the Cabinet moved to Ganja, where a government crisis destroyed the first Cabinet. On 17 June, a second Cabinet under Khoyski was put together. Six of the former ministers who retained their posts were joined by six new recruits. Two days later, the portfolios were distributed in the following way: Prime Minister and Minister of Justice F.Kh. Khoyski; Foreign Minister and temporarily Minister of State Control M.H. Hajinski; Minister of the Interior B. Javanshir; Minister of Railways Kh. Melik-Aslanov; Finance Minister A. Amir-janov; Minister of Agriculture Kh. Sultanov; Minister of Education N. Yusifbeyli; Minister of Trade and Industry A. Ashurov; and Minister of Health and Social Services Kh. Rafibeyli. A.M. Topchiba-shev, Kh. Hasmamedov, and M. Rafiev were appointed ministers without portfolio. Kh. Melik-Aslanov was temporarily appointed minister of post and telegraph; A. Ashurov, likewise, was given the post of minister of foodstuffs on a temporary basis.

On 23 June, the worsening situation forced the new government to introduce martial law in the country.30 The German representatives in Tiflis tried to slow down Turks’ advance on Baku; in view of this, on 24 June, Commander of the Eastern Group Vahib Pasha had to inform Nuru Pasha in Ganja that no other army, except that of the Ottoman Empire, could remain in the territory of Azerbaijan.31

On 17 June, the second Cabinet hastened to appoint delegates to the Istanbul Conference of the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria). In anticipation of vitally important decisions for the country’s future, the government appointed a delegation of three members (Rasulzade, Hasmamedov, and Safikiurdski) with the authority to conduct negotiations on political, economic, financial, and military issues with all the delegations and conclude agreements.32

Fighting for Baku

The developments of the summer of1918 around Baku, both inside and outside the country, made liberation of Baku an absolute must. At the concluding stage of World War I, it became the center of

26 See: Dogovor druzhby mezhdu Imperatorskim ottomanskim pravitelstvom i Azerbaidzhanskoi Respublikoi,

04.06.1918 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 894, inv. 2, f. 88, sheet 2.

27 See: A.N. Kurat, op. cit., p. 530.

28 See: O. Kemal, Ermeni meselesi, istanbul, 1986, p. 164.

29 See: N. Nasibzade, Vneshniaia politika Azerbaidzhana (1918-1920), Baku, 1996, p. 63.

30 See: Adres-Kalendar Azerbaijanskoy Respubliki, ed. by A.M. Stavrovskiy, Baku, 1920, p. 22.

31 See: Turkiye Cumhuriyeti Genelkurmay Ba§kanligi Askeri Tarih ve Stratejik Etud Arrivi. K. 3827, D. 38, F. 2.

This refers to the manuscript of V. Gafarov’s book Vopros Severnogo Azerbaidzhana v rossiisko-turetskikh otnosheniakh

(1917-1922 gg.).

32 See: Postanovlenie Soveta ministrov ob otpravke delegatsii na mezhdunarodnuiu konferentsiu v Stambule,

18.06.1918 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 970, inv. 1, f. 138, sheets 3-5.


conflicting interests among Germany, Britain, the Ottoman Empire, and Soviet Russia, which clashed over it. Peter Hopkirk, an agent of British special services in the Middle East, wrote: “At the end of the last century Baku had been one of the wealthiest cities on earth. The discovery of vast oilfields in this remote corner of the Tsar’s empire had brought entrepreneurs and adventurers of every nationality rushing here. Experts calculated that Baku had enough oil to heat and illuminate the entire world ... so sodden was it with the stuff. Baku had more oil than all the wells in the United States.”33

The Baku Soviet and the Council of People’s Commissars as its executive structure not only refused to recognize the national government of independent Azerbaijan, but also employed all political, economic, military, and diplomatic measures to interfere with its functioning. Soviet Russia was very much concerned about the Turkish movement toward Baku; the Baku Council of People’s Commissars resolved to spread its power to the entire country was likewise disturbed. On 12 June, Stepan (Suren) Shaumian informed Lenin and Stalin by phone that the military units of Baku were starting to move toward Ganja. On 18 June, People’s Commissar for Naval Affairs G. Korganov reported to the Baku Council of People’s Commissars that the Bolsheviks were winning.34 Their progress was accompanied by massive killings and robberies of the local people mainly because 70 percent of the rank-and-file soldiers and 100 percent of the officers of the Council’s army were Armenians.35 Later, Shaumian, who had taken part in the march, wrote that nearly all the officers of the army of the Baku Council of People’s Commissars were Armenians who had used violence in relation to the local Muslims.36

The mixed Azeri-Turkish units checked the Bolshevik onslaught. On 27 June, they clashed at Goychay; on 1 July, the Bolsheviks were stopped; on 20 July, the Islamic Army, which had liberated Shemakha, stopped in the environs of Baku when the diplomatic maneuvering around it reached its highest point. Early in July 1918, the German consulate in Istanbul reported: “If we manage to strike a deal with the Bolsheviks we shall have the city’s oil reserves at our disposal. If, on the other hand, the Bolsheviks are forced to abandon the city they will set the oil fields on fire. This means that we and the Turks will get nothing. Without oil the Caucasian Railway will soon stop.”37

Left alone, without Soviet Russia’s effective military aid, the Baku Council of People’s Commissars pinned its hopes on Moscow’s diplomatic support. The talks between Russia and Germany that started late in June ended with a preliminary agreement. This is confirmed by Lenin’s telegram to Stalin dated 30 June: “Today, on 30 June, Ioffe reported from Berlin that Kuhlman had talked to him. This preliminary talk shows that the Germans are ready to force the Turks to stop military operations beyond the Brest border and draw a clear demarcation line. They promise to keep the Turks out of Baku, but need access to the oil. Ioffe replied that we intend to strictly observe the Brest conditions, but are ready to accept the give and take principle. This information deserves special attention and should be transmitted to Shaumian as promptly as possible. Our chances of keeping Baku are good even though we shall have to give away part of its oil.”38

Under strong German pressure and the personal involvement of General Ludendorff, the Turks’ active onslaught was suspended. The German advisors in the Turkish army kept everything what Enver Pasha wrote under strict control, therefore he had to stop the Turkish advance on Baku.39 This was a smokescreen: while the official order demanded suspension, under a secret order the Caucasian Islamic

33 P. Hopkirk, On Secret Service East of Constantinople: The Plot to Bring Down the British Empire, John Murray, London, 1994, pp. 331-332.

34 See: G. Korganov-S. Shaumianu, 18.06.1918 g., Political Documents Archives at the Administration of the President of the Azerbaijan republic (further PDA AP AR), Copies Fund, No. 374, sheet 20.

35 See: T. Swietochowski, Russian Azerbaijan, 1905-1920, p. 137; F. Kazemzadeh, The Struggle for Transcaucasia, 1917-1921, New York, Oxford, 1951, p. 131.

36 See: Sobranie Azerbaidzhanskoy gruppy sodeystvia Istpartu TsK VKP(B.). Doklad S. Shaumiana, 11 July, 1927, Russian State Archives of Sociopolitical History (further RSASPH), rec. gr. 84, inv. 3, f. 283, sheet 53.

G. Papia, Politika Germanii v Zakavkazie v 1918 g., Tbilisi, 1971, pp. 58-59.

V.I. Lenin ob Azerbaidzhane, Baku, 1970, p. 125.

See: M. Seleymanov, Kavkazskaia islamskaia armia i Azerbaidzhan, Baku, 1999, p. 215.


Army received more troops, firearms, and ammunition to storm the city and keep the Germans away. Enver Pasha did not exclude armed clashes with the German units blocking the approaches to Baku.40

Late in July, hostilities resumed with new vigor when the Azeri-Turkish units reached Baku; this forced Russia and Germany to promptly sign an agreement. Early in August, the German General Staff, very much concerned about the Turkish successes in Azerbaijan, interfered in the developments. On 4 August, General Ludendorff wrote to Enver Pasha that if he did not halt his military operations in Azerbaijan the German officers would be recalled from the Ottoman Supreme Command: “I could not tolerate the danger of a new war with Russia provoked by the Turkish authorities in blatant contradiction to the terms of the Treaty.”41

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While Russia and Germany were talking in Berlin and Moscow, the military failures of the Baku Council of People’s Commissars undermined its position in Baku. The question was whether the city should be abandoned or defended. On 24 July, speaking at rallies of non-Muslim workers, the leaders of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, and Dashnaks demanded that the British should be invited to defend the city against the Turks and Azeris. On 25 July, the Council met for an extraordinary session which listened to what Shaumian had to say about the political and military situation; after prolonged and fierce debates it was decided by a slight majority (259 against 236) to invite the British and set up a coalition government.

On 31 July, the Baku Council of People’s Commissars resigned; it was replaced with a puppet government called the Central Caspian Dictatorship and the Presidium of the Interim Executive Committee of the Soviets based on an alliance among the Socialist-Revolutionaries, Dashnaks, and Mensheviks. It was controlled by the Armenian National Council. As soon as this happened, Foreign Minister M.H. Hajinski described the situation on the Baku front in a ciphered telegram to M.E. Rasulzade: “In Baku the Bolsheviks were deposed; Shaumian and others have been arrested. Their place has been taken by Mensheviks and Dashnaks and, in general, Russians and Jews. They are very strong. I informed Khalil Pasha about this. We should promptly move one more division from Batum, which can be done if the Turks abandon Abastuman and Atskhur to the Georgians; Khalil Pasha had asked Enver Pasha about this. You should act in this direction, otherwise Baku will be lost. The enemy has plenty of shells, long-range guns, and planes. We should also have this because even if we take Baku the enemies might burn it down and destroy it.”42

The newly established Central Caspian Dictatorship saw Britain’s arrival in Baku as its priority. Early in August, at an extraordinary meeting, Socialist-Revolutionary Lev Umanskiy tried to assure his colleagues that in two days the allies would arrive to rescue them. He spared no words to describe the possible tragedy if the Turks entered the city before the Brits.43 Soon it became widely known that the plan had been devised by the Dashnaks engaged in talks with Lionel Dunsterville in Anzali.

The British were very much concerned with the Turkish victories in Baku: on the one hand, this meant that the German-Turkish bloc might lay its hands on Baku oil; on the other, they never excluded a possibility that Nuru Pasha might press further on to Central Asia, Afghanistan, and India. The British knew that Wilhelm II was engaged in secret correspondence with Emir of Afghanistan Ha-bibullah and that Germany intensified its intelligence efforts in this country. The British were very much disturbed by information the Turks disseminated in Iran and Afghanistan about the victories of the Army of Islam.44 The British government planned to cut short Turkey’s Eastern march in Baku.

40 See: N. Yfoeer, Birinci Dunya Sava§inda Osmanli Ordusunun Azerbaycan ve Dagistan Hareketi, Ankara, 1996,

p. 65.

41 T. Swietochowski, Russian Azerbaijan, 1905-1920, p. 134.

42 Shifrogramma M.H. Hadzhinskogo M.E. Rasulzade o vziatii Baku, 20.09.1918 g., PDA AP AR, rec. gr. 277, inv. 2, f. 8, sheets 13-1б.

43 See: Biulleten Tsentrokaspia, 2 August, 1918.

44 See: Maj.-Gen. Malleson, “Dvadtsat-shest komissarov.” Iz angliyskogo zhurnala za mart 1933 g., PDA AP AR, rec. gr. 303, inv. 1a, f. 31, sheets 6-7. (Major-General Malleson, “The Twenty-Six Commissars,” Fortnightly Review, No. 193, 1933.)


On 4 August, the first British unit under Colonel Stokes arrived in Baku.45 Later, on 9-17 August, three battalions, one battery of field artillery, and several armored vehicles entered the city to represent the British Army.46 Peter Hopkirk wrote: “When, on 17 August, 1918, the British disembarked in its sleepy port, only the ghosts of this once opulent past remained. In the aftermath of the war and the Revolution Baku must have looked like Shanghai after the Communist takeover in 1949.”47

After learning that the information about the numerous British troops landing in Baku was false, the Islamic Army launched final preparations. Dunsterville, very much like Bichekharov, soon realized that the government that had invited him was a puppet construction, while the city could not be defended. On 31 August, he sent a letter to the “dictators” in which he pointed out that continued defense was nothing but a waste of time and loss of life. He was convinced that there was no force in the world that could protect Baku against the Turks.48 A military expert, Dunsterville explained that the local people, the Azeris, were hostile toward the forces that would not let the Turks enter Baku.49

With the British in Baku, the situation was slightly different, however Soviet Russia never abandoned its efforts to restore its power in the oil-rich city. Late in August at the Berlin talks, Germany agreed to halt the Turkish onslaught on Baku if Soviet Russia removed the British from the city. On 23 August, Lenin telegraphed to F. Kolesov in Tashkent: “The Germans have agreed to guarantee a nonoffensive on Baku if we drive the Brits out of it.”50 On 27 August, the German-Russian talks, which had lasted three months, were completed with a secret agreement which supplemented the Brest-Litovsk Treaty. Section Six dealt with the Caucasus. Under Art 13, Russia agreed with Germany’s recognition of Georgia as a sovereign state. Under Art 14, which dealt with Azerbaijan, Germany pledged not to extend its military assistance in the Caucasus to third countries outside the Georgian borders. It pledged to use its influence to prevent the military forces of third countries from moving into the territory between the Kura River and the village of Petropavlovsk; the borders of the Shemakha uezd and the village of Ayrioba; and the borders of the Baku, Shemakha, and Quba uezds to the northern Caspian coasts of the Baku uezd. Russia, in turn, pledged to ensure a maximum hike in oil production in the Baku Region and deliver one-fourth of it to Germany every month.51 By that time, Turkey, the anonymous “third country,” had already crossed the demarcation line, along with Azeri units.

The Agreement of 27 August did not remain secret for long; it appeared in the Turkish press and was severely criticized. On 1 September, M.E. Rasulzade informed the Azeri government: “According to information from Berlin, the Bolsheviks and Germany concluded an additional treaty under which the Bolsheviks recognized Georgia as the only independent state in the Caucasus. The Germans did not object to Russia’s desire to keep Baku and its oil fields, mainly because the Bolsheviks are promising the Germans and their allies part of the Baku oil. This information amazed each and everyone; the newspapers ran indignant comments. Talat Pasha plans a trip to Berlin. We should, should by all means, capture Baku.”52 On 12 September, the Azeri delegation in Istanbul visited the German Embassy to hand in a note of protest in the name of the Azeri government. Copies were sent

45 See: Vospominania o revolutsionnykh sobytiiakh v Baku i Azerbaidzhane v 1917-1918 gg. Fevralskiy perevorot, 1917 g. Iz vospominaniy Bliumina, 1922 g., PDA AP AR, rec. gr. 276, inv. 2, f. 20, sheet 20.

46 See: Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres (MAE) de France (Archives Diplomatique). Correspondanse politique et commerciale, 1914-1940. Sёrie Z. Europe 1918-1940. Sous-Sёrie USSR Europe — Russie service russe d’information et d^tudes (S.R.I.E.) XLI Caucase — Azerbaїdjan (1918-1920). Direction des Affaires Politiques et Commerciales Caucase Rёpublique d’Azerbaїdjan Evenements An^es 1918-1919. Vol. 832, folio 2.

47 P. Hopkirk, op. cit., p. 331.

48 See: W.E.D. Allen, P. Muratof, Caucasian Battlefields, Cambridge University Press, 1953, p. 495.

49 See: N.S. Fatemi, Diplomatic History of Russia. 1917-1923, New York, 1952, pp. 143-144.

50 V.I. Lenin ob Azerbaidzhane, p. 140.

51 See: Dokumenty vneshnei politiki SSSR, Vol. I, pp. 443-444.

52 Pismo predsedatelia azerbaidzhanskoy delegatsii v Stambule M.E. Rasulzade ministru inostrannykh del M.H. Hadzhinskomu, 01.09.1918 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 970, inv. 1, f. 16, sheet 2.


to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, the embassies of Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria, and the diplomatic missions of neutral countries.53

Early in September the international situation changed in favor of the Entente, which decreased Germany’s interest in the agreement of 27 August. M.E. Rasulzade reported that Germany was no longer thinking about a victory. On the other hand, Britain’s stronger position in Baku could create a second front; this forced Germany to shift its Azeri priorities in a hurry. Aware of their big mistake in relation to Baku, the Germans informed the North Caucasian delegation at the Berlin talks about their changed position.54 Turkey and Azerbaijan played their role in the German decision to drop the 27 August agreement.

On 15 September, after military and diplomatic preparations which took up the summer and fall of 1918, the Azeri and Turkish troops launched their general offensive on Baku. The same day, the British military left the city,55 with the troops of the Central Caspian Government beating a retreat. The leaders of the Baku Council of People’s Commissars arrested by the Central Caspian Government and freed from prison with the help of A. Velunts, one of its members, and A. Mikoian left the city in the afternoon.56

On 15 September, the Azeri-Turkish army liberated Baku. This has become the second most important date in the history of Azerbaijan after Independence Day of 28 May.

The Allies Enter Baku

In the fall of 1918, the German-Turkish bloc lost World War I. On 30 October, the Ottoman Empire had to accept the onerous conditions of the Moudros Armistice, which left a scar on the history of the Azerbaijan Republic. Under Art 11, the Ottoman Army had to pull out of Southern Azerbaijan and the Transcaucasus immediately. The Ottoman units had to evacuate Baku in one week and leave Azerbaijan in one month. Under Art 15, the Transcaucasian Railway transferred to the Turks under the Batum agreement was entrusted to the allies, which could also occupy Batum. And finally, it was stated that “Turkey will not object to allied occupation of Baku.”57 Rauf Orbay, Minister of Marine Affairs in the Izzet Pasha Cabinet, who had headed the Turkish delegation at the talks in Trabzon, signed the document for the Turkish side. On 3 November, the conditions were officially published. Later the same day, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in Istanbul A.M. Topchibashev visited Rauf bek to protest against the articles under which Baku and the Azeri Railway were transferred to the allies.58 Rauf bek tried to justify himself by saying that the allies had nagged about the fact that Turkish troops were stationed in Azerbaijan and had imposed these discriminatory articles on him.59 On 4 November, A.M. Topchibashev handed in

53 See: Nota predsedatelia azerbaidzhanskoy delegatsii v Stambule M.E. Rasulzade poslanniku Imperatorskogo ger-manskogo pravitelstva grafu Waldburgu, 12.09.1918 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 970, inv. 1, f. 8, sheets 8-9, f. 16, sheet 3.

54 See: Pismo predsedatelia azerbaidzhanskoy delegatsii v Stambule M.E. Rasulzade ministru inostrannykh del M.H. Hadzhinskomu, 01.09.1918 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 894, inv. 10, f. 154, sheet 11.

55 See: Les Anglais battus a Bakou, Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres de France, Archives Diplomatique, Vol. 832, folio 3.

56 For more detail, see: Svidetelskie pokazania A.I. Mikoiana po delu Funtikova, dannye 20 marta 1926 goda, 20.03.1926 g., RSASPH, rec. gr. 84, inv. 3, f. 283, sheet 40; Iu. Baturin, Dosie razvedchika. Opyt rekosntruktsii sudby, Moscow, 2005, p. 106; P. Hopkirk, op. cit., pp. 252-357.

57 Iu.V. Kliuchnikov, A. Sabanin, Mezhdunarodnaia politika noveyshego vremeni v dogovorakh, notakh i deklarat-siakh, Part 2, Moscow, 1926, p. 188.

58 See: Pismo chrezvychaynogo poslannika i polnomochnogo ministra Azerbaidzhanskoy Respubliki A.M. Topchi-basheva predsedateliu Soveta ministrov F.H. Khoiskomu, 14.11.1918 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 894, inv. 10, f. 34, sheets 18.

59 See: Zapis besedy chrezvychaynogo poslannika i polnomochnogo ministra Azerbaidzhanskoy Respubliki A.M. Topchibasheva s morskim ministrom Turtsii Rauf beyem, 03.11.1918 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 894, inv. 10, f. 151, sheets 1-2.


a letter of protest to Deputy Foreign Minister of Turkey Reshat Khikmet bek, which said, in part, that the Ottoman government, which had recognized the independence of Azerbaijan, violated the rules and customs of international law by signing the agreement relating to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, and facilitating its capture by the British.60

On 10 November, Prime Minister Fatali Khan Khoyski and Acting Foreign Minister Adil Khan Ziadkhanly sent a telegram to Woodrow Wilson asking him to facilitate recognition of the Azerbaijan Republic by the great powers. The telegram said: “Before turning to the great powers of Europe, the Azeri people and government are pinning their hopes on you as a well-known humanist and patron of subjugated peoples. We are hoping for your support and recognition.”61

In his letter to F. Khoyski of 31 October, Envoy Extraordinary in Istanbul A.M. Topchibashev insisted that Azerbaijan start talking to the British stationed in Rasht and Anzali.62 Later, early in November 1918, a delegation (consisting of N. Yusifbeyli, A. Agaev, and M. Rafiev) hastened to Anzali to talk to the British commanders in Northern Iran.63 The talks with General Thomson were far from easy; at first the British general refused to accept the fact that there was a state called Azerbaijan. After long deliberations, he said: “According to our information there is no republic set up by the will of the Azeri people; there is a government set up by intrigues of the Turkish commanders. Since you insist on the opposite, we shall verify everything on the spot and arrive at a corresponding conclusion.”64

On 17 November, British troops entered Baku under the Moudros Armistice.65 The next day, the Azeri government published an official statement on the entry of the Entente troops into Baku. It said that the troops were temporarily moved in and that they would be stationed only in Baku to concentrate military power in their hands. Under the agreement, they would not interfere in the country’s and capital’s domestic affairs. All government organizations should continue working as usual and the question of the self-determination of the peoples of Russia would be settled at an international peace congress, meaning the Paris Peace Conference. The statement further said that the final decision of the Azeri Constituent Assembly about the country’s political future was still unknown and that the political leaders of Azerbaijan should maintain law and order in the country. The document further stated that the government hoped that the allied troops would not infringe on the sovereign rights of the Azeri people.66

After several days in Baku, General Thomson realized that what he had heard from the Russian Constitutional-Democrats about “Azerbaijan being an invention of several hundred political racketeers” was far removed from reality. He announced that “Britain would support” the “parliamentary cabinet of Khan Khoyski” as “the only legal authority in Azerbaijan.”67 In November 1918, General Thomson wrote to London about Prime Minister Khoyski: “Undoubtedly a clever man, a lawyer, who has set up a vigorous local administration, vastly more practicable than any previously known in the Caucasus. .spoke bitterly of the treachery of the Armenians.”68

60 See: Zapis besedy chrezvychaynogo poslannika i polnomochnogo ministra Azerbaidzhanskoy Respubliki A.M. Top-chibasheva s sovetnikom ministra inostrannykh del Turtsii Reshat Khikmet beyem, 04.11.1918 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 894, inv. 10, f. 151, sheet 4.

61 M.B. Mehmetzade, Azerbaycan Milli Harekati, Berlin, 1938, p. 99.

62 See: Pismo chrezvychaynogo poslannika i polnomochnogo ministra Azerbaidzhanskoy Respubliki A.M. Topchi-basheva predsedateliu Soveta ministrov F.H. Khoiskomu, 31.10.1918 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 894, inv. 10, f. 43, sheet 17.

63 See: A. Ziadkhanly, Azerbaidzhan, Baku, 1919, p. 59.

64 Diplomaticheskomu predstaviteliu Azerbaidzhana v Gruzii, 26.10.1918 g., PDA AP AR, rec. gr. 277, inv. 2, f. 18, sheet 1.

65 See: Les troupes anglo-russes sont а Bakou, Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres de France, Archives Diplomatique, Vol. 832, folio 14.

66 See: Azerbaijan, 19 November, 1918.

67 T. Swietochowski, Russian Azerbaijan, 1905-1920, p. 142.

68 “Soobshchenie general-mayora Thomsona. 17-24.11. 1918 g.,” Azerbaidzhanskaia Demokraticheskaia Respubli-ka. Arkhivnye dokumenty Velikobritanii, Edited and introduced by Ia. Makhmudov, Compiled by N. Maxwell, Baku, 2008, p. 75.


It was during the hardest days for the republic that the National Council took important measures to alleviate the crisis. On 16 November, the day before the British arrived in Baku, the National Council discussed the issues and, on 19 November, passed a Law on Elections; in fact, the laws On Setting up the Azeri Parliament and On Elections played an important role in the country’s history. The parliament had 120 seats distributed on a national basis: 80 seats went to the Azeris; 21 to Armenians; 10 to Russians; Jews, Germans, Georgians, and Poles acquired 1 seat each; and the Union of Trade Unions and the Union of Oil Industrialists received 3 seats each.69

On 7 December, 1918, Chairman of the National Council Mohammad Emin Rasulzade opened the first sitting of the newly elected parliament; he concluded his speech by calling on the deputies “to place the interests of the motherland and the wellbeing of the people higher than party interests.”70 He stressed the importance of electing the best person as speaker. After long deliberations, the deputies elected A.M. Topchibashev (who was still in Istanbul) as chairman; G.B. Agaev was elected his deputy and R. Vekilov his secretary.

A new cabinet was another important task: although the largest, the Musavat faction was not large enough to form the government, which meant that a coalition cabinet could not be avoided. On 26 December, Fatali Khan Khoyski, who was entrusted with putting together the new cabinet, came up with its personal composition. Three portfolios went to Russians and two to Armenians, who declined the invitation. In his new cabinet, F.Kh. Khoyski filled the posts of prime minister and foreign minister; S. Mekhmandarov was appointed war minister; M. Asadullaev, minister of trade and industry; I. Protasov, finance minister; K. Lizgar, minister of foodstuffs; Kh. Melik-Aslanov, minister of railways; A. Safikiurdski, minister of post and telegraph; M. Hajinski, minister of state control; T. Makin-ski, minister of justice; Kh. Sultanov, minister of agriculture; R. Khoyski, minister of social services; E. Gindes, minister of health services; N. Yusifbeyli, minister of education and religious affairs; and Kh. Khasmamedov, minister of internal affairs.

On 28 December, General Thomson announced recognition of the government of the ADR; he stressed that the coalition government under Prime Minister Khoyski was the republic’s only legal body of power and promised all-round support from the allied commanders.71 Later, Commander-in-Chief of the British troops in the Balkans and the Caucasus General George Milne, who arrived in Baku on 22 January, 1919, confirmed this statement. When talking with Fatali Khan Khoyski, he confirmed that the allied command had recognized the ADR government as the only power in Azerbaijan and promised “that the allied command will support this power with all the means at its disposal.”72

The political leaders of Azerbaijan not only smoothed out all problems caused by the allies’ arrival in Baku, their concerted diplomatic efforts also convinced the allied command to recognize de facto the Azeri democratic state.

Azerbaijan and the Paris Peace Conference

In the fall of 1918, the Central Powers, one by one, signed capitulation acts. In November 1918, preparations for a peace conference intended to consolidate the gains of World War I, confirm the status of the victor countries, bring order to postwar relations, and settle disputes were launched in earnest.

69 See: Zakon ob obrazovanii azerbaijanskogoparlamenta, 19.11.1918 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 895, inv. 10, f. 2, sheet 24.

70 Azerbaidzhanskaia Demokraticheskaia Respublika (1918-1920). Parlament, Verbatim reports, Vol. 1, Baku, 1998, p. 36.

71 See: Azerbaijan, 10 December, 1918; Nashe vremia, 30 December, 1918.

72 Azerbaijan, 25 January, 1919.


In November 1918, in Anzali, members of the government of Azerbaijan when talking to General Thomson who commanded the allied troops were promised that they would take part in the peace conference.73 Later, General Milne, the official representative of Great Britain, repeatedly confirmed that the Azerbaijan Republic would be invited to the Paris Peace Conference.74

On 28 December, Prime Minister Khoyski formed his third Cabinet and selected delegates to the Paris Peace Conference: Speaker A.M. Topchibashev was appointed delegation head; M.H. Hajinski, his deputy; two deputies (A. Agaev and A. Sheykhulislamov) went as members; Mir Yaqub Me-khtiev, Jeykhun bek Hajibeyli, and Mamed Magarramov were appointed consultants.

On 20 January, 1919, they arrived in Istanbul, where A.M. Topchibashev had already tilled the soil. Early in January, he had talked to representatives of the allied and neutral countries in Istanbul and handed in a note of protest in the name of the Azerbaijan Republic about the Moudros Armistice; he had negotiated with Iranian and Russian diplomats; on 11 January, he had been received by the sultan.75 On 6 January, A.M. Topchibashev met U.S. representative Haeck to ask for Washington’s assistance in applying the Fourteen Points of President Wilson to Azerbaijan and in recognizing its in-dependence.76 On 10 December, he met Dutch representative Van der Villebois. Earlier, on 30 December, he had handed in a Memorandum on the Contemporary State of Azerbaijan to Swedish Ambassador Cosswa Anckarsvard. It was agreed that the diplomatic missions of the great powers represented in Stockholm would familiarize themselves with the document. On 12 January, Cosswa Anckarsvard wrote to Topchibashev: “I sent the Memorandum on the Contemporary State of Azerbaijan you passed on to me on 30 December to Stockholm, to the Foreign Ministry of the Royal Government of Sweden.”77 British High Commissioner Richard Webb, likewise, informed A.M. Topchibashev that the memorandum he had received on 30 December was sent to the U.K. government.78

While the representatives of the republics formed in the south of the former Russian Empire, with the exception of the Armenians, remained in Istanbul, the Paris Peace Conference was ceremoniously opened in France on 18 January, 1919. Its long agenda was dominated by the Russian Question.

On 22 January, the Council of Ten discussed the Russian Question in detail and heard President Wilson’s address to the warring sides in Russia, in which the American president recommended that they reach a temporary agreement and halt the hostilities. The Bolsheviks, the White Guards, and the new states that sprang into existence in the territory of the Russian Empire were invited to get together before 15 February on the Princes’ Islands in the Sea of Marmara not far from Istanbul.79 France, Britain, America, and Italy were also invited.80 None of the Caucasian republics, with the exception of the Mountain Republic, accepted the invitation.81

Despite the British and French pressure in Istanbul, Georgia and Azerbaijan refused to take part in the “Russian conference” on 28 January. They were convinced that the conference should deal with

73 See: A. Raevskiy, Angliyskaia interventsia i musavatskoe pravitelstvo. K istorii interventsii i kontrrevoliutsii v Zakavkazie, Baku, 1927, p. 33.

74 See: SA AR, rec. gr. 970, inv. 3, f. 4, sheet 6.

75 See: Ibid., sheet 3.

76 See: Zapis besedy chrezvychaynogo poslannika i polnomochnogo ministra Azerbaidzhanskoy Respubliki A.M. Top-chibasheva u amerikanskogo diplomaticheskogo predstavitelia v Turtsii Haeyka, 06.01.1919 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 894, inv. 10, f. 151, sheet 45.

77 Pismo shvedskogo poslannika v Turtsii S. Ankarsverda chrezvychaynomu poslanniku i polnomochnomu minis-tru Azerbaidzhanskoy Respubliki A.M. Topchibashevu, 12. 01.1919 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 970, inv. 1, f. 37, sheet 1.

78 See: Pismo britanskogo Verkhovnogo komissara v Stambule R. Webba glave predstavitelstva Mirnoy delegatsii Azerbaidzhanskoy Respubliki A.M. Topchibashevu, Ianvar, 1919 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 970, inv. 1, f. 139, sheet 2.

79 See: Mezhdunarodnaia politika noveyshego vremeni v dogovorakh, notakh i deklaratsiakh, Part 2, Moscow, 192б, pp. 219-220

80 See: M.H. Hadzhinski—Predsedateliu Soveta ministrov Azerbaidzhanskoy Republiki F.Kh. Khoiskomu,

27.01.1919 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 894, inv. 10, f. 66, sheet 3.

81 See: Foreign Relations of the United States. Russia, 1919, US Government Printing Office, Washington, 1937, pp. 43-44.


Russia’s internal hostilities and help restore the unity among the Russians. Georgia and Azerbaijan, in turn, were working toward independence from Russia, which meant that they had nothing to discuss with either the former or the present rulers of Russia. M.H. Hajinski informed his government that he believed that his country should stay away from the conference.82

The idea of a conference on the Princes’ Islands fell through; the way the new republics and the Russian warring sides treated it revealed the depth of the gap which divided them and their ideas about their future.

On 22 April, after waiting for three months in Istanbul, the Azeri delegation boarded an Italian ship to go to Naples via Thessaloniki, Pireus, and Messina; on 2 May, they reached Rome; on 7 May, they departed for Paris by train.83

Immediately upon their arrival, the Azeri delegates plunged into hectic activities; they put the final touches to the Memorandum of the Republic of Caucasian Azerbaijan for the Paris Peace Conference drafted in Istanbul by A.M. Topchibashev, A. Agaev, and J. Hajibeyli; translated it into both official languages (English and French); and published it in leaflet form.84

A.M. Topchibashev wrote in connection with this: “Today we are concentrating on working on the Memorandum to be Presented to the Peace Conference.”85 The memorandum was supplied with a color map drawn on the strength of the documents the Azeri delegation presented to the conference and printed under the supervision of a French geographer J. Forest.86 The delegation also paid a lot of attention to the documents entitled Ethnic and Anthropological Composition of the Population of Caucasian Azerbaijan87 and Economic and Financial Situation in Caucasian Azerbaijan88 intended to supply the conference with a better idea of the country. The typed documents completed by 1 June, 1919 were distributed among the participants; later they appeared in printed form.

In May, the Azeri delegates met with the delegations of Poland, Georgia, the Mountain Republic, Armenia, and Iran. On 23 May, they met member of the British delegation Sir Mallet to discuss political, military, and economic situation and the status of the allied troops in Azerbaijan.89 On 2 May, on Woodrow Wilson’s initiative, the Council of Four (made up of the heads of governments of the U.S., U.K., France, and Italy) discussed for the first time the Central Caucasian question and Azerbaijan as its part.90

The Straits issue and the mandates for the Caucasus heightened Americans’ interest in the Caucasian republics and their delegations. The Americans in Versailles wanted to know what the newly formed Caucasian states thought about the problems discussed at the conference. The American president personally received the Azeri delegation on 28 May, the first anniversary of independence of Azerbaijan.

82 See: M.H. Hadzhinski—Predsedateliu Soveta ministrov Azerbaidzhanskoy Respubliki F.Kh. Khoiskomu,

27.01.1919 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 894, inv. 10, f. 66, sheet 3.

83 See: SA AR, rec. gr. 894, inv. 10, f. 70, sheet 3.

84 See: La Republique de l'Azerbai'djan du Caucase, Paris, 1919; Claims of the Peace Delegation of the Republic of Caucasian Azerbaijan Presented to the Peace Conference in Paris, Paris, 1919.

85 Pismo predsedatelia delegatsii Azerbaidzhanskoy Respubliki na Parizhskoy mirnoy konferentsii A.M. Topchiba-sheva Predsedateliu Soveta ministrov Azerbaidzhanskoy Respubliki, 08-10.0б.1919 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 970, inv. 1, f. 143, sheet 9.

86 See: Istoria, 23 February, 1991.

87 See: “Dёlёgatlon Azerbaїdjanienne a la ^^Єгєпєє de la Paix. Composition Anthropologique et Ethnique de la Population de l’Azerbaїdjan du Caucase. Classё 1er juin 1919,” Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres de France, Archives Diplomatiquea Vol. б38, folio 44-52.

88 See: “Dёlёgatlon de l’Azerbaїdjan a la Coherence de la Paix a Paris. Situation ёconomique et financiere de la Rёpubllque de l’Azerbaїdjan du Caucase. Classё 1er juin 1919,” Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres de France, Archives Diplomatiquea Vol. б38, folio 29-43.

89 See: Pismo ministerstva inostrannykh del predsedateliu delegatsii Azerbaidzhanskoy Respubliki na Parizhskoy mirnoy konferentsii A.M. Topchibashevu, 14.03.1919 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 970, inv. 1, f. 141, sheet 12.

90 See: B.E. Stein, “Russkiy vopros” na Parizhskoy mirnoy konferentsii (1919-1920 gg.), Moscow, 1949, p. 346.


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Earlier the same day, A.M. Topchibashev was received by American diplomat Henry Morgenthau (during the war he had served as U.S. ambassador to Turkey; in 1919 he was deputy chairman of the American Committee for Relief in the Near East).91 They discussed the most important details of the talks with President Wilson scheduled for the same afternoon. Fully aware of Azerbaijan’s natural riches and its powerful industrial potential, Mr. Morgenthau hinted that American capital might be sent to Azerbaijan, while his country would extend financial aid to the republic’s government.92

In the afternoon, President Wilson received the Azeri delegation. A.M. Topchibashev had the following to say about this: “The fact that President Wilson received our delegation was most important. Normally, he, like all the other Entente heads of state, does not meet any delegations personally.”93

On 31 May, this fact was mentioned on the radio; the French newspapers sold in Batum, likewise, covered the event.94 Meanwhile, Azerbaijan was celebrating the first anniversary of its independence; speaking at a gala session of the parliament, Chairman of the Council of Ministers Nasif Yusifbeyli pinned his hopes for the future on the Paris Peace Conference: “Independence of Azerbaijan is a fact. Today, I am just waiting for the Peace Conference to pronounce its verdict. I do not think that representatives of the world’s most civilized nations will remain indifferent to the dreams and hopes of the Azeri Turks (the Azeris.—J.H.), otherwise I would be doubting just how civilized they are. If this happens, the Azeri Turks, while realizing their sacred right to self-determination, will be able to accuse these cultured nations of fanaticism and religious intolerance.”95

The Supreme Council of Versailles Recognizes the Independence of Azerbaijan

The speech of British Prime Minister David Lloyd George in the House of Commons on 17 November, 1919, marked the turning point in the fates of the new states in the territory of the former Russian Empire. The events in Russia, where Admiral Kolchak was defeated while General Denikin was beating a retreat, forced the British prime minister to mention Azerbaijan and Georgia twice in one speech.

The Great Powers, the U.K. in particular, feared the spread of Bolshevism to the Middle and Near East once it had established itself beyond the Caucasian Range. Back on 19 September, 1919, in a secret telegram to Lord Curzon, British High Commissioner in the Caucasus Oliver Wardrop voiced his concern about this prospect and insisted that Azerbaijan and Georgia be recognized as independent states. On 4 October, Lord Curzon asked Oliver Wardrop for certain details and deemed it necessary to remind him: “It is hard to find a procedure of an adequate or reliable recognition of the Transcaucasian republics still waiting for recognition from the Peace Conference or the League of Nations.”96

Late in November, Lloyd George met Under Secretary of State Frank Lyon Polk to clarify his position vis-a-vis the new states on former Russian imperial territory. He minced no words when saying that neither Kolchak nor Denikin, whose defeat had become obvious, should receive military aid

91 See: Who's Who in America, Vol. 2, Chicago, 1950, p. 383.

92 See: Beseda glavy delegatsii Azerbaidzhanskoy Respubliki na Parizhskoy mirnoy konferentsii A.M. Topchiba-sheva s chlenom delegatsii SShA H. Morgenthau, 28.05.1919 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 970, inv. 1, f. 146, sheet 11.

93 Pismo predsedatelia delegatsii Azerbaidzhanskoy Respubliki na Parizhskoy mirnoy konferentsii A.M. Topchiba-sheva Predsedateliu Soveta ministrov N.Yu. Ussubekovu o prieme delegatsii prezidentom SShA V. Vilsonom, 28.05.1919 g., SA AR, rec. gr. 970, inv. 1, f. 14б, sheet 7.

94 See: SA AR, rec. gr. 970, inv. 1, f. 1б8, sheet 2.

95 Azerbaijan, 30 May, 1919.

96 Telegramma lorda Curzona gospodinu O. Wordropu, 04.10.1919 g., Azerbaijanskaia Demokraticheskaia Re-spublika. Arkhivnye dokumenty Velikobritanii, p. 310.


because the Red Army had finally captured everything. On 29 November, Polk wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Robert Lansing: “He [Lloyd George] strongly feels that Europe will be menaced by unified Russia. On this account he thinks that Georgia, Azerbaijan, the Ukraine, Bessarabia, the Baltic provinces and Finland, and possibly even Siberia should be independent.”97

Britain clarified its position in relation to Azerbaijan in a telegram from the U.K. Foreign Office, which Nasib Yusifbeyli received from Oliver Wardrop early in December: “The British government defends independence of Azerbaijan and treats it with great respect.”98 Early in January 1920, High Commissioner Wardrop kept the allies and the British government informed on an almost daily basis about Denikin retreating to the south under Bolshevik pressure. He suggested that the positions of the Transcaucasian republics and the Mountain Republic be urgently fortified by recognizing their independence: if Britain alienated the Caucasian Republics, they would have to talk to the Bolsheviks.99

The mounting Bolshevist threat in the Caucasus forced the Entente countries to discuss the situation in greater detail and start moving: the Red Army in the Caucasus meant that Bolshevism would move further, to the Middle and Near East, Iran and Hither Asia. The rapidly unfolding events meant that independence of Azerbaijan and Georgia became a priority. On 10 January, it was discussed at the session of the Supreme Council of the Paris Peace Conference convened on the British initiative. It was attended by the heads of governments and foreign ministers of Britain, France, and Italy, as well as the American and Japanese representatives at the Peace Conference and their ambassadors to France. Prime Minister of Great Britain warned that the Bolsheviks were pressing forward along the Caspian coast; if they routed Denikin, they would capture the Caspian and might possibly join forces with the Turks. (The British prime minister referred to Kemal Pasha, leader of the mounting national movement.) He went on to say that this would corner the Caucasian states and invited the meeting to think about the best way to supply them with weapons and military equipment.100 It was decided to refer to the Versailles Military Council the question of the aid it might be necessary to give to the Caucasian states against the Bolsheviks and, together with the British representatives, report to the Supreme Council.101

In the afternoon, the foreign ministers got together again to discuss, on Lord Curzon’s initiative, the political aspect of the independence issue. The British Foreign Secretary declared that Lloyd George intended to discuss independence of Azerbaijan and Georgia and that the Armenian question would be discussed together with the Turkish.

On 11 January, the Supreme Council passed the following decision suggested by Lord Curzon: “Principal Allied and Associated Powers should together recognize the governments of Georgia and Azerbaijan as “de facto” governments.”102 This means that on 11 January, 1920 the Paris Peace Conference recognized de facto the independence of Azerbaijan.

On 12 January, the Allied Military Committee supplied its information on the Caucasian Question to the Versailles Supreme Council; the memorandum was signed by President of the Allied Military Committee Marshal F. Foch, British representative on the Committee General C. Sackville-West, and Italian representative Ugo Cavallero.103 The same day, the British delegation drafted a Note which suggested that Georgia and Azerbaijan should receive political, military, and financial support and provisions, especially bread. Adequate military assistance was needed to defend Batum

97 Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States. 1919, Russia, p. 126.

98 Svidanie s predstaviteliami inostrannykh derzhav vo vremia zangezurskikh sobytiy, 1919 g., PDA AP AR, rec. gr. 276, inv. 9, f. 12, sheet 47.

99 See: R. Ullman, Anglo-Soviet Relations. 1917-1921, London, 1968, p. 322.

100 See: Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States. The Paris Peace Conference. 1919, Vol. IX, US Government Printing Office, Washington, 1946, p. 851.

101 See: Ibid., pp. 837-838.

102 Ibid., p. 959; Bulletin d'Information de l'Azerbaidjan, Paris, No. 7, 17 Janvier 1920, p. 1.

103 See: Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States. The Paris Peace Conference. 1919, Vol. IX, pp. 902-903.


and Baku; the Caspian Sea should be closed to the Bolsheviks, while Denikin should either transfer his fleet to the British or sink it.104

On 15 January, representatives of Azerbaijan and Georgia (A.M. Topchibashev and M. Magar-ramov, together with I. Tsereteli and Z. Avalov) were invited to the French Foreign Ministry to meet Secretary General of the Foreign Ministry of France Jules Cambon, British representative Philip Kerr, and Italian representative Marquis de la Torretta. The French diplomat handed Topchibashev the decision on the de facto recognition of Azerbaijan.105 He stated that from that time on both Azerbaijan and Georgia, as independent states, could address the Peace Conference on all important issues.106

Later on the same day, military assistance to the newly recognized states was discussed by the Supreme Council also attended by War Secretary Churchill, Chief of the Imperial General Staff H. Wilson, First Lord of the Admiralty W. Lang, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Beatty, and other military experts who hastily arrived from London.107 On 17 January, Field-Marshal Wilson, Admiral Beatty, and Robert Vansittart, who represented the Foreign Office, met the delegations of Azerbaijan and Georgia in the Klaric Hotel to discuss the amount of military assistance in the event of a Bolshevik attack. The aid was limited to foodstuffs; there was no intention of sending troops to the Caucasus. When Admiral Beatty asked whether Azerbaijan could set up naval defenses without outside help, A.M. Topchibashev had to admit that this could not be done.108

On 19 January, the Supreme Council, attended by the heads of governments, met once more to discuss the Caucasian Question in detail; all members of the Azeri delegation were also present. The meeting listened to the memorandum drafted by the British delegation on instructions from the Supreme Council issued on 10 January. Lloyd George disagreed with the military experts and stated that the military were bad politicians. He asked Marshal Foch: If the Caucasus cannot be kept without additional troops and if the weapons sent there would be lost we should refuse to help at all. Is this what the military mean?109

Marshal Foch rightly believed that military force was needed to defend the Caucasus, which meant that Clemenceau, Foch, and Churchill wanted to send troops while Lloyd George and Mr. Nitti were convinced that weapons and military equipment would suffice. When offering military assistance to Azerbaijan and Georgia, Lloyd George wanted to be sure that it would be used rationally and that this time the weapons supplied would not be captured by the Bolsheviks (as had been the case with Denikin). Georges Clemenceau, who chaired the conference, wanted to know what both countries feared most and whether they would be able to use the allied assistance in the most rational way.110

According to a preliminary agreement, Irakly Tsereteli spoke for both republics. He pointed out that military assistance was badly needed: “I speak in the name of the Georgian Delegation as well as in that of the Delegation of Azerbaijan. We are equally likely to be attacked by the Bolsheviks but we do not know whether we shall be or not. Were we helped by the Entente, the Bolsheviks might hesitate to attack us. In any case, we need the material assistance of the GREAT powers if we are to defend ourselves.” When Clemenceau asked: “Are you asking us to send troops also?” Tsereteli said that this would be the best form of assistance since sooner or later the Bolsheviks would move to the Caucasus. Lloyd George wanted to know all details about the armed forces of Azerbaijan. Advisor to the Azeri delegation Mamed Magarramov explained that a military law had been passed by the parliament and that 100,000 men could be put into the field in the shortest time possible granted there were necessary

104 See: Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States. The Paris Peace Conference. 1919, Vol. IX, pp. 903-904.

105 See: “La reconnaissance de l’independance de l’Azerbai'djan et de la Georgie,” Bulletin d’Information de l'Azerbaidjan, Paris, No. 8, 1 Fevrier 1920, p. 1.

106 See: Z. Avalov, op. cit., p. 241.

107 See: Ibid., pp. 243-244.


109 See: Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States. The Paris Peace Conference. 1919, Vol. IX, p. 891.

Ibid., p. 245.

See: Papers R See: Ibid., p. 893.


arms and munitions. The British prime minister asked: “Have you the troops at the moment?” The Azeri expert specified: “We have a little army, in the command of a native Azerbaijan general, about 50,000 strong, perhaps more, disciplined, but there are only from 10,000 to 12,000 of these men with arms.” Lloyd George then asked the Georgians the same thing. Tsereteli answered that the republic had about 16 battalions of regular troops, each nearly 15,000 well-disciplined men. He deemed it necessary to specify: “In a fortnight we could mobilize 50,000 men if we had the necessary arms and munitions. .In a war for independence we can count upon the support of our whole people, among whom national enthusiasm runs very high.” The British prime minister then asked whether there was compulsory military service in the republic. Tsereteli explained that the Georgian officers in the czarist army had always been considered the best. When Lloyd George asked whether there was initial military instruction for the young men in Azerbaijan, Magarramov answered that in the past Azeri boys were not conscripted. But at the beginning of the war, he explained, there were organized detachments of volunteers who distinguished themselves in the Iron Division (a Muslim division with iron discipline). Azeri officers were highly valued in czarist times; in the republic all young boys must serve with the colors.

Lord Curzon took the floor to ask: “Reports that I have received say that a certain number of officers of Azerbaijan are Turkish officers. Does the presence of these Turkish officers in the army leave us the guarantees necessary in a fight against the Bolsheviks?” Mamed Magarramov explained that after the conquest of Azerbaijan by Russia a great part of the population turned to Turkey for help. When the Turkish Army invaded the Caucasus there were Azeris and Daghestanis among its officers. When the Turkish army left the Caucasus, he added, 50 officers preferred to stay behind in Azerbaijan. They were all from the Caucasus, said Magarramov, therefore they would use their whole energy in fighting the Bolsheviks for the defense of their independence.111

The British prime minister summed up: the republics should promptly receive aid in the form of weapons, equipment, and munitions yet no troops should be dispatched either to Azerbaijan or Georgia. He was convinced that they should fortify their defense capacity and defend themselves, Baku in particular, with their own troops.112

So another date was added to the list of significant dates in the history of Azerbaijan (28 May and 15 September, 1918): on 11 January, 1920, the Paris Peace Conference recognized the independence of Azerbaijan and opened wide the vistas of its cooperation with the world community. In April 1920, Soviet occupation of Azerbaijan cut short the process. The diplomatic representatives of the Azerbaijan Republic in Paris formed the first wave of the Azeri political emigration.

C o n c l u s i o n

An analysis of the two years of diplomatic efforts of the ADR suggests that the government and the diplomats were working on a foreign policy course best suited to the nation’s interests. No efforts were spared to realize this course in the fairly complicated international context and to convince the world community to recognize the Azerbaijan Republic. The foreign policy course the government pursued in 1918-1920 was aimed at defending the country’s independence and promoting its gradual integration into the system of international relations as an equal partner of the Western countries and the region’s leader. The republic’s diplomacy covered a long road from orientation toward Turkey in the first months of independence to its de facto recognition by the Supreme Council at Versailles.

111 See: Ibid., pp. 892-894.

112 See: M. Yacoub, Le probleme du Caucase, Paris, 1933, p. 123.

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