Научная статья на тему 'The Iranian epopee" of the Bolsheviks: the deepening conflict in the Southern Caspian (1920-1921)'

The Iranian epopee" of the Bolsheviks: the deepening conflict in the Southern Caspian (1920-1921) Текст научной статьи по специальности «История и археология»

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Аннотация научной статьи по истории и археологии, автор научной работы — Hasanli Jamil

The author traces the political processes unfolding on the southern coast of the Caspian during the first years of Sovietization of Azerbaijan. He draws on a wide range of historical sources and earlier inaccessible archival documents to analyze, for the first time, the Bolsheviks' policy in the Gilan Province of Persia in 1920-1921. The Gilan adventure of the Bolsheviks and the history of the so-called Iranian Soviet Republic were two links in a much longer chain of conflicts triggered by the Bolshevization of the Southern Caucasus and Soviet expansion in the Middle East on the whole. This is a history of the dramatic collisions Soviet Russia imposed on Azerbaijan.

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Текст научной работы на тему «The Iranian epopee" of the Bolsheviks: the deepening conflict in the Southern Caspian (1920-1921)»



D.Sc. (Hist.), Professor, Khazar University (Baku, Azerbaijan).



The author traces the political processes unfolding on the southern coast of the Caspian during the first years of Sovietization of Azerbaijan. He draws on a wide range of historical sources and earlier inaccessible archival documents to analyze, for the first time, the Bolsheviks' policy in the Gilan Province of Persia in 1920-1921.

The Gilan adventure of the Bolsheviks and the history of the so-called Iranian Soviet Republic were two links in a much longer chain of conflicts triggered by the Bolshevization of the Southern Caucasus and Soviet expansion in the Middle East on the whole. This is a history of the dramatic collisions Soviet Russia imposed on Azerbaijan.


In 1920, occupation of Azerbaijan and Baku, its oil-rich capital, was one of the two points in the Bolsheviks' Eastern policy; Bolshevization of northern Iran was another key item on their agenda. Preparations began in January 1920: the Bolsheviks planned to capture Azerbaijan before making a massive thrust toward the East. There was a more or less concerted opinion in the Bolshevik ranks that


promotion of socialist ideas or even revolutions in Asia, particularly in the Middle and Near East, could compensate for the defeats of the revolutions and failure of the revolutionary ideas in Germany, Hungary, Finland, Austria, and elsewhere. This made Iran and Turkey a testing ground of sorts from which communist ideology was expected to spread far and wide.


as a Springboard of the Bolshevist Thrust toward the East

Starting in April 1920, Sovietized Azerbaijan became one of the focal points of Soviet Russia's Iranian policy: Moscow was busy planning its advance to Northern Iran and occupation of Azerbaijan. In March 1920, the Bolsheviks finally arrived at a decision that Azerbaijan (by that time de facto recognized, together with Georgia, by the Paris Peace Conference on 11 January, 1919) should be captured. It was then that the Soviets made Operation Anzali part of their strategic plans. The trenches of the world socialist revolution were moved from the West to the East, which made the Muslim peoples of the former Russian Empire doubly important.

For strategic considerations, Soviet Azerbaijan and its new leader Nariman Narimanov wanted to spread the socialist revolution to Iran and Turkey. In fact, Narimanov's future depended on the success of the Bolshevist revolution on the Eastern front. On the one hand, as one of the top figures in the R.S.F.S.R. People's Commissariats for Foreign Affairs and Nationalities, he was one of those who wanted to shift the export of revolution from the West to the East. He vehemently defended his point in heated discussions with Georgy Chicherin, Lev Karakhan, and other prominent officials of the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs. People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Chicherin, for example, insisted that Soviet foreign policy directly depended on the nature of its agreements with the West. Narimanov, who harbored no illusions about the prospects for relations with the West, especially after the failed socialist revolutions in Europe, regarded the national-liberation movements in Iran and Turkey as the main road leading to the world revolution; the Entente, Britain in particular, he argued, should have been defeated in the Black Sea straits, at the gates to India, and in Iran and Afghanistan before Soviet Russia could move toward its aims in the West.1 He insisted that Britain should first be removed from Iran; he suggested that a "secret commission" on the Iranian file should be set up, and openly clashed with Chicherin over the best candidate for the commission's head.2 "To the West via the East" remained Narimanov's pet idea until his very last day and an apple of discord between him and the Center.

On the other hand, Nariman Narimanov associated Azerbaijan's place in the newly-created Soviet socialist geopolitical system and even his personal political fortunes with Bolshevization of the East. He expected that a turn from the West to the East would make Azerbaijan one of the leaders of the new world order and, by the same token, would move him into the political limelight as a figure of world stature. He and the camp of "national communists" he led never excluded the possibility that this might resolve the problem of Southern Azerbaijan.3 With the trenches of the new revolutionary

1 See: N. Narimanov to the Central Committee, Comrade I. Stalin. Copies to L. Trotsky and K. Radek. On the History of Our Revolution in the margins, 1923, The Russian State Archives of Social-Political History (further RGASPI), rec. gr. 588, inv. 2, f. 176, sheet 27 (here and elsewhere archival documents are in Russian unless otherwise stated).

2 See: Letter from G. Chicherin to the Politburo C.C. R.C.P. (B.), 12.11.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 17, inv. 84, f. 103, sheet 3.

3 See: Letter from Gorobchenko, Moroz, and Zhukov to the C.C. of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of Azerbaijan, to Dovlatov, Testimony by A. Akhmedov, 27.04.1928, Political Documents Archives at the Administration of the President of the Azerbaijan Republic (further APD UDP AR), rec. gr. 12, inv. 1, f. 152, sheets 24-25.


front moved to Azerbaijan and extended further, Narimanov was determined to have the final say on the Eastern issue. Aware of this and unwilling to play into his hands, the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs and its head Chicherin kept the preparations for the Iranian revolution secret. Early in April 1920, the Turkestan Territorial Committee of the Adalyat Party, which was assigned the main role in fanning the revolutionary fire in Iran, convened a party conference in Tashkent to set up its leading structures; Narimanov was effectively kept away. This urged him to take action: as a first step he dispatched his confidential agent, experienced and tested Iranian revolutionary of Azeri extraction Haidar Khan Amu Ogly Tariverdiev to Turkestan. When he arrived, he stated in so many words that his prerogatives were similar to those held by Trotsky in Russia, that is, that he had been appointed as a military organizer of the Iranian revolution.4

In the spring of 1920, the process of putting together a revolutionary army to be sent to Iran began on the Caucasian and Turkestan fronts. In the Caucasus, this task rightly belonged to the leaders of Azerbaijan, yet certain structures in Moscow preferred to keep the Azeri army, the political orientation of which in the context of the Bolshevik occupation could not be trusted, out of the Iranian project. In June 1920, Georgy Chicherin sent Lenin a memo in which he justified his suspicions.5 On the other hand, for diplomatic reasons, Soviet Russia could have profited from sending the army of Soviet Azerbaijan to Iran. Under international pressure, Soviet Russia was not loath to shifting the burden of responsibility for the Iranian invasion to freshly Sovietized Azerbaijan so as to exonerate itself in the eyes of the West from exporting the revolution. This explains why at the very beginning of the Gilan expedition, the Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), at the suggestion of the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, decided that upon their arrival in Anzali, the Soviet ships should hoist Azeri flags.6

On 14 May, while an offensive on Anzali was still being prepared, the Iranian government sent a note to Soviet Russia in which it recognized Soviet Azerbaijan as an independent state and expressed its intention to conclude, in the near future, treaties with the government in Baku and with Soviet Russia. The document informed that Tehran had already dispatched missions to Baku and Moscow. The note said, in particular: "The Government and the Persian people are delighted with the decree that set up the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan. This decree confirms that the Soviet government indeed wants to liberate the numerically small peoples and restore their rights, therefore, the Persian government is firmly convinced that the Soviet government will adhere to the decree of 1918 on Persian independence and annulment of the treaties concluded with Persia prior to the [October] revolution. Contrary to the expected improvement in Russian-Persian relations, the supply routes were closed. This probably happened because the Azeri and Russian governments feared for the safety of the steamships that entered Persian waters. The Persian government guaranteed that all steamships carrying Russian and Azeri flags would be returned to Russian and Azeri ports."7

On 18 May, when the note reached Moscow, the ships of the Soviet Red Flotilla had already been shelling Anzali; on 23 May, Georgy Chicherin stated in a counter note that diplomatic relations between Iran and the Azerbaijan S.S.R. and R.S.F.S.R. were possible, while avoiding, as best as he could, the fact of Soviet occupation of Iranian territory. In an effort to produce the impression that the Russian Soviet government had learned about it post factum he described Operation Anzali as a personal initiative of the military, of which they had failed to inform the central government.8

4 See: V. Genis, Krasnaya Persiya, Bolsheviki v Gilane. 1920-1921, Moscow, 2000, sheet 194.

5 See: Copy of a memo from G. Chicherin to Lenin, 29.06.1920, APD UDP AR, rec. gr. 1, inv. 1, f. 2a, sheet 13.

6 See: Extract from protocol No. 15 of the plenary session of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.). On Eastern Policy. On Iran, 25.05.1920, APD UDP AR, rec. gr. 1, inv. 1, f. 2a, sheet 8.

7 Note of the Iranian government to the government of the R.S.F.S.R., 14.05.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 17, inv. 109, f. 100, sheet 1.

8 See: Dokumenty vneshney politiki SSSR, Vol. II, Moscow, 1953, pp. 542-543.


The Bolsheviks, however, were openly euphoric over their prompt operation, in the course of which they captured Anzali and the Iranian Caspian littoral. In the beginning, on 18 May, to be more exact, while the Azeri and Russian Red Flotilla was still moving toward Iran under Fedor Raskolnik-ov, it was possible to conceal the real intentions by stating that they intended to return the ships, weapons, and equipment left by General Denikin's units. When the flotilla landed in Anzali, a Soviet mounted division, moving from Lenkoran, crossed the border, captured Astara, and moved to the port of Anzali. On 22 May, Commander of the Bolshevik Troops Fedor Raskolnikov openly contradicted what the Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs Chicherin said on 20 May: Chicherin announced that the Soviet troops had no intention of interfering in Iranian domestic affairs and had arrived in Anzali to collect the property of the White Guard; Raskolnikov, on the other hand, was much more outspoken, as befits a soldier: he stated in so many words that having recaptured the White Guard property the Soviet flotilla would remain in Anzali.9 In his telegram to Lenin, Raskolnikov reported that the military task in the Caspian had been fulfilled. On 23 May, 1920, Pravda triumphantly announced that with the occupation of Anzali the Caspian had become a Soviet sea. Twenty-three ships, 50 guns, 20 thousand shells, and other military materiel were removed from Anzali as Russian property. As soon as the news reached Baku, the Azeri Revolutionary Committee sent Raskolnikov a telegram of congratulations: "Having learned at its meeting of 19 May that the Red Flotilla occupied Anzali, the Revolutionary Committee of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan greets you and the heroic Red sailors in your person who liberated the working people of Persia and the East from the chains of slavery."10 In fact, occupation of Anzali was nothing but another stage in Soviet Russia's Eastern march started in Azerbaijan: Baku was occupied twenty days earlier. After crossing Azerbaijan and reaching the Iranian border, the Red Army invaded Astara and opened hostilities in the direction of Anzali and Ardabil.11

The Tabriz uprising which flared up on 7 April at almost the same time as the occupation of Anzali spread like wildfire from Southern Azerbaijan to neighboring regions. Headed by Sheikh Mohammad Khiabani, it was spearheaded against the British. On 23 May, Grigory (Sergo) Orjoni-kidze informed Moscow and asked for instructions: "Muslim units have occupied Ardabil; we can easily blast the whole of Persian Azerbaijan—Tabriz. We are proceeding cautiously so as not to be scolded once more, therefore I ask for an immediate answer. Here is my opinion: with the help of Kuchak Khan (Mirza Kuchak Khan, born Younes, was the leader of the Nehzat-e Jangal movement ([Forest Movement].—J.H.) and the Persian communists, we can proclaim Soviet power, capture one city after another, and drive the Brits out. The Middle East will be greatly impressed. Outwardly, everything will look very decent."12

On 25 May, the Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) discussed what the head of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) had written and Raskolnikov's information about the capture of Anzali and the revolutionary situation in Gilan; the discussion was registered on the agenda as On the Eastern Policy. The Politburo decided to approve the general political course suggested by the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs as helping the liberation movements of the peoples of the East. Raskol-nikov was instructed to use all means at his disposal, appoint instructors, and find other ways and means to help Kuchak Khan; Anzali and other Iranian settlements, occupied by Soviet troops, were to

9 See: Telegram from F. Raskolnikov to L. Trotsky and V.I. Lenin, 22.05.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 562, inv. 1, f. 21, sheet 1.

10 Telegram of the Revolutionary Committee of the Azerbaijan S.S.R. to F. Raskolnikov, 20.05.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 562, inv. 1, f. 21, sheet 51.

11 See: Le Gérant du Consulat de France à Tauris à M. Millerand Ministre des Affaires Etrangères. A. s. situation générale en Azerbaïdjan. Le 10 mai 1920, Ministère des Affaires Etrangère de France, Archives Diplomatique, Vol. 639, Folio 33.

12 Telegram from G. Orjonikidze to Lenin, Stalin and Chicherin, 23.05.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 2, f. 38, sheets 2-3.


be transferred to Kuchak Khan; all ships were to be removed from these ports; and it was to be announced that this had been done on the instructions of the Soviet government unwilling to interfere in Iran's domestic affairs. It was said in the concluding part of the document that a necessary number of ships should be kept in Anzali allegedly for police functions under Azeri flags, in fact they were to be placed at the disposal of Kuchak Khan.13

Iran: Preparing for a Socialist Revolution

Lev Trotsky was even more specific in the telegram he sent to Fedor Raskolnikov on 26 May, 1920 about the directive of the Soviet government on the Iranian issue. Trotsky's directives, clear and laconic, banned all military actions under the Russian flag or in the name of the Russian expeditionary corps; he directly referred to Moscow's demand to withdraw the Russian troops and the navy from Anzali in order to remove all suspicion that Russia intended to interfere in Iran's domestic affairs. At the same time, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Committee pointed out that Kuchak Khan and the entire people's liberation movement in Iran should receive all possible assistance: volunteers, instructors, money, and other means, while the lands occupied by the Soviet troops were to be transferred to Kuchak Khan. If he needed warships, they could be used under the flag of the Azerbaijan Republic and support Kuchak Khan in the name of Azerbaijan.

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To fulfill the decisions of the Politburo, Lev Trotsky intended to set up a wide network of Soviet organizations in Iran. The Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Committee believed it necessary to convince the British that the Soviets had no intention of interfering in Iran's domestic affairs, and nowhere in the East for that matter, and guaranteed that Soviet Russia would have no such plans in the future.14

Telegram of Lev Karakhan, Deputy People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs, to Raskolnikov dated 30 May recommended caution when carrying out Sovietization of Iran: "We cannot rely solely on the sentiments of the people in Anzali, Rasht, and the areas bordering on Azerbaijan when hypothesizing about the revolutionary sentiments of the entire country." He believed that it was possible to unite the forces of Kuchak Khan, the Iranian communists, and other democratic groups and instill in them anti-British sentiments. He did not object to a state-administrative apparatus of the Soviet type being set up in Iran together with new power in the form of a Soviet government. He was convinced, however, that it should embrace a larger circle of the toiling masses including the bourgeois elements. This was the only way to drive the Brits out of Iran, which looked like a task of national importance.15

Late in May at a series of secret meetings (one of them took place on 27 May), Orjonikidze and Raskolnikov, who represented Soviet Russia, obtained permission for the Red Army and the Bolshevik fleet to remain in Gilan in exchange for promised support in the form of armored vehicles, planes, weapons, and ammunition. This and the transfer of the cities of Anzali and Rasht, occupied by Soviet troops, to the Jangali movement radically changed the attitude toward the Soviets. On 4 June, speaking at a rally in Rasht, Mirza Kuchak Khan, obviously carried away with revolutionary verve, glorified Soviet Russia's liberation mission. The Soviet troops which, accord-

13 See: Protocol No. 15 of the sitting of the Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.). On Eastern Policy. On Iran, 25.05.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 17, inv. 3, f. 83, sheet 1.

14 See: L. Trotsky's directives to F. Raskolnikov, 26.05.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 562, inv. 1, f. 21, sheets 10-12.

15 See: Telegram from L. Karakhan to F. Raskolnikov and G. Orjonikidze, 30.05.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 562, inv. 1, f. 21, sheet 17.


ing to the earlier decisions of the Communist Party, should have returned to Baku were instead storming the nearest Iranian cities together with Kuchak Khan. After capturing Rasht, the Soviet representatives asked Baku to immediately dispatch more troops, armored carriers, planes, and other military equipment to Gilan.16

Despite the officially announced withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Gilan, the military units arriving from Baku, Astrakhan, and Krasnovodsk were used to create a five-thousand- strong Iranian Red Army.17 At first it was led by Ihsanullah Khan, a close associate of Kuchak Khan; later the Iranian Red Army was transferred to the Headquarters of the 11th Army; the Bolsheviks appointed their own commander, former czarist general Vassily (Shapur) Kargareteli. Kuchak Khan and his closest military advisers, Ihsanullah Khan and Khalu Qurban, correctly interpreted that as an act of mistrust, however, for a while, their military units remained independent.

Despite the success of the Red Army in Gilan, the Soviets remained apprehensive of an international scandal. This much can be guessed from a telegram Trotsky sent Lenin, Chicherin, Kamenev, Krestinsky, and Bukharin on 4 June, 1920: "The entire body of information arriving from Khiva, Iran, Bukhara, and Afghanistan testifies that Bolshevik coups in these countries might create great problems for Russia. Soviet power remains fairly wobbly, even in Azerbaijan, despite the latter's longstanding ties with Russia and the fact it has its own oil industry. In fact, a march to the East is no less detrimental; we should first stabilize the situation in the West and in our industry and transport."18 His warning was not heard. In the small hours of 5 June, Gilan acquired an Intermediary Revolutionary Government headed by Kuchak Khan and the Iranian Military Revolutionary Council made up of Kuchak Khan's associates and two Soviet representatives—Ivan Kozhanov and Batyrbek Abukov— who became Iranian citizens to be able to join the Gilan revolutionary movement; for this purpose Ivan Kozhanov changed his name to Ardashir. On 7 June, the people of Rasht learned about the manifesto of the Iranian Soviet Republic set up in Gilan.19 On 5 June, Commander of the United Russian and Azeri Caspian Military Flotilla Fedor Raskolnikov appointed Myuslyum Israfilov Charge d'Affairs ad interim of Soviet Russia under the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Government.20 The same day, Raskolnikov appointed Andrey Pylaev as military representative of the R.S.F.S.R. under the Head of the Iranian Revolutionary Government Kuchak Khan.21 The same day, Chairman of the Military-Revolutionary Council under the Iranian Revolutionary Government Mirza Kuchak Khan, Commander of the Armed Forces Ihsanullah Khan, and member of the Military-Revolutionary Council M. Muzaffar-zade sent a telegram of greetings to Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council of the R.S.F.S.R. Lev Trotsky: "The Revolutionary Military Council of the Persian Republic newly formed under the decision of the Council of People's Commissars of Persia sends its sincere greetings to the Red Army and Red Navy in the person of the creator of the strong Russian Red Army Comrade Trotsky... Soviet Power was established in Persia by the will of the toiling people who started building a Red Persian Army according to the principles of the Russian Red Army to annihilate the enslavers of the Persian people. Long live the fraternal union of the Russian Red Army and the young Persian Army."22

16 Radiogram from Ivan (Ardashir) Kozhanov to Baku, G. Orjonikidze, 04.06.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 2, f. 13, sheet 4.

17 See: L'Agent consulaire de France M. Duroy. Situation actuelle de l'Azerbaïdjan. Le 27 juillet 1920, Ministère des Affaires Etrangère de France, Archives Diplomatique, Vol. 639, Folio 150.

18 Persidskiy front mirovoy revolutsii. Dokumenty o sovetskom vtorzhenii v Gilan (1820-1821), Moscow, 2009, sheet 47.

19 See: Manifesto of the Iranian Soviet Republic in Gilan, 07.06.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 562, inv. 4, f. 32, sheets 53-54.

20 See: M. Israfilov's Certificate, 05.06.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 562, inv. 1, f. 21, sheet 31.

21 See: A. Pylaev's Certificate, 05.06.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 562, inv. 1, f. 21, sheet 30.

22 Telegram of greetings from the Military-Revolutionary Council of the Persian Republic to Chairman of the Military-Revolutionary Council of the R.S.F.S.R. L. Trotsky, 05.06.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 562, inv. 1, f. 21, sheet 44.


On 8 June, the Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) discussed the situation in Iran and decided to recall Fedor Raskolnikov, who had been appointed Commander of the Baltic Fleet even before the Gilan expedition, to allow Abukov and Kozhanov to continue their activities as volunteers with Iranian citizenship; it was also decided that Chicherin would draft instructions for the communists working in the East.23 On 14 June, Georgy Chicherin was ready with the flattering party assignment; his Theses on the Work of Communists in the East were sent far and wide to all relevant structures. It was commonly believed in the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs that the document should be generalizing and should be worded as theses in view of the very different national and mental specifics of the different peoples of the East. The People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs insisted that communist activities in the East should not be associated with the policy of the Soviet government and its representatives. He was convinced that when addressing the revolutionary masses in the East, the communists should avoid specific promises in the name of the Soviet Government; they should merely explain the revolutionary mission of Soviet power and the R.S.F.S.R. with the exception of cases when there was an official decision on intervention (such was the case of the occupied disputed territories in the Caucasus).24 Late in June, the Free Iran armored carrier arrived from Baku; at approximately the same time, a Tatar Special Purpose Unit of 700 to 800 arrived from Azerbaijan to become part of the Iranian Red Army.

The events in Gilan were heatedly discussed at the First Congress of the Iranian Communist Party (ICP) held on 22-24 June, 1920. As soon as Raskolnikov left for the Baltics, the Soviet representatives clashed for the top posts in Gilan. The representatives from Baku were especially concerned about the hectic activities of member of the Comintern Executive Committee Mamed Hasan Sultan-zade (alias of Avetis Mikaelyan), who had the Center behind him. In April 1920, at the First Territorial Conference of the Adalyat Party in Tashkent, Haidar Khan Amu Ogly, on instructions from Nariman Narimanov, openly stated that Mamed Hasan Sultan-zade (Avetis Mikaelyan in the not so distant past) should not be elected member of the Territorial Committee of Adalyat.25

At first, it had been planned to convene the First Congress of the Iranian Communist Party in Baku, but delegates inspired by the lightning conquest of Gilan transferred the meeting to Anzali. The congress gathered together about 60 delegates, the majority of whom had emigrated in their youth and settled mainly in Azerbaijan. The first sitting was opened by Kamran Aga-zade, who arrived from Baku; the delegates elected honorary chairmen of the presidium: Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of the R.S.F.S.R. Lenin, Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of Azerbaijan N. Narimanov, member of the C.C. Communist Party of Azerbaijan (Bolsheviks), former member of the Meshrute (Freedom) movement in Iran Dadash Bunyatzade and Victor Naneyshvili, Secretary of the C.C. Az.C.P. (B.), who arrived, on instructions from the Center, in Anzali from Baku together with 20 more delegates. Mir Bashir Gasymov greeted the congress in the name of the Baku Soviet. The elected presidium consisted of representatives of Turkestan Avetis Sultan-zade and Mamedgulu Alikhanov, representatives of Baku Kamran Aga-zade and Mir Jafar Javad-zade (Seyyid Jafar Pishe-vari). Despite a decision in favor of Mirza Kuchak Khan, the communists were dissatisfied with what he was doing and believed that he was the main obstruction to the anticipated socialist revolution. Sharp contradictions between Kuchak Khan and A. Sultan-zade, well-known for his leftist views and elected head of the C.C. I.C.P., flared up immediately after the congress. Mirza Kuchak Khan believed that the Interim Revolutionary Government with him as its head had completed the revolution, while Sultan-zade insisted that it had been a beginning. This explains why after the congress the com-

23 See: Extract from Protocol No. 18 of the sitting of Politburo C.C. R.C.P. (B.), 08.06.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 17, inv. 3, f. 86, sheets 1-4.

24 See: G. Chicherin, Theses on the Work of Communists in the East, 14.06.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 2, inv. 2, f. 312, sheet 2.

25 See: V. Genis, op. cit., p. 126.


munists formulated a new aim: to deepen the Iranian socialist revolution and spread it across the East. To achieve this they had to remove Kuchak Khan.26

Early in July, the communists who wanted to capture power set up (without consulting Moscow) the Iranian Bureau under the C.C. Az.C.P. (B.) consisting of the following people: Nariman Narimanov and Polikarp (Budu) Mdivani who represented the C.C. R.C.P. (B.); Anastas Mikoyan and Vissarion Lominadze from the C.C. Az.C.P. (B.); and Dadash Bunyatzade and Mamed-kuli Alikhanov from the C.C. I.C.P. All of them were elected to the C.C. Az.C.P. (B.) after the April coup. According to Russian historian M. Persits, the Azeri leaders needed Sovietization of Iran to reunify, some time in the future, Iranian Azerbaijan with Soviet Azerbaijan.27

With the Iranian Bureau operating in Baku, the trend toward a communist revolution in Gilan became even more obvious. Avetis Sultan-zade enthusiastically suggested that the bourgeois-democratic trend of Kuchak Khan should be replaced with an absolutely communist movement. What had been already agreed with Kuchak Khan was rudely distorted. B. Agaev and B. Mdivani, who arrived from Baku, B. Abukov, an active participant in the Gilan events, and others came forward with ideas that the newly formed Iranian Communist Party could neither accept nor realize. Kuchak Khan dearly paid for the telegram to Lenin in which he asked him to send people to Gilan with previous revolutionary experience in Russia (Budu Mdivani, in the first place who had lived in Iran).28 The Organizing Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) fulfilled this request: on 21 July, Budu Mdivani set off for Iran. After assessing everything that had taken place in Gilan, he concluded that the Iranian Communist Party should move to the forefront of the revolutionary movement to become its leader: "Today, the authority of Mirza Kuchak Khan is limited to Gilan. If he fails to develop into a large-scale revolutionary figure he should disappear—probably very soon... Baku will for a long time remain a reserve of the communist party cadres" and further: "We should create a military and political base for the work in Azerbaijan and Julfa. The department of foreign affairs should put together partisan detachments, units of demolition sappers, and terrorist groups. Terror should be aimed against the shah and his government, all enemies of the Persian revolution and representatives of the British authorities." Mdivani outlined a vast territory of the partisan war: Kasr-i Shirin, Kermanshah, Khamadan, Kazvin, and Tehran as far as the Basra-Bagdad railway.29

On 18 July, Russian sailors, the main striking force of the I.C.P., suddenly rebelled in Rasht: they no longer wanted to fight and demanded to be sent back to Russia. The blow was a hard one: it killed the dream of a communist revolution in Iran, revealed that the hopes to reach the Basra-Bagdad railway were nothing but an illusion, and buried the plans of a worldwide revolution. On 20 July, the Iranian Bureau dispatched a unit of 1,000 to put down the uprising in Anzali.30

On 20 July, the C.C. I.C.P. met in Rasht and ruled that Kuchak Khan and his supporters should be deposed. Anastas Mikoyan delivered a long report in which he insisted on his pet idea that the historical logic of the Iranian Revolution would inevitably bring the communists to power. On the whole, an analysis of the events shows that Moscow had no clear or long-term program for Iran. While the Bolsheviks whom the C.C. Az.C.P. (B.) sent to Iran were brimming with revolutionary enthusiasm and were determined to stage a socialist revolution in Iran, certain circles in Moscow intended, from the very beginning, to use the Gilan events to put pressure on Britain. For example, while the Iranian Bureau passed a decision to depose Kuchak Khan, Lev Karakhan wrote in an urgent

26 See: S.M. Aliev, Istoria Irana. XX vek, Moscow, 2004, p. 123; Materials of the First Congress of the Iranian Communist Party Adalyat, June 1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 495, inv. 90, f. 4, sheets 1-4.

27 See: M.A. Persits, Zastenchivaya interventsia. O sovetskom vtorzhenii v Iran i Bukharu v 1920-1921 gg., Moscow, 1999, p. 110.

28 See: Telegram from Mirza Kuchak Khan to Lenin, 17.07.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 17, inv. 112, f. 53, sheet 42.

29 See: Report from B. Mdivani at the sitting of the Iranian Bureau, 20.07.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 20, sheets 32-35.

30 See: Secret Information about a Revolt of Sailors in Rasht, 20.07.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 495, inv. 90, f. 15, sheets 9-14.


telegram to Orjonikidze and Narimanov: "We have absolutely no information about the situation in Persia; we received no answers to our questions. We got information from other sources, however, that allegedly the Persian government wanted the port facilities in Anzali to be transferred to it. Which government? To answer these questions Kuchak Khan should appoint his representative in Moscow as soon as possible, as we telegraphed you more than once and got no response. On our side, we have already written to you that we prefer to see Prof. Gaffarov, who works with us, appointed to this post. This appointment has become very important in view of the talks in London and our probable demands that the British troops should be removed from Persia and that the British-Persian Treaty of 1919 should be annulled... These demands should be confirmed by a representative of Kuchak Khan in Moscow."31 Konstantin Gauk, personal interpreter of Kuchak Khan, and Mir Salekh Muzaf-far-zade obeyed these instructions and arrived in Moscow where they negotiated with Chicherin and Karakhan for three weeks. For some reason, late in August, when they returned, they were arrested on an order from Mdivani.

Mirza Kuchak Khan, meanwhile, knew that the Bolshevik idea to stir up a socialist revolution in Iran was absolutely unfounded and senselessness. On 20 July, 1920, in his telegram to Lenin, he wrote that Iran was not prepared to fight for socialism and promised that as soon as the capital city of Tehran had been captured he would perform a political U-turn and inspire the people to engage in an open struggle against capitalism. He wrote in particular, "Later, when we have enough supporters we shall finally part ways with everyone who does not like our ideas." He rejected the revolutionary violence that had recently taken place in Azerbaijan and that damaged the social group of petty merchants. He complained that, while the treaty with the Azeri government signed late in June guaranteed inviolability of property of the Iranian citizens, the guarantees had been openly violated. He feared that this might damage the revolutionary cause in Iran, the social basis of which consisted mainly of petty owners, or even undermine the revolutionary process in the East. Kuchak Khan concluded his telegram by saying that he planned to send his representatives to Baku to till the soil for future relations with Soviet Azerbaijan and Russia in the political, economic, and military spheres and that mutual understanding in these spheres would speed up the revolution in the East, help achieve a final victory over the British and capitalists, and bring closer the world revolution.32

The Communist Movement in Iran Splits

On 30 July, 1920, a joint secret meeting of the C.C. I.C.P. and representatives of the leftist forces in the government of the Gilan Soviet Republic decided, in violation of earlier promises, to remove Kuchak Khan and repress his supporters. The next day, the coup staged on the strength of this decision brought a new government to power in Gilan headed, at the suggestion of the Bolsheviks who had been sent to Iran, by Ihsanullah Khan. The same day, Matilda Bulle, member of the C.C. I.C.P. and the Military-Revolutionary Council of Iran, sent a radiogram about the communist coup in Gilan; she wrote that the communists and leftist forces had captured power and formed an Interim Revolutionary Committee of eight members.33 The new government intended to requisition means of production and distribute the large private landed possessions among the peasants; this could not be done without the use of force and was intended to ensure success of the planned march on Tehran.

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31 Urgent telegram from L. Karakhan to G. Orjonikidze and N. Narimanov, 23.07.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 25, sheet 277.

1 See: Telegram from M. Kuchak Khan to Lenin, 20.07.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 2, f. 23, sheets 120-122.

32 I

33 Radiogram about a communist coup in Gilan, 31.07.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 454, inv. 1, f. 22, sheet 61.


Kuchak Khan and his closest associates returned to the Gilan forests and installed themselves in Fumene, their old camp. The communists tried to encircle and destroy him, but failed in a fierce clash which claimed the lives of Kuchak Khan's 400 devoted supporters and caused a huge loss of life among the soldiers brought from Azerbaijan and Russia.34 Significantly, in his letter to Lenin Kuchak Khan named the communists involved in these events and accused Soviet Azerbaijan. He wrote that despite the protests of the Iranian Republic, the Azeri government retracted on its own promise to return the confiscated goods of Iranian merchants to Iran, which were supposed to be used for the needs of the Iranian Red Army and the local people. Kuchak Khan used these facts to ask Lenin to confirm the earlier promises that Soviet Azerbaijan would not interfere in Iran's domestic affairs, that it would protect, according to the earlier promises, the lives and property of the Iranian citizens in Soviet Azerbaijan, and that, in view of the fact that Iran was an Eastern country, a program of continued activities of the Communist Party was indispensable.35

On 13 July, the Revolutionary Committee of Azerbaijan passed the following decision on the question of the Iranian merchants' property: "Since everything the merchants owned was created by the sweat and blood of the toiling people, and since there is workers' and peasants' power in Azerbaijan, the confiscated goods should not be returned. We should prevent the merchant extortionists from leaving Baku for Persia: upon arrival they will start counterrevolutionary propaganda and incite the ignorant masses against the revolutionary movement, thus slowing down the revolutionary cause in Persia."36 The Iranian merchants lost goods totaling 30 million gold rubles.37 This contradicted the treaty the Azerbaijan S.S.R. and the Iranian Soviet Republic signed in June 1920. Under Point 1 of the treaty, Iranian citizens arrested in Soviet Azerbaijan were to be liberated and transferred to the Iranian Revolutionary Government; under Point 2, Azerbaijan pledged to help repatriate Iranian citizens.38 Finally, Nariman Narimanov had to issue a decree in the name of the Revolutionary Committee of Azerbaijan, under which the confiscated goods were returned.39

Anastas Mikoyan, one of the ideologists personally involved in the Gilan coup, returned to Baku as soon as Kuchak Khan had been deposed. On 3 August, he presented a long report On Persia to a sitting of the Politburo and the Organizing Bureau of the C.C. Az.C.P. (B.), which produced the following decision: "Place Haidar Khan Amu Ogly at the head of the Persian government; dispatch to Iran one Azeri brigade and one armored vehicle; appoint B. Mdivani as representative of Azerbaijan and transfer the military mission to him; send goods to Iran without damaging the interests of the Azerbaijan Republic; and entrust Sarkis Sarkisov (Danielyan) with the task of checking the quality of the returned goods, etc."40 The point about sending Azeri troops to Iran was promptly fulfilled: on 11 August, an Azeri regiment of 1,200 people headed for Gilan.41

Significantly, the central Soviet government knew very little about the Gilan developments and lacked a consistent program of how to act in the East, in Iran in this particular case. All events were assessed post factum as resulting from unauthorized initiatives of the Bolsheviks sent to the Caucasus and ignited by the enthusiasm of those who had been actively Sovietizing Azerbaijan and who wanted

34 See: S. Rustamova-Tokhidi, Eastern Policy of the Comintern and Iran. 1919-1943, Baku, 2001, p. 179 (in


35 See: Letter from Mirza Kuchak Khan to Lenin, 04.08.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 2, inv. 2, f. 361, sheets 6-7.

36 From a survey of activities of the Iranian Bureau, September 1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 20, sheet 28.

37 See: Letter from B. Shakhtakhtinsky to the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), August 1923, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 2c, f. 3, sheet 50.

38 See: Treaty between the Iranian Soviet Republic and Azerbaijanian SSR, June 1920. APD UDP AR, rec. gr. 1, inv. 45, f. 210, sheet 103.

39 See: Letter from B. Shakhtakhtinsky to the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), August 1923, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 2c, f. 3, sheet 50.

40 Extract from the protocol of a joint sitting of the Political and Organizing Bureaus of the C.C. Az.C.P. (B.), 03.08.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 20, sheets 45-46.

41 Persidskiy front mirovoy revolutsii, p. 153.


to spread the revolution further to the East. Moscow was guided by the desire to tap the Gilan events to the utmost to put pressure on Britain. For example, on 3 August, at the height of the developments in Gilan, People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Chicherin, one of the main protagonists of the Gilan adventure, wrote to Lev Kamenev: "There are rumors that Mirza Kuchak Khan has disappeared; he probably fled to the Brits, which is unimportant; his commander-in-chief, who is much more leftist, replaced him. Soviet Persia will continue living without him. Kuchak is useful because he is popular, but his total lack of understanding of revolutionary policy and excessive sluggishness and prudence are harmful. He cannot be daring—something which is needed today. His commander-in-chief will cope much better... Our positions in the East are strengthening; the armies are filled with revolutionary sentiments; this means that the reactionary state order is shaky. With the help of the Persian movement we have passed a point of no return. It is absolutely clear that the tempo and intensity of our involvement in the East will depend on our British policy. When talking to the Brits, we should consistently point out that if they start a war in Europe they will never achieve anything except incur minor losses on us in the periphery. At the same time, if we tap all the resources we have in the East, we shall be able to deliver a crushing blow to Britain's international positions."42

Georgy Chicherin, who on 3 August boasted of the revolutionary gains in the East, on 4 August complained to the Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) about the very difficult situation in Northern Iran, which had been Sovietized under the Azeri flag: "The situation is serious to the extent that we suggest that the Politburo should immediately, this very minute, dispatch to Persia someone with a wider world outlook and much more respected than Comrade Mdivani." He suggested Shal-va Eliava, who, he believed, would put everything on the right tracks.43 On 5 August, the plenary session of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), having discussed the situation in Persia, decided to dispatch Shalva Eliava for a certain period of time so that he, working together with Sergo Orjonikidze, would set things right.44 Despite the hectic efforts of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), the first onslaught of the Iranian Red Army on Tehran in mid-August ended in an ignominious failure: after fighting at Menjil and sustaining heavy losses, the Iranian Red Army had to retreat. The Bolsheviks who had been sent to Gilan explained the defeat by the extremely low battle-worthiness of the Iranian déclassé elements hurriedly mobilized in Russia and the Caucasus; the units sent from Azerbaijan did not want to fight at all.45 The onslaught on Tehran was realized by the 2nd Azeri Regiment (1,607 soldiers and 23 machineguns) with no fighting experience or even military training. It had been sent from Baku to Anzali together with the 244th Regiment of the 28th Russian Division under Orjonikidze's personal (and totally unmotivated) order. Having suffered a crushing defeat in the Menjil and Kazvin directions, which placed the Soviet structures face to face with the threat of evacuating Rasht, they asked for 1,500 well-trained soldiers from Soviet Russia. The city changed hands several times until its population of 45 thousand fled their ruined and plundered homes. Several thousand who sought shelter in the mountains died from the harsh weather; others, who wandered from one village to another, spread negative information about the communists. In the mosques, imams called for a holy jihad against the Bolsheviks. The British garrison of Menjil, in turn, welcomed the refugees and supplied them with food, clothing, and transport.46

42 Telegram from G. Chicherin to L.B. Kamenev, 03.08.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 2, inv. 2, f. 359, sheet 1.

43 See: Letter from G. Chicherin to the Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), 4.08.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 2, inv. 2, f. 361, sheet 9.

44 See: Extract from Protocol No. 5 (33) of the plenary session of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), 05.08.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 17, inv. 2, f. 33, sheet 1.

45 See: Telegram from the Commanders of the 11th Army to Member of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Caucasian Front V.A. Trifonov, 05.09.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 8, f. 23, sheet 277.

46 See: S. Rustamova-Tokhidi, op. cit., p. 181.


Late in August, driven into a tight corner and willing to restore the lost positions in Iran, the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) issued several decisions: on 21 August, it asked Moscow to dispatch 1,200 more soldiers for a repeat march on Tehran; in an attempt to accelerate the developments in Iran and to settle scores with Azerbaijan, it asked for 1,100 thousand Iranian tomans.47 The financial transactions were treated as a priority: before the money arrived from Moscow the People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan Mirza Davud Huseinov was instructed to pay the money from the gold reserves of Azerbaijan "to speed up the developments in Iran."48 Two days later, the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), having discussed the military situation, decided that the loss of Anzali and Rasht could not be accepted; more troops should been sent to Iran to strengthen the front.49

On 9 September, 1920, after the August defeat, Lev Karakhan summarized the Soviet policy in Iran in a long letter to the C.C. R.C.P. (B.): "Political mistakes and political blunders have compromised the cause of the revolution in the Gilan Province. Revolutionary power did not have enough time to win the sympathies of the people, particularly the peasants. The fact that Russians, Armenians, and Georgians (seen as foreigners) were involved and behaved as conquerors promptly set the entire population against us and decreased its hostile attitude toward the British, while the merchants even sided with them." He offered his analysis of the events in Gilan: "The loss of Persia to the British will deliver a serious blow to our international position (as a demonstration of our weakness), especially in Britain. It will realize that in the East we present no danger, that we can do very little, and beat a retreat in the face of the slightest difficulty." After summing up the information that arrived from Iran, Karakhan also relied on a report from Eliava to suggest political options:

"(1) The forces in Anzali should be strengthened by an expeditionary corps of 8 to 10 thousand, which will allow us to capture Tehran, depose the Shah's government and move further on until we drive the Brits out of Persia. A non-communist government of the Soviet type will be set up in Tehran, to which national-democratic elements should also be invited. This government should rely on peasants while not infringing (for the time being) on the interests of commercial capital. Eliava is quite prepared to realize this plan and has the necessary number of assistants;

(2) We should pull out of Persia while retaining our military presence in Anzali; enter into negotiations with the Shah's government (with which we have never severed relations and with which we maintain correspondence), send our diplomatic mission to Tehran and conclude an agreement of friendship. It is for the C.C. to choose one of the two options. Politically, the first option is preferable because of its immediate effect and because it will deliver a blow to Britain. In the context of the current political changes, this will favorably affect the train of thought of Lloyd George and Curzon and demonstrate that we present a serious and direct threat to Britain, that our aggression in the East directly depends on the way Britain treats us: we will respond to a blow with another blow... If the C.C. approves of the first option we should set up a commission of representatives of the Comintern, Peoples' Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, and the C.C. R.C.P. to draw up plans and instructions for Eliava."50

Twenty-four hours later the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) discussed the situation in Iran and decided to dispatch an armed unit of 1,200 to keep Anzali and Rasht. Haidar Khan Amu Ogly

47 Toman—an Iranian gold coin equal at that time to approximately 0,3 pound sterling.

48 Extract from a protocol of a sitting of the Caucasian Bureau C.C. R.C.P. (B.), 21.08.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 1, sheet 6.

49 See: Extract from a protocol of a sitting of the Caucasian Bureau C.C. R.C.P. (B.), 23.08.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 1, sheet 13.

50 Letter from L. Karakhan to the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), 09.09.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 5, inv. 2, f. 208, sheet 1.


was sent to Tabriz, the Iranian Bureau in Baku was closed down, while all of its files were transferred to the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.); S. Kirov, Sh. Eliava, and E. Stasova were instructed to set up a Propaganda and Action Council of the Peoples of the East stationed in Baku.51 While these decisions were discussed and finally made, the Iranian Bureau mobilized volunteers for the Iranian Red Army (635 of the 832 volunteers were from Azerbaijan).52

The defeat of the ill-considered onslaught on Tehran forced the Bolsheviks stationed in Iran to revive the idea of cooperation with Mirza Kuchak Khan. In the latter half of August, Budu Mdi-vani tried to shift the responsibility for the split with the communists to Kuchak Khan; on 9 September he was ready to cooperate with him: "If you really want to bring freedom to Iran and its unfortunate people, if you want this with all your heart, I will be very glad to join you with confidence. Let's talk and agree to work together."53 In his letter dated 11 September, Kuchak Khan insisted on some of his points, but agreed to meet Mdivani and cooperate with the Soviets.54 The process proved to be a long one: a formal agreement (and short-lived at that) was signed early in May 1921.

The First Congress of the Peoples of the East, which opened in Baku on 1 September, 1920, concentrated on the Gilan events. It was attended by over 2 thousand delegates (over 200 of them came from Iran). By way of explaining why the congress was initiated by Moscow, member of the Italian Caucasian Mission Alexander Bodrero wrote: "Despite the fact that the congress in Baku gathered representatives of the peoples living throughout the vast territory between Bulgaria and Japan, it was absolutely clear that it was organized for the subjugated peoples of Asia Minor and Central Asia."55 On 1 September, Chairman of the Azeri Revolutionary Committee Nariman Narimanov ceremoniously opened the First Congress of the Peoples of the East: "The gray-haired East, which was the first to explain to us what morality and culture meant, will weep today and talk about the grief and the grave wounds inflicted on it by the capital of the bourgeois countries. These peoples of the East, each of them, live their own lives; they cannot remain ignorant of the horror and the oppressive influence of this capital. Today, having familiarized themselves with the situation in each of them, they will acquire a complete picture and only then will all the peoples of the East learn about the oppressive burden of this capital. This will force them to unite and they will arrive at the same conclusion: namely, that they need to pool forces to liberate themselves and break the chains of this capital."56

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The agenda was overburdened, although most of the points were related, directly or indirectly, to the Iranian developments. In view of the importance of the Gilan revolution and in order to arm the Iranian delegates with socialist ideas, all reports and other contributions were translated into Farsi. Grigory Zinoviev and Karl Radek spoke at the congress as representatives of Soviet Russia and the Comintern; both were obviously anti-British. Haidar Khan Amu Ogly spoke on behalf of the Iranian delegation and delivered the main report. He, however, said nothing about the blunders and errors of the Iranian revolution; the futile Bolshevik efforts to build communism in Gilan; or the activities of the leftist group that closed ranks around the leader of the C.C. I.C.P. A. Sultan-zade (Mikaelyan). It was Narimanov who insisted that Amu Ogly, not Sultan-zade,

51 See: Extract from a protocol of a meeting of the Caucasian Bureau C.C. R.C.P. (B.), 10.09.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 1, sheet 16.

52 See: From a survey of the activities of the Iranian Bureau, September 1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 20, sheet 32.

53 Letter from B. Mdivani to Kuchak Khan, 09.09.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 495, inv. 90, f. 11, sheets 5-6.

54 See: Letter from Mirza Kuchak Khan to B. Mdivani, 11.09.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 495, inv. 90, f. 49, sheet 23.

55 A. Bodrero, Report on his trip to Baku, 18 September 1920, Archives d'Ali Mardan-bey Toptchibachi. Carton No. 1. Le Centre d'études des mondes Russe, Caucasien et Centre-Européen (CERCEC), l'École des Hautes études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS, Paris), p. 9.

56 The First Congress of the Peoples of the East. Verbatim Report, Baku, 1-7 September, 1920, Petrograd, 1920, pp. 27-28.


should address the second sitting of the Congress in the name of the Iranian communists. Karl Radek, one of the Congress's leaders, later reported to the Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) that in the course of the Congress it had turned out that "the Azeri comrades, with Narimanov as their head, refused to work with a group of Persian comrades headed by Sultan-zade that had already developed into a communist party. The Azeris placed their stakes on Haidar Khan who, they believed, would develop into a leader of the revolutionary-democratic movement. At the Congress, both Haidar Khan and Sultan-zade outwardly obeyed the discipline of the Comintern. After the Congress, however, Sultan-zade was actually elbowed out of party activities in Baku."57 Radek pointed out that Haidar Khan, with the Azeri leaders behind him, was moving to the forefront of the Iranian developments. The Iranian side was well aware that Soviet Azerbaijan was interfering in the Gilan developments. The Iranian consul in Tiflis protested against it in a note to the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan of 13 September, 1920.58

The Baku Congress of the Peoples of the East and the End of the First Stage of the Gilan Revolution

On 4 September, while still at the Congress in Baku, Haidar Khan gathered 121 Iranian delegates to talk about the mistakes the C.C. I.C.P. had made during the Gilan events. The list was a long one: severing ties with Kuchak Khan; failure to fulfill the decisions of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.); discontinued financing of the Gilan Republic (explained by its disagreements with the national-revolutionary forces); defection of a large number of Tehran Cossacks to the counterrevolutionaries (when the Khamadan Cossack detachment was disarmed in Rasht); deliberate interference in Kuchak Khan's successful operations; the obvious inability to draw the revolutionary-minded part of the population of Tehran, Tabriz, and Astara to its side; failure of the march on Mazandaran; inability to set up a state apparatus capable of correctly and honestly executing the decisions of the C.C.; maltreatment of the peasants; criminal retreat from Rasht, etc.59 In fact, Haidar Khan and his supporters, who gathered to accuse the C.C. IRC of leftism, were just as leftist themselves. He believed that the units of Iranian internationalists could be used to build an Iranian national Red Army based in Baku to be sent to capture Tabriz, establish a Soviet republic there, and move on to Tehran.

The results of the Baku Congress of the Peoples of the East revealed that politically and ideologically it was geared toward the interests of Soviet Russia. Moscow had done nothing to camouflage the anti-British nature of the first large-scale meeting of the communist and leftist organizations of the peoples of the East. A month later, Foreign Secretary of the UK Lord Curzon wrote in a note to Chicherin that the congress "raised a veritable storm of propaganda, intrigues and conspiracies against the British interests and British power in Asia."60 The Congress had barely closed down with suitable pomp when Narimanov received a letter from Chicherin in which, speaking in the name of C.C.

57 V. Genis, op. cit., p. 272.

58 See: Note of the Iranian Consul in Tiflis to the Peoples' Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the Azerbaijanian S.S.R. 13.09.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 17, inv. 86, f. 125, sheet 33.

59 See: Resolution of the meeting of the Persian group of communist delegates to the First Congress of the Peoples of the East, 04.04.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 495, inv. 90, f. 5, sheets 7-8.

60 S. Rustamova-Tokhidi, op. cit., p. 144.


R.C.P. (B.), the People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs instructed Narimanov to stay away from the Iranian revolutionaries so as not to undermine relations with Britain. The letter and the recommendations were an echo of the mounting British pressure on Soviet Russia.

The First Congress of the Peoples of the East held in Baku demonstrated that the Soviets regarded Azerbaijan as the hub of the anti-imperialist struggle. Moscow intended to use the Azeri and Central Asian Muslims to deliver a heavy blow to Great Britain's prestige in the Middle East, squeeze the European countries from the region, and impose Soviet conditions on London. In 1921, on the eve of signing a treaty with the UK, Head of the Soviet Government Lenin, in an effort to mobilize the peoples of the East against Britain, issued secret instructions to the Soviet diplomatic service: "Oblige Sokolnikov to set up, as if by chance, a Horasan Soviet republic by spring; send special envoys to Baku and Tashkent to explain to them that they should double their attacks on British imperialism in the name of Azerbaijan and Bukhara, but not in our name and never mentioning it either in notes or letters. All Eastern peoples should be informed verbally through ambassadors without a single written confirmation that we shall cheat Britain."61

Sent to Gilan, Eliava failed to improve the situation on the front; on 14 September, in his telegram to Moscow, he formulated three options of Soviet Russia's Iranian policy: complete occupation of Iran with the center in Kazvin-Tehran and redeployment of the Red Army to Iranian Azerbaijan, which bordered on Soviet Azerbaijan. He believed that this would not only fortify the Soviet positions around Baku, but also make it possible to press on toward Kermanshah. Under the second option, Soviet Russia could start talking to the Iranian government formally in an anti-British, but actually in an Anglophilic, vein and, having exploited this for propaganda purposes, launch military operations some time in the future to ensure Russia's interests in Iran. Under the third option, military units and political agitators should be replaced in Gilan with people who understood what Russia wanted in the East. Shalva Eliava had to admit that there were no Iranians in the Iranian Communist Party.62 The next day Eliava tried to convince Chicherin that Anzali, Russia's "gates" in the Caspian, should be preserved: Soviet control over Anzali would deprive the British of the chance to set up an air base there to bomb Baku. On the other hand, in the event of talks in Tehran, Anzali could be used as a lever of pressure.63

The government of Ihsanullah Khan set up late in July 1920 proved to be short-lived. By mid-September, its communist members were replaced with members of the bourgeoisie and even landlords.64 Military defeats and the Cabinet changes forced the C.C. IPC to move its headquarters from Rasht to Baku. On 17 September, the presidium of the Propaganda and Action Council of the Peoples of the East met in Baku. Attended by Nariman Narimanov, Mikhail Pavlovich, Elena Stasova, and Shalva Eliava, the meeting discussed in detail the causes of the Gilan defeat and concluded that it had been a mistake to declare a socialist republic that relied on the Adalyat Party, which had neither authority nor popularity among the local people and no real power. The meeting agreed that the communist changes had been implemented with undue haste, which had caused looting and popular discontent with Soviet policy. The situation was further worsened by the fact that news about the Bolsheviks' harsh policy in Soviet Azerbaijan and gross violations, which caused peasant riots and uprisings, spread with great speed in northern Iran and stirred up negative sentiments among the local people. A strictly confidential summary sent to Moscow said in particular: "In Azerbaijan the local leaders admit that Soviet power survives solely on Russian bayonets."65 The defeat in Iran plunged

61 Lenin's theses on the principles of signing a treaty with Britain, 1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 2, inv. 2, f. 1292, sheets 1-2.

62 See: Telegram from Sh. Eliava to Lenin, Chicherin and Trotsky. 14.09.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 670, inv. 1, f. 51, sheet 121.

63 See: Telegram from Sh. Eliava to G. Chicherin, 15.09.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 670, inv. 1, f. 51, sheet 122.

64 See: Information by G.S. Fridland, September 1920, Russian State Military Archives (further RGVA), rec. gr. 110, inv. 1, f. 84, sheet 58.

65 Conclusions of the Presidium of the Propaganda and Action Council of the Peoples of the East, 17.09.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 20, sheet 58.


Grigory Orjonikidze, an enthusiastic supporter of a march on Tehran, into despondency. On 19 September, he wrote to Lenin in despair that nothing serious could happen in Iran, a socialist revolution least of all. He seemed to be convinced that by distributing land among peasants the revolutionary movement might be revived; however, he added, "we should strengthen our troops and deliver a crushing blow." A peace with Iran, temporary pullout with the aim of liberating these lands with much better forces, looked to him to be the best option.66

On 20 September, the C.C. I.C.P., fully aware of the increasingly obvious desire to blame the Iranian Communist Party for the defeat of the onslaught on Tehran, sent a long letter to the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), copies of which were addressed to Chicherin and Zinoviev. The letter read: "We are accused of failing to inform Moscow and pursuing a course that was not discussed with the Center. These accusations are groundless. Members of the Caucasian, later Iranian, Bureau have prohibited us from addressing Moscow directly. The Iranian Bureau used its members Mdivani and Mikoyan to order the C.C. I.C.P. to operate under the direct leadership of the Iranian Bureau and keep in touch with it. It warned that the slightest attempt at independence would cost us support of the Azeri Communist Party and the R.C.P. In full conformity with this, we were guided by the instructions of the Iranian Bureau." The authors associated the downfall of the Kuchak Khan government with instructions issued by Budu Mdivani and Anastas Mikoyan.67 This letter and information from other sources made it possible to remove A. Mikoyan, V. Lominadze, B. Mdivani, and other members of the leftist group from the Iranian developments. The first stage of the Gilan revolution ended with the serious defeat of Soviet Russia in Iran.

The leaders of Soviet Azerbaijan could not remain indifferent to the defeats in Gilan and especially to the closing down of the Iranian Bureau. On 8 September, Nariman Narimanov sent a confidential letter to Bekhbud Shakhtakhtinsky, his representative in Moscow, in which he complained about the Red Army's arbitrariness in Azerbaijan and condemned the provocative activities of the Mikoyan, Gogoberidze, and Lominadze group in Iran. He used the following words to describe their determined attempts to undermine the influence of the Azerbaijan Revolutionary Committee among the local people: "The problem is that irresponsible people are fanning counterrevolution under the guise of revolution. The same happened to the Persian revolution. Having come from Persia, the same Mikoyan disoriented us. Activities against Kuchak Khan were launched on the strength of his report; I, however, objected to this. What do we have now? Today, we only think of how to keep Anzali. Here is what I have to say: you ignored my warnings and now you are performing a funeral march over the Persian revolution." Narimanov instructed Shakhtakhtinsky to ask Lenin straight away: "Does the Center trust us or not? If it trusts us, it should listen to what we have to say, otherwise it should bury its plans for a coup in the East in our favor. Honestly speaking, I do not think of the East, which is dead to us, at least for the time being, because of the Persian 'intrigues.' I concentrate on keeping Azerbaijan so as not to put Soviet Russia to the test once more." He deemed it necessary to warn: "If they (Lenin and Chicherin.—J.H.) want to keep Baku, they should listen to us. This is directly related to the Persian issue. By the way, upon return from Persia Eliava said that many people should be arrested. This means that I was right. Mdivani ignored my warnings and now is trying to rescue what remains of the troops. Seeing all of this, I cannot remain silent. I refuse to remain silent and serve as a


On 20 September, acting under the strict orders of his superior, Shakhtakhtinsky sent Lenin a long letter, which said in part: "The success of the Persian movement could move the zone of our influence closer to India, Mesopotamia, and Arabia and convince the Muslim world that Soviet Rus-

66 See: Telegram from G. Orjonikidze to Lenin, 19.09.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 5c, f. 4, sheet 5.

67 See: Letter of the C.C. I.C.P. to the C.C. R.C.P. Copies to Chicherin and Zinoviev, 20.09.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 5, inv. 2, f. 144, sheet 4.

68 Letter from N. Narimanov to B. Shakhtakhtinsky, 08.09.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 2c, f. 3, sheet 61.


sia indeed wants to liberate the East and make it independent. Unfortunately, our clumsy policy in Persia stirred up negative sentiments among the Persian masses, which are now hostile toward us." In view of the gravity of the situation, he suggested that the work in Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkey be entrusted to people familiar with the local conditions and the psychology of the popular masses: "Comrade Narimanov is best suited to the task of political guidance in these countries; he should be given the right to handpick his associates, as well as start and carry out tactical methods in the East under control of the Center. There is no need to say that the triumph of communism in the East is the highest aim in life for Narimanov and other Muslim communists." If this candidate was declined, Shakhtakhtinsky suggested that the appointment of "highly respected Comrade Stalin" would be quite useful to the Eastern cause.69

Under Narimanov's strong pressure, the leftist group was excluded from the Iranian developments. Chairman of the Comintern Executive Committee Grigory Zinovyev, who arrived in Baku to attend the Congress of the Peoples of the East, insisted that the Organizing Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) revoke the decision to remove Mikoyan, Lominadze, and other members of the leftist group from Baku because, he argued, it would look like a repressive measure and encouragement of Narimanov and his circle.70 Later, Narimanov admitted that even though he had been a confirmed opponent of Mikoyan, the latter had been removed from the Iranian context without his interference. It seems that he did not know why Mikoyan had been recalled from Baku and "whether it was connected with the communist revolution in Iran or whether there was some other reason."71

On 25-26 October, a meeting of the C.C. I.C.P. held in Baku discussed in detail the events in Gilan. The Propaganda and Action Council of the Peoples of the East was represented by Nariman Narimanov, Mikhail Pavlovich, and Anatoly Skachko; the Communist Party of Turkey by Mustafa Suphi, etc. The meeting listened to what A. Sultan-zade and Amu Ogly had to say about the communist tactics in Iran. Sultan-zade complained that there were internal and external factors that had contributed to the defeat, along with incessant interference in the Gilan events by the C.C. Az.C.P. (B.) and the commanders of the Russian Red Army in Iran. Amu Ogly, on the other hand, voiced his conviction that the leaders of the C.C. I.C.P., which had severed contacts with Kuchak Khan, and personally A. Sultan-zade, as one of them, were responsible for the failure. Sultan-zade continued to accuse the leaders of Azerbaijan; this forced Narimanov to demand that Sultan-zade should familiarize the meeting with what had been said six months before, on the eve of his (Narimanov's) first visit to Iran. In an effort to avoid a direct answer, Sultan-zade started talking about a letter he had received from Kuchak Khan at approximately the same time in which he had called the Bolsheviks irresponsible adventurers and refused to cooperate with any of the parties. At that time, Sultan-zade had pinned his hopes on an agrarian revolution because, he argued, the landlords would never side with the revolution. He clarified his point: "I have always been of this opinion and support it today. In Iran we should fight not only the Brits and the Shah, but also the landlords." Narimanov had no choice but to reveal what had been said between them six months ago: "At that time, Sultan-zade asked for my advice and I explained to him how we should proceed in Persia. He disagreed and followed his own course. Today, six months later he has agreed that my course was the right one, but for six months he was following a different course."72 The meeting accepted the Council's decision to disband the C.C. I.C.P. as correct and valid.

69 Letter from B. Shakhtakhtinsky to Lenin, 20.09.1920. APD UDP AR, rec. gr. 1, inv. 1, f. 2a, sheets 27-30.

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70 See: Letter from G. Zinoviev to the Organizing Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), September 1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 17, inv. 112, f. 72, sheet 9.

71 RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 2c, f. 3, sheet 17.

72 From a verbatim report of a meeting of the C.C. Iranian Communist Party and responsible officials in Persia, 25-26.10.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 544, inv. 3, f. 2, sheet 67.


The Soviet-Iranian Friendship Treaty Signed in February 1921

In the fall of 1920, while the Iranian communists and the Baku Bolsheviks remained locked in sharp polemics on the tactics of onslaught on Tehran, the Bolshevik government of Russia (still shocked by the severe defeat in Gilan) deemed it wise to enter into talks with the Iranian government and establish diplomatic relations with it. On 20 September, a plenary session of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) disagreed with the aggressive tactics Lev Karakhan had outlined on 9 September, 1920 in favor of negotiations with Tehran. The corresponding document clarified the point: "Instruct the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs to follow the second of the suggested courses, that is, talks with the Shah; Anzali should remain in our hands against the British. Dispatch Comrade Stalin to the Caucasus and instruct him to sort out our policy in the Caucasus and the East."73

By that time, the Iranian side had already been working toward restoring diplomatic relations with Soviet Russia. In October 1920, Moshaver ol-Mamalek (Aligoli Khan) had started for Moscow in the capacity of ambassador extraordinary; during a stopover in Baku he met Narimanov, People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs M. Huseinov, and Head of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) Orjonikidze. The latter informed Moscow that the ambassador had spoken about a pullout of Soviet troops from Persia, liquidation of the Rasht Front, and peace talks between Tehran and Moscow. When talking to the ambassador, Narimanov did not conceal the fact that the troops so far stationed in Gilan and the additional troops dispatched there three days before belonged to Azerbaijan and that they remained there to protect the interests of Azerbaijan against the British. This statement allowed Orjonikidze to reject the term "armistice" the Iranians planned to use in the coming Soviet-Iranian talks as irrelevant since there were no Soviet Russian troops and, therefore, no armed clashes. At the same time, Russia was still willing to mediate between the governments of Iran and Azerbaijan. Orjonikidze obviously did not know that on 7 September, Ambassador of Iran in London Ghaffar Khan had sent a note to Georgy Chicherin in which he pointed out that the troops stationed in Iran belonged to Soviet Russia. It was with "regret" that the ambassador informed the Russians that the Persian troops had captured Gilan and taken prisoners, including a certain Mikhail Shutov, who, when interrogated, said that there were 800 Russians in his regiment and that all the commanders were Russians. The Iranian ambassador was aggrieved by the fact that these objectionable events were taking place at a time when the ambassador extraordinary was preparing for talks in Moscow. This note drove the commissar into a desperate situation; irritated, he wrote to the People's Commissar for Naval Affairs: "We insist that we have no troops in Persia and that we are not sending troops there. Meanwhile, prisoners are saying ... that our troops are in Persia. This is scandalous."74 Then Chicherin turned to Narimanov: "How could this scandal have happened? The Gilan troops should have been registered as volunteer or as Persian troops."75

Nariman Narimanov, who had fortified his position after the Congress of the Peoples of the East, asked his closest associate Haidar Khan Amu Ogly and other Iranian communists to re-establish ties with Kuchak Khan and helped them with this task. Through his personal representative in Gilan, Narimanov contacted Kuchak Khan. In his letters, Kuchak Khan wrote about Narimanov as "a leader of the revolutionary movement in the East, founder of the world's first Muslim political party, and a writer who reveals in his historical works the subtleties of the spiritual world and everyday life of the East." Narimanov's letter, which spoke of his closeness to the Iranian revolution,

Decision of the plenary session of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), 20.09.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 17, inv. 2, f. 34, sheet 3.

M.A. Persits, op. cit., pp. 141-142.

Ibid., pp. 142-143.


produced a strong impression on Kuchak Khan who, in turn, addressed Haidar Khan as "dear friend;" he expressed his conviction that his arrival in Iran would promote the cause of the Gilan revolution.76

In November 1920, while Stalin was staying in Baku, the situation in the C.C. I.C.P. and the Eastern policy of the Soviets caused heated debates. Stalin was dead set against closer contacts between the communists and Kuchak Khan, but defended Haidar Khan, one of the most convicted supporters of rapprochement with Kuchak Khan. He, and not Sultan-zade, was invited to a meeting with Stalin at a joint sitting of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), Revolutionary Committee of Azerbaijan, and other Soviet organizations.77 In a telegram to Lenin dated 16 November, Stalin informed him that the C.C. I.C.P. had received new members: Sultan-zade and his cronies had been replaced with Haidar Khan and Iranian proletarians from Baku; this was when it was decided to move the center of the Iranian revolution to Tabriz, which looked to be a much more revolutionary province. Stalin believed that in Iran only a bourgeois revolution that would rely on the middle class was possible; the Iranian communists received corresponding directives.78

On 27 November, the Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) discussed Stalin's long and detailed report on the state of affairs in the Caucasus and instructed him and Chicherin to formulate a much clearer policy with the states bordering on the Caucasian countries: "Assume as reconciliatory policy as possible in our relations with Georgia, Armenia, Turkey, and Persia, that is, a policy designed to avoid war. No march on Georgia, Armenia, or Persia should be planned; protection of Azerbaijan and firm control of the entire Caspian should be formulated as our main goal."79 Several days earlier, on 15 November, the Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) had appointed Feodor Rotstein as representative of Soviet Russia in Iran. Georgy Chicherin had recommended him as a man well-versed in British foreign policy (London's relations with Persia in particular) and contemporary history of Iran. The People's Commissar concluded: "He is undoubtedly the best."80

On 28 November, the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs informed the Iranian government that Feodor Rotstein had been appointed Envoy Plenipotentiary of the R.S.F.S.R. in Tehran. These decisions and the official talks did not keep the Bolsheviks away from Gilan: their military-political interference went on for some time. Late in November 1920, Vassily Kargareteli, who commanded the troops in Iran, was replaced with Nikolay Gikalo on Orjonikidze's personal orders.81 On 29 November, Gikalo assumed command of the Iranian revolutionary army of 3 thousand infantrymen and 300 cavalrymen. The newly appointed commander hastened to inform Or-jonikidze of the true state of affairs: the army was despondent, therefore "with such soldiers he would not be able to fulfill the tasks imposed on him." He also said that the local people greeted the Red Army and that, therefore, only Russian units should be sent to Iran.82 Despite his suggestions, the general feeling in the Iranian revolutionary army remained the same. By early 1921, 800 of the total 3,500 soldiers and officers were local people, the rest were Russian and Azeri Red Army men.83

76 See: S. Rustamova-Tokhidi, op. cit., pp. 268-269.

77 See: Stalin's Report about His Trip to the Caucasus, November 1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 5, inv. 3, f. 258, sheet 3.

78 See: Stalin's telegram to Lenin, 16.11.1920, State Archives of the Russian Federation (further GA RF), rec. gr. 130, inv. 4, f. 464, sheet 119.

79 Extract from Protocol No. 66 of a meeting of the Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), 27.11.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 17, inv. 3, f. 125, sheet 1.

80 G. Chicherin to N. Krestinsky, 14.11.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 5, inv. 2, f. 12, sheet 57.

81 See: Urgent telegram from G. Orjonikidze to V. Trifonov, 22.11. 1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 2, f. 2, sheet 252.

82 See: Report of N. Gikalo to G. Orjonikidze, 10.12.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 2, f. 27, sheet 12.

83 See: Telegram from the Deputy Envoy Plenipotentiary of the Revolutionary Committee of Azerbaijan in Iran to the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs of the Azerbaijanian S.S.R., 14.02.1921, State Archives of the Azerbaijan Republic (further on GA AR), rec. gr. 28, inv. 1, f. 108, sheet 4.


Narimanov could do little to restore the severed ties with Kuchak Khan; in the fall of 1920 the leaders of the R.S.F.S.R. made the talks with Iran official: they wanted diplomatic relations with this country. Early in December 1920, first the Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), then the C.C. plenary session, approved the main principles of a draft trade treaty with Britain and a treaty with Iran as presented by the People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs.84 On 7 December, a plenary session of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) adopted the text of the treaty with Iran; the same day, Lev Karakhan informed Shalva Eliava in Baku about the conditions of the Soviet pullout from Anzali and Rasht. The Deputy People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs wrote that the Soviet pullout should be predated by a British decision to leave Iran and that the British decision would be followed by a Soviet official statement that "these points (Anzali and Rasht.—Ed.) were occupied by the Red Troops of the Azerbaijan Republic only with the aim of protecting its borders against the British threat which had set up bases in Anzali and Rasht to attack Azerbaijan." He also warned that the treaty would be signed only when the government of Ihsanullah Khan had been liquidated.85

On 6 January, 1921, Lev Karakhan informed the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) that the talks with the Iranian government had been completed and that all the instructions issued by the C.C. (except that demanding legalization of all political parties operating in Iran) had been taken into account. The Iranians were baffled by the insistence with which a foreign state (the R.S.F.S.R. in this case) tried to impose on Tehran a clause under which communist and leftist parties would be allowed to freely operate in Iran: this was correctly assessed as interference in Iran's domestic affairs. In Iran, only those political parties were permitted that remained within the country's Constitution and did not plan a violent regime change. Karakhan reported in the name of his Commissariat that if the C.C. continued insisting on this clause the process would drag on indefinitely and would hardly be approved by the Iranian Majlis. He wrote that the People's Commissariat suggested that the Iranian formula should be accepted.86 The Iranian side flatly refused to sign the secret protocols to the treaty suggested by Moscow, which stipulated that the R.S.F.S.R. would have the right to bring its troops into Iran under special circumstances (if enemy forces operated in the territory of one of the sides or if a third country tried to use the Iranian territory for military purposes). The Iranian side wanted to see the clauses in the main text.87

The sides found it hard to see eye-to-eye on the problem of the property and goods of Iranian merchants (totaling 30 million gold rubles) confiscated by the Baku authorities on instructions from Moscow. While the Russian side was deliberately creating obstacles, Narimanov issued a directive outside the C.C. Az.C.P. (B.) and the Council of People's Commissars, which supplied the Iranian side with an official document. It was Shakhtakhtinsky's task (he was one of the participants in the Soviet-Iranian conference) to explain that the delays were caused by bureaucratic red tape. The Iranians would have found it hard to believe that the document signed by the prime minister was not worth the paper it was typed on and that no one treated his signature seriously. It should be said that the first plenary session of the Soviet-Iranian conference spent hours trying to sort out an issue of primary importance for the Iranians and, after failing to find a solution, adjourned for three months.88

Chicherin and Narimanov quarreled over the future of the confiscated Iranian property and goods: the Chairman of the Government of the Azerbaijan S.S.R. was straightforward: he accused the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs of Soviet Russia of hypocrisy.89 On 22 January, 1921,

84 See: Extract from Protocol No. 66 of a meeting of the Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), 04.12.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 17, inv. 3, f. 126, sheet 1.

85 See: Telegram from L. Karakhan to Sh. Eliava, 07.12.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 2, f. 34, sheet 41.

86 See: Letter from L. Karakhan to the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), 06.01.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 5, inv. 3, f. 208, sheets 5-6.

87 See: Persidsky front mirovoy revolutsii, pp. 371-372.

88 See: Letter from B. Shakhtakhtinsky to Stalin, August 1923, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 2c, f. 3, sheet 54.

' See: N. Narimanov, Izbrannye proizvedenia, Vol. 2, Baku, 1989, p. 449.


when an agreement on this issue had finally been reached Lev Karakhan sent Moshaver ol-Mamalek (Aligoli Khan) a note in which he suggested that a special British-Azeri commission be set up under an Iranian chairman on the withdrawal of British and Azeri troops from Iran.90

The Iranian Revolutionary Government was very concerned about the press reports on the Soviet-Iranian talks in Moscow and the upcoming withdrawal of the Red Army from Iran. On 5 February, Ihsanullah Khan, Riza Sarhoj, member of the Revolutionary Committee in his Cabinet, and Nikolay Gikalo, commander of the Iranian Red Army, sent an urgent telegram to Lenin in which they asked him not to sign the agreement with the Shah's government. They argued, with good reason, that neither the Shah, nor his father or grandfather, had been elected and that "for centuries they were turning Iran into a graveyard and suppressed people's yearning for freedom." They went on to say that all treaties signed by the Shah and his government were anti-popular and, therefore, rejected by the people.91 On 14 February, the envoy plenipotentiary of the Revolutionary Committee of Azerbaijan in Iran reported to the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs that for ten days the Iranian Revolutionary Government had been busy discussing possible repercussions of the Soviet withdrawal and possible actions in the crisis period.92

On 26 February, 1921, despite the problems and under strong pressure from the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, the treaty between the R.S.F.S.R. and Iran was signed; the events in Tehran made this signing very much needed. On 21 February, a coup staged in Tehran and supported by Cossacks made Seyyed Zia'eddin Tabatabaee prime minister, while the post of minister of war went to Reza Khan, commander of the Cossack units. As its first step, the new Cabinet agreed to sign the Soviet-Iranian treaty. Several days before that, on 21 February, Chicherin had written to Orjoni-kidze that the treaty with Iran should be signed before Leonid Krasin signed a treaty in London. He deemed it necessary to specify that Iran would not sign the treaty while the Soviet government remained in Anzali.93 These doubts were dissipated on 26 February when the Iranian representative in Moscow signed the treaty.

Under Art 1 of the treaty ".desiring that the Persian people should be happy and independent ... the Russian Republic declares the whole body of treaties and conventions concluded with Persia by the Tsarist Government ... null and void. The R.S.F.S.R. formally affirms once again that it definitely renounces the tyrannical policy carried out by the Colonizing Governments of Russia." In Art 2, "Federal Russia ... declares its refusal to participate in any action that might destroy or weaken Persian sovereignty. It regards as null and void the whole body of treaties and conventions concluded by the former Russian Government with third parties in respect of Persia or to the detriment of that country." Under Art 3, "The two Contracting Powers agree to accept and respect the Russo-Persian frontiers, as drawn by the Frontier Commission in 1881." Art 4 said: "Each of the two Contracting Parties formally expresses its desire to abstain from any intervention in the internal affairs of the other." In Art 5, "The two High Contracting Parties undertake (1) to prohibit the formation or presence within their respective territories of any organizations or groups of persons . whose object is to engage in acts of hostility against Persia or Russia. (3) to prevent . the presence within their territories . of armies or forces of a third Party in cases in which the presence of such forces would be regarded as a menace to the frontiers, interests or safety of the other Contracting Party." Art 6 said: ".if a Foreign Power should threaten the frontiers of Federal Russia or those of its Allies, and if the Persian Government should not be able to put a stop to such menace . Russia shall have the right to

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90 See: Dokumenty vneshney politiki SSSR, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, p. 492.

91 Urgent telegram from Ihsanullah Khan, Riza Sarhoç and N.F. Gikalo to Lenin, 05.02.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 5, inv. 1, f. 2198, sheet 3.

92 See: Telegram from the Deputy Envoy Plenipotentiary of the Revolutionary Committee of Azerbaijan in Iran to the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs of the Azerbaijanian SSR, 14.02.1921. GA AR, rec. gr. 28, inv. 1, f. 108, sheet 4.

93 See: Telegram from G. Chicherin to G. Orjonikidze, 21.02.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 2, f. 38, sheet 2.


advance her troops into the Persian interior for the purpose of carrying out any military operation necessary for its defense. Russia undertakes, however, to withdraw her troops from Persian territory as soon as the danger has been removed." This article forced Britain to demonstrate caution in its relations with Iran. Art 11 said that "the two High Contracting Parties shall enjoy equal rights of free navigation on that [the Caspian] Sea, under their own flags." Other articles dealt with mail, telegraph, transport, and economic issues.94 Seven articles out of 26 were related, directly or indirectly, to Azerbaijan. Despite several favorable points for Iran, the treaty, on the whole, was not as politically equal as it was declared: while under Art 1, "the Russian Republic declares the whole body of treaties and conventions concluded with Persia by the Czarist Government ... null and void," Art 6 laid the foundations for another type of inequality.95

The All-Russia Central Executive Committee ratified the perpetual Soviet-Iranian Treaty on 29 March, 1921; the Iranian side bided for time until all the debatable issues had been settled. Chicherin was convinced that irrespective of who came to power in Iran, the treaty would be ratified anyway. He believed that the treaty would not merely deliver a moral blow to Britain, but would also force it take Soviet Russia into account. In a note to the Iranian ambassador, he pointed out that as soon as the British troops left Iran, the Azeri Red Army would, in turn, be pulled out of Northern Iran. The Iranian ambassador, however, was not enthused by Chicherin's invitation to set up a British-Azeri commission: he doubted that Britain would welcome Azerbaijan as a partner— it preferred to work with Russia.96

"The Foolishness of the Persian Revolutionaries Leaves Even the Gods Baffled"

The newly signed treaty started a flow of instructions in which the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs demanded that Baku liquidate the Gilan Republic; on 17 March, 1921 in an effort to stop the deluge of telegrams, Narimanov and Huseinov informed Orjonikidze in Tiflis: "We are not opposed to liquidation. We want to raise the issue as part of the Azeri-Persian talks, which should begin immediately. Yesterday, Shakhtakhtinsky, at our request, promised to reply today after consultations with Chicherin. If you agree to start talks please let us know."97

Despite the treaty signed in Moscow, Tehran refused to receive Envoy Extraordinary of Soviet Russia Feodor Rotstein until the Gilan Republic had been liquidated. On 21 March, the Iranian consul in Baku informed the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Iran in Moscow that despite the order that had arrived from Moscow the Gilan Republic had not been liquidated and that nothing had been done to start the process.98 In a confidential telegram to Chicherin, Rotstein wrote that Tehran explained its refusal to let him into the country by the fact that the Gilan Republic had not been disbanded and the Soviet troops remained in Iran.99 Late in April, having crisscrossed Northern Iran

94 Treaty of Friendship between Persia and the Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic, signed at Moscow, February 26, 1921, available at [http://www.worldlii.org/int/other/LNTSer/1922/69.html].

95 See: J. Hasanli, SSSR-Iran: Azerbaidzhansky krizis i nachalo kholodnoy voyny (1941-1946), Moscow, 2006, p. 9.

96 See: Letter from G. Chicherin to V. Kopp, 20.03.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. C/Turtsia, f. 29, sheet 42.

97 Telegram from N. Narimanov and M.D. Huseinov to Orjonikidze, 17.03.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 2, f. 38, sheet 7.

98 See: Telegram from the Iranian consul in Baku to Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary in Moscow, 21.03.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 2, f. 38, sheet 8.

99 See: Telegram from F. Rotstein to G. Chicherin, 24.03.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 5, inv. 1, f. 2198, sheet 9.


in an unofficial capacity, Rotstein reached Tehran. On 30 March, 2 and 7 April, in three telegrams, Chicherin ordered Orjonikidze to liquidate the Gilan Republic: "We insist in the most resolute terms that you demonstrate iron will and cut short all attempts to undermine our policy in Persia, the linchpin of our Eastern policy. A new adventure should be avoided at all costs. Don't hesitate to use extreme measures to stop the local people from becoming engaged in another adventure in Persia. The Soviet government of Ihsanullah Khan should be immediately disbanded, which does not mean that a shah governor should assume power—Azeri occupational power will remain in Anzali until British and Azeris simultaneously pull out of Persia. The Soviet government in Gilan should be disbanded immediately without waiting for the pullout."100

The leaders of Soviet Azerbaijan resisted as well as they could; on 11 April, I. Levin, a member of the Rotstein mission left behind in Baku until the situation with the newly appointed Russian envoy was clarified, reported to Chicherin: "After listening to Orjonikidze's report about Moscow's explicit order to liquidate the Gilan Republic, Ali Haidar Garaev came forward with the following motivated statement to the effect that Moscow was free to announce that the Gilan Republic had been liquidated, however, Azerbaijan as an independent republic would not liquidate the Gilan Republic. Because of what is going on in Tehran, it helps the Gilan Republic with manpower and armaments. On the other hand, the members of the Gilan Government unwilling to be liquidated will put a spoke in our


Moscow's pressure finally overcame the unwillingness of the Azeri leaders and resistance of Ihsanullah Khan; on 6 May, Sergo Orjonikidze disbanded the Iranian Red Army and the Military Revolutionary Council. A separate rifle brigade based on the military units of the Azerbaijanian SSR, the 11th Army and the liquidated Iranian army was set up in the Rasht-Anzali under Nikolay Gikalo. All departments of the liquidated Iranian army were sent to Baku under the command of the People's Commissariat for Naval Affairs of Azerbaijan. Despite the changes in the military structures and the agreement on cooperation between the C.C. I.C.P. headed by Haidar Khan and Kuchak Khan signed on 6 May, 1921, in the summer of 1921 another attempt to take Tehran by storm failed. Under the agreement, the sides planned to develop friendly relations with the governments of Soviet Russia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia and expected their assistance.102

After the agreement of 6 May, the sides scored several minor victories, although they were unable to avoid a crushing defeat. On 13 July, Izvestia published Narimanov's telegram about Ihsanullah Khan's victory near Mazandaran; after that, in his letter to Chicherin, the Iranian ambassador raised the question of the continued presence of Russian volunteers in Gilan and pointed out that "Azerbaijan treats the Russo-Persian treaty as dead letter."103 It was on Chicherin's insistence that the Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) made it incumbent on the government of Azerbaijan to publish an official denial. On 26 July, a statement issued by People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Huseinov appeared in Kommunist, the newspaper published by the Az.C.P. (B.); it said that the government of Azerbaijan maintained no contacts with Ihsanullah Khan and extended no assistance to him. Three days later, on 29 July, in a ciphered telegram, Huseinov informed Chicherin about his official state-ment.104 In his telegram to Chicherin, Soviet Ambassador Feodor Rotstein asked the People's Commissar to prevent Azerbaijan from interfering in Iranian affairs: "The foolishness of the Persian revolutionaries leaves even the gods baffled, but we should act resolutely against the Azeris."105 In his telegram to Chicherin, which sounded like an ultimatum (a copy was addressed to Lenin), the am-

100 Telegram from G. Chicherin to G. Orjonikidze, 05.04.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 2, f. 38, sheet 12.

101 Telegram from I. Levin to G. Chicherin, 11.04.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 5, inv. 1, f. 2198, sheet 11.

102 See: An Agreement on Joint Action between the Communists (Haidar Khan) and Jangalists (Kuchak Khan), 07.05.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 544, inv. 3, f. 70, sheet 123.

103 Letter from G. Chicherin to the Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), 14.07.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 2, inv. 2, f. 740, sheet 1.

104 See: Telegram from M.D. Huseinov to G. Chicherin, 29.07.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 2, f. 18, sheet 1.

105 Telegram from F. Rotstein to G. Chicherin, 12.07.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 5, inv. 1, f. 2198, sheet 30.


bassador demanded: "Either Baku should obey me in everything related to Persia or I should be instructed to take orders from Baku. There is no third way. If instructed to take orders from Baku, I will have no choice but to lower the flag and leave Persia."106 And several days later: "If you approve of a double policy my mission is senseless."107 Feodor Rotstein spoke his mind to the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan; his letter to M.D. Huseinov said in part: "Your purely Baku-style Iranian policy, which contradicts state interests, is stuck in my throat and has disarranged my efforts. As long as unofficial contacts between Baku and the khans of all ilks who call themselves revolutionaries continue, no correct relations with Tehran will be possible." The diplomat deemed it necessary to warn that the Iranian army was strong enough to drive these khans from their positions and that Reza Khan (the war minister, four years later he ascended the throne as Shah of Iran Reza Pahlavi and ruled from 1925 to 1941) "was nearly driven to tears when pleading for my permission to do this."108

In fact, the delays with the pullout of Soviet troops from Gilan in 1921 were caused by a coup in Tehran. The new Cabinet of Ahmad Qavam os-Saltaneh was Anglophilic, which meant that Rotstein had no choice but to recommend Chicherin and Orjonikidze to postpone the pullout: "Today, a sort of front in Gilan is needed to terrorize the new Cabinet of the shah, therefore, you should wait a little with troop withdrawal. I have already presented certain claims to the Cabinet; when they are satisfied I shall give you a signal to start withdrawal. I also recommend holding the Iranian Revolutionary Committee and Kuchak back from any actions. You should continue threatening Tehran for the same purpose. If you follow my advice or if there appears another, more acceptable cabinet, you should withdraw your support from the Revolutionary Committee, of which I will inform you in due time."109 Simultaneously, Rotstein sent note after note to the Iranian Foreign Ministry about the progress of the Soviet pullout from Gilan. After familiarizing himself with the notes Chicherin scolded Rotstein: "Why have you started talking about the pullout from Gilan today if you and Raskolnikov left last year leaving the Azeri army behind?"110 As soon as Raskolnikov had been recalled from Iran, Chicherin recommended in his letters that the Soviet army in Iran be forgotten and insisted that only units of the "occupational army of Azerbaijan" remain in Gi-lan.111 The developments in Northern Iran convincingly demonstrated that "independence" of Azerbaijan was a trump card put on the table every time the Great Powers resumed their unseemly double game.

During their meeting, Premier Qavam assured Rotstein that eventually the Cabinet would acquire new members, but nothing of the sort was done. In October 1921, in his report to Chicherin, the Soviet ambassador had to admit that although Qavam had promised to follow his advice, "he cheated me and the Soviet government in my person."112 In October 1921, on a request from Rotstein and under pressure of War Minister Reza Khan, Qavam finally replaced some of the members of his Cabinet.

In mid-August 1921, after the war of telegrams between Rotstein and Moscow and Baku, Lenin, when on leave, decided to take the Iranian developments under his control. He pacified Rotstein by saying that, according to Chicherin, Baku had withdrawn its support from Ihsanullah Khan. In his letter to Rotstein, Lenin was quite sincere: "I think that I can agree with your cautious policy in Persia. Can you write a couple of works about Persia to teach us all about a subject which is highly interesting and absolutely unknown to us?"113

106 Telegram from F. Rotstein to G. Chicherin, 11.07.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 5, inv. 1, f. 2198, sheet 32.

107 Telegram from F. Rotstein to G. Chicherin. 12-15.07.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 5, inv. 1, f. 2198, sheet 35.

108 Persidskiy front mirovoy revolutsii, p. 403.

109 Urgent telegram from F. Rotstein to G. Chicherin, 15.06.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 2, f. 38, sheet 13.

110 Telegram from G. Chicherin to F. Rotstein, 11.08.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 5, inv. 1, f. 2113, sheet 17.

111 Urgent telegram from G. Chicherin to G. Orjonikidze, 18.04.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 5, inv. 1, f. 2097, sheet 23.

112 F. Rotstein's report to G. Chicherin, 08-10.10.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 5, inv. 1, f. 2153, sheet 32-35.

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113 Letter from Lenin to Rotstein, 13.08.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 2, inv. 1, f. 24615, sheet 2.


On 15 August, the plenary session of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) passed the following decisions on Orjonikidze's report On the Situation in Persia:

"(a) withdraw support from Kuchak Khan and Ihsanullah Khan;

(b) suggest that they should leave Iran together with their troops if they agreed; and

(c) step up efforts to organize a Communist Party in Persia."114

This means that the Gilan adventure the Bolsheviks had launched in the spring of 1920 was nearing its end.

The treaty of 26 February, 1921 made meaningless the efforts of Soviet Russia to promote the revolutionary movement in Gilan with the help of volunteers. On 24 September, in an urgent ciphered telegram, Rotstein informed Chicherin that he had learned from "reliable sources" about the plans of "Azerbaijanian Soviet imperialism regarding Persia"115 and the planned march on Tehran; this, however, was never confirmed. As if ignorant of the Gilan epopee, the Soviet ambassador was still convinced that Baku was the source of the evil and was guilty of everything that had gone wrong. Late in 1921, in one of his numerous telegrams to Chicherin, he wrote: "Under the czarist regime we looked at Persia as our lawful prey, which we had failed to turn into a gubernia or several gubernias of the Russian Empire because of the British. I suspect or am even convinced that this imperialist instinct is still alive in our people in Baku and even partly in Tashkent, in whom it has acquired a Soviet and even communist form in full accordance with our new order."116 In September-October 1921, these intrigues and disagreements ended in a squabble between Kuchak Khan and Haidar Khan Amu Ogly and, on the whole, between their followers, the Jangalians and Communists, which ended in the deaths of both leaders; their followers dispersed. On 3 October, the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), having discussed the Persian question, made Sergey Kirov personally responsible for preventing Azerbaijan from extending support to Kuchak Khan and other forces in Iran.117 On 7 November, Ihsanullah Khan and his supporters arrived in Baku from Anzali; the next day, Orjonikidze and Kirov solemnly reported to Lenin and Stalin: "Everything has ended in Persia,"118 but immediately suggested that the new arrivals be used to set up an illegal Iranian Committee for Freedom. The Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) resolutely objected to this and prohibited them from moving in this direction.119 On 15 December, 1921, when everything had ended in Persia, the Iranian Majlis ratified the treaty between Iran and the R.S.F.S.R signed in Moscow on 26 February.120 Early in 1922, Deputy People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan A. Andreev reported to Moscow that the Gilan Republic had been liquidated, Ihsanullah Khan had found shelter in Azerbaijan, Kuchak Khan was dead, while Rotstein advised the revolutionaries to leave Rasht and seek safety in Russia. At first, Ahmad Qavam os-Saltaneh intended to display the severed head of Kuchak Khan for everyone to see, but Feodor Rotstein managed to dissuade him.121 In this way the Gilan Revolution and the Bolshevist adventure in Iran came to their sad end.

114 Extract from Protocol No. 16 of the plenary session of the Caucasian Bureau C.C. R.C.P. (B.), 15.08.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 1, sheet 138.

115 Ciphered telegram from F. Rotstein to G. Chicherin, 27.10.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 2, inv. 2, f. 1015, sheet 1.

116 Telegram from F. Rotstein to G. Chicherin, 15.12.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 5, inv. 1, f. 2153, sheet 93.

117 Extract from Protocol No. 64 of the sitting of the Politburo C.C. R.C.P. (B.), 03.10.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 17, inv. 3, f. 210, sheet 3.

118 Telegram from G. Orjonikidze and S. Kirov to Lenin and Stalin, 08.11.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 2, inv. 2, f. 999, sheet 1.

119 See: Extract from Protocol No. 77 of the sitting of the Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), 17.11.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 17, inv. 3, f. 231, sheet 1.

120 See: Request for Views as to the Consistency of Certain Articles of the Soviet-iranian Treaty of February 26, 1921 with the Charter of the United Nations, National Archives and Records Administration of the USA, RG 59, Box: 3398, NND 7600050, Doc. 761.91/2-648.

121 See: Information of A. Andreev to the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs of the RSFSR, 1922, APD UDP AR, rec. gr. 276, inv. 5, f. 1, sheets 66-67.


The defeat of the revolution in Gilan dealt a heavy blow to Narimanov's political prestige and caused him strong and never assuaging pain which prevented him from making it up with Chicherin. Later, in a letter to Ibrahim Abilov, he unburdened his soul: "All the ideas Chicherin used in the Eastern policy are false. Iran has obviously turned its back on us. Chicherin, who has fallen into the British trap, extinguished the flame of the Iranian revolution."122 In his letter to Stalin "On the History of Our Revolution in the Periphery," Narimanov shared his bitter thoughts and discussed the failures of the Soviet Eastern policy: the revolutionary process in Iran died "at the hands of Rotstein;" he further wrote: "We killed the liberation movement in Persia with our own hands, just as Lloyd George wanted this, because this is how some of our comrades understood the Eastern policy."123 In his letter to the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) (the Eastern Question Section) addressed to Stalin, Trotsky, and Radek, Narimanov directly accused Chicherin of the failure of the Iranian revolution. Georgy Chicherin had to justify himself in written form. In his letter to the Secretary of the Control Commission of the R.C.P. (B.) Emelyan Yaroslavsky (Miney Gubelman), he pointed out that he had never departed from the course of the Central Committee with respect to the party's Eastern policy: "At that time it was Comrade Narimanov's Eastern policy that wandered far from the course of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), therefore, it became necessary, at a sitting of the Politburo and plenary session of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), to remind the Caucasian comrades that they should follow the course of the Central Committee. The Caucasian comrades, Comrade Narimanov among them, deliberately fanned the events in Northern Iran and supported adventurist plans. Today, none of the leading comrades doubt that this fanning greatly damaged the communist movement and the international position of the Soviet Republic."124 However, it must be acknowledged that this was said post factum, while the defeat of the Iranian revolution was one of the most convincing examples of Moscow's infamous policy of revolution export. In this way, in 1920-1921, Soviet Azerbaijan was drawn into the Iranian epopee, a dramatic detective story with a sad finale.


After a series of proletarian revolutions in the West, the hopes of the peoples of the East were crushed by the tragic events in Gilan. The atmosphere of Bolshevist revolutionary verve and romanticism born by occupation of Azerbaijan did not survive long in Iran. Moscow's plans to Sovietize Iran using Azerbaijan as a springboard and a screen failed: throughout the anti-British Gilan events the Bolsheviks tried hard, but never succeeded, in concealing their true intentions to avoid an international scandal. Soviet Russia fell short of its main aim of driving Great Britain out of Iran. The extinguished fire of the Iranian revolution buried the idea of making Soviet Azerbaijan a beacon of the East. The disagreements between Narimanov and the Center on the Eastern issue deepened. The Gilan conflict was not the first, or the last, in a long chain of international initiatives the Soviet government abandoned halfway.

122 Letter from N. Narimanov to I. Abilov, without date, APD UDP AR, rec. gr. 609, inv. 1, f. 92, sheet 116.

123 N. Narimanov, K istorii nashey revolutsii v okrainakh (Letter to Stalin), Baku, 1990, p. 85.

124 Letter from G. Chicherin to E. Yaroslavsky, 31.08.1923, RGASPI, rec. gr. 588, Inventory 2, f. 177, sheet '


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