Baku “blitzkrieg” of the Red Army

Arrival of the armored train of the 11th Red Army in Baku on April 28, 1920. In the photo: M. G. Efremov, A. I. Mikoyan, G. M. Musabekov, Kamo and others

Troubles. 1920 year. 100 years ago, at the end of April 1920, the Baku operation was carried out. The Red Army established Soviet power in Azerbaijan. The region was returned to Russian control. On April 28, the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed.

General situation in Azerbaijan

After the overthrow of Soviet rule in Baku in 1918, the city became the capital of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR), one of the “independent states” created during the “parade of sovereignties” of 1917-1918. ADR was divided into Baku, Gandja, Zagatala provinces and Karabakh general governorship. In 1918, part of the territory of the republic was occupied by Turkish troops, in 1919 – by British. Politically, the Muslim party Musavat (Equality) prevailed in the ADR. Therefore, in Soviet historiography, the political regime that existed in the ADR was usually called “Musavatist”.

Throughout its short history, the ADR waged an unofficial war with Armenia. ADR and Armenia could not divide the disputed territories, where the population was mixed. The main hostilities were carried out by the Armenian and Muslim-Azerbaijani militias, which were supported by the states. Azerbaijan opposed the Armenian formations in Karabakh and Zangezur. The war was accompanied by ethnic cleansing, acts of genocide, forced resettlement and mass exodus of the population.

During the general Russian turmoil, the republic was going through a deep political and socio-economic crisis. At first, the Musavatists tried to join the Ottoman Empire, but soon Turkey itself collapsed into turmoil, there was a civil war. The Turks had no time for the ADR. Moreover, Mustafa Kemal, who fought for a new Turkey and was interested in financial and material support of Soviet Russia, supported the Bolsheviks. On April 26, 1920, Kemal announced that he was ready, together with the Soviet government, to fight against the imperialist governments to free all the oppressed. Kemal pledged to influence Azerbaijan so that the republic would enter the circle of Soviet states, and asked Moscow for help to fight the imperialists (gold, weapons and ammunition).

An attempt to rely on Britain also failed. The British brought troops into the republic, but after the general failure of the intervention in Russia, they were withdrawn from Azerbaijan. And without external support, the “independence” of Baku was a fiction. In addition, the Musavat regime was digging its own grave with a war with the Armenians and a coldly hostile policy towards the white South of Russia. As soon as the shield of Denikin’s army collapsed, all the Transcaucasian “sovereign states” quickly collapsed.

Moscow offered Baku an alliance against Denikin, but the Musavatists flatly refused. In March 1920, in connection with the upcoming war with Poland, the Soviet government again tried to negotiate with Baku, to restore oil supplies. Did not work out. Then the stake was made on a power operation. The situation was favorable, Kemal, the leading force in Turkey, supported Moscow.

Devastation and turmoil

The economy, the degradation of which began during the World War II, was in ruins. The severance of economic ties with Russia and the general turmoil put the republic in a catastrophic state. The main branch of the economy – the oil industry – collapsed. Compared with 1913, oil production at the beginning of 1920 was 39%, refining – 34%. There were 18 out of 40 oil refineries in operation. The industry has lost hundreds of millions of rubles in gold. The wages of Baku oil workers in October 1920 fell to 18% of the 1914 level. At the same time, the starving workers worked 15-17 hours instead of 8 hours a day.

The second leading branch of the economy, agriculture, was also dying. Compared to the pre-war level, the area of ​​agricultural crops in 1920 decreased by 40%, under vineyards – by a third, livestock farming collapsed by 60-70%. Crops for cotton have practically disappeared. The irrigation system has fallen into disrepair. The country is gripped by a food crisis. It was reinforced by the policy of the white government of the South of Russia. Denikin imposed an economic blockade on Georgia and Azerbaijan, as he did not want to support local nationalists.

Thus, the socio-economic situation was disastrous. The collapse of the national economy. Mass unemployment. A sharp drop in income, especially among the poor. An incredible rise in prices for food and essential goods. A sharp rise in social tension. All this was complicated by the war with Armenia, huge flows of refugees, which brought famine and epidemics. A peasant war was going on in the districts. The peasants seized the landowners’ possessions, the feudal lords, with the support of the authorities, responded with terror. As a result, the ideas of the Bolsheviks were popular in the countryside. In addition, in conditions of weak power and turmoil, a mass of armed detachments and bandit formations operated. In fact, the gangs were in power in many counties. The bandit formations included deserters, fugitive criminals and local robbers, ruined feudal lords and peasants, refugees with no sources of livelihood, representatives of nomadic tribes.

The Musavat regime was in deep crisis. The Baku authorities could not resolve the military-political crisis (war with Armenia), workers and peasants (land) issues, improve relations with Russia (white or red), restore the economy and restore order in the country. The parliament was busy with endless talking shop, discussion and controversy. The parties waged an endless war with each other, could not come to an agreement on any major issue. The authorities were stricken with corruption, abuse, speculation and personal enrichment.

The army, without the military material support of Turkey, quickly lost its combat capability. The poor went to the soldiers, fleeing hunger. They did not want to fight and deserted at the first opportunity. The army practically collapsed due to mass desertion. Many parts de facto existed only on paper or had only a small part of the required state. Disobedience and riots were common. As a result, by the April Revolution of 30 thousand. the ADR army was completely decomposed and could not offer any serious resistance. In addition, its main forces were concentrated in the region of Karabakh and Zangezur, where they fought against the Armenians.


One of the leaders of the uprising in Baku Chingiz Ildrym

April revolution

Social-democratic parties and organizations, which were in the Bolshevik position, operated underground in Azerbaijan. Initially, they were weak, many activists were killed or thrown into prison during the terror. However, as the situation developed and the problems in the country grew, their positions strengthened. The Azerbaijani Bolsheviks and supporters of the establishment of Soviet power in the country were supported by the Left SRs. In the spring of 1919, the Bolsheviks defeated their opponents (Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries) in the workers’ organizations. The leadership of the Baku Workers’ Conference actually passed into the hands of the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks carried on active propaganda, published a large number of newspapers.

Gradually, revolutionary sentiments penetrated the power structures and the army. Thus, the metallurgical engineer Chingiz Ildrym, with the help of the parliamentary socialist deputy A. Karaev, became a member of the council under the Karabakh governor-general, and then the chief assistant to the head of the Baku port and the deputy head of the military port. The revolutionaries were active in the garrison of Baku, in the navy and even in counterintelligence.

Moscow supported the idea of ​​creating an independent socialist republic. On May 2, 1919, the All-Baku Party Conference put forward the slogan: “Independent Soviet Azerbaijan”. On July 19, at a joint meeting of the Politburo and the Organizing Bureau of the Central Committee of the RCP (b), a decision was made to recognize Azerbaijan as an independent Soviet republic in the future.

From October 1919, the Baku Party Conference took a course towards preparing an armed uprising. Money and weapons were brought to Baku from the North Caucasus and Astrakhan. On February 11-12, 1920, a congress of the communist organizations of the ADR was held in Baku, which proclaimed the creation of the Azerbaijan Communist Party (Bolsheviks) – AKP (b). The congress aimed to prepare the workers ‘and peasants’ population for the overthrow of the existing regime.

The authorities responded with terror and tried to strengthen their power resources, but without much success. The government was in crisis and could not offer it. The Baku government, having learned about the preparations for the uprising and the Red Army in Dagestan, requested military assistance from the British and Georgia. They also asked to put pressure on Armenia to end hostilities in Karabakh and from there transfer troops to the border with Dagestan, but without success.

In March 1920, preparations for the uprising intensified, issues of interaction between the insurgents in the 11th Soviet Army, which operated in the North Caucasus in the Caspian Sea region, were being considered. On April 24, the Baku Committee of the AKP (b) announced full combat readiness. An illegal issue of the AKP (b) organ, the Novy Mir newspaper, was published, where it was proclaimed: “Down with the Bek-Khan government of Musavat!”, “Long live Soviet power!”, “Long live Soviet independent red Azerbaijan!” On April 26, the operational headquarters of the uprising was formed. On the night of April 26-27, the Bolsheviks raised an uprising in Baku. The government was given an ultimatum to transfer power. The authorities discussed the issue of evacuating to Ganja to organize resistance there. However, the military declared the impossibility of an armed struggle. The parliament convened for an emergency meeting by a majority of votes handed over power to the AKP (b), after which it dissolved itself.

The Provisional Revolutionary Committee of Azerbaijan appealed to Moscow with a proposal to create a fraternal alliance to fight the imperialists and asked for military assistance by sending troops of the Red Army. Already on April 28, the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) was proclaimed.

The entry of the Red Army in Baku

Kirov, Mikoyan, Ordzhonikidze and Lewandovsky among the Red Army men and commanders of the 11th Army at the railway station in Baku, May 1920.

“Blitzkrieg” of the 11th Soviet army

Simultaneously with the uprising in Baku, units of the 11th Army under the command of Mikhail Lewandovsky (a former officer of the tsarist army) crossed the border of the republic. Kirov and Ordzhonikidze were in charge of the operation. Parts of the 11th Army were concentrated in the Derbent area. On the night of the uprising, a group of four armored trains with a landing force rushed to Azerbaijan. Stops were made in front of the Samura River, Yalama and Khudat stations. The Red Army men destroyed telephone and telegraph wires. The barriers of the Azerbaijani army were easily shot down. No one offered strong resistance. As a result, the armored trains rushed unnoticed and broke into Baku in the early morning of April 28. Echelons with infantry followed them. On April 30, the main forces of the 11th Army entered Baku. Soon the Caspian flotilla arrived in Baku.

As a result of the one-day “blitzkrieg” of the 11th Army, Azerbaijan became Soviet. In general, the Baku operation was painless and practically bloodless. Only in some places of Baku there were minor clashes. The Red Army solved the problem of restoring Soviet power in the Baku province. It should be noted that this event did not provoke stubborn resistance and a massive anti-Soviet movement in Baku and the region. In general, Azerbaijan and its people have only benefited (in all respects: socio-economic, cultural, demographic) from returning to Russia.

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