The 26 Baku Commissars were leading Bolshevik and left Social Revolutionary members of the Baku Commune , a Soviet regime established in Azerbaijan in 1918 . The commune was established in the city of Baku (capital of the pre-Soviet and briefly independent Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan , now the Republic of Azerbaijan ). The commune, led by Stepan Shaumián , existed until July 26 , 1918, when the Bolsheviks were forced out of power by a coalition of dashnaks , right-wing Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks . After their overthrow, the commissars tried to leave Baku, but were captured by the Central Caspian Dictatorship and imprisoned. According to Soviet historiography , on September 14, 1918, during the fall of Baku to the Ottoman forces , Red Army soldiers broke into his prison and released the commissars; then they boarded a ship to Krasnovodsk, where they were immediately detained by the local authorities and, on the night of September 20, 1918, executed by a firing squad between the Pereval and Ajcha-Kuima stations of the Trans-Caspian Railway .
The Commune of Baku
The Baku Commune, a short-lived political entity, lasted from April 13 to July 25 , 1918. It came to power after a bloody confrontation with the Muslim population , known as March Days in Baku. During its brief existence the Commune had to face several problems: from the shortage of food and supplies to the threat of the powerful Ottoman Army that wanted to attack Baku. Despite difficult conditions, the Commune carried out various social reforms, such as the nationalization of the oil industry. The nationalization process was simple, putting the facilities under military control and applying thedictatorship of the proletariat theorized by Lenin . That's how Victor Serge described the situation in May, June and July, and the state of the small Red Army of Baku: [ 1 ]
“ In May, June and July the inhabitants could only receive tiny rations of nuts and sunflower seeds; the small quantities of maize that the Soviet managed to bring by sea were reserved for the troops. The requisition attempts were carried out by the small Baku Red Army, a poorly disciplined and managed corps, made up mostly of Armenians who were alien to the revolutionary spirit of the proletariat. They drank excessively and looted Muslim peasants, causing disaffection among them. »
On June 5, 1918, the Baku Red Army repelled an assault by overwhelmingly outnumbered Ottoman troops, but later launched an unsuccessful assault on Ganja , where the headquarters of the Islamic Army of the Caucasus (Ottoman unit) was located. and was forced to retire to Baku. [ 2 ] At this point, the dashnaks , right-wing SRs , and Mensheviks began negotiating with General Lionel Dunsterville , commander of the British troops in Persia., inviting his troops to Baku to defend the city from an imminent Ottoman attack. The Bolsheviks and their leftist allies opposed this plan, but on July 25 the majority of the Soviet voted on the appeal to the British, and the Bolsheviks resigned.
The leaders of the Baku Commune were imprisoned on charges of participating in illegal military formations and militarized looting, particularly during the atrocities committed in the March Days, and were replaced by the Central Caspian Dictatorship.
Contrary to what happened in many areas of Russia , where the Bolsheviks got a bad rap for cruelly executing those who did not support them, the Baku Bolsheviks were not so strict. The Baku Cheka executed only two people, both members of the Soviet caught embezzling public funds: the Finance Commissioner Aleksandr Kireev and the Meve Steam Commissioner Sergei Prokovsky. [ 1 ] [ 2 ]
Official Soviet version
After the fall of the Baku Soviet in July 1918, the Bolshevik leaders and some loyal troops tried to reach Astrakhan , the only port on the Caspian Sea still in Bolshevik hands. However, his ship was intercepted by military ships of the Caspian Fleet and after subjecting them to an hour-long bombardment in the middle of the sea, they surrendered and returned to Baku. Most of the Bolshevik militants were arrested and remained in prison until, after the fall of Baku to Ottoman hands, a Red Army commando unit, led by Anastás Mikoyan , released them from prison.
Shaumián, Prokofi Dzhaparidze , Meshadi Azizbekov , and their comrades, together with Mikoyan, then embarked on the Turkmen ship , trying to reach Astrakhan by sea. According to recent historians, the sailors nevertheless chose to sail to Krasnovodsk, fearing arrest in Astrakhan. In Krasnovodsk the commissars were arrested by the local commander, who asked the Ashkhabad Committee , led by the social-revolutionary Fyodor Funtikov , for new orders about what should be done with them. Three days later, General Wilfrid Malleson , after learning of his arrest, contacted the British liaison officer in Ashgabat , Captain Reginald Teague-Jones , to suggest that the commissars be handed over to the British forces to be used as hostages in exchange for British citizens held by the Soviets. On the same day, Teague-Jones attended the meeting of the Ashgabat Committee , which was tasked with deciding on the fate of the commissioners. For whatever reason, Teague-Jones did not communicate Malleson's request to the committee, and excused himself by saying that he had left the meeting before the decision was made. [ 3 ]In addition, he claimed that it was the next day that he discovered that the committee had finally decided to send the order for the commissioners to be executed. According to historian Richard H. Ullman, Teague-Jones could have stopped the executions if he wanted to, since the Ashgabat Committee relied on British support and could not refuse a request from its powerful ally, but chose not to. [ 4 ]
On the night of 20 September , three days after their arrest, twenty-six of the commissioners were executed by firing squad between the Pereval and Ajcha-Kuima stations of the Trans-Caspian Railway. It is not known how Anastás Mikoyán, who was part of the group, managed to survive, nor the reason why his life was spared. In 1922 , V. Chaikin, a social-revolutionary journalist, published a description of the moments before the execution: [ 5 ]
“ Around 6 am (a witness related), the twenty-six police officers heard the fate that awaited them while they were on the train. They were taken out in groups of eight or nine men. They were obviously shocked, and kept in a tense silence. A sailor shouted: 'I am not scared. I'm falling for freedom. ' One of the executioners replied that 'We too will die for freedom sooner or later, but for us it means something different than for you.' The first group of commissars, led from the train into semi-darkness, was dispatched with a single salvo. The second group tried to run but were cut off after several shocks. The third resigned himself to his fate ... »
During the evacuation of Baku before the advance of the Ottoman forces, the delegate of the Bolshevik faction Anastás Mikoyán, obtained the liberation of the members of the Commune of Baku through threats, to draw up investigations and carry out trials to those arrested in Astrakhan where the evacuation was heading. On the way to Astrakhan (in the hands of the Reds), the steamship's crew, led by naval officers, changed course towards the city of Petrovsk ( Makhachkala ), which was in the hands of the white forces . At that time, the twenty-seven commissioners mixed with six hundred other refugees. Upon arrival in Petrovsk, during passport control conducted by counterintelligence officers, Mikoyan was arrested for illegal possession of a weapon and taken to an interrogation cell for temporary detention. The chief of staff of General L. Bicherajov's garrison, General Alekséi Martinov, offered during interrogations to Mikoyan the deal to save his life in exchange for selecting the twenty-six remaining commissars from among the refugees. Thanks to the help of Mikoyán, all the commissioners were arrested and brought before a court. After completing the investigation, all of them were sentenced to death by firing squad, while Mikoyán was released on the condition that he did not interfere in anti-government activities. According to General Martynov: «of all detainees, it was the worst trash, we should have dealt with it too, but I gave my word officer to spare his life ... " [ 6 ]
Soviet officials later blamed the executions on British agents operating in the Baku area at the time. [ 7 ] [ 8 ] [ 9 ] When Soviet rule was established in the whole area of the Caspian, Funtikov, head of the Committee of Ashkhabad responsible for the executions, was imprisoned. Funtikov blamed the executions on the UK , and in particular on Teague-Jones, who, he claimed, had ordered him to shoot the commissioners. Funtikov was tried and executed in Baku in 1926. The UK denied its involvement in the incident, stating that it was carried out by local officials without the knowledge of British troops.
This accusation caused a greater tension in the elections between the United Kingdom and the new Soviet Government, and helped to lead to the confrontational attitude given on both sides in the following years.
According to Soviet historiography, two British officers on board the commissars' ship gave the order to sail to Krasnovodsk instead of Astrakhan, where they found a government led by SRs and British officers who immediately ordered the arrest of the commissars. The Soviets would later immortalize the deaths of the 26 Commissars through, among others, films [ 10 ] works of art, [ 11 ] stamps, [ 12 ] and public works such as the Memorial to the 26 Commissars in Baku. In Isaak Brodski's famous painting, British officers are portrayed witnessing the executions. [ 13 ]
Sennikov claims that the famous Brodski painting is an invention of Soviet historiography. The truth was clarified by the special commission of the Central Executive Committee of the Congress of the Soviets of Russia (VTsIK) that arrived from Moscow . The commission was headed by Vadim Chaikin (social-revolutionary). The commission was also made up of a large group of senior Moscow Cheka officials led by Yakov Peters , an international criminal associated with the Siege of Sidney Street . Sennikov also provides a quote in the article Chaikin Suren Gazaryan This should not be repeated in the journal Zvezda of Leningrad: « The painting 'The execution of the 26 Baku Commissioners' is historically false. They were not shot, but beheaded. And the executioner was a single man, a Turkmen , a bagatur of gigantic strength. This Turkmen beheaded them all using a shashka with his bare hands. » [ 15 ] The grave with the remains of the commissars and their heads was covered under the supervision of the VTsIK special commission and representatives of the Cheka. The report on the death of the Baku commissars was sent by this commission to the VTsIK, the Council of People's Commissars and the Central Committee of theCommunist Party of Russia (Bolshevik) .
In 1922, Vadim Chaikin published his book, A History of the Russian Revolution , at the Grazhbin publishing house in Moscow, dedicating its first part, The Execution of the 26 Baku Commissars , to the event. After spending time incarcerated in Oriol prison , Chaikin was shot on September 11 , 1941 along with 156 other fellow prisoners during the Medvedev Forest Massacre .
The twenty-six Commissars in Baku were not all commissars or Bolsheviks; some of them were Left Social Revolutionaries and Dashnaks . There were many nationalities among them: Greeks , Latvians , Jews , Russians , Georgians , Armenians, and Azeris .
26 commissioners were: [ 16 ]
- Stepán Shaumián : Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of Baku, extraordinary commissioner for the Caucasus.
- Prokofi Dzhaparidze : Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Baku Soviet.
- Meshadi Azizbekov : Deputy Commissar of the People 's Internal Affairs, Commissar of the Baku government .
- Iván Fioletov: President of the National Economy Council.
- Mir-Hasan Vazirov: Commissar of the People's Agriculture.
- Grigori Korganov: Commissar of the People's War and Naval Affairs.
- Yakov Zevin: Commissar of the People's Labor.
- Grigori Petrov - Military Commissar of the Council of People's Commissars of the RSFS of Russia in the Baku region.
- Iván Maliguin: Vice President of the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Caucasian Army.
- Arsen Amir: chief editor of the Baku newspaper El Obrero .
- Surén Osepian: chief editor of the Izvestia newspaper of the Baku Soviet.
- Vladimir Polujin: Collegiate Commissioner for War and Naval Affairs of the RSFS of Russia.
- Fyodor Solntsev: member of the Red Army.
- Armenak Boriyan: periodista.
- Ivan Gabishev: political commissar of the brigade .
- Mark Koganov: member of the Military Revolutionary Committee.
- Bagdasar Avakian: Baku military commander.
- Irakli Metaksa: Shaumián's bodyguard.
- Iván Nikoláishvili: Dzhaparidze's bodyguard.
- Aram Kostandian: People's Deputy Commissioner for Agriculture.
- Solomon Bogdanov: member of the Military Revolutionary Committee.
- Anatoli Bogdánov: empleado.
- Isai Mishne: secretary of the Military Revolutionary Committee.
- Tatevos Amirov: commander of cavalry , a member of the Dashnak. [ 17 ]
Demolition of the Memorial to the 26 Commissioners and transfer of their remains
In January 2009 , the Baku authorities began the demolition of the Memorial to the 26 City Commissioners. [ 18 ] This was the last remaining monument of several that were erected in commemoration of the commissioners in that park during the Soviet period. This last monument had already had the protective fence removed in July 2008 . [ 18 ] The remains of the commissars were transferred to the Hövsan Cemetery on January 26 , 2009, with the participation of Muslim, Jewish and Christian clergy , who led the religious ceremonies.
Some local leftist politicians , and in particular the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, opposed the dismantling . [ 18 ] It also angered Armenia, as Armenian public opinion thought that the demolition and removal of the remains was motivated by Azeris reluctance (due to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict ) to have Armenians buried in the center. of its capital. [ 20 ] Another scandal occurred when Azeri press releases stated that only twenty-one bodies were discovered during the exhumation and that “ Shaumián and other Armenian commissars managed to escape their murderers. ». [ 20] [ 21 ] [ 22 ] [ 23 ] This information was questioned by Shaumyan's granddaughter, Tatiana, who now lives in Moscow, and told the Russian newspaper Kommersant that:
“ It is impossible to believe that they were not all buried. There is a movie in the archives of the twenty-six bodies being buried. Apart from this, my grandmother was present at the ceremony. " [ 20 ]
Almost all the monuments dedicated to the commissars in Azerbaijan which included Shaumyan, Azizbekov, Dzhaparidze and Fioletov have been demolished. Most of the streets with his name have also been changed.
- Year One of the Russian Revolution | Chpt. 6
- C. Dobson & J. Miller The Day We Almost Bombed Moscow, Hodder and Stoughton, 1986. P. 94-95.
- Richard H. Ullman Anglo-Soviet Relations 1917-21. Vol. I. Intervention and the War Princeton, N.J., 1961 p. 324.
- On the History of the Russian Revolution (K Istorii Rossi skoi Revoliutsii) (Moscow, 1922)
- « Анастасий Микоян - сотрудник контрразведки генерала Мартынова (Anastás Mikoyán - General Martynov's counterintelligence agent)» . Archived from the original on December 3, 2013 . Retrieved January 23, 2015 .
- Reginald Teague-Jones, The Spy Who Disappeared: Diary of a Secret Mission to Russian and Central Asia in 1918 Gollancz, 1990.
- The Shooting of the Twenty-Six Baku Comrades
-  at www.marxists.org
- Dvadtsat shest Komissarov (1933) in Internet Movie Database (in English) .
- Battle painters of Free Russia Archivado el 16 de agosto de 2006 en la Wayback Machine .
-  at home.nestor.minsk.by
- C. Dobson & J. Miller The Day We Almost Bombed Moscow, Hodder and Stoughton, 1986, p. 96.
- Sennikov, B. La Rebelión de Tambov de 1918-1921 y la descampesinización de Rusia, 1929-1933 ( Tambovskoe vosstanie 1918-1921 gg. I raskrest'janivanie Rossii 1929-1933 gg. ), Posev, Moscú, 2004. ( Biblioteca de Estudios Rusos # 9)
- Gazaryan, S. This must not be repeated . Zvezda . Leningrad, 1989.
- Peter Hopkirk, Like Hidden Fire Kodansha, 1995.
- "Russian Historical Journal". Execution of Baku commissars: 80 years later.
- Фаик Меджид. (in Russian) . kavkaz-uzel.ru http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/148040 . Retrieved January 17, 2009 . The ( help ) is missing
- Мурсал Алиев. (in Russian) . 1news.az https://web.archive.org/web/20110706130734/http://1news.az/society/20090114012021504.html . Archived from the original on July 6, 2011 . Retrieved January 17, 2009 . The ( help ) is missing
- Azerbaijan: Outcry at Commissars' Reburial, by Magerram Zeinalov and Gegham Vardanian, IWPR, 2009
- Remains of Baku commissars uncovered in center of Azerbaijani capital re-buried Archived October 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine .
- Day.Az - During the excavation of the grave of 26 Baku commissars in Baku, the remains of three people were not found
- Kommersant - Baku residents lacked commissioners
- Peter Hopkirk, On Secret Service East of Constantinople: The Plot to Bring Down the British Empire, Oxford University Press, 1994, ISBN 9780192802309.
- (en inglés) Minassian, Taline Ter (2014). «"Some fresh news about the 26 commissars: Reginald Teague-Jones and the Transcaspian episode"». "Asian Affairs" 45 (1): 65-78. doi:10.1080/03068374.2013.872360.
- Azerbaijan International, Vol. 15: 2-4 (2011) "Azerbaijan International", Vol. 15: 2-4 (2011), p. 167-169 Photographs of the ancient monuments dedicated to the 26 Baku Commissioners, including a photograph of the funeral.
- "The 26 Commissars of Baku."