The ingratitude: March 31, the Day of the Genocide

In the last days of March 1918, mass killings of Azerbaijanis were organized by Dashnak-Bolshevik forces in Baku and other towns and villages. From March 30 to the night of April 2, Armenian detachments, as well as military units of the collapsed Russian Empire, stormed the central districts of Baku, the entire territory of Icheri Sheher.  The criminals who broke into the houses massacred Azerbaijanis in whole families. As a result of the March genocide, over 12,000 people were killed in Baku. The printing house "Kaspiy", the editorial office of the newspaper "Achig soz", the building "Ismailia" (now the building of the Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan) were burned and the minarets of the “Tezepir” mosque were damaged by artillery fire.

The forces were unequal.  By the beginning of 1918, the largest Azerbaijani party, “Musavat,” had become the leading political force in Azerbaijani society, but did not have combat units to protect the population from armed gangs.   Poorly armed Azerbaijanis defended themselves with the active participation of local militias.

The genocide of Azerbaijanis, which lasted for months, stopped due to the arrival of the Caucasian Islamic Army. On behalf of his elder half-brother, the Minister of Defense of the Ottoman state Enver Pasha, 28-year-old Nuru Pasha Killigil led the 12 thousandth Caucasian Islamic Army.  On May 16, the army led by Nuru Pasha entered Nakhchivan, and on May 25 - Ganja. Three days later, the Declaration of Independence of Azerbaijan was adopted in Tbilisi, and Ganja became the capital of the first democratic republic in the Islamic world. Nuru Pasha's army, together with soldiers of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and volunteers from the peoples of the Caucasus, defeated enemy forces in Goychay, Salyan and other territories and in September approached Baku, delivered an ultimatum to the "Dictatorship of the Central Caspian Region." The ultimatum was rejected by the Dashnaks and Mensheviks. Then, on the night of September 14, on the orders of Nuru Pasha, an offensive was organized, which culminated in the liberation of Baku. The next day, at about 15.00, a victory fireworks display was staged, on September 15, the liberators marched into Baku.  

Thirteen soldiers of the Caucasian Islamic Army were killed in the battles for Ganja. On the outskirts of Baku, 1,130 soldiers of the Caucasian Islamic Army died in battle. Solemn feasts were held in Baku in honor of the liberators, millionaire Haji Zeynalabdin Tagiyev gave a solemn reception in the building of the current State Philharmonic and greeted Nuru Pasha on behalf of the people.

For  two years the Caucasian Army ensured peace in Azerbaijan for two years.  The granddaughter of the famous Azerbaijani poet Abilova, Khuraman-hanum, said that when the pogroms of merchants' shops began in Elizavetpol (Ganja) in the Muslim part of the city, some local public figures declared the Armenians to be their instigators. Then Nuru Pasha quickly found the provocateurs. They were publicly hanged in the very center of the city in front of the “Shah Abbas” Mosque. 

However, as subsequent events showed, the Bolsheviks did not want peace.  In 1920, on April 28, Azerbaijan was again captured by Bolshevik Russia.  Throughout Soviet history, the genocide of Azerbaijanis on their land was carefully hidden from the people, but the names of Baku commissars headed by Stepan Shahumyan were falsely magnified.  Khankendi in Karabakh was renamed Stepanakert, which later became a nest of militant anti-Azerbaijani separatism of Armenians. The false history of the glorified murderers of the Azerbaijani people was exposed, the criminals were overthrown in 1992, in the free Republic of Azerbaijan. By decree of President Heydar Aliyev dated March 26, 1998, March 31 was declared the National Day of Mourning for the Genocide of Azerbaijanis.

In the United States, the New York State Senate and the New Jersey General Assembly declared March 31 as Azerbaijani Memorial Day, characterizing the events of March 1918 as genocide against Azerbaijanis. The Legislative Assembly of the State of Maine by its resolution recognized the "Day of the Genocide of Azerbaijanis." The Governor of the U.S. state of Nevada declared March 31 as "Memorial Day for the Victims of the clashes that began in March 1918."

The creation of a memorial complex in memory of the soldiers of the Caucasian Army was thought about in Baku back in 1918.  The monument was designed in 1918. On September 15, 1919, after a special session of the ADR parliament on the occasion of the first anniversary of the liberation of Baku, members of the government and deputies went to the Chemberekend cemetery and laid the foundation for the erection of a monument to the Turkic soldier. However, the Communist annexation on April 28, 1920 did not allow the erection of this monument.

After the restoration of Azerbaijan's independence, this project was continued in coordination with the Governments of Azerbaijan and Turkiye. The new foundation of the monument was laid in 1999, and a year later, with the participation of Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev and Turkish President Suleiman Demirel, its opening ceremony was held.

The memorial complex in memory of the Caucasian Army was built in front of the “Shah Abbas” Mosque in Ganja, in 2020. Memorial monuments in memory of Turkish soldiers have been erected in Baku, Sheki, Shamakhi, Goychay, Kurdamir, Neftchala, Hajigabul and Guba. The Turkish Embassy in Azerbaijan and Turkish architects took an active part in the construction of these monuments. 

But there is no monument to Nuru Pasha in Azerbaijan, despite a large number of speeches with urgent proposals to install a sculpture to the liberator and savior of the Azerbaijani people.  During the years of independence, many Azerbaijani and Turkish figures made persistent proposals to erect a monument to Nuru Pasha.

Historian Elmira Muradalieva suggests celebrating September 15 as the day of liberation of Baku, calling this city holiday the Day of Salvation of Baku.

"There is no other date in the calendar more suitable for such a day. And a monument to Nuru Pasha, who commanded the united forces of liberators, should be erected in Baku. The best place for the monument is the site cleared of the red viceroy Sergei Kirov (Nagorny Park in Baku - Ed.) By establishing Baku Day on September 15 and solemnly erecting a monument to Nuru Pasha, Baku and Azerbaijanis will honorably celebrate this historical date and personality, removing the stigma of ingratitude," E.Muradalieva wrote.

Deputy Sabir Rustamkhanli made a proposal to erect a monument to Nuru Pasha and the Caucasian Islamic Army in the Milli Majlis, speaking at the discussion of the draft law "On Independence Day".  "Why is this issue not being considered? Previously, there were those who prevented this. Now there is no such problem. I think that the issue should be resolved."

In 2007, Turkish Ambassador to Azerbaijan Avni Karsioglu promised that a monument to Nuru Pasha would be erected in Baku. This monument will be erected in one of the most prominent places in the capital, the press reported.   Avni Karsioglu noted that the future generation should know about the history of September 15. It is for this purpose, both in Azerbaijan and in Turkiye, that this date in history should be widely covered in textbooks.

Sadettin Topukcu, representative of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in Azerbaijan, also announced the imminent appearance of the monument to Nuru Pasha, speaking at an event on the occasion of the "95th anniversary of the liberation of Baku." At that time, the adviser on Culture and Tourism at the Turkish Embassy in Azerbaijan, Seyit Ahmet Arslan, complained about the insufficient propaganda of Nuru Pasha's heroism in Azerbaijan and Turkiye. "Books should be compiled. In history textbooks, this historical figure should be given more attention and given its due place."  Representatives of non-governmental organizations who took part in the conference also stressed the importance of perpetuating the memory of Nuru Pasha.

Retired Major General of the Turkish Air Force, Rector of the University of Aviation Kurshat Atylgan also expressed faith that "a worthy monument to Nuru Pasha will soon be erected in Azerbaijan, which will please the entire Turkic world." According to him, "Nuru Pasha is one of the most important historical heroes of Azerbaijan," who "walked ahead of the creators of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, established on May 28, 1918."

The grave of Nuru Pasha, who died on March 2, 1949, in Istanbul, is visited by official representatives of the Republic of Azerbaijan. But not a word is said about the construction of a monument or sculpture to the outstanding commander, to whom the Azerbaijanis owe their salvation.

In Azerbaijan, with great difficulties, monuments to historical figures who are not directly related to the current government appear after a long time. Such was the long history of the appearance at the Icheri Sheher metro station of a sculpture to the patron, contemporary of Nuru Pasha - Haji Zeynalabdin Tagiyev.  There are no sculptural monuments to ADR leader Mammad Emin Rasulzade and ADR ministers in the capital of Azerbaijan.  In the same row, we have to mention General Nuru Pasha - there is no sculpture, no memorial monument, or even a marble plaque with the name and image of the General in Azerbaijan.

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