1918: Lankaran and Mughan are on fire (Part Four)

A few days after Mohsun Israfilbeyov returned to Baku, on June 15 there was held a congress of the All-Mughan  Soviets in Lankaran. However, the congress weass held under the control of socialist-revolutionaries, not bolsheviks. Attending the congress were well-known socialist-revolutionary leaders Abezqauz, Vasin, Krestovski, Topelberq, etc. Note that a district executive committee was controlled by socialist-revolutionaries led by Sukharikov. The situation remained unchanged even after a June 20 visit to Mughan  of Alyosha Japaridze,  Commissar for Internal Affairs under the Council of People’s Commissars and his “faithful” assistant and right-hand man Bakuradze. Note that 2 days before the visit he replaced socialist-revolutionary Sibulski and took up his position as Food Commissar. The purpose of the visit was to send crops to Baku.[1] In this connection a participant of the visit Bakuradze wrote: “Four of us (two red army men included) Alyosha Japaridze with his assistant arrived in Mughan  in order to make ourselves familiar with the situation. To be noticed is that numerous gangs were on the pad in the region, including attacks on our army and us specifically (I, Japaridze, Sukharikov and Saratikov). Note that Shafi Aliyev joined us as well, he surveyed Turkic villages. We, together with Japaridze, visited Lankaran three times. Our purpose was to ensure correct work of the administration at local level. Besides, Japaridze acted as a Food Commissar. In the reviewed period Baku had bread socialist- revolutionaries, insignificant though. Every citizen had 1/4 pound; however, later on the situation aggravated. Sukharikov signed an order under which even socialist-revolutionary could not fail us. Under a pretext of sending Mughan crops to Baku, socialist-revolutionaries actually delivered it to Northern Caucasus (after the congress of Council of People's Commissars Ryabov, Rokhlin and some leaders of socialist-revolutionary party arrived in Mughan  – J.H.). It was Rokhlin as head of the Food Committee who led the march of events.”[2] As remembered by Shirali Akhundov,  a member of Council of People’s Commissars, a deputy provincial commissar Mashadi Azizbekov made a visit to Lankaran and Mughan  in summer1918.[3] In general, all political parties operating in Baku sent their representatives to Lankaran district to bring peasants to their side. With end in view, they created party cells in situ. Note that previous visits of Mashadi Azizbekov to Mughan  and Lankaran in summer 1917 pursued the same purpose.[4]

While at Turkic villages of Mughan , Japaridze was accompanied by Shafi Aliyev who interpreted his speeches and statements into the Turkic language. Shafi Aliyev pointed out that after coming to Mughan  Alyosha Japaridze and Bakuradze “looked for a person to go along with Turkic villages. I remember visiting a military committee led by Sukharikov and Saratikov where I got paid. Comrade  Saratikov told me that Alyosha Japaridze had come and wanted a Turk to accompany him during a visit to Col. Ilyashevich, come along with him, perhaps, he’d need you to help with interpreting.  I agreed. I remember stepping into a car, and we went to Mughan ...Note that Bakuradze was Alyosha Japaridze’s right-hand man and Alyosha gave all directions with his help. We arrived in Bilasuvar. Alyosha Japaridze had a conversation with Col. Ilyashevich.”[5] Japaridze came to Belyasuvar and at the first meeting declared that he personally convinced of the need for the salvation of the region, the complete preservation of the Mughan troops, under the command of an officer who had become famous in battle, led by Colonel Ilyashevich and lieutenant Khoshev.

The Commissar, without hesitation, praised the Russian officers, promising to supply the Mugans with the necessary amount of weapons, ammunition and shells, assuring them that the Red units were sent to Mugan only to guard posts and facilitate field work on harvesting grain.[6] “The young Prince of Mugan” Boris Khoshiev which Japaridze called “hero” were rulers in Bilasuvar, absolute. Even the post and telegraph official  complained Khoshiev for "UNLAWFUL" use of his "LAWFUL" wife.[7]

It should be noted that on July 10 Baku Council of People’s Commissars again sent Japaridze on mission to Mughan . When addressing people in Russian and Molokan villages of Mughan ın, Japaridze pointed out that the life without bread is like the gun without bullets, it is useless to hope on victory.[8] It is worth remembering that Stepan Shaumyan set great hopes on the mission from supplying Baku with bread standpoint. So in July 1918 he sent a telegram to Moscow as writing that if Mughan  crops were trasported to Baku, the city population would be supplied with bread for 6 months.[9] However, Alyosha Japaridze’s visit to Mughan  came up short, and Shaumyan’s hopes were in vain. After sending a telegram to Lenin, Shaumyan failed to stay in power not only for 6 months but even 6 weeks. In spite of the fact that during his 5-day stay in Mughan  Japaridze managed to mobilize 250 delivery cart vans, he had to drop everything and urgently return to Baku due to the aggravated situation.[10] That was the end of the story around delivery of crops from Mughan  to Baku in the period of bolshevik rule in Azerbaijan. In charge of Mughan  crops, socialist-revolutionaries were thirsty to seize power in Baku.[11]

It was advancement of the Caucasian Islamic Army in the end of July1918 towards the Absheron peninsula that hastened the death of Baku Council of People’s Commissars. Note that the aggravation of the political crisis in Baku had its negative impact on the situation in Lankaran and Mughan . The question was that not only the Moslem population but Mughan  landowner armed units and monarchist officers of the district were down on bolsheviks, so it increasingly aggravated the crisis in the Soviet administration of Lankaran.  In summer1918 newly arrived monarchist-minded officers married to local Russian women. In the course of wedding ceremonies they counted blessings “God Save the Tsar” for Nicholas II, who is no longer in life. In the meanwhile “red army men” began leaving earlier captured villages of Lankaran and next to Sara island, a bolsheviks’ main base in the Caspian south. [12]

In spring 1918, Otradnyov, a commander of red army men who captured Shahagach, Pensar and other talysh villages, and a defender of Lankaran, ordered the red army men to leave the said villages for Lankaran. Note that Pensar was under the sway of Krasovchenko group. At this moment Russian armed forces of Mughan  were going to enter the town. When revolutionary units from Baku were returning from the villages, just a khan palace and a townhouse remained in the hands of bolsheviks while commanders Otradnyov and Vasilyev were killed in the course of the fight for Mayak. Note that a certain Petrov led the “defense” of Mayak. A participant of the fight and a native of Prishib, Filin found the main causes of the defeat in the resistance of the Moslem population.[13] Infamous for his atrocities in Lankaran, a director of the headquarters of “Mughan  front” Avetisov was killed by a Moses Bocharnikov squadron from Privolni in the course of attempts to disarm Russian peasants. His death being presented as “disastrous occurence” notwithstanding, in fact Avetisov was killed in a room on the second floor of the headquarters in Prishib and then thrown out of the window.[14] However, an eyewitness to the incident Vasily Dobrynin in his memoirs writes, in front of the commander of the troops Ilyashevich and the entire staff, on that day, Colonel Avetisova was shot drunk by squadron soldiers ensign Isaev, who protested against his decision.[15] Avetisov’s attempts to establish a rule in the Mugan “Army” caused serious dissatisfaction. The Mughan " atamans" claimed that "when it was necessary to save the Mughan with their blood, then there were no Avetisovs anywhere in sight , but now, like hungry jackals, they attacked our bread, and even took it into their heads to command and dispose of us. We ourselves saved our Mughan without them , in tragic days, bleeding to death , so now we will do without them, and let the uninvited guests get away from the Mugan as soon as possible, before it 's too late."[16] Avetisov’s corpse was brought to Lankaran. While the red army men fled villages and arrived in the town, funeral procession of Col. Avetisov was underway in Prishib. He was buried by “Revolutionary army” with military honors and “red banner” in the Armenian churchyard.  It should be added that the situation was very hard in the town during Avetov’s funeral. Petrov recolled that “when Lankaran retreated, my squad had occupied an area near Yuxary Bazar (a squad of Gen. Makarov took up a position near Beyuk Bazar – J.H.). We were told that a squad of Khoshiyev was rushing to the rescue from Mughan . Talks were held between them, and we were told that if the talks failed, a fight was anticipated. Indeed, the fighting began and we were surrounded from mountains, Shahagach and Qumbashi. A Musavat  gang of bandits joined them. The saving grace for us was to hide in Sara island. We were ordered that if anybody wanted to retreat they were free to leave the fighting and find a shelter on Sara island; those unwilling to retreat should they go down swinging. We fought to the end, and  2-3 days later “Vyatka” ship came up where my paternal cousin worked as coal-heaver. On board of the ship we arrived in Baku.”[17]

Owing to crimes of Col. Avetisov, Emercency Investigation Commission of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic pointed out that  “armed squadrons led by Col. Avetisov and Col. Ilyashevich staged massacres in Lankaran and Javad uezds and destroyed towns.”[18] However, developments moved behind the Avetisov’s murder. “Azerbaijan” newspaper wrote that  “the gang of Avetisov’s bandits in Lankaran gave place to the gang of the Ilyashevich’s Russian chauvinist squad. Instead of safeguarding the tranquility of citizens, this gang burst into homes, plundered and killed Moslems, raped and kidnapped women, etc.”[19]

The removal of the Baku Council of People’s Commissars from power in the end of 1918 and the establishment of the Central Caspian Dictatorship led by five naval officers was marked by shift of power in Lankaran and Mughan. News of the establishment of the Central Caspian Dictatorship reached Mughan earlier August. Fedor Korolev, a red army man from squadron # 2, wrote that later July1918 the  contacts with Baku broke off and rumors spread that coup d’etat occurred in Baku, members of Shaumyan-led Council of People’s Commissars were arrested, and the power passed into the hands of socialist-revolutionaris-Mensheviks. And then Britains were invited to arrive in Baku.[20]  Socialist-revolutionaries and like-minded Russian parties held their formal “congress”“ on August 4 following which a Contemporary Military Dictatorship (“Dictatorship of Fives”) was established in Lankaran and Mughan  in August 1918. Note that bolsheviks sustained a defeat at the “congress”, so they had to send a telegram of congratulations to the Baku-headquartered  Central Caspian Dictatorship. The telegram said that it was important to maintain close relations between Mughan and Baku, supply Baku with bread, make a personal contribution to the preservation of the Russian statehood in Transcaucasia.[21] It ought to be noted that “Dictatorship of Fives” included Saratikov, Sukharikov, Kropotov, Colonel Ilyashevich and Moisha Shikhman (Shikhmanov). Also, three of the five had earlier been presented in the previous government of Mughan  Executive Committee. Following the establishment of “Dictatorship of Fives” Lankaran turned into headquarters of the white guards manned with officer cadres. Earlier August, Col. Ilyashevich moved his Bilasuvar headquarters to Prishib. Gen. Erdeli and Makarov joined the Ilyashevich squad. As a consequence, Lankaran and Mughan  turned into a lair of white guards that reinforced the Denikin army with manpower. General Erdeli was a lead manager of the Mughan  squad aiming to help Denikin.[22]

Following the removal of the Baku Council of People’s Commissars from power the socialist-revolutionaries attempted to supply Baku with bread but failed to make major gains. From July 30 to August 31, 1918, 138,082 poods of crops having been transported from Mughan  to Baku notwithstanding, 7,452 poods were stolen en route, and just 130,629 poods of crops reached the city.[23] Another important issue was the bread quality.  On September 3, 1918 an Abram Rokhlin-chaired meeting of the Food Committee made it clear that the crop transported to Baku had just 5-10% of wheat, the rest consisted of barley.[24] In the last week of August 1918,  85 poods of flour; 9.781 poods of wheat and 26,019 poods of barley were transported from Lankaran to Baku.[25] However, the crops from Mughan  were not clean, so the Food Commissariat of the Central Caspian Dictatorship proved helpless to change the situation. A meeting of the Food Commissariat said that Mughan  residents took tips for themselves and sent tails to Baku, i.e. “Oh, Allah, I give you what I need not.” (“something cast upon someone like leavings thrown to a dog”)[26]

The first work of the "Dictatorship of the Fives" in Mughan was in September 1918 to issue a loan to overcome financial difficulties. The loan printed in the Lankaran printing house had the words "Mughani Loan" written on it. Banknotes in the amount of 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 250, 500 rubles were brought to Prishib, however, due to the short activity of the ”Dictatorship of the Fives", it was not possible to issue these loans into turnovers.[27]  In September 1918, the approach of the “Islamic Army” to Baku began to worry the Mughan dictators. On September 3, a unit of the Islamic Army operating in the direction of Mughani detained Boris Khoshiev's squadron near Gachagkend, but it was not possible to save of the Mughan's dictatorships.[28]

However, “Dictatorship of Fives” life did not last long, as was the case with  “Central Caspian Dictatorship”.  Straight after the establishment of the new power the Central Caspian Dictatorship administration sent a ship  “Baku” to Mughan  by giving bolsheviks 24 hours to leave Mughan. Otherwise, they threatened to shoot bolsheviks down. Bolsheviks in Mughan went aboard “Ketti” ship and fled; wandering for 3 weeks in the sea they were detained and imprisoned in Petrovsk.[29]  It was active attempts of the government of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic that led to the collapse of the Central Caspian Dictatorship in September 1918. Straight after this event, the authorities of the “Dictatorship of Fives” went to the Mughan  district administration.[30] Note that this administration was led by Lt.Col. Yermalov, monarchist Mironov, Petliurist Sukharikov, etc. After the formation of the district administration Sukharikov stressed that Mughan ’s salvation was in “Petliurism”. In so doing, he repeated everywhere that  “Symon Petliura is my ideal.”[31]

In the meanwhile bolsheviks from Sara island sent a letter with aid request to Sergey Kirov in Astrakhan. Note that the letter was delivered to Kirov by Moisey Bocharnikov and Shirali Akhundov after their 17 day wandering about the Caspian Sea. “Kirov read the letter as sying: I’m aware of it. Comrade Lenin issued an appropriate directive. In a day or two I’ll supply you with money and weapons and send to Lankaran”. Shirali Akhundov wrote about his meeting with Nariman Narimanov in Astrakhan: “While at this town I got acquinted with comrades Narimanov, Hamid Sultanov and Dadash Buniyadzade. Narimanov asked me to inform about Lankaran developmnts. I told him that relations between Russians and Moslems were very strained due to intrigues of enemies. Narimanov condemned the intrigues; he stressed the necessity of struggling against enemies as saying that the Russian-Moslem (in Mughan  and Lankaran – J. H.) massacre ought not to be allowed as was the case in Baku due to Dashnak-Musavatist provocations.”[32] At this time, the Muslim organization “Gummet" led by Nariman Narimanov, the party "Adalat" led by Bahram Agayev tried to expand their activities in Lankaran uezd, and it was these organizations that in 1918 joined the young teacher Zulfugar Ahmadzadeh, who completed higher education in Istanbul and returned to his homeland, to Astara.[33]

On July 31, 1918, following the collapse of the Baku Council of People’s Commissars Mughan ın it transpired that bolshevik Shaumyan-led commissars were minded to turn Mughan  into “undefeatable fortress of the Soviet power.” With that end in view, Qayk Arustamov arrived in Baku to hold talks with commissars. Qriqori Arustamov wrote: In September-October 1918 Privolnı squads were in our hands. There were also remnants of Baku militant units and we could come to power. However, we were shy of attaining our goal because Britishers were deployed in Baku. We had but make Baku commissars to arrive in Mughan . Qayk (Arustamov – J.H.) went to Baku to reason the matter out. We failed to achieve the purpose even despite the feasibility of this plan: we could not persuade Stepan (Shaumyan – J.H.) and others that it was quite possible to create a military might in Mughan. It might well be true, suffice it to remember that under much unfavorable conditions in 1919 our comrades managed to establish and even maintain the Mughan Commune.”[34]  A participant to the events above, Sidomonov professed that “we acted properly in Mughan, if Russians backed us we could have fought against Turkic villages. The most important thing was that all the above-mentioned tendencies enabled the Turkic population to with old the recognition of the bolshevik authority.  They believed that the bolshevik authority took a painstaking care for the Russian population.”[35] Suffice it to recall that the Lankaran district administration in the course of 5-month national strife burnt down about 40 turks and talysh villages, destroyed their fisheries in Astara, Lankaran, Sara island and other localities, turned schools and other public buildings into barracks.[36] In such an emergency all over the Lankaran district was dominated by military dictatorship and frenzied terror, accompanied by a national massacre of Muslim population.

To be continued

First part.

Second part.

Third part

[1] For more details See: А.Huseynov, V.Sinitsyn. Fighting Mughan. Baku, 1979, p. 26-28

[2] Commemoration meeting of participants of civil war in Mughan (Memoirs of Bakuradze). 02.06.1932. // APDPARA, f.456, s.18, i.33, v.194-197

[3] Memoirs of Akhundov Shirali Bakhshali ogly, a member of the Communist Party since March 1919, on his participation in the revolutionary events in the Lankaran district, from 1917 to 1921 and participation of Museyib Kerimov in the said events.// APDPARA, f.268, s.23, i.56, v.12

[4] See: Bolsheviks in the struggle for victory of the Soviet power in Azerbaijan. Documents and materials. (1917-1918). Baku, 1987, p.34

[5] Commemoration meeting of participants of civil war in Mughan (Memoirs of Shafi Aliyev). 07.06.1932. // APDPARA, f.456, s.18, i.29, v.51-52

[6] Vasilii Dobrynin. Oborona Mughani, 1918 – 1919, s. 53.

[7] Ibid, pp. 69,74.

[8] See: News of Baku Council, 1918, 24 July

[9] See: Red Archives, 1938, №4-5, p.20-22

[10] See: А.А. Privolniy. A glow of October above Mughan. Baku, Azerneshr, 1979, p.49

[11] See: Bakinskiy rabochiy, 1918, 28 July

[12] See: Commemoration meeting of participants of civil war in Mughan (Memoirs of Osipov). 06.05.1932. // APDPARA, f.456, s.18, i.33, v.162

[13] Commemoration meeting of participants of civil war in Mughan (Memoirs of Filin). 09.05.1932. // APDPARA, f.456, s.18, i.33, v.42

[14] Commemoration meeting of participants of civil war in Mughan (Memoirs of Ponomaryev). 07.10.1931. // APDPARA, f.456, s.18, i.30, v.102

[15] Vasilii Dobrynin. Oborona Mughani, 1918 – 1919, s.70

[16] Ibid, p.70

[17] Commemoration meeting of participants of civil war in Mughan (Memoirs of Petrov). 09.05.1932. // APDPARA, f.456, s.18, i.33, v.33

[18] A letter of the Chairman of the Emergency Research Commission, Alekber bey Hasmammadov to the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan. //ARDA, f.100, s.2, i. 791, v.2; For more on this See: Anar İskenderov. Massacres against the Azerbaijani population of the Lankaran district in1918-1919.//Research papers of the Institute of History of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan. Special issue, 2017, № 64,65,66, s.27

[19] Azerbaijan, 1918, 10 November

[20] Memoirs of Fedor Korolev on the struggle of gurilla forces of the Red Squadron-2 in Lankaran and Astara districts in 1918-1919. 15.01.1959. // APDPARA, f.268, s.23, i.329, v.2

[21] Bax: Centrocaspian Bulletin, 1918, 16 August

[22] Commemoration meeting of participants of civil war in Mughan (Memoirs of Shahramanov). 02.10.1931. // APDPARA, f.456, s.18, i.30, v.70-71

[23] See: Centrocaspian Bulletin, 1918, 8 September

[24] See: Centrocaspian Bulletin, 1918, 5 September

[25] See: Centrocaspian Bulletin, 1918, 5 September

[26] See: Centrocaspian Bulletin, 1918, 4 September

[27] See: G. Salikov. Zaem Mugani. Sovetskii filatelist. 1924, №2, s. 10-11.


[28] See: Eduard Burda. Russkaia Mugan’. Dvuglavyi oriol. https://rusorel.info/russkaya-mugan/


[29] Commemoration meeting of participants of civil war in Mughan (Memoirs of Sidomonov). 06.05.1932. // APDPARA, f.456, s.18, i.33, v.155

[30] See: Olga Morozova. Mughan region in1918—1919// Russkaya starina. vol. (13), №. 1, 2015, c.48

[31] Commemoration meeting of participants of civil war in Mughan (Memoirs of Makarov). 06.05.1932. // APDPARA, f.456, s.18, i.33, v.94

[32] Memoirs of Akhundov Shirali Bakhshali ogly, a member of the Communist Party since March 1919, on his participation in the revolutionary events in the Lankaran district, from 1917 to 1921 and participation of Museyib Kerimov in the said events.// APDPARA, f.268, s.23, i.56, v.23

[33] See: Personal file of Ahmadzadeh Zulfugar Ahmed oglu no 37215.// APDPARA, f.6, s.9, i.93.

[34] Commemoration meeting of participants of civil war in Mughan (Memoirs of Qrigori Arustamov). 05.06.1932. // APDPARA, f.456, s.18, i.33, v.142; for more See: А.А. Privolniy. A glow of October above Mughan. Baku, Azerneshr, 1979, p.52

[35] Commemoration meeting of participants of civil war in Mughan (Memoirs of Sidomonov). 06.05.1932. // APDPARA, f.456, s.18, i.33, v.150

[36] See: Nasib Alizadeh. Excerpts on the victory and consolidation of Soviet power in Lankaran district. Baku, Azerneshr, 1963, p.35-57

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