Baku Commissars

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Baku Commissars

 

26 revolutionaries of Transcaucasia, shot on Sept. 20, 1918, at the 207th verst of the Transcaspian Railroad by Socialist Revolutionaries and English interventionists. In accord with the decision made on Aug. 10, 1918, at the conference of Baku Bolsheviks, Soviet detachments on 16 steamships sailed out of Baku for Astrakhan on August 14, following the collapse of Soviet power in Baku. On August 16 they were overtaken 60 km east of Baku by warships of the counterrevolutionary government, the Dictatorship of the Central Caspian Area. After an artillery shelling, the steamships were returned under convoy to Baku, where the Soviet detachments were disarmed, and 35 Soviet functionaries were imprisoned. Among them were S. G- Shau-mian, chairman of the Baku council of people’s commissars (CPC), member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and commissar extraordinary of the Soviet government for the Caucasus; M. A. Azizbekov, provincial commissar of the Baku CPC; P. A. Dzhaparidze, people’s commissar of internal affairs, chairman of the Baku soviet, and candidate member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party; I. T. Fioletov, commissar for affairs of the national economy; G. N. Korganov, people’s commissar for naval affairs; la. D. Zevin, people’s commissar of labor; M. G. Vezirov, people’s commissar of agriculture; and a group of party, government, and military workers. Among the arrested were also soviet office workers. The Dictatorship of the Central Caspian Area government, instigated by the English occupation troop command, announced that the Baku commissars would be court-martialed. An attack by Turkish troops interfered with these plans. On the night of September 14, English troops quickly evacuated the city, and at the same time the leaders of the counterrevolutionary government fled. A group of Bolsheviks (A. I. Mikoyan, Artak, S. Agamirov, Suren Shaumian and others), who had not been arrested, released the imprisoned group at night under fire from the Turkish troops. The contemplated plan to evacuate the Baku Commissars on the steamship Sevan miscarried. A. I. Mikoyan managed to get his comrades onto the steamship Turkmen, which was at the disposal of the commander of a Soviet partisan detachment, T. M. Amirov, and was designated for the evacuation of his detachment to Astrakhan. But the counterrevolutionary elements of the command, on the demand of two English and several Dash-nak officers who turned up on board, led the ship to Krasnovodsk, which was in the hands of English occupation troops and the local Socialist Revolutionary government. The Baku Commissars were arrested in the presence of Colonel Batin and other English officers; near the pier stood an English artillery battery. A search of Korganov, who was senior among the Baku prisoners, revealed the list which he used in distributing provisions among his comrades. Of the 35 who were arrested in Krasnovodsk, 25 were on the list. S. Kandelaki and A. Mikoyan, notable military figures of the Baku Commune, were not on the list. The Old Bolsheviks V. Dzhaparidze and O. Fioletova were not on the list; neither were the two sons of Shaumian, since they had been freed two or three weeks before the evacuation from Baku (on bail). The Krasnovodsk authorities accepted this list as the list of leaders of the Baku Commune; they added Amirov to it, thus arriving at the number 26.

The decision to shoot the Baku Commissars was made by the English military mission (General W. Malleson, Captain R. Teague-Jones) and the Socialist Revolutionary government (F. Funtikov, Kuryliov, S. Druzhkin, L. Zimin, V. Kun). (See the testimony of Funtikov in the book The Last Days of the Commissars of the Baku Commune, According to the Records of the Trials, Baku, 1928, pp. 87–98.) On Sept. 20, 1918, Stepan Shaumian, M. Azizbekov, P. Dzhaparidze, I. Fioletov, M. G. Vezirov, G. Korganov, la. Zevin, I. V. Malygin, G. K. Petrov, A. M. Amirian, V. F. Polukhin, I. Ia. Gabyshev, S. G. Osepian, E. A. Berg, B. A. Avakian, A. A. Borian, M. V. Basin, M. R. Koganov, A. M. Kostandian, A. A. Bogdanov, S. A. Bogdanov, F. F. Solntsev, I. A. Mishne, I. P. Metaksa, I. M. Nikolashvili, and T. Amirov were taken out of Krasnovodsk and shot between the stations of Pereval and Akhcha-Kuima on the Transcaspian Railroad. In September 1920, the remains of the Baku Commissars were moved to Baku and buried with honors in the square which bears the name Square of the 26 Baku Commissars. In 1958 a monument was erected on the square. In 1968 a pantheon was built there.

The shooting of the Baku Commissars evoked general indignation. The Russian Socialist Revolutionaries tried to prove that they did not participate in this heinous crime. A member of the Central Committee of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, V. Chaikin, published a book, To the History of the Russian Revolution: The Execution of the 26 Baku Commissars (1922), written with the goal of acquitting the Socialist Revolutionaries; at the same time, it contains a number of facts and documents exposing the English interventionists. W. Malleson, in his articles and books (1922–23, 1933), on the other hand, tries to place all the blame on the Socialist Revolutionaries and maintains that the English mission tried to save the Baku Commissars. With the same goal, an article was published in England in 1959 by a man who served with General Malleson in Middle Asia, C. H. Ellis, on the operations in Transcaspia in 1918–19 and the affair of the 26 Commissars. A letter from the same Ellis was published in the Times on Oct. 10, 1961, in which he again maintains, contrary to the facts, that the Baku Commissars were shot by the Socialist Revolutionaries, allegedly with no participation by the English mission.

REFERENCES

Poslednie dni komissarov bakinskoi kommuny; po materialam sudebnykh protsessov. Baku, 1928.
Ratgauzer, Ia. Arest i gibel’ komissarov Bakinskoi kommuny. Baku,1928.
Shaumian, L. S. Dvadtsat’ shest’ bakinskikh komissarov. Moscow, 1968.
Burdzhalov, E. Dvadtsat’ shest’ bakinskikh komissarov. Moscow, 1938.
Mikoyan, A. I. “O dniakh Bakinskoi kommuny.” lunost’,1967, nos. 11–12; 1968, nos. 1–2.

L. S. SHAUMIAN