Baku Strikes

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Baku Strikes

 

(of 1903,1904,1913, and 1914), mass strikes of the Baku proletariat. The 1903 strike was the first general strike in Transcaucasia. It was led by the Baku committee of the RSDLP. The initiative was taken by the metalworkers. The strike began on July 1 in machine workshops of Bibi-Eibat. By July 6 industrial and mercantile life of the city reached a complete standstill. Oil tanker crews joined the strike. A strike committee was formed. Organizers of the strike struggle were M. G. Melikiants, I. P. Vatsek, M. M. Mamed’iarov, I. T. Fioletov, and others. The strikers demanded release of those who were arrested and reinstatement of all those participants in previous demonstration-strikes who had been dismissed; introduction of the eight-hour workday; an end to all overtime work; a raise in pay by 20 to 50percent; elimination of fines; improvement of housing; and other changes. The strike was accompanied by demonstrations and meetings. The employers refused to grant the demands of the workers. Troops were dispatched to the oilfields and factories. By July 19 the strike began to subside, and by July 22 it had completely ceased. The Baku strike had a revolutionizing influence on the proletariat of Transcaucasia and the Ukraine and was the beginning of the general strike in southern Russia in 1903.

The strike of 1904 took place under the leadership of the Baku committee of the RSDLP. It began December 13 in Balakhany and in the Bibi-Eibat workshop district. Members of the strike committee were P. A. Dzhaparidze, A. M. Sto-pani, I. T. Fioletov, and others. Organizational and agitational work among the strikers was led by V. S. Bobrovskii, M. M. Mamed’iarov, and other Bolsheviks. The Social Democratic group Gummet did a great deal to attract Azerbaijani workers into an active role in the strike struggle. The Armenian Social Democratic organization Gnchak also selected representatives to the strike committee. Along with demands already presented in the summer of 1903, the workers proposed new ones: designation of one day off (Sunday) per week; shortening of the work day before Sundays and the work day before holidays; inclusion of May 1 in the list of holidays; establishment of a workshop board, consisting of an equal number of workers and employers, for hearing conflict cases; participation of workers’ representatives in hiring and dismissing of workers; establishment of a guaranteed minimum wage according to a worker’s position; paying of wages on a strictly regular basis of not less than twice a month; and others. By December 18 the majority of enterprises in Baku were on strike. Mass gatherings, demonstrations, and clashes with troops took place in the city. Employers were compelled to begin negotiations with the strikers. On December 30 a collective agreement was reached. Workers achieved a nine-hour working day, with night shift and drilling crews winning an eight-hour day; four paid days off per month; a raise in wages; improvement of working and living conditions; payment for the days of the strike; and other changes.

Both Baku strikes demonstrated the solidarity of workers of different professions and nationalities. The strikes produced a growth of political awareness and unity of the Trans-caucasian workers; they received the support of workers throughout the country.

The general strike of 1913 began on July 25. It was preceded by smaller strikes, which occurred at various times in separate workshops and factories. The Baku committee of the RSDLP decided to turn the uncoordinated actions into a general one. A strike committee was formed to prepare and lead a mass strike. It consisted of B. A. Borian, E. E. Rozma-chev, A. G. Dolidze, G. Z. Ionnisian, I. Ia. Kozhevnikov, and others. The strikers presented 45 political and economic demands: introduction of the eight-hour day and a six-hour workday before a nonworking day; abolition of overtime work; the right to a month’s paid vacation for those who have worked for at least a year; legalization of May 1 as a holiday; official recognition of trade unions and workshop-factory commissions; an increase in wages for all workers; establishment of mandatory minimum wages for skilled and unskilled workers; payment for the days of the strike; speeding up of construction of modern well-built workers’ settlements; the bringing of existing workers’ housing up to normal standards, in conjunction with the sanitation regulations; establishment of a hospital insurance fund, into which oil industrialists would have to make payments for the workers; the organization at the expense of the employers of new medical facilities and expansion of the existing ones; creation of clubs, library-reading rooms, schools for the children of workers, and basic reading and writing courses for workers to be taught in their native language; freedom for all those arrested in connection with the strike; and other demands. Repressions could not break the strikers. Oil industrialists, incurring losses from the strike, announced that they were ready to investigate and grant some of the economic demands, but they refused to look into others, especially the political ones, alleging that they “lie in the jurisdiction of legislative bodies or government power.” The workers announced that they would not resume work until “the demands in their entirety” were granted. However, the prolonged struggle had exhausted the workers. In the middle of August, satisfied by partial concessions from the oil industrialists, strikers of many enterprises returned to work, while the city telephone operators, workers of Ta-giev’s textile factory, coachmen, and employees on the horse-railroad went out on strike. An almost unbroken string of strikes stretched to October 17. In all, more than 35,000 workers had been on strike. The economic achievements of the workers proved fragile; employers did not fulfill their promises, which led to new strikes.

The strike of 1914, also general, began on May 28. It was led by the Baku committee of the RSDLP, headed by S. G. Shaumian, with the active participation of M. A. Azizbekov, I. T. Fioletov, and A. M. Stopani. Members of the strike committee were I. M. Dorofeev, S. S. Gafurov, N. N. Karta-shev, G. F. Sturua, and others. Repeating the demands of 1913, the strikers added new ones: the recognition of the labor representatives’ body—the soviet of representatives of the Baku proletariat—and the competence of this body to reach collective agreements with employers. Approximately 50,000 people participated in the strike. In answer to repression, the workers held mass meetings and demonstrations of political importance. The Bolshevik Pravda highly praised the persistent struggles of the Baku workers. Salutes to the heroic Baku people from all over Russia were printed in Pravda. In St. Petersburg and other cities a fund was set up to help the Baku strikers. In July 1914, with the beginning of World War I, the workers were forced to end the strike.

REFERENCES

Istoriia Azerbaidzhana, vol. 2. Baku, 1960. Pages 494–502, 540–50, 721–36.
Shaumian, S. G. Izbr. proizv., vol. 1. Moscow, 1957. Pages 461–62, 467–82.
Arutiunov, G. A. Rabochee dvizhenie v Zakavkaz’e v period novogo revoliutsionnogopod’Oma (1910–1914 gg.). Moscow-Baku, 1963.
Guliev, A. N. Bakinskii proletariat v gody novogo revoliutsionnogo pod’Oma. Baku, 1963.

G. M. DERENKOVSKII

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.