Author: Natig MAMMADZADEH
In September 1918, Azerbaijan and its young republic reached a crucial point in history. Fights for Baku, which at the end of 1917 was home to the Baku Soviet hostile to the independent Azerbaijan, were ongoing.
Baku Council was doomed
The military successes of the Caucasian Islamic Army, which achieved a breakthrough in the war with the Dashno-Bolshevik Baku Council, intensified the political and economic crisis in Baku. The Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks opposing the Bolshevik Baku Council invited the British expeditionary forces under the command of General Lionel Dunsterville to Baku. The Dashnaks also supported this initiative. Understanding that the collapse of the Baku Soviet of People's Commissars was imminent, they joined the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks.
The Dashno-Socialist-Menshevik bloc was also trying to keep Baku under the control of the Baku Soviet thanks to the Cossack troops of the former tsarist colonel Lazar Bicherakhov. Bicherakhov and his 1,500-strong detachment took command of the right wing of the so called Baku defense line. However, at the end of July 1918, realising that his army will not be able to resist the advancing Azerbaijani-Turkish troops, Bicherakhov and his detachment left the front and moved north towards Petrovsk (Makhachkala).
On July 25, the Baku Council held a heated political meeting, which voted for inviting British troops to Baku. However, the Baku Soviet of People's Commissars refused to obey this demand and eventually resigned. The power in Baku passed into the hands of the Dashno-Socialist-Menshevik bloc, which on August 1 formed the Central-Caspian Dictatorship and the Presidium of the Provisional Executive Committee of the Council of Workers 'and Soldiers' Deputies. On the same day, the anti-Bolshevik Dictatorship, which proclaimed its opposition to the Lenin government in Russia, sent representatives to the headquarters of the British military command in Iran.
On August 4, the first British detachment headed by Colonel Stokes arrived to Baku and brought in military transport from Anzali. On 9-17 August, the main British troops led by General Dunsterville landed in Baku. The army consisted of three battalions, a battery of field artillery and several armored cars, although the Dashnaks and their allies counted on much greater assistance from the UK. The command of the British Corps, on the other hand, complained about the lack of discipline, demoralisation and even cowardice of the military forces of the Dictatorship.
Convinced that nothing could be done to "save the city", towards which were advancing the troops of another empire opposing Entente during the First World War, the Ottoman Empire, Dunsterville prepared for the evacuation. However, the Central-Caspian Dictatorship threatened the British that they would open fire if any of their ship tried to leave the Baku bay. Dunsterville had no choice but to wait until the last assault of the Caucasian Islamic Army and leave Baku only when the panic, which was becoming increasingly dominant in the Dashno-Socialist-Menshevik block, would reach its peak.
"A lesson for those who are trying to build their happiness on someone else's misfortune"
When confusion and panic intensified in Baku, which was controlled by a regime hostile to the Azerbaijani people, the government of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) continued active negotiations with the Ottoman Empire. Their goal was to win in the war for the liberation of Baku.
On September 6, 1918, the Azerbaijani delegation including Mammad Emin Rasulzadeh, Khalil-bey Khasmammadov and Aslan-bey Safikurd was presented to Sultan Mehmet VI in Istanbul. Rasulzadeh assured the Ottoman ruler in the respect of the Azerbaijani state and highly appreciated the fraternal assistance of Turkey in the national liberation of Azerbaijan. Mehmet VI promised to bring the fight against the common enemy to a victorious end and conveyed his warmest wishes to the Azerbaijani people.
At that time, the Caucasian Islamic Army began offensive against Baku, which began on the morning of September 15. By the end of the day, ships with Dunsterville's detachment were leaving the bay. The government of the Central-Caspian Dictatorship followed them soon.
The commander of the Caucasian Islamic Army, Nuri Pasha, telegraphed to the Azerbaijani government in Ganja: "By God's mercy, our troops took Baku".
After receiving good news from Baku, Enver Pasha, the Ottoman Minister of War, immediately telephoned the chairman of the Azerbaijani delegation in Istanbul, M. E. Rasulzade: "Congratulations, Emin Bey. Baku is liberated." On the same day, Rasulzadeh's sent the following note to the head of the ADR government Fatali Khan Khoysky and Foreign Minister Mammad Hasan Hajinsky: "Enver Pasha told me in the phone about the capture of Baku in the evening of Gurban Bayram (Eid al-Fitr). I went to him immediately. We hugged and kissed each other, celebrated the event. "
Later in his book, The Republic of Azerbaijan Rasulzadeh wrote: "After six months of life full of fear, the Muslim population calmed down. On the holy day, Gurban Bayram, Baku returned to its true owners again... The liberation of Baku is like a miracle."
The Turkish military representative in Georgia, Abdul Kerim Pasha, wrote to Mammad Yusif Jafarov, the Azerbaijani diplomatic representative in Georgia: "I congratulate you on the occasion of liberation of Baku by Turkish and Azerbaijani troops."
Two days later, the government of ADR moved from Ganja to Baku. The government message signed by Prime Minister Fatali Khan Khoysky read: "The Azerbaijani government, which entered the capital of the Republic of Baku, notifies the city's population and neighborhood that all citizens living in Azerbaijan, regardless of their national and religious affiliation, have equal rights. The government will equally protect the life, property and rights of all its citizens. Robbers, assassins and, in general, those who violate tranquility and public order will be punished according to the severity of wartime laws including the death penalty."
The Azerbaijani population of Baku met the Turkish troops as saviors. The command of the Caucasian Islamic Army made it clear that its participation in the liberation of Baku took place in accordance with the will of the Azerbaijani government.
With the liberation of Baku, the Azerbaijani government practically established its authority within the republic. On this occasion, a grandiose demonstration took place where the members of the ADR government made congratulatory statements.
"We also have the right to live freely. Neither the armored cars, seaplanes, airplanes, gunboats, barbed wire, mines and other technical installations, nor the British, any other forces and their patrons could resist the course of history. Fifty thousand enemy troopers and their equipment could not resist the pressure of a small force. This should be a lesson for those who are trying to build their happiness on someone else's misfortune."
Fatali Khan Khoisky, Prime Minister of the ADR
The Azerbaijan newspaper, 19.09.1918
A prominent Turkish commander of the Caucasian Islamic Army, Nuri Pasha Killigil, played an instrumental role in the liberation of Baku in September 1918. He was born on November 22, 1881 in Istanbul and was half-brother of Enver Pasha, who during the First World War was the military minister of the Ottoman Empire. Nuri Pasha entered the First World War as a commander of the army group Africa, and then became one of the key figures on the Caucasian front.
According to the agreement signed on June 4, 1918 between the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan and the Ottoman Empire, the latter took responsibility to render military assistance to the government of Azerbaijan. The accomplishment of this mission was entrusted to the Caucasian Islamic Army under the command of Nuri Pasha. The main objective of this united Turkish-Azerbaijani army was the liberation of Baku from the Baku Council, which on the eve of the proclamation of Azerbaijan's independence headed for the conquest of Ganja, the center of the Azerbaijani national movement, which later became the first (temporary) capital of the ADR. As the Turkish commander stated, "hundreds of thousands of Turks and Muslims endure in Baku and the neighborhood a bloody yoke of ruthless bandits, so-called revolutionaries."
The Caucasian Islamic Army achieved significant milestones during counter-offensive operations and subsequent victories in Goychay, Kurdamir and Shamakhi. Baku was liberated on September 15, 1918.
Nuri Pasha's life in Baku is remembered not only for his military achievements. The people, prominent representatives of the intelligentsia, political and industrial circles of Azerbaijan recognised him as a national hero. His acquaintance with Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev could become a significant event in the personal life of Nuri Pasha. The Turkish commander fell in love with Taghiyev's daughter Sara-khanim and expressed his wish to create a family with her. However, Haji Zeynalabdin objected this marriage, since he did not want his beloved child to be away from him in the future. Later on Sara-khanim would remember her meetings with the famous Turkish military commander and admit that back in those days she was full of "romantic, poetic dreams."
By the way, Nuri Pasha got a family only by the end of his life. By that time, he had left not only victorious days behind himself. After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the World War I, Nuri Pasha, like all the Turkish troops that participated in the liberation of Baku, left the capital of Azerbaijan. The winners, the British, took Nuri Pasha to Batumi, where he was held in detention for six months. The British were going to execute him but the prison in which Nuri Pasha was kept was raided, and the Turkish commander was kidnapped. According to sources, the escape operation was led by an Azerbaijani resident of Batumi, Tamel-bey, and was one of the successful operations of the ADR special services.
However, Nuri Pasha's participation in the Azerbaijani history did not stop there. In July 1920, he led the uprising in Karabakh against the Soviet power. The former commander of the Caucasian Islamic Army fought selflessly against the Bolshevik troops, but after some time was forced to return to Turkey. He joined the liberation movement of the Turkish people together with an Azerbaijani mounted regiment, which fought in the battle of Sarikamish between the Ankara government and the Armenian Republic. In October 1920, Nuri Pasha joined forces with Azerbaijani soldiers in Erzurum.
Soon, Nuri Pasha withdrew from military affairs. The sphere of his interests was the production of weapons. In 1938, Nuri Pasha bought a coal mining plant. He invented a semi-automatic pistol Nuri Killigil, one of the copies of which is kept at the military museum in Istanbul.
The life of Nuri Pasha was interrupted on March 2, 1949. He and another 26 people were killed during the explosion at the plant.