The history of the city of Baku goes back to the great antiquity, though the exact date of its rise is not known up to now. The territory of the Apsheron Peninsula where the city is situated enjoys a favourable geographical position, a convenient bay, a warm, dry climate, a fertile soil, natural minerals, and therefore the emergence of the ancient settlements here is quite natural. The district of Gobustan is to the southwest of modern Baku by the Caspian Sea. Here in the vast space were pastured numerous herds of animals the images of which are fixed on the rocks of the neighbouring mountains. The pictures dating back to 8 millenniums reflect different hunting scenes, ceremonial and ritual processes of the ancient dwellers of these
Noteworthy is the Latin inscription of the 80s-90s of our era found at the foot of the mountain of Boyukdash in Gobustan which runs, “The time of Emperor Domitianus Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Lucius Julius Maxim, Centurion XII of the Lightning Legion”. And the name of the settlement of Ramana or Romana in the vicinity of Baku perhaps also speaks of the Roman troops’ stay in Apsheron in the I century. The Roman troops’ distribution in Gobustan indicates the presence of a large settlement or city in the vicinity, which might have been Baku at that time towards which the Roman troops must have made for.
The archeological excavations carried out in the city of Baku and its vicinities prove the existence of the settlement here before our era. The archaic pre-Zoroastrian burial places found in 1888 during the digging of the foundation pit of the base of the former Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in the place of an old Muslim cemetery speak of the city’s ancient origin too. In the foundation pit were found ancient burials in the form of stone boxes in several rows one above another, also a tomb in the shape of a big tendir (fireplace) the contents of which were six or seven human skeletons in half-seated position. There were clay bowls of an irregular shape in front of the skeletons. This was a family tomb going to the times of the tribal system of the society. Since olden days Baku, its oil, “a burning soil” has been known far beyond its borders. The Medieval written sources related to Baku invariably refer to “the eternal flames” in its vicinities. One of the first to report about them at the beginning of the V century was Byzantine Prisk Paniyski who, while describing the cities of Caucasian Albania, mentioned the place where “the flame rises out of the reef”. The Arabian historian al-Balazuri also informs of oil and salt in Shirvan in 754. With the spread of Islam in the region beginning from the IX century Baku is mentioned in the written sources of Arabian geographers and historians as a small, but a developed feudal city. Invariably there are sources of white and dark gray oil in Baku. Caravans came here for oil from all parts of the Middle East. Slavonic, Khazar, Byzantine, Chinese, Iraqi, Syrian, Kenyan, Venetian, Iranian, and Indian tradesmen arrived in Baku. Being located in the intersection of trade routes Baku was always in the focus of attention of foreign invaders fighting for the influence in the region. In the second half of the IX century the decline of Abbas’ caliphate and the reinforcement of the tendency of decentralization in the countries under the caliphate led to the formation of a number of independent states. The state of the Shirvanshahs was one of such states. Medieval Baku, along with Shamakhy turned into one of the main cities of Shirvan. The city started its real development in the XI century when the state of the Shirvanshahs gradually found itself in the centre of developments in the region. It was at this time that they first started to wall Baku. The evidence of this is the stone inscription discovered during the restoration of the walls, which runs that the walls were erected by Shirvanshah Manuchuhr II (1120-1160). The further development of the Shirvanshahs’ state was achieved under Akhsitan I, Manuchuhr II’s son.
He successfully repelled the assaults of Saljuks and nomadic Kypchaks. During his reign a strong fleet was created in the Baku port. So in 1175 he managed to repel the Russians’ assault that had attacked the vicinity of Baku on 73 vessels. In 1191 Shirvanshah Akhsitan transferred his residence from Shamakhy to Baku. For the first time Baku became the main city of the Shirvanshahs.
With the consolidation of the Shirvanshahs an enormous construction was carried out in the territory of the Apsheron Peninsula. Many castles and minarets, madrasas (islamic religious schools) and towers, caravansaries and bathhouses, reservoirs, mosques and dwelling houses were built at that time. The earliest construction of that period remaining up to our days is Mahammad’s Mosque, erected within the Baku fortress in 1078-1079. Towers and castles hold a special place among the constructions of that period – they served as a reliable stronghold of feudal lords in their intestine struggle as well as a refuge and shelter during the assaults. Much attention was paid to fortify the fortress walls and the Baku fortress. To defend Baku from the coastal side a fortress – the Sabail castle, which is presently under water, was built in the Baku bay in 1232-1235.
In the XIII century the entire country found itself under the Mongolian yoke. In 1230s after a long siege Baku also surrendered to the Mongols. The city was ruthlessly destroyed and plundered “as a punishment” for its resistance. Oil extraction and trade came to decline. The local rulers tried to revive the city’s life. This is testified particularly by Soltan Mahammad Oljite’s edict (1304-1316) carved in the wall of Juma Mosque within the old
fortress. Some taxes were abolished by the edict in order to stimulate the trade and to restore the economy.
At the beginning of XIV century trade, particularly marine trade revived. The ships belonging to the Italian merchants from Genoa and Venice arrived in the Baku port. Baku traded with the Golden Horde, the Moscow princedom, European countries. Oil, carpets and other goods were exported from here. Goods were also exported to Astrakhan, Middle Asia. The Caspian Sea was often referred to as Baku in connection with the growing economic and political role of Baku in the II half of the XIV century. In particular it was so referred in an atlas of 1375. The surviving architectural monuments in the Baku fortress – the Bukhara caravansary (XIV century), the Multani caravansary (XV century) and others testify to the wide links of Baku with Middle Asia and India.
Following the rise of Baku’s economic and political importance in XV century, Shirvanshah Khalilullah I (1417-62) moved the Shirvanshahs’ residence from Shamakhy to Baku. A large construction was developed in the city. At this time there was constructed a complex of the Shirvanshahs’ palace – the largest monument of the Shirvan – Apsheron branch of the Azerbaijani architecture. Trade, art, handicraft were developed. Diplomatic relations were established with the Moscow princedom.
In 1501 Shah Ismail Khatai of the Safavis’ dynasty invaded Shirvan and lay a siege to Baku. At this time the city was enclosed with the lines of strong walls, which were washed by sea on one side and protected by a wide trench on land. The besieged inhabitants of Baku fought with fortitude, relying on the impregnability of their fortification. In the absence of the city’s ruler Gazi-bay his wife led the city’s defence. She ordered to execute Shah Ismail’s messengers who had come to her with the proposal to lay down their arms. Having seen the reluctance of the besieged to surrender Ismail ordered to undermine and explode the big stone in the wall. The inhabitants resisted 3 more days, but then the fortress’s defense was broken by the Safavis’ troops who annihilated lots of inhabitants. Realizing the uselessness of further resistance 70 noble citizens of Baku with the Koran in their hands, the swords round their necks and shrouds on their backs turned to Ismail and declared their obedience to him. Ismail occupied the fortress without delay. Plenty of gold and jewelry were taken away from the occupied treasury of the Shirvanshahs. Though this campaign of Ismail against Shirvan inflicted a heavy blow on the Shirvanshahs’ state, it still managed to survive till 1538. In 1538 Shah Tahmasib, the Safavis’ ruler put an end to the Shirvanshahs’ reign and united the entire Shirvan including Baku under the Safavis’ state.
The II half of the XVI century and the beginning of the XVII century were marked by the sequence of wars between the Safavis’ state and the Ottoman Turkey. At that time Baku changed hands. In 1578 the city was occupied by the Ottoman army. In 1580 the Safavis defeated the Ottoman forces, but in 1684 the Ottomans recaptured Baku. In 1590 the Safavis’ Shah Abbas I had to make heavy peace with the Turks according to which they took over the northern and southern provinces of Azerbaijan. Shah Abbas I made use of the respite in the war with the Ottomans, reinforced the army and resumed the war. In 1607 Baku was transferred to the dominion of the Safavis again. According to the agreement reached in Istanbul in 1612 the Safavis took over the entire Azerbaijan and the neighbouring provinces.
The reinforcement of the centralized power, the termination of the devastating wars and feudal discords in the 40s of the XVII century gave an impetus to the flourishing of the urban life. Copper coins were minted, carpet weaving, as well as extraction and trade of oil and salt were developed in Baku in the period of the Safavis. The houses built in the city in the XVII-XVIII centuries testify to the flourishing of architecture and stone carving. At this time Baku was enclosed with a second row of fortress walls.
The XVII century is marked by the inroads of the Don and Volga kazakhs on Apsheron. In April 1660 the kazakhs led by Stepan Razin attacked the Baku coast and plundered the village of Mashtaga. He was said to have lived in a cave near the village of Sabunchu from where he made his plundering raids.
Beginning from the XVIII century the rich natural resources and significant strategic importance of the city started to attract the attention of
Russia to it. Peter I tried to occupy the western and southern shores of the Caspian and become the host of the Caspian by ousting the Turks and
Iranians. To capture the Caspian coastal areas he organized a special naval expedition. At the end of June 1723 a squadron of 7 vessels was sent from
Astrakhan under Mayor-General Matyushkin. On 26 June 1723 after a lasting siege and firing from the cannons Baku surrendered to the Russians.
According to Peter’s decree the soldiers of two regiments(2382 people) were left in the Baku garrison under the command of Prince Baryatyanski, the commandant of the city.
Wishing to consolidate his position in the region Peter I pursued an active policy to settle the Christians, mainly the Armenians in Baku. On November 10, 1724, shortly before his death, Peter I received 4 delegates of the Armenian people who were petitioning for “ the relief to the Armenians and permission for them to settle in the Caspian provinces”. On the same day Peter I presented the credentials to the Armenian Patriarch Isay and the entire Armenian people permitting the Armenians to settle in Gilan, Mazandaran and Baku. General Matyushkin and Brigadier Levashov were ordered “to make all possible efforts to arrange the Armenians’ settlement in Gilan, Mazandaran, Baku, Derbend and so on, and to oust the Persians (the Azerbaijanis) when opportunity offers” (Butkov’s report). Thus the settlement of the Armenians in Baku mainly goes back to that time. In 1724 about 5 thousand Kazan Tatars, Cheremisses, Chuvashes who had been deported to Baku for shipbuilding also started to settle in Baku.
After Peter’s death in 1725 the Caspian areas became a burden on the Russians. A big army was required to maintain the occupied territories, but the incomes did not cover the expenses. By 1730 the situation had deteriorated as Nadir shah, a talented commander rose in Iran. Nadir Shah’s successes in Shirvan made the Russians conclude an agreement near Ganja on March 10, 1735 according to which the Russian troops were withdrawn from
Baku. Again Baku went under the dominion of Iran.
Nadir Shah was murdered as a result of a palace revolution in 1747 which was followed by his empire’s fall. A number of independent khanates were formed in the territory of Azerbaijan, one of the significant among them was the Baku khanate. Seizing power Mirza Mahammad khan (1747-1768) stood at the head of the Baku khanate. During his 20 year power Mirza Mahammad khan was involved in the restoration of the economy of the country, contributed the development of trade. Being an admiral he directed all his efforts at shipbuilding for the freight transportation and military
He was followed by his son Malik Mahammad khan. There was no end to the feudal intestine dissensions among separate khans. The Baku khan was also involved in this struggle and fought on the side of Fatali khan of Guba subject to him and having ties of relationship with him. In 1784 Malik Mahammad khan died leaving the Baku throne to his son Mirza Mahammad khan II, who later became the father of A.Bakikhanov, the famous
Azerbaijani historian. The following years were also spent on the struggle among khans. The intestine dissensions in the Baku khanate took place mainly because of the oil fields which brought enormous incomes.
Despite a certain revival in the economy in this period, Azerbaijan suffered heavy losses at the end of the XVIII century as a result of devastating inroads by the Iranian ruler Aga Mahammad khan Gajar who overrode all the provinces of Iran and the south of Azerbaijan. In 1795 Aga Mahammad khan Gajar invaded and destroyed Baku, but soon his army left Shirvan.
Having seen Aga Mahammad khan Gajar’s reinforcement the czarist government began to pursue a policy of subduing Azerbaijan to Russia. In the spring of 1796 by Yekaterina II’s order General Zubov’s troops started a large campaign of the tzarist military forces in Transcaucasia. Baku surrendered after the first demand of Zubov who had sent 6 thousand militants to capture the city. On June 13 1796 the Caspian flotilla entered the Baku bay and a garrison of the Russian troops was placed in Baku. General P.D.Sisianov was appointed the commandant of the city. But after Yekaterina II’s death her son Pavel I ordered to cease the campaign of the Russian forces and withdraw them back to Russia. In March 1797 the tzarist troops left Baku. After his father Pavel I’s death in March 1801 Alexandre I began to show a special interest in capturing the Caspian provinces and Baku in particular. The Russian – Iranian wars (1804-1813) accelerated his plans. Prince Sisianov was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the troops in the Caucasus.
In 1803 Sisianov reached an agreement with the Baku khan to compromise. The khan even swore an oath of citizenship to Russia, but the agreement was soon annulled. At the beginning of 1806 marching with a big army Sisianov united with General Zavalishin’s fleet at 2 verst distance of Baku and restarted to conduct negotiations with the Baku khan on the surrender of the city. In a reply to the refusal on capitulation the city was exposed to firing of the marine flotilla after which the ruler of Baku Huseingulu khan gave his consent to surrender the city. On February 8, 1806 under the accompaniment of the retinue Huseingulu khan of Baku left the city to present the city’s keys to Sisianov. When Sisianov accepted the keys he and Prince Elizbar Erstov standing next to him were suddenly killed by two people from among the retinue. Sisianov’s body was chopped on the spot by the citizens of Baku who had run out of the fortress. After this his head was sent to Fatali Shah in Iran and his body was buried in front of the Shamakhy gates where his murder had taken place. Having heard of Sisianov’s death the Russian army retreated. But this murder only put off the city’s capture. On October 3, 1806 General Bulgakov’s forces captured Baku without striking a blow the Baku Khanate was annexed to Russia. Huseingulu khan of Baku fled to Iran.
In addition the Gulustan treaty signed between Russia and Iran in 1813 legalized the annexation of the Baku kahanate to the Russian empire. However, the treaty did not solve all the Russian-Iranian contradictions. And the former Baku khan did not give up his hope to return to the power. In July 1826 when the Iranian army invaded the boundary of Northern Azerbaijan a detachment headed by Huseingulu khan made for Baku and seiged the city. He was actively supported by the inhabitants of Baku and its neighbouring villages that revolted against the Russians. But the defeat of the Iranian army as well as the action of the Russian army directed against the Baku khan, forced the latter to return to Iran in October 1826. With the termination of the last Russian-Iranian war in 1828 the Turkmanchay treaty was signed which divided Azerbaijan between Russia and Iran along the river Araks and officially annexed the occupied areas including Baku to Russia. That was a national tragedy, however the treaty contributed to the termination of wars in the region and its further development.
At that time Baku was limited itself to Ichari Shahar – the Inner City surrounded by the fortress walls with only about 300 houses and 3000 inhabitants. Only after the termination of the Russian-Iranian war of 1826-1828 the city began to grow gradually.
After the occupation of the Baku khanate by Russia all the estates and properties belonging to the Baku khan and his surroundings were confiscated. A military-administrative government was implemented in Azerbaijan: the khanates were changed into provinces and okrugs headed by the commandants appointed from among the tsarist officers. According to the regulations that came into force on January 1, 1841 the commandant form of government was liquidated and as a whole a system of administration similar to the all-Russian one was introduced in Transcaucasia. Baku became the centre of the Baku uyezd of the Caspian region. With the approval of the region ruled by vice-gerent in the Caucasus in 1846 a new administrative-territorial division of the area took place according to which the Baku uyezd was included in the newly established Shamakhy province.
In 1859 after a devastating earthquake in Shamakhy, the centre of the province was transferred to Baku, and the province was renamed as Baku. Government offices began to be formed in the city. As a result Baku entered a qualitatively new level of development taking the first place for its social and economic indices among other cities of Azerbaijan in the second half of the XIX century.
Oil extraction played an important role in the development of the city. Baku was involved in the fast industrial development of Russia the economy of which sharply reinforced its requirement for oil. For the first time the tsarist government which controlled the oil wells farmed them out to individuals for a certain period. But in the 60s of the XIX century it turned out that the farming system of exploiting the oil reserves was a worthless remnant
of the past, and a different arrangement of the oil issue was needed for the development of this branch of industry. In 1872 new rules were ratified according to which the formal farmed out oil reserves were transferred to individuals by auction. The abolition of the farming system brought a decisive change to the entire oil issue. The started oil fever could be compared only with the gold fever in Klondike. An intensive exploitation of the Baku oil fields started and it provided a big flow of capitals of foreign oil companies. Within a short period of time departments and representations of Swiss, English, French, Belgian, German, American firms were established in Baku and the most famous among them were the firms of the Nobels and the Rotschields.
Since 1873 “an oil belt of Baku” began to be formed which was known as a Black City. A little later an industrial district of Baku including “oil villages” of Surakhany, BibiHeybat, Balakhany, Sabunchu was established. Here in 1848 the first oil wells in the world were drilled, the first tankers for oil transportation were constructed (1880-1885), Baku-Batumi (1897-1907) oil pipeline was laid. It was in Baku that “The Oil Issue” – the first periodical dedicated to oil and its extraction was published. This periodical was released from 1899 to 1920. By the beginning of the XX century almost half of the oil reserves in the world had been extracted in Baku.
Along with the oil industry other branches of economy also started to develop. There were constructed cement works, machinery factories and breweries, electric power stations, foundries, textile and tobacco mills, steam-mills, banks. Commercial firms, marine steam navigation, “Caucasus and Mercury” – the largest among them opened their own representations. At that time 40% of the marine transportation of Russia was realised across the Caspian. In 1883 a railway line was opened to connect Baku and Tbilisi, in 1892 a horse-drawn tram began to run in the city and in 1900 a railway line Baku – Petrovsk (now Makhachkala) was laid which had exits to central regions of Russia and further to Europe. In 1868-1879 the first telegraph cables were laid to connect Baku, Tbilisi and Krasnovodsk, and in 1886 the first telephone station was constructed. By 1917 Shollar water pipeline started to provide the city with water. This pipeline has been smoothly functioning up to now.
Baku was developing not only economically, but also culturally. In 1873 the first Azerbaijani National Theatre was founded. In 1875 the first newspaper began to be published. In 1864 Nariman Narimanov founded the first national public library. In 1908 the first opera in the East “Leily and Majnun” was staged. Printing work was developing, publishing houses were being opened, newspapers including “Baku”, “Kaspiy”, “Bakinskiy rabochiy”, “Hummat”, “Yoldash”, also different brochures, books and magazines came to be published in Azerbaijani and Russian.
The city in the Apsheron Peninsula grew with an extraordinary speed that had been experienced neither in Russia, nor in Europe at all. From all parts of Russia and from abroad people of different nationalities rushed into Baku in search of work and happiness. By 1883 there were more than 45 thousand inhabitants in Baku, and in 1913 this number rose to 200 thousand. The vicinity of the city was equipped with modern amenities, there was an increase in the number of architectural monuments distinguished by their unusual elegance. Among them are a railway station known as “Tiflis”; the Baku municipal duma; Realny vocational school (now the building of the University of Economy); Ismailiyya” (the Presidium of Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences); the Public Assembly (Philharmonic Society) and so on. At the same time a lot of trees and gardens were planted, there appeared a boulevard with a nice complex of the city bath-houses, gardens: Mikhaylovski (at Baksoviet underground station), Marinski (Molokanski), Nobelski (the park after Nizami) and Kolyubakinski park.
So the economic rise at the end of the XIX century turned Baku into one of the greatest centres of Russia and the biggest and the most important city in the Caucasus. At the beginning of the XX century the development of Baku continued, though at times this development was delayed by crises. The fall of the price for oil led inevitably to the reduction of the payment, to the deterioration of the labour conditions and to the growth of the number of the unemployed. The hard economic situation resulted in a range of actions of the workers in 1901. The biggest one was the strike of the Baku workers in July 1903, which acquired a general character.
On December 12, 1904 “The Organisation of Balakhany and Bibi-Heybat Workers” called all the industrial workers to a general strike. The work was ceased in the Nobels’, Rotschields’, Mantashev’s and Mirzoyev’s firms, the workers of Bibi-Heybat, Black City and White City, the Balakhany and Sabunchu industrial districts joined the strike. On the very first day workers and employees of about 40 firms joined this grand action. On December 30 the first collective agreement in the history of the Russian workers’ movement known under the name “The Fuel Oil Constitution” was signed in the presence of a huge crowd of workers at the factory “The Electric Power”. This agreement was the Baku workers’ greatest victory, which actually improved their material conditions.
The year of 1905 became the culminating stage in the struggle of the masses with the autocracy against social and national oppression. The January actions of the Baku workers were the continuation of the December general strike. One of the forms of the autocracy’s struggle against the mass movement was the provocation of inter-ethnic clashes. The first one of them was arranged in Baku on February 6-9, 1905. To inflame the passions the
tsarist authorities aggravated contradictions between the Azerbaijani and Armenian bourgeoisies. The police and the army did not intervene in the bloody struggle and it resulted in the death of hundreds of people.
A martial law was imposed in Baku and in the province of Baku in February 1905. But in the summer of the following year a new rise of the revolutionary activities started. To suppress the workers’ actions a state of siege was declared on August 22. The tsarist authorities moved the army against the strikers, and the repression started, and a police terror began raging in the city. At the same time the government tried to regulate the
interrelations between the oil industrialists and workers. By the decree of October 28, 1906 the borough of Baku was established to govern Baku and the neighbouring oil industry districts. The head of the borough was appointed directly by the Emperor and was allotted the rights of a governor. In December 1906 the martial law in Baku and in the region of Baku was replaced by the state of an emergency guard, and the position of an acting general-governor was abolished. World War I that broke out in 1914 caused elements of disorganisation in the Baku oil region too. The unemployment sharply grew; the living standards of the workers grew worse. Revolutionary movement grew in the country. In February 1917 the tsarist government fell in Russia. Under new conditions the “Musavat” Party holds a dominating position in Azerbaijan. Having been established in October 1917 it upheld the selfdetermination of the nation since the very beginning of its foundation. At the end of October 1917 the first congress of the “Musavat” Party took place in Baku which determined the tactics and strategy of the organisation in the coming political struggle. The leader of the party was M.E.Rasulzade.
After the overthrow of the provisional government and the Bolsheviks’ advent to power in Russia, on November 2, 1917 a conference of the enlarged Baku Soviet was held in Baku. In the conference the Bolsheviks managed to declare this organ a supreme power in the city and proclaim the Soviet power. However the power of the Baku Soviet failed to spread beyond the vicinity of Baku. The remaining part of Trans-Caucasus was controlled
by the Trans-Caucasian commissariat, later reorganised into the TransCaucasian federation.
In March 1918 the Baku Soviet arranged a massacre against the peaceful defenceless population of the Turkish quarters which resulted in the death of about 10 thousand citizens. Under the pretence of the struggle against the Musavat members the Bolshevik and Armenian gangs started the annihilation of the peaceful Azerbaijani population. The Azerbaijani quarters were fired both from the air and sea. The massacre of the city’s Moslem population was headed by S.Shaumyan, the Chairman of the Committee of Revolutionary Defence of Baku. The Chief of the headquarters of the Red Army in Baku was Z.Avetisyan, a colonel of the tsarist army and a member of the Dashnak Party. The outrages in Baku from March 30 to April 2,
and further in the uyezds, were nothing but a genocide committed against the Azerbaijani people. It was because of this that the Soviet power failed to last longer and quit the stage ignominiously in the very year of 1918.
After the collapse of the Trans-Caucasian Federation on May 28, 1918 the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was proclaimed with the “Musavat” Party at its head. That was the first republic in the entire Islamic East. Because of the complicated situation in the Republic the first Azerbaijani government convened its session not in its native land, but in Tiflis. Later it moved to Ganja. At this time Baku was under Baku Commune, and later it was
controlled by the Sentrokaspi Dictatorship consisting of Dashnaks and Mensheviks. Turkey came to the rescue of the young Azerbaijan Republic. Along with the Turks in its Caucasian Islamic army of 15 thousand soldiers were fighting the newly formed Azerbaijani military units under the command of General Shikhlinski. Having fought in the battles all through Azerbaijan on September 15, 1918 the Caucasian Islamic Army broke the resistance of the
opposing army of 50 thousand soldiers and entered Baku.
Baku became the capital of the independent Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. On September 17, 1918 the government headed by F.Khoyski
arrived in Baku. New bodies of the government power started to be formed. On December 7, 1918 the Parliament of the Azerbaijan Republic started to
Having been defeated in World War I, Turkey, according to the terms of Mudros armistice, had to withdraw its forces from the borders of Azerbaijan in mid November. According to the same armistice the English troops were brought in here. Headed by General W.Thomson who had declared himself the military governor of Baku, the English troops of 5 thousand soldiers arrived in Baku on November17, 1918. By General Thomson’s order a martial law was implemented in Baku until the moment when “the civil power would be strong enough to release the forces from the responsibility to maintain
the public order”.
The young Republic stood the test successfully and it opened a free way to the cultural, social and economic progress. In April 1919 General Thomson’s restrictions, according to which the Ministry of Defence had been in Ganja, were lifted. The Azerbaijani troops solemnly entered Baku. At the end of August 1919 a mass evacuation of the English troops from Baku that put an end to their 9 month stay here started. Thus all the sections of the state apparatus were transferred without exception to the full jurisdiction of the Azerbaijani government.
The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic existed for about 2 years and was overthrown by Russia. On April 27, 1920 the units of the Russian Eleventh Red Army crossed the border of Azerbaijan and began to march towards Baku. At the same time the Soviet Russia presented the Azerbaijan Republic with an ultimatum to surrender. On April 28 the Eleventh Red Army entered the capital of Azerbaijan. The perfidious intervention and overturn were
declared as “the Socialist revolution of the workers and peasants”. The first thing the Red Army did was to deliver oil to Russia. Only from April 30 to May 2 1920 that is literally after the establishment of the Soviet power in Baku, 12 tankers with 1.3 million poods of oil were sent to Russia. Already in the May of the same year the amount of the exported oil increased to 15 million poods and in June to 21.2 million poods of oil and oil products.
After the Soviet power had been established in Georgia and Armenia in March 1922 a contract was signed to form the Federative Union of the Trans-Caucasian Republics which was soon reorganised into the TransCaucasian Federative Republic. In December of the same year the Trans-Caucasian Republic, along with Ukraine, Byelorussia and the Russian Federation formed the USSR. In compliance with the new Constitution of 1936 Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia became independent republics within the USSR.
The development of Baku also continued after the establishment of the Soviet power. To attach the Baku oil district towards herself more strongly Russia took measures aimed at giving Azerbaijan the status of “a model Soviet Republic in the Islamic East”. This kind of measures included the improvement of the living conditions of the Baku workers, mainly of the oil workers, as well as the solution of the problems related to the town-building of the capital. From 1924 to 1937 three variants of the city’s over-all plan had been worked out. In this period the widest housing and cultural constructions were being carried out in the central historical part of the city and its suburbs, the foundations of the new housing unit areas were laid: the settlements after M.Mammadyarov, P.Montin, S.Razin, etc. In 1926 the first electric railway in the USSR was constructed to connect Baku with the suburban settlements of workers. The work on the considerable increase of the areas under green plantations in Baku also dated to these years. Gardens, squares and parks were laid both in the historical part of the city and in its new districts with the compulsory participation of thousands of citizens of Baku in numerous subbotniks.
Beside these achievements, obtained due to utter enthusiasm and labour of the rank and file citizens of Baku one must also remember the innocent victims of Stalinist repression of the 1930s. The losses were particularly great among the reviving young Azerbaijani intelligentsia, whose best representatives were either exiled or shot dead.
With the outbreak of World War II again Baku turned out to be in the focus of attention of the great world powers. After the Soviet-German non-aggression pact had been signed in 1939, the USSR started to provide Germany with oil. In 1939-1940 France and England planned to bomb Baku and to occupy the Baku oil industry district. In the French generals’ opinion such kind of operation would have weakened the economic might of the Soviet Union and led to the collapse of the Soviet system. England also had an analogous plan. The headquarters of the British Royal Air Forces thought that “three squadrons of bombers operating for a period of time from 6 weeks to 3 months could put the oil fields out of action”. Only the Germans’ powerful attack on the western front forced the allies to postpone their plans with respect to Baku.
The contribution of Baku in the successful defeat of fascism was very weighty. During the war the oil reserves of Baku comprised 75% of the country’s overall oil reserves, and 90% of the jet fuel consisted of Baku oil. Taking into consideration the growing demand for oil, the Baku oil workers reached the record level of oil extraction in 1941 – 23,482 million tons. Never before such amount of oil had been extracted and up to now, this record has not been surpassed yet.
When the German military forces attacked the Caucasus, Hitler fixed the date of seizing Baku – September 25, 1942. German reconnaissance planes started to appear over Baku and one of them was shot near the city. 764 oil wells were deadened and prepared for destruction and 81 sets of drilling equipment with the personnel were sent to Turkmenistan in case of seizure of the city by the autumn of 1942. Despite this, Baku provided the front with oil, restoring and exploiting the old oil wells. Thousands of oil workers went to front to fight and in the oil fields they were replaced by the women. A considerable number of military equipment and ammunitions were produced here. Baku was the most important transport junction in providing the USSR with military and humanitarian aids rendered by the allies through Iran. During the years of war Baku as a city in the rear received about 440 thousand wounded from the front.
The further development of the city continued after the war. In 1949 the construction of Oil Rocks started and this was the first world experience in exploiting oil fields in the open city. The construction of living houses and public buildings was recommenced in Baku from the very first years in the post-war period. Thanks to the classics in the Azerbaijani architecture, M.Huseinov and S.Dadashov, as well as G.Majidov, E.Gasimzade, G.Alizade, G.Alasgarov and others and due to their talent and artistic skills the centre of Baku and its new districts enriched themselves with new and very important architectural constructions.
Baku became one of the biggest and most significant industrial centres of the former Soviet Union. Electronics, instrument engineering, light and food industry developed intensively along with the oil extraction, oil refining and oil machine building. Within a relatively short period of time there were built in Baku such big industrial objects as the factory of domestic air conditioners, the Baku instrument making factory, and the factory of electronic computers, the factory of champagne wines, the factory of deep water bases and other enterprises which won not only the domestic market of the Soviet Union but also the markets of numerous foreign countries for the products of high quality.
Enormous was the role of Baku as an important transport junction of the former USSR. In those years it held the third place among the other cities in all the Union Republics for its volume of the freight turnover. Of a particular importance was the Baku commercial seaport – the biggest port not only in the Caspian but also among the numerous Soviet ports. In 1967 the opening of Baku underground – the first of its kind in the entire Middle East
became a significant event.
Baku became the biggest centre of education and culture. Almost all the big higher educational institutions of Azerbaijan were located in Baku, here tens of theatres, palaces of culture functioned successfully, there were held social, scientific, professional forums of international and All-Union significance.
For its achievements the city was repeatedly rewarded with Challenge Red Banners of the Central Committee of the CPSU, of the Cabinet of Ministers, All-Union Central Trade Unions and of the Central Committee of the All-Union Young Communist League. And on November 24, 1977 Baku was awarded the Order of Lenin according to the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.
The perestroika movement started in mid 1980s turned the entire country including Baku into a chaos and instability for a long period of time. A number of bloody hotbeds of interethnic conflicts broke out in the territory of the USSR, the first one of which was and is still in Garabagh. The conflict arose because of the Armenian nationalists’ territorial claims. In 1988 there appeared a claim of annexation of Mountainous Garabagh of Azerbaijan to Armenia. At the same time the entire Azerbaijani population was driven out of Armenia – more than 200 thousand people whose greater part arrived in Baku. A movement for the protection of the territorial integrity started in Azerbaijan. In view of the reluctance of the USSR leadership to stop the Armenian nationalists’ claim, it grew into a national liberation movement. On November 17, 1988 continuous protest meetings against the Soviet
leadership’s policy and for the national independence started in Lenin Square (now Liberty Square) in Baku. Now this day is officially celebrated as the Day of National Revival. Despite the introduction of the state of emergency in Baku on November 25, the meeting lasted till December 5 when the square was cleared of the strikers with the help of the military forces. But the national movement in Azerbaijan gathered power.
To suppress the national movement, to ban the calls for national sovereignty and not to allow the collapse of the USSR, the Soviet leadership’s punitive action unprecedented in cruelty and cynicism and savage reprisal against unarmed population of the city were carried out in Baku in January 1990. At night from January 19 to 20 troops were brought into Baku. The engagement of the military units and formations in the city was accompanied with firing which victimised the peaceful citizens: the youth, the old and the children – part of the defenceless unarmed population of Baku who either
protested against the entry of the unbidden army into the city or happened to be on its way. Tanks crushed the passing emergency vehicles, the cars on the roadside, the wounded were crushed, and the medical personnel rendering first aid on the spot were fired at. Death overtook some people in their flats, in the porches of the houses, in buses and at their workplaces. As a result, 131 people died and 744 were wounded and a lot of them were crippled forever. The January tragedy of 1990 entered the Azerbaijani people’s national consciousness as the most sorrowful event, at the same time, as the turning point in the history of Azerbaijan in the XX century on its way to the national independence.
After the collapse of the USSR the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan accepted a declaration “On the Restoration of the State Independence of Republic of Azerbaijan”. In accordance with this declaration Republic of Azerbaijan was proclaimed sovereign on October 18, 1991. For the second time in the history of the XX century Baku became the capital of an independent state.
With the independence gained in 1991 Baku as well as the entire Azerbaijan clashed with a range of uneasy problems associated with the collapse of the planned economy and the hardships of the transition period. The independent Azerbaijan fighting for the territorial integrity had to solve also a range of complicated problems caused by the aggression of neighbouring Armenia which had occupied one fifths of the Azerbaijani territory. The most complicated were the questions associated with the solution of living problems of more than one million refugees who had to leave their homes. The Armenian aggression inflicted on the economy of Azerbaijan such a heavy blow that it stops the reform processes, has an impact on the micro-economic indices of the country and impedes the further economic structure.
Heydar Aliyev’s return to the leadership of the Republic in 1993 enabled to stabilise the internal political situation in the Republic and to attract the investments of the biggest international oil companies for its development. A significant event of this kind was the signing of the great oil contract in September 1994 also known as “the Contract of the Century”. This enabled to start the realisation of several concrete issues including the ones connected with the consolidation of the independence of the Republic, the development of the city’s economy and the constructions in Baku. Today being actively developed the capital of Azerbaijan plays a significant role and has become the biggest political and economic centres in the region.
The citizens of Baku are always notable for their belief in future and great optimism despite any adversity. And today when our young republic has chosen the road of its independent development, we are sure that Baku will achieve great successes and hold a place worthy of its past, present and future to rank with the famous capitals of the world.