March of 1918 Events in the Documentation

March of 1918 Events in the Documentation

Unfortunately, not all memories and notes of those who participated in witnessed bloody March Event of 1918 in Baku and other areas throughout Azerbaijan are extant. Some documents were destroyed by the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), while others were riddles wrapped up in an enigma.   

Mirza Bala Mammadzade in his article titled "March Days" on the second anniversary of the March atrocities published in the "Istiqlal" newspaper, 31 March 1920, wrote: "The bloody March of 1918 Days had to see how the Bolsheviks bombed mosques in Azerbaijan and put its people to the sword in order to suffocate the idea of freedom and independence in Azerbaijani Turks, leaving an abiding memory with the help of dashnak bandits."

Witnesses of the bloody tragedy note that the Bolsheviks had made common cause with Armenian dashnaks, and armed groups of Azerbaijanis fought bravely against them. The March Events are the heroic landmark each of us ought to proudly reminisce, yet this event did not leave mark as a big tragic in history.  


Aliabbas Muznib (1882-1938), a distinguished writer, poet and literary scholar, wrote about the massacre in March 1918. Notes in his pocket planner kept at the Institute of Manuscripts named M. Fuzuli of ANAS draw particular attention. In his article "War of the People in Baku. The war between the Muslims and Armenians and the Russians" he describes the events from the beginning: "On March 31, 1918, on Sunday afternoon at five o'clock in the residential area in the north part of Baku there started a war between Muslims and the Bolsheviks as it seemed. However, not only the Russians took part in the war; mostly the Armenians were involved in the provocations against Muslims. Not serious loss was observed during the first skirmish. At night, the Muslims made an attack and seized  large barracks with guns and pushed the enemy to the north-east part of Baku."

Aliabbas Muznib talked about the courage of Azerbaijanis who were armed only with rifles and about the Turkish soldiers' who appeared to have been taken captive during the First World War and introduced names of some soldiers that demonstrated heroism in today's battle: 'The enemy was driven back to Karpichbasan. Gunslingers Teymur bey, Najafgulu Rzagulu oglu,  Muhammedhuseyn from Novkhany and Shiruye from Muhammadili  took part in today's confrontation. Turkish officers-prisoners also came to their help. By evening inhabitants of Mashtagha and Kurdakhany settlements had come to the rescue. Well-known Qachag Adil led the group from Kurdakhany. As soon as the Muslims flung back the Russian-Armenian troops, they captured the Taghiyev's big school. The Muslims had never seen battles and were incoherent, but now they could stand the enemy's shelling and machine-gun firing.'

A.Muznib' notes are interesting as they fully reflected the events that had happened in the settlements around Baku. "At night, the Russian-Armenian troops attacked the residential area of Muslims and killed sleeping civilians. The people demonstrated braveness and strong resistance against the enemy, and mostly Siruye besieged the enemy. It was Suriye who fought against the enemy until the sunset.  March 19, the north of Baku looked like a real battlefield. At that time, the Muslim troops were armed only with rifles and pistols, but the Russian-Armenian troops were equipped with cannons, machine guns, hand grenades and rifles.'

The author notes that in those events the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks united with the Armenians, fought together against the Muslims. On March 19, the whole day there were fights, early in the morning, on March 20, the Russians subjected the city to heavy attacks from guns and machine guns. As a result of bombing considerable Muslim houses were destroyed, the city was widely damaged, and many peaceful civilians were killed that day.'

As the author notes, bloody battles continued early in the morning on March 21, up to 10.00 am, and at 11.00am, the Armenians repeatedly sent their envoy with the request  to conclude a truce, putting forward three conditions:

1. All Baku population, including workers, soldiers and sailors should be subjected to the deputies.

2. The Muslim and Armenian 'wild' division should be controlled directly by them, or completely disbanded.

3. Baku-Tiflis and Baku-Petrovsk roads that are under the control of Muslims  should be opened until 1 April.

As soon as both the sides accepted these terms, peace was restored.

As was stated in the notes, the city suffered heavily: the enemy burnt the building of the "Jamiyyeti-Xeyriyye" (Charity Society), printing houses 'Achig Soz' (Open word) and 'Caspian', major part of the market.

The author points out that a few days later, on March 25, Sunday, at midnight military forces from Dagestan suddenly attacked Baku and started a war with the Bolsheviks. However, this attack didn't have any political nature. It was simply an attack of a brigand and their attack was soon repulsed.

In one of the folders of Jafar Jabbarli, the prominent Azerbaijani writer and playwright, stored in the archive of the Institute of Manuscripts, we read memories of Baku residents - Mashadi Hilal Kazimov and Dadash Rzazade on the bloody events of March 1918. As the memories were written (or dictated) by the people who were directly involved in fighting against the enemy in March 1918 (as it turned out later, they were Gochu -bravehearted, fearless men) they are of historical value. Some names of the Azerbaijanis who participated in this unequal struggle and heroically fought against the enemy were listed in these notes.

Mashadi Hilal Kazimov from Keshla states that he went to the Musavat Party's office as soon as he heard what was going on: 'After discussing the situation with our friends, we decided to defend the street Nikolavevsky (Parliamentary), and we arranged the defence of the street. We withstood all attacks. That day, from five pm to 4 am the next day, we put up strong resistance.

Mashadi Hilal describes the heavy fighting for the Old City '... We were told that the Armenians had entered the Old City through Goshagala Gapi (Double Tower Gate). Attacking them, we managed to drive them away. Between the two doors, we noticed a small trench made of glazed brick. Without any training and experience in fighting we could capture that trench and arranged the defence. However, it was difficult to withstand the onslaught of the enemy, intensive attacks and continuous firing from 20-30 mechanical guns, endless stream of bullets. Because only 16-17 men armed with rifles, and in reality, they could do nothing to stop the enemy armed to the teeth. But we resisted, and didn't let the enemy step forward. We didn't allow them to enter the Old City. We lost our friend  Mehdi who had been shot in the head and became a martyr for faith.'

Later Mashadi Hilal Kazimov writes about the bloody battles at Goshagala Gapi and his participation in them: 'I heard a shout of' 'Ara, Avanes!' from the east part of the Goshagala gapi that was in front of the trench. As soon as I picked up the rifle and was ready to fire, a missile flew over my head and hit the wall, and scattered the dust into my eyes. However, God saved me and I was still shooting; I had five bullets in my rifle and with my keen eyes, I shot five enemy soldiers. I was shouting and Karbalayi Abdulhamid,  Gochu Aliabbas Babayev's brother came up to me and inquired after my health. 'I am in need of help and sky-rockets!' He immediately brought two persons from Shahsevan, two Turkish soldiers, two men from Shaghan and some people from Icherisheher. We held the line until the evening. Finally we could put the enemy to silence. We could break the morale of the enemy.  And they didn't get involved in a gunfight then."

In his memoirs, Dadash Rzazade gave very curious information about the  March and April events of 1918 in Baku and in other regions of Azerbaijan. He wrote that on April 18 around five in the evening he heard shots in Verkhniy Priyut street near the Mikhaylov Hospital and he was told that 'the war between the Bolsheviks and the Muslims had started'. In the morning skirmish, we realized that our enemy were the Armenians. As the author writes 'the Armenians acted as barbarians and they cunningly fought.' 'Many times they had tried to swindle us sending envoys with a peace offer, and raising the white flag, but in vain. With Alikhan we fought three days and three nights. On Wednesday evening, March 21, due to the armistice agreement the shooting stopped, there was silence everywhere, in our quarter as well.  

As Dadash Rzazade wrote after the events in Baku, he fell ill and spent a few days in Novkhani where he heard about the atrocities of the Armenians over the Muslims in Guba and other regions. On hearing this, he took a group of 15 people with him, and headed for Davachi. He stayed there 15 days. One night it became known that the Armenians tortured Muslims. As he stated he had found out nine Armenian criminals and retrieved Muslims from ruin.

D. Rzazade writes that a few days later Armenians arrived at Davachi in echelons and they fired guns upon Davachi. Having taken part in the defence of Khandigan, he returned to Baku. The author recollects:  'At that time I learned that the heroic Ottoman Turks had attacked Shamakhi and I took seven Turkish prisoners with me and went to a place called Baghcha. There I found a guide and sent a letter and the Turkish prisoners to Ottomans.  

In response, I received some letters. I returned to Baku with those letters. In 4-5 days, after the above-mentioned events, at night three riders - Adil from Kurdakhany, Movsum Salimov and another man came to my place and asked to go to Maraza. At that time, the road from Baku to Maraza was under the control of Armenians troops and with great difficulties, we managed to get to Maraza. Then Turks were in Maraza.  Together with the Turks we -Muhammad Hasan Hajizade, Abbasgulu Kazimzade I and others went to Gobu settlement.'

Later the author writes that due to the order given by a leader of the Ottoman army - Mursal Pasha, he began to mobilize soldiers in surrounding villages for the siege of Baku.

Archival materials kept in the Institute of Manuscripts named M. Fuzuli of ANAS once again prove the fact that the Armenians supported by Bolsheviks perpetrated genocide against Turkic-Muslim population of Baku in March, 1918.