CHAPTER 12 “THE ARMENO-TATAR WAR” 1905-1906

As a result of the 1905 defeat of Russia by Japan and the January 9 events of Petersburg, the anarchy spread to Baku. The governor of the city encouraged the local Tatars to attack the Armenian population of the city. It was with the acquiescence of the Tsarist authorities that the riots broke out. An event, which took place in Baku in February 1905, served as a pretext for the massacre with impunity.

One day in February the famous Tatar bandit Ashur Bek was being taken to prison. Going along with the Russian guards, he tried to escape. The soldiers fired. An Armenian guard hit him. On February 6 near the Armenian Church, in the Parapet square a Babaev approached the same Armenian guard and firing, injured him. He was immediately arrested by the Armenians and handed over to police. Babaev was soon released, but some hot-blooded young Armenians did not let him go. The instigator was killed. The next day the Tatars, carrying the body all over the Tatar districts, called for revenge. In the evening, the young Tatars, armed with guns and sabres, set out to massacre the Armenians in the streets. The killings took place in the Armenian districts. The mob attacked and slaughtered the innocent people, who did not expect such a violence and were not ready to resist.

After shooting down many unarmed victims, the mob attacked the Armenian houses, and pouring kerosene set them alight. The whole family of the prosperous citizen Lalaian was slain. Mob violences lasted 40 hours. The bodies of Armenians were scattered all over the city.2

The Armenian reaction came quickly, organized largely by the Dashnaks (revolutionary socialist group) Nikol Duman, who had carried out acts of armed defiance against the Turks in Eastern Armenia, arrived in Baku from the Balakhan oil-fields and undertook to organize the self-defence of the Armenians. Soon they gained the upper hand and worsted the Tatars. The Armenians were aware of the fact that the anti-Armenian pogroms were encouraged by the Baku authorities, and particularly by the Chief Governor Nakashidze. The “Caucasus” periodical reported;

After the February 6-9 events in Baku, the terrorists have flown kites that the Baku Chief Police Officer Captain Deminski, municipal intendants Prince Mikeladze and Shahtakhtinski Pristav Captain Mamedbekov, his assistant Sultanov and Chief-Governor Prince Nakashidze are condemned by the Dashnak committee.3

The May issue of the newspaper reported;

Today, at 3p.m. the Baku Chief Governor Prince Nakashidze was returning home after a visit to Governor-General Amiroghli. On the corner of the Michaelian street, just before the hotel “Metropol” a bomb was thrown on his coach. Prince Nakashidze died.

The act was carried out by Dro. All the other organizers of the events were soon killed by the Armenian terrorists.

From Baku the rioting spread to all the other Armenian provinces and districts. The Baku pogroms repeated in August and October.

Firstly the fighting spread to Yerevan. On February 20 the Turks of the city began to fire on Armenians in the central market of the city. From here the rioting spread to Nakhichevan. The Tatar preachers went all over the region “setting up grounds for slaughters”.6 Encouraged by the fact that previous crimes had gone unpunished, the Muslims organized and carried out pogroms in Nakhichevan and Goghtan. The Armenian villages were sacked, the inhabitants murdered. Forty-four of the 60 villages of the province were demolished. Those who survived, fled to other places. The wave of pogroms passed to Gandzak (Yelizavetpol) in August. The population of the province was 878 thousand in 1897, among them 294 thousand Armenians, 544 thousand Muslims.7 The Armenians inhabited the highland areas. The situation was tense in Shushi. The Muslims were encouraged by Gandzak Chief Governor Takaiashvili, who was thirsting revenge for his uncle Nakashidze. In July the Tatars, led by a bandit Abbas Vezirov, attacked a bus on the road between Shushi and Yerlakh, a station on the Batum-Baku railway line. In August further similar incidents took place along the strategic road and in Shushi itself. All the Armenian villages on the way to Gandzak were destroyed, the population massacred. The capital Shushi was sacked and 400 Armenian houses were burnt. But the Armenians of the town, already conscious of the need to organize self-defence, invited a council in Shushi.

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