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Army that was carved in history of two states in gold letters

Army that was carved in history of two states in gold letters
Ziyad Amrahov: “Some of the Ottoman sources regarding the Islamic Army of the Caucasus have not been studied sufficiently”

September 15, 1918 is a day when Baku was liberated from the Armenian-Bolshevik occupation. The role of the Islamic Army of the Caucasus in this victory is undeniable. The activities of the Islamic Army of the Caucasus has played an important role in the history of independence of Azerbaijan and in the solution of its national self-determination. The Islamic Army of the Caucasus led by Nuru Pasha became a gleam of hope for our nation in that period. This event is carved in the history of Azerbaijan and brotherly Turkey in gold letters.  In order to learn more about that period, we had a conversation with Head of Source Study and Historiography Department of the Institute of Science and History of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, PhD in History, Associate Professor Ziyad Amrahov.   
- What is the historical significance of the liberation of Baku from the occupation?
- At the end of 1917, after the collapse of Russia's Tsarist regime, Azerbaijan’s leaders were concerned about the confused situation created in the country. But, unfortunately, on April 25, 1918, Baku Council of People's Commissars and its Dashnak leaders were trying to retain Azerbaijan and its oil in their hands by all possible means. However, the Republic established on May 28, 1918, took a position contrary to the approach of our enemies and planned to create a legitimate government. So, real steps were taken in this direction. As Mammad Amin Rasulzade said, if Azerbaijan is a body, Baku is its head. If the head and body were not united, Azerbaijan could not exist. Therefore, the liberation of Baku can be evaluated from this historical aspect. In that period, Baku was of a great importance for Azerbaijan as an oil and political center.

- What were the economic and military strategic reasons of the Caucasus Campaign?
- The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed between Russia and the Ottoman Empire in this regard on March 3, 1918. The Russian Empire lost the war. Besides, there were thoughts about the establishment of the Turan Empire in that period. Especially, these ideas were presented in the statements of Nuru Pasha and his brother Anvar Pasha. When entering the Caucasus, they did not think only about the liberation of Azerbaijani lands. At the same time, Nuru Pasha was ordered to enter Tabriz. He had to go a long way till the North Caucasus, including South and North Azerbaijan. So that, we should not approach this issue in terms of Azerbaijan only. The Ottoman Empire had its own political and economic interests.  Baku oil was also of importance for the Ottoman Empire as it is clear that the outcome of the war always depends not only on political, but also on economic factors. From this point of view, the Ottoman Empire was thinking about the above-mentioned economic nuances.   
- How did it become necessary to create the Islamic Army of the Caucasus? Which events were prevented with the creation of this army?
- The creation of the Islamic Army of the Caucasus became necessary from the historical aspect. By the end of April 1918, a group of 300 people led by Nuru Pasha have entered Ganja from the direction of Tabriz. According to negotiations conducted with Nuru Pasha, it was decided to create the Islamic Army of the Caucasus consisting mainly of Azerbaijani Turks in order to exclude the fact of invasion. Nuru Pasha personally led this army. That is, because of jealousy in the international political arena, the liberation of our territories from occupation was realized under the name of the Islamic Army of the Caucasus.
- Why was the army called the Islamic Army of the Caucasus, not Turkish Army of the Caucasus? 
- If we have a look at the history of the Ottoman Empire, it becomes obvious that historically, the Islamic factor was widely spread along with the factor of Turkism. Non-Turkic states were using the Islamic factor in order to become stronger as this factor absorbed into political circles. As you know, the population of the Middle East is not Turks. The only way to unite them was under the name of Islam. From this point of view, the army was called the Islamic Army of the Caucasus.
- Why was Nuru Pasha ordered to lead the army in that period?
- As you know, the Ottoman Empire participated in World War I.  The empire had a very big military and strategic experience. And even though the Ministry of Defense was established in the first cabinet of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the country did not actually have a big army from the strategic point of view. So, all these issues were entrusted to Nuru Pasha. He could assess the tactical and strategic steps regarding the liberation of the territories.
- If the Treaty of Batum was not signed, would the Turkish troops help us yet?
- Intellectuals of the country were aware of the sociopolitical situation of that period. Therefore, they included this commitment according to certain provisions of the Treaty of Batum. I do not think that if the Treaty of Batum was not signed, the Turkish troops could enter Azerbaijan for military aid. Perhaps they would enter the Caucasus for their own interests. But they were committed to do this because of the treaty. If the treaty was not signed, the Turkish army would not come because by the end of the war, their situation in the international political arena was not evaluated as acceptable. That is, difficulties of the war period had caused disagreements in the Ottoman Empire as well. They also had some disorders.
- What do you think, do people know enough about the Islamic Army of the Caucasus? What must they know else?  
- Despite the fact that we have gained independence since 1991, there are still not enough researches carried out regarding a number of issues that have played an important role in the social, political and economic history of our country. For example, I do not think that many people are well informed about the Islamic Army of the Caucasus and its rescue campaign. Nuru Pasha notes in his memoirs that 5,000 people participated in the collection of signatures for mobilization. Some of them later refused to join the army. Names of the participants of the rescue march are not investigated, as well as monuments that will commemorate their memories are not erected enough. This is also a way of propaganda. I think this topic is one of our weak points. I hope that this issue will be solved in the future.
- How is the Islamic Army of the Caucasus reflected in works of world historians?
- I have studied works of both world and USSR historians. They show that these historians cannot objectively approach the campaign of the Islamic Army of the Caucasus to Azerbaijan. They even present this not as a rescue, but as a predatory campaign. However, not all western European historians adhere to this idea. Especially, American historians point out the campaign of the Islamic Army of the Caucasus as a rescue one in their works. But unfortunately, only a few historians think so. This is due to the fact that, researchers of that period were thinking of their ideological interests and could not approach the issue objectively.
- In what other directions is it possible to study that period? Which areas have gaps?
- I do not think there are serious gaps, but some of the Ottoman sources, such as archival records of 1918-1920 have not been studied sufficiently. For example, both premiership documents, as well as documents of Ottoman military circles have not been completely revealed. Of course, some research has been conducted, but this issue has not been fully investigated. There are definitely some documents that remain unrevealed. It is necessary to study them in order to reveal the truth.
- What do you advise journalists who investigate this issue? Which sources are more appropriate to refer to?
- During the research, journalists better to refer to research works that were written after the 90s. There are enough historians who are conducting research on that period such as Anar Isgandarov, Jabi Bahramov, Nasiman Yagublu. I also have a number of research works regarding this period.
Gunel Azada



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