Arif Aliyev: Ganja rebellion – 100: The Capital of Our Honor and Dignity –

Arif Aliyev –

Dedicated to soldiers and officers who died fighting for the freedom of Azerbaijan
During the first week of the occupation of the XI Red Army, instructions were given not to harm the people. The Bolsheviks acted as if all they wanted was oil and the creation of a workers’ peasant government in Azerbaijan. In a congratulatory telegram in Baku on May 5, Russian President Lenin personally chanted: “Long live the independent Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan!” But as the number of disagreements in the country increased, the Bolsheviks became corrupt, plundered the economy and people. Mass arrests had begun. Newspapers published lists of “counter-revolutionaries” being shot every day. Units of the National Army were either disbanded or included in Russian divisions under the guise of “reconstruction”. Feeling safe in Baku, the Soviet command concentrated on Ganja and Karabakh. Because the units of the National Army of Azerbaijan were concentrated in these regions due to the Karabakh war with Armenia. True, these forces were now subordinated to the Soviet government, but in order to once and for all put an end to the game “for independence” with Azerbaijan, it was first necessary to put an end to its army. Especially the rebellious Ganja, which was supported by the spirit of Javad Khan, should have been subordinated …

This bad news was conveyed to Ganja Governor Hudadat bey Rafibeyli by his compatriot from Baku, socialist deputy Aslan bey Safikurdsky. He called and said that the parliament had already transferred power to the Bolsheviks and, according to the decision of the Military Revolutionary Committee, the activity of the governor of Ganja was terminated.

Khudadat bey conducted preparatory work with his deputy Colonel Huseyngul Khan Khoysky and on May 1 handed over the province to the leader of the local Bolsheviks, Ibrahim Aliyev.

The armored train of the XI Army “Mikhail Ulyantsev”, the landing troops of the 20th Rifle Division and the 28th Division have already captured the Ganja station. On May 2, the 2nd Cavalry Corps and the regiment of the Taman Cavalry Division also reached the city and took control of the surrounding areas.

Russians led troops to the west from one side. They craved to seize the territory of Azerbaijan faster. Causing an incident at the border, they wanted to enter Georgia under this pretext and capture Tbilisi as well. On May 6, a representative of the British government in Tbilisi (Georgia) sent a special emergency coded telegram to Commissioner Luke London: “… 100,000 Bolshevik troops are concentrated in the direction of Azerbaijan … According to the plan, they will march towards Georgia by attacking Poylu first… Yesterday, the entire US military office suddenly left Tbilisi (Georgia) and went to Batumi, without informing allies and the local government. ”

But the indecision of the Russians, who always expected danger from behind, especially from Ganja, delayed the implementation of this plan. In Ganja, the 1st division of the National Army of Azerbaijan was under the command of General Javad Shikhlinsky.

On April 29, the Azerbaijan Military Revolutionary Committee – Azrevkom – decided to transfer the national army to the XI Red Army. All ranks and national insignia have been canceled. But that was not enough. On May 7, Azrevkom with a new decision handed over our armed forces to the XI Army not only on operational, but also on administrative, organizational and logistical issues. The Bolsheviks began to disarm the military units under the name of their “transformation”, replacing the commanders with Armenians and Russians. It was already clear that the goal was to dissolve and destroy the Azerbaijani divisions in the Russian army.

Discontent intensified in some areas of Azerbaijan. And this was connected not only with the position of the army itself, but also with the fact that our soldiers and officers were indignant at the loss of state independence and the brutal treatment of the Bolsheviks towards the population. The Reds, which at first did not touch people, now forcibly confiscated the property of people and expanded the scale of repression. The Armenians, relying on Soviet soldiers, also rebelled. They slandered the respected people and leaders of the Muslim population of Ganja. On May 10, special forces of the Red Army division arrested Khudadat bey Rafibeyli, director of the city hospital and former governor of Ganja, on the basis of denunciation by a group of Armenians. On May 12 he was taken to Baku and secretly shot eight days later …

Ganja officers and intellectuals first gathered in a house in the Bagmanlar region, and then at secret meetings in the Kyurkyrag forests. As the Bolsheviks infiltrated the country, the number of supporters of taking arms increased. On May 16, the plan of rebellion was first discussed. It was decided to unexpectedly attack and disarm the Red Army units in the city, then join the regiments of the National Army in Karabakh and the Georgian army and liberate the country. With this proposal, people were sent to Tbilisi and Tartar.

In the memoirs of those who attended the meeting there are two versions of who was sent to Tbilisi. One of the leaders of the uprising, the commander of the division’s regiment, Colonel Jahangir Kazimbeyov, wrote that these were two Georgian officers.

General Giorgi Kvinitadze
The former head of the anti-revolutionary ADR organization, Nagi Bey Sheikhzamanli, said he was given this task. Anyway: “Why Ganja and Georgia could not unite in the fight against a common enemy?” The answer to the question comes from the same source. The memoirs of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Georgia, General Georgy Kvinitadze, read: “Our troops were ready to attack on the Red Bridge – the Sadakhly Front … I received information from our intelligence, Georgian officers who fled from Azerbaijan, former members of the government. It showed that in Azerbaijan … the protest of the population against the invaders is growing, the passive army is waiting, some units are already active … I was sure that a spark would break out in Azerbaijan … The head of our government was not inclined to continue military operations. Finally, he agreed … On May 19, our army was to launch an attack. The Minister of War and I went to Sadakhly. But that day I received a short telegram from the Prime Minister of our country, with the order to stop military operations and begin peace negotiations with the enemy. We returned to Tbilisi (Georgia), and I resigned … Less than a week later, on May 25, in Elizavetpol (Ganja – ed.) An uprising broke out and it was brutally crushed by the Bolsheviks … If we attacked on May 19 that would not have happened. “

However, negotiations between Russia and Georgia were kept secret, and in Ganja, of course, they did not know about this. They did not know that the officers sent to Karabakh were detained and shot on the road to Yevlakh. Preparations for the uprising continued with great hope. In order not to arouse suspicion among the Russians, the division conducted daily rifle exercises under the name of “training.”

Colonel Daniyal bay Hallajov
However, headquarters of the XI Army knew that the situation in Ganja was tense. On May 18, the army commander Levandowski ordered the transfer of several military units concentrated on the border with Georgia to Azerbaijan. Most of them were supposed to be located around Ganja. On May 20, city commandant Mohammad Mirza Gajar was fired. Division commander Javad Bey Shikhlinsky was removed and replaced by a Russian named Shevelev. Melnikov, an inspector of the 11th army from Baku, also arrived in Ganja to create the “United Red Workers and Peasants Division” on the basis of the legendary 1st Infantry Division. This was met with great excitement. Leyla Khallaeva, The daughter of commander of the artillery brigade, Colonel Daniil bey Khallaev recalls:

“When my father came home that evening, he was beside himself. The removal from office of the commandant of the city, Muhammad Mirza Hajar, and the division commander, Javad bey Shikhlinsky, infuriated him. “They told my father that those who came from the headquarters of the XI Army were rude to our command staff … All our soldiers and officers protested unanimously.”

This incident accelerated the uprising. On May 22, at the initiative of Jahangir Kazimbeyov, the military gathered in the village of Nuzgar, 20 km from the city. The village was controlled by the huts. A tactical plan has been prepared. It was decided to seize the railway, stop communication between Baku and the western region, prevent the movement of those parts of the Red Army in Azerbaijan and, finally, put an end to Bolshevik rule. General leadership of the uprising was to be carried out by generals Javad Bey Shikhlinsky, Muhammad Mirza Gajar and Colonel Jahangir Bey Kazimbeyov. Shikhlinsky was responsible for artillery, Kazimbeyov led the Ganja regiment and partisan detachments, and Mirza Gajar – for defense. Gachag Ganbar, Sari Alekper and other gachags supported the rebellion. Great expectations were placed on the Georgian army and our troops in Karabakh.

General Javad Bey Shikhlinsky, colonel Jahangir Bey Kazimbeyov, general Teymur bay Novruzov, Sari Alakbar
On the eve of the uprising, the alignment of forces, especially weapons, in and around Ganja was in favor of the enemy. At the disposal of the rebels were the Ganja Infantry Regiment, the training group of the Sheki Cavalry Regiment, the cannon battery and the commandant’s headquarters — a total of 1,800 soldiers. The main Russian forces – two infantry regiments of the 20th division – were deployed in the southeastern part of the city, populated by Armenians, and the 3rd brigade communications battalion and headquarters commandant’s office were in the Azerbaijani part of the northwest. They had a total of 2,000 soldiers, 30 machine guns, one artillery division, as well as 450 cavalrymen in Zurnabad, eight machine guns, one artillery battery, an artillery headquarters in Elenendorf and two batteries, each with two guns.

May 25

The uprising began on the night of May 25-26 in the Muslim part of the city. The National Army arrested the commander of the 3rd Brigade Shirmachery together with the headquarters, captured 600 people and three artillery batteries of the 20th Division. During the night, the Bolsheviks captured were released from prison, and the townspeople received weapons. However, the battalions of the Ganja regiment were forced to leave the Armenian part of the city after a fierce battle with the Soviet regiments.

May 26

After the battles that lasted 1 day, the national army captured the railway station, and after it- almost the entire city. The first phase of the rebellion plan was successfully completed. It was a great victory, which angered and scared the Russians. On the same day, the command of the XI Army sent a secret operational directive No. 60 to all military units:

“The territory of Azerbaijan is divided into military areas, the brutal suppression of the uprisings is assigned to the responsible leaders of these regions … When suppressing the uprising, the leaders of the regions should not wait until the liquidation order is interrupted because the connection can be interrupted at any time … All suspicious the elements must be shot without trial … Small sparks of the uprising should be suppressed by harshness and ruthlessness, if the uprisings … become a mass emergency, then everyone should retreat to Baku and cleanse the city of all harmful elements. After this uprising in other parts of the country must also be stopped. ”

May 27

Feared by the spread of the uprising, the Soviet command had to hastily deliver additional units to the Ganja area – infantry regiments, cavalry, artillery and armored vehicles. The Bolsheviks captured the station with the help of new forces and an armored train that returned from Gazakh. After that, they attacked 7 times in a row to enter the city, but could not break the resistance of the Ganja defenders.

While from the north Ganja was subjected to constant shelling, from the south, the side of Elenendorf, the Armenians united with the Bolsheviks and attacked, but were repelled, having suffered heavy losses.

May 28

Ganja celebrated the second anniversary of the independence of Azerbaijan, being free from occupation. Colonel Kazimbeyov recalls: “It was a beautiful day. As if nature rejoiced and took pity of people in sorrow. In return, the enemy showed zeal at dawn. The sounds of guns was coming from all sides.”

The elderly and the young defending the native flag
Suppressing the May 28 uprising, the Russians wanted to teach Azerbaijan another lesson. To do this, they brought an additional group of Efremov’s armored trains, the 18th Kuryshko cavalry division, new units of the Velikanov’s 20th rifle division and the Howitzer division, to Ganja.

At 7 a.m., the commander of the 2nd battalion, Colonel Hausen of German descent, sent a message to the headquarters that the enemy cavalry had gathered around the city. Kazimbeyov himself entered the battlefield and immediately understood the enemy’s plan. He ordered all the guns and machine guns to be pulled out and the fire to be ceased.

The Russian cavalry was divided into 4 echelons and attacked by two squadrons in each echelon. Silence reigned in the position of the defenders of Ganja. Squadrons were approaching quickly. A fire brigade arrived from a distance of 600 meters. This attack of the cavalry division was met by two rebel battalions with hundreds of rifles, 5 grosses and 22 machine guns.

“Before the position of the Azerbaijanis in the square, it was full of human corpses, horse carcasses, wounded …”, Kazimbeyov wrote in his memoirs.

The attack of the Russian and Armenian infantry from the side of Elenendorf also failed.

In the afternoon, an evil enemy bombarded the city from several sides. The four-hour bombardment ceased at 8 p.m. “Half of the city was destroyed by artillery fire,” said the report to Voronkov, the head of the operations department of the Soviet Army.

So the holiday was held on May 28, 1920 in Ganja. Defenders of the city irrigated their homeland with their blood and the blood of their enemies.

General Shikhlinsky was wounded during the bombing and was replaced by Polish officer Stankevich. General Mirza Gajar withdrew from military operations due to illness. True, Kazimbeyov was not alone in leadership, there was General Teymur Bey Novruzov, there were other Mirza Gajars, Khoyskys, there was Colonel Daniil Bey Khallajov, there were brave battalion commanders, Colonel Hausen and Captain Mirizade, there were brave gachags Sari Alakbar, Mamedgasym, Ramazanoqullary, Tatoqhlu Hassan and dozens of others. But after the Reds blocked the road to Balkhili in the west, the city was completely besieged. Ganja had nowhere to wait for help, ammunition and shells ended. There was no news from Karabakh. The news from Tbilisi was a crushing blow to the rebels. Kazimbeyov writes that information about the agreement between Georgia and Russia reached them on the night of May 28-29. The enemy, who had just brought new forces into battle, no longer stopped attacking not only during the day, but also at night. He wanted to tire the defenders of the city because he could not break their will.

May 29

When the sun rose, the Russian heavy artillery was restarted. At 7 o’clock the 178th and 179th regiments tried to penetrate Ganja from the north and northwest, the forces of the 18th cavalry division from the south and southwest, as well as the 180th regiment and Armenian troops from the east. However, the counterattacks of the Azerbaijanis were reflected in all directions. The operational report of the XI Army headquarters stated about the battles that day: “Those under siege … stubbornly resisted and caused us significant damage.” The losses of the Ganja defenders were not small. The commanders of both Azerbaijani battalions, Colonel Hausen, Captain Mirizade and Lieutenant Colonel Stankevich, who replaced Shikhlinsky, heroically died in battle.

May 30

The Bolsheviks saw a way out in increasing their numerical advantage.The 175th and 176th rifle regiments, the artillery division, the Armenian mountain battery and the armored division also arrived from the border with Georgia. Thus, 5 riflemen, 6 cavalry regiments, 7 special units, 57 artillery pieces, two armored vehicles, 6 armored trains gathered around Ganja for a decisive attack on the city. The councils were assisted by 3,000 Armenian troops.

On May 30, after heavy fighting on the outskirts of the city, the Reds were able to enter the Armenian quarter. However, Azerbaijanis did not allow those who attacked the Muslim region, from there to the neighboring Ganja River.

May 31

The last attack on Ganja began from the side of the railway station. With the support of all artillery, the Reds entered the city from the north, but were unable to advance. Ganja people turned every house and every attic into a fortress.

In these difficult times, the fate of the uprising was decided by the betrayal of “our axes” – the Azerbaijani Communists. The commissars sent to Ganja with a special mission and the group brought from Baku by Sultan Majid Efendiyev attacked a prison in the Muslim district of the city. With the help of local Communists, they neutralized the guards, freed the captured Russian commander Schirmacher, about 2,000 soldiers, and seized the arms depot. Suddenly, this force behind the rebel line of defense changed the situation. Street fights began.

Both men and women fought in Ganja. An Army XI operational report of June 1 states that the rebels “should have been eliminated from every home by artillery fire.” Melnikov, an inspector of the 11th army in Ganja during the events, wrote in his report to Ordzhonikidze, a member of the Military Revolutionary Council of the Caucasus Front: “The rebels consisted of almost the entire Muslim population. There were also cases when women fired from rifles, and then, during a search, revolvers came out from the layers of their clothes. One red soldier even told me that one of the women was found behind a machine gun on the roof.”

However, Ganja, devastated by bombing, has exhausted its ability to defend itself. In the evening, the uprising was almost crushed. However, on some streets the resistance continued.

As a result of the tremendous courage of the surviving soldiers and officers of the 3rd regiment of Ganja, it became possible to break through the siege ring in the northwest and evacuate part of the population from the city. At the end of his recollections of the Ganja uprising, Colonel Kazimbeyov also reported on this latest operation: “Residents left the city in a continuous stream and went to mountain villages. The detachments guarding the evacuation corridor from the Armenian side joined the main forces that lifted the siege. The army went after the inhabitants …”

At 8 pm on May 31, Ordzhonikidze wrote in a telegram from Baku to Lenin and Stalin: “After six days of stubborn fighting, the uprising was brutally crushed.” In a telephone conversation with his associate Kirov on June 10, he added: “It was crushed with incredible cruelty, the city was destroyed by artillery fire.” It is hard to imagine what this means in the language of one of the bloodiest Soviet leaders.

The Reds entered the city along with local Armenians and killed Muslims who failed to leave Ganja. Mustafa Subhi, a communist who was sent to Ganja to investigate the situation, wrote in a report to the Center: “You can count 3500-4000 civilians. Most of the bodies were found in gardens, houses and basements. Because when the Reds arrived, the population fled to the gardens and hid in houses, basements, wherever possible. Some argue that this is the work of Armenians, others – the work of the red soldiers. ”

The secret report of the French mission in the Caucasus on the events in Ganja says: “The entire Muslim part of the city was destroyed, 2-3-year-old children were found among the dead. We also saw an 8-year-old girl among women who have been abused. ” Witnesses said brides rushed into the river to defend their honor. The Ganja and Goshgar rivers overflowed after two days of heavy rains. Gachag Mammadgasym describes these terrifying events in his memoirs: “The pools of the city were full of blood”, “For the first time I saw the Goshgar River taking away with it all that is – rocks, stones. Escaping from the bloody Bolsheviks, children, girls, old people, women rushed into the river and died in the stream … ”

In the early days, corpses were not allowed to be buried. On June 4, emergency commissioner Mirza Davud Huseynov wrote to Azrevkom from Ganja: “There are still corpses on the streets of the city!” Only in the face of the threat of an epidemic, after discussing the issue in Baku, the Ganja regional committee ordered that “the bodies of the dead must be buried by their relatives without any interference.”

Various numbers reflect the number of victims in Ganja. Archival documents of the XI Army show that 1000 city defenders were killed. But in those days, the “New York Times” referred to the State Department, which stated that the entire Muslim population of Ganja was “brutally killed.” The British newspaper “Western Gazette” and the “Cheltenham Chronicle” reported that 15,000 people were killed as a result of this massacre. A French military mission in the Caucasus stated that “at least 8,000 shells were fired into the city, the number of Muslims killed was 10,000, and there were almost no Muslims left in Ganja.” Modern historical literature gives numbers from 10 to 12 thousand…

… Among them were children who did not know about the world, old generals, such outstanding personalities as Firudin bey Kocharli, Mohammed Hadi. But the price of the Ganja uprising was not the life of the city, but the honor and dignity of the nation.

“Why are we, Azerbaijani Turks, so easy, without resistance, without protest, leaving our rich and prosperous country to barbarians, and we ourselves have become their slaves ?!”

This was the question asked by Jahangir Bek Kazimbeyov before the uprising.

“The Ganja uprising is a saga in which people regained faith in honor and dignity! Turkic blood flowing in Ganja in May cast a shadow hanged over on our country during the incident on April 27. ” This was the response of the editor of the Azerbaijan newspaper Jeyhun Hajibeyli after the uprising. Today, since we have the right to repeat this, we are indebted to the martyrs of Ganja, our officers and soldiers of the National Army.

Translator: Gulnara Rahimova
Arif Aliyev –