History of Azerbaijan - Russian Rule

Russian Rule

Following their defeat by Russia, Qajar Persia was forced to sign the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813, which acknowledged the loss of the territory to Russia. Local khanates were either abolished (like in Baku or Ganja) or accepted Russian patronage. Another Russo-Persian war in 1826–28 resulted in another crushing defeat for the Iranian army. The Russians dictated another final settlement as per the Treaty of Turkmenchay, which resulted in the Qajars of Persia ceding Caucasian territories in 1828. The treaty established the current borders of Azerbaijan and Iran as the rule of local khans ended. In the Russian controlled territories, two provinces were established that later constituted the bulk of the modern Republic – Elisavetpol (Ganja) province in the west, and Shamakha province in the east.

At the beginning of Russian administration, the Tsars did not significantly interfere with local affairs and the migration of the Christian population into Azerbaijan was minimal. As a result of a catastrophic earthquake in 1858, the capital of the eastern province was transferred from Shamakha to Baku which attained greater importance over time.

The discovery and exploitation of petroleum in the 1870s led to a period of unprecedented prosperity and growth in the years prior to World War I but also created huge disparities in wealth between the largely European capitalists and the local Muslim work force. By 1900, the population of Baku increased from 10,000 to roughly 250,000 people as a result of worker migration from all over the Russian Empire, Iran, and other places. The growth of Baku and the progression of an exploitative economy resulted in the emergence of an Azeri nationalist intelligentia that was educated and influenced by European and Ottoman ideas. Influential thinkers like Hasan bey Zardabi, Mirza Fatali Akhundov and later, Jalil Mammadguluzadeh, Mirza Alakbar Sabir, Nariman Narimanov and others spurred a nationalist discourse and rallied against poverty, ignorance, extremism and sought reforms in education and the emancipation of the dispossessed classes, including women. The financial support of philanthropist millionaires such as Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev also bolstered the rise of an Azeri middle-class.

Following the disastrous Russo-Japanese war, an economic and political crisis erupted in Baku, starting with a general strike of oil workers in 1904. In 1905, class and ethnic tensions resulted in Muslim-Armenian ethnic rioting during the first Russian Revolution. The Tsarist governments had, in fact, exploited ethnic and religious strife to maintain control in a policy of divide and rule.

The situation improved during 1906–1914, when a limited parliamentary system was introduced in Russia and Muslim MPs from Azerbaijan were actively promoting Azeri interests. In 1911, the pan Turkist and pan Islamist Musavat Party, inspired by the left of center modernizing ideology espoused by Mammed Amin Rasulzade, was formed. Founded clandestinely, the party expanded rapidly in 1917, after the overthrow of the Tsarist regime in Russia. The most essential components of the Musavat ideology were secularism, nationalism, and federalism, or autonomy within a broader political structure. However, the party's right- and left-wings differed on certain issues, most notably land distribution. The leader of the party was the left-leaning Mammed Amin Rasulzade.

After Russia became involved in World War I, social and economic tensions spiked again. The Russian Revolution of 1917 ultimately led to the granting of rights to the local population of Azerbaijan and the granting of self-rule, but this autonomy also led to renewed ethnic conflict between Azeris and Armenians.

Read more about this topic:  History Of Azerbaijan

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