History of Azerbaijan - Soviet Azerbaijan

Soviet Azerbaijan

After the peaceful surrender of the national government to Bolshevik forces, Azerbaijan was proclaimed a Soviet Socialist Republic on April 28, 1920. Shortly after the Congress of the Peoples of the East was held in September 1920 in Baku. Although, formally an independent state, the Azerbaijan SSR was dependent upon and controlled by the government in Moscow. It was incorporated into the Transcaucasian SFSR along with Armenia and Georgia in March 1922. By an agreement signed in December 1922, the TSFSR became one of the four original republics of the Soviet Union. The TSFSR was dissolved in 1936 and its three regions became separate republics within the USSR.

Like other union republics, Azerbaijan, was affected by Stalin's purges in the 1930s. During this period, sometimes referred to as the "Red Terror", thousands of people were killed, including notable Azeri figures such as Huseyn Javid, Mikail Mushvig, Ruhulla Akhundov, Ayna Sultanova and others. Directing the purges in Azerbaijan was Mir Jafar Baghirov, the first secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, who followed Stalin's orders without question. His special target was the intelligentsia, but he also purged Communist leaders who had sympathized with the opposition or who might have once leaned toward Pan-Turkism or had contacts with revolutionary movements in Iran or Turkey.

During the 1940s, the Azerbaijan SSR supplied much of the Soviet Union's gas and oil during the war with Nazi Germany and was thus a strategically important region. The German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 reached the Greater Caucasus in July 1942, but the Germans never crossed into the territory of Azerbaijan. Many Azerbaijanis fought well in the ranks of the Soviet Army (about 600–800,000) and Azeri Major-General Azi Aslanov was awarded twice Hero of the Soviet Union. About 400,000 Azeris died in World War II. The Germans also made fruitless efforts to enlist the cooperation of emigre political figures, most notably Mammed Amin Rasulzade.

See also: Azerbaijan SSR during the Soviet-German War

Policies of de-Stalinization and improvement after the 1950s led to better education and welfare conditions for most of Azerbaijan. This also coincided with the period of rapid urbanization and industrialization. During this period of change a new wave of sblizheniye (reapprochment) policy was instituted in order to merge all the peoples of the U.S.S.R. into a new monolithic Soviet nation.

In the 1960s, the signs of a structural crisis in the Soviet system began to emerge. Azerbaijan's crucial oil industry lost its relative importance in the Soviet economy, partly because of a shift of oil production to other regions of the Soviet Union and partly because of the depletion of known oil resources on land, while offshore production was not deemed cost effective. As a result, Azerbaijan had the lowest rate of growth in productivity and economic output among the Soviet republics, with the exception of Tajikistan. Ethnic tensions, particularly between Armenians and Azerbaijanis began to grow, but violence was suppressed.

In an attempt to end the growing structural crisis, in 1969, the government in Moscow appointed Heydar Aliyev as the first secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan. Aliyev temporarily improved economic conditions and promoted alternative industries to the declining oil industry, such as cotton. He also consolidated the republic's ruling elite, which now consisted almost entirely of ethnic Azeris, thus reverting the previous trends at "reapprochment". In 1982 Aliyev was made a member of the Communist Party's Politburo in Moscow, the highest position ever attained by an Azeri in the Soviet Union. In 1987, when Perestroika started, he was forced to retire by the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev whose policies Aliyev opposed.

The late 1980s, during the Gorbachev era, were characterized by increasing unrest in the Caucasus, initially over the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. A political awakening came in February 1988 with the renewal of the ethnic conflict, which centered on Armenian demands for the unification of Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast of Azerbaijan SSR with Armenian SSR. Armenians expelled hundreds of thousands of Azeris from Karabakh and Armenia by March 1988, while pogroms of the Armenian population in Baku and Sumgait took place. Russia forced enforced military rule on several occasions but unrest continued to spread.

The ethnic strife revealed the shortcomings of the Communist Party as a champion of national interests, and, in the spirit of glasnost, independent publications and political organizations began to emerge. Of these organizations, by far the most prominent was the Popular Front of Azerbaijan (PFA), which by the fall of 1989 seemed poised to take power from the Communist Party. The PFA soon experienced a split between a conservative-Islamic wing and a moderate wing. The split was followed by an outbreak of anti-Armenian violence in Baku and intervention by Soviet troops.

Unrest culminated in violent confrontation when Soviet troops killed 132 nationalist demonstrators in Baku on January 20, 1990. Azerbaijan declared its independence from the USSR on August 30, 1991, and became part of the Commonwealth of Independent States. By the end of 1991 fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh had escalated into a full scale war, which culminated into a tense cease-fire that has persisted into the 21st century. Although a cease-fire was achieved, the refusal to negotiate by both sides resulted in a stalemate as Armenian troops retained their positions in Karabakh as well as corridors taken from Azerbaijan that connect the enclave to Armenia.

Read more about this topic:  History Of Azerbaijan

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