Armenians in Baku – 19th-20th Centuries

Armenians in Baku – 19th-20th CenturiesAccording to an 1897 census, the total number of Baku residents was 111.904 people, of whom 19.099 were Armenians.

In Baku, Armenians carried out active cultural and public awareness campaigns. Charitable organizations were founded to promote the development of the cultural and social life of local Armenians. The activity of charitable organizations has become a manifestation of Armenians’ self-government in Baku.

In 1869, the church of Gregory the Illuminator was built in Baku. It would be rebuilt several times. The gravestones placed in the 18th-19th centuries with Armenian inscriptions are preserved at the church even today. In Soviet times, it was the only active Armenian church in entire Azerbaijan.

In 1895, the chapel of St. Hovhannes was consecrated in the Armenian cemetery of Baku. In 1911, the Church of St. Thaddeus and Bartholomew was also built on the funds of the Armenians of Baku. In the 1930s, it was destroyed, and the Baku Conservatory building was erected in its place. In Haykashen until the 1920s, the church of St. Targmanchats had functioned.

In 1860, with the efforts of A. Ter-Ghevondian, the first Armenian school was established in Baku. The two-grade Mesropyan men’s school and the Hripsimian Secondary Women’s School also operated in Baku.

In 1894, at the Church of St. Mother of God, a second women’s school was opened. In the 1930-50s, 80 Armenian secondary schools, a pedagogical technical school, and Armenian faculties operated in several universities in Baku.

The last Armenian educational institution (school) was shut down in Baku in 1983.

Being in various high positions, Armenians took an active part in the city’s administration. In the mid-1840s, the mayor of Baku was Pavel Parsadanovich Argutyan. In the late 1850s, he worked as a juror in Shamakhi District Council.

During the service of the mayor Stanislav Despot-Zenovich (1885-1895), K. Antonyan – the chairman of the “Charitable Society” – was a member of the City Council and the deputy mayor. In 1853, one B. Lazaryan was a judge and later a district chief in Baku County.

Out of the 17 members of the Council of Elders governing the Public Assembly of Baku, 13 were Armenians, with G. Tsovian being the chairman. We also add that various countries with interests in Baku appointed Armenians as their representatives. In 1908, N. Ayvazyan was the consul of Belgium and V. Mutafyan was the consul of Italy. Armenians also served as authorized representatives of Russian and European companies in the city.

The Armenian National Council (disbanded in 1920) regulated the internal national issues of the Armenian community with other organizations.

In 1917, after the October Revolution in Russia, the Soviet regime was established in Baku. In April 1918, the Council of Baku Commissioners (Commune) headed by S. Shahumyan was formed. In the Council of People’s Commissars, there were also a number of other Armenians in high positions: G. Korganyan – military commissar, Artashes Karinyan – commissar of people’s education, etc.

At the initial stage, the national policy pursued by the Soviet authorities placed ethnic contradictions between Armenians and Azerbaijanis on a secondary role. The Armenian community of Baku was able to maintain its existence: namely, the Armenian State Theater was opened and Armenian periodicals were published. In neighborhoods inhabited by Armenians, signs on institutions, shops, and workshops were written in Armenian and Russian.

As a result of the assimilation policy led by Azerbaijan in the 1950s, the national life of the Armenians began to decline. Armenian organizations ceased to operate, the Armenian theater was closed, and Armenian children began to study in Russian schools.

In the 1970s, out of 1.27 million people living in Baku, more than 200 thousand were Armenians. In the 1980s, their number reached 300 thousand. However, after the Armenian pogroms were carried out in Baku, the Armenian community of the city along with their centuries-old traditions ceased to exist.

Completely deprived of security guarantees, facing the threat of a massacre, the Armenian population left Baku, leaving their property behind and becoming refugees. Currently, several hundred Armenians live in Baku, mostly wives in mixed marriages whose rights are absolutely not protected.

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