Baku – October 1905: There Are No Orders To Touch The Russians And Tatars

With the declaration of freedom by the October 17 Manifesto, rallies began in Baku, as well as throughout entire Russia. The Baku rallies were particularly popular among Armenians and Tatars – there was even an apprenticeship Armenian-Tatar rally in the courtyard of the gymnasium of Alexander III.

At these rallies, representatives of the two nations promised eternal friendship and called for a joint struggle for freedom. But soon, the administration came to its senses and once again promised to provide the city to the appropriate contingent for 3 days…

The “patriotic” demonstration began on the morning of October 20. A “crowd consisting of tramps, unemployed, and a few apparently intelligent individuals” started moving down the street. Mostly, they were Russians, but there also was “the scum of the Tatar population under different banners”.

The participants carried portraits of Nicholas and the Persian Shah. They would beat everyone who did not like the movement – those were mostly, of course, the Armenians.

“One Armenian was stabbed to death at the entrance of the governor-general’s house. Up to two dozen Armenian houses were burned. In Bailovo, a crowd besieged a house with 200 Armenian inhabitants. At the last moment, the soldiers saved the Armenians from certain death, moving them to the barracks of the Salyan regiment. The house was plundered and burned.”

The soldiers and officers idly watched the events, answering bystanders that “they were not ordered to touch the Russians and Tatars“ (“I.O.”, 10.29.1905).

However, one cannot say that the troops were inactive – rather the opposite. As in August, there was an order to shell houses. “An artistic provocation,” wrote the director of the Baku Engineering Society, “The crowd is led to the Armenian house, a shot is fired near them, the house is immediately bombarded, then set on fire, and smashed by hooligans. Cossacks are rioting. Armenians are not given the opportunity to defend and save their property” (“T.L.”, 2.11.1905).

Usually, the crowd near Armenian houses had a Tatar (sometimes with a canister in their hands). The crowd would call the troops: “Armenians are shooting from the windows!” The troops would not hesitate and would fire at the houses from rifles and cannons, after which the Tatars would set fire to it.

The crowd would rob and kill, and Cossacks, soldiers, and Tatars would shoot even people jumping from the balconies. Faddeev would not allow fire brigades to the burning houses. The Armenians would not shoot, fearing clashes with Russian troops (“S.O.”, 10.28.1905).

The press especially noted a system in the actions of the troops and rioters. “Rus’” wrote about “systematic pogroms on legal grounds.” Tiflis Leaflet clarified, “This is the same system used in Moscow… after the funeral of Bauman” (“T.L.”, 2.11.1905).

In the midst of the pogrom, Armenian parliamentarians addressed the then head of government Count S. Yu. Witte and received the answer: “What can I do? All Russia is like that! It doesn’t depend on me!” (“T.P.”, 11.2.1905).

After three days, finally, an order was issued to counter the violence (“T.L.”, 10.23.1905), but the pogroms would continue until the 30th. On October 24, rioters broke into an Armenian almshouse and killed 6 women and children. Soon, help arrived, but the thugs escaped, leaving up to 30 people dead (“I. O.”, September 26, 1905).

In the end, the hooligans began to beat Russians. For example, they smashed the apartment of priest Alexander Levshov. On the third day, Governor Faddeev gave an order to shoot at the rioters (“N.O.”, 10.25.1905). This, however, did not stop him from allowing the crowd of “demonstrators” to go to the Armenian part of the city the next day (“S.O.”, 28.10. 1905, second edition).

The Petersburg Telegraph Agency reported: “Baku. The city has a military look. Russians demand disarmament and removal of Armenians. According to the police, 20-30-50 bombs had exploded in every burned house.” Armenians immediately calculated that in total, this would give up to 800 bombs – enough to demolish all of Baku from the face of the earth! (“T.L.”, November 4, 1905).

It remains only to note that the actions of the Baku administration were nothing new – in a similar way, Jewish pogroms were being carried out in many cities of Russia (including Kiev, Odessa, Nikolaev, and others). And in Tiflis, for example, troops and cadets would simply beat students, high schoolers, and intellectuals.

Excerpts from the book of Pavel Shekhtman: “Flames of old fires”

The house in Baku, destroyed during the riots
Photo from the illustrated supplement to the Moskovsky Listok newspaper, Nos. 71-72, 1905. Photo reproduction by Grigor Aleksanyan

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