Daily Archives: October 18, 2012

History of Ancient Azerbaijan.


History of Ancient Azerbaijan.


This course on ancient Azeri History will look at the following topics.


  1. The first human settlements
  2. What was life like in Azerbaijan during the Bronze Age?
  3. MannaState
  4. Scythians and Azerbaijan
  5. MediaState
  6. AtropatenaState
  7. AzikhCave

Romans in Azerbaijan

  1. Gobustan rock art
  2. Kalbajar rock art
  3. What did people believe and worship in Azerbaijan?
  4. Zoroastrianism in Azerbaijan
  5. The fire temple of Baku and “Yanar Dag”
  6. Our ancestors – the Caspians
  7. Scandinavian ancestry: tracing roots to Azerbaijan
  8. Did people in Azerbaijan use money?
  9. What were the ancient seals like?
  10. Mysterious Baku
  11. Ptolomey and Azerbaijan





Caucasian Albania


Pre History.


The first evidence of people living in Azerbaijan has been traced to a cave called Azykh in the Fizuli district of Azerbaijan. Artefacts have been found there proving that early humans lived in that place.


Drawings have been found on caves walls in Qobustan, south of Baku. These drawings show scenes of hunting, farming, dancing and fishing. These cave drawings show that the people who made them used to hunt and fish to get food.


Roughly 5 000 years ago people in Azerbaijan stopped using stone tools and started to use bronze tools. The time when stone tools were used is called the Stone Age. THE time when bronze tools were used is the BRONZE Age.Bronze is a metal that is easy to find near the surface of the earth. It also melts at a low temperature which makes it relatively easy to heat up bronze and reshape it into a tool or weapon. Bronze is not such a hard metal. In time people moved on to using stronger metals.


About 5 000 years ago people in Azerbaijan began irrigating fields. This means digging ditches for water to flow from the river into fields. They also built houses and used copper weapons. They houses were mostly built out of wood but occasionally from stone. The house were normally one storey because they did not have the technology to build taller houses. People lived in very small communities. There were seldom more than 100 people in a community. It was difficult to find enough food within walking distance to support a community larger than this at that time.


In the Bronze Age people lived very simple lives with almost no technology. They were largely hunter gatherers. They did some farming too. Like expectancy was very low. Archaeologists have dug up sites were people used to live in the Bronze Age. Skeletons have been examined and from that we can find out how old people were when they died. Men had a life expectancy of 21 and women had a life expectancy of 18. This  does not mean that every man died aged 21 or every woman died aged 18. Of course some people lived to a much older age than that. The average is brought down by many children dying. Women died earlier than men because women gave birth to too many children and this put a strain on their health. People had almost no scientific knowledge. People buried their dead with jars and food and so on. This suggests that people believed in life after death.


The word Azerbaijan did not exist at the time. It is not know if the Azeri language existed back then. Various other peoples passed through the territory that is now Azerbaijan. The Sumerian people (from what we now call Iraq) passed through Azerbaijan. The Sumerians are thought to be the first people to invent writing. Sumerian writing has been found from roughly 5 300 years ago.  Elamites and Albanians also lived in the territory that was to become Azerbaijan. Note that these Albanians from the Caucusus are nothing to do with the Albanians from the country called Albania.


Questions on the above.


1 What was life like in the Bronze Age?


2. What cave art has been found at Qobustan and what does it show us about life at the time this art was produced?


3. Why did people live in caves in pre-historic times.


4. Why did the Bronze Age have that name?


5. Why did people die so young at that time?





The first recorded History in Azerbaijan.


Semi nomadic peoples such as Scythians spent time in Azerbaijan. So did the Cimmerians who were also semi-nomadic. The Scythians rode horses and they originated in Central Asia. The Scythians were renowned as good horsemen. The Scythians kept slaves. The Scythians blinded their male slaves so that these slave men could not fight against the Scythians. Assyrians from what we now call Syria and Iraq also spent time in Azerbaijan about 800 BC. We can learn about Azerbaijan at that time from reading Greek, Persian, Arab and Roman sources.


The Medes were a powerful people who live in what we now call Iraq and Iran. They conquered Azerbaijan and added it to their Median Empire. They had a system of laws that they thought was very good. The laws of the Medes were said to be, ‘changeless and unchanging.’


In the 6th century BC the Medes were defeated by the Persians and absorbed into the Persian Empire. The Persian king Cyrus the Great added Azerbaijan to his empire.


In about 560 BC the Achaemenids established control over Azerbaijan. The Zoroastrian religion spread in Azerbaijan. The Zoroastrians worshipped their one god and they took their name from their main prophet Zarathustra. Zoroastrianism started out in Persia (now called Iran). Zoroastrians are sometimes called Parsees (from Persia) because their religion began in Persia (or Iran as it is now called). However, nowadays almost everybody in Iran is a Muslim and Zoroastrianism is a very minor religion in Iran.


The Zoroastrians believe that there are four sacred elements – water, wind, fire and earth. They have fire temples where they pray in front of a sacred flame. People wrongly call them fire worshippers. They do not pray to the flame but the flame is a reminder of holiness for them. Because Zoroastrians believe in four sacred elements they do not want to contaminate any sacred element with a dead body. The Zoroastrians do not bury their dead because that would offend the earth. They do not cremate their dead because that would offend fire. They do not put their dead in a river because that would offend water. They build towers of silence for the bodies of the dead to be eaten by vultures.


The Zoroastrian motto about good behaviour is ‘do to others as you would like them to do to you.’


In the 5th century BC Greece was a rising power. Greece was divided into many states but they had the same religion and they spoke more or less the same language. Greeks traded in the Black Sea and some traveled over the CaucususMountains to Azerbaijan. Greeks saw the Caspian Sea but only the western shore of it. Greeks assumed that the Caspian Sea was part of the RiverOcean which they believed flowed all around the world. Greeks believed that the Caspian was connected to the Atlantic Ocean. For this reason the Greeks called the Caspian a sea and not a lake. For Greeks the Caspian was the limit of the known world.


By the 4th century BC a kingdom called Atropatene had been set up. This kingdom existed in what we now call north-west Iran. Atropatene is a named that led to the modern word ‘Azerbaijan’.


The Achaemenid kingdom in Azerbaijan was eventually defeated by the forces of Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great came from Macedonia in the north of Greece. Greece was not one country back then but was divided into several countries – all speaking Greek and worshipping the same gods. Alexander the Great defeated the other Greek states and united Greece. He fought against the Persian Empire which then ruled what we now call Turkey, Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Iraq.


Alexander the Great was an outstanding military commander. Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire. He kept marching east into India. He defeated some Indian rulers. Alexander the Great once broke down and cried because soon there would be no more countries left to conquer. His soldiers had been marching for years with him – moving further and further away from Greece. After 12 years of campaigning they wanted to go home. They refused to go further east and demanded to return home. Alexander the Great decided to turn back west. On his march back to Greece he fell ill and died in 323BC. His empire was divided between several generals. Some Greeks came to live in Azerbaijan.


In 190 BC Azerbaijan began fighting against Armenia because Armenia tried to take Azeri territory.


The Roman Empire conquered what we now call Turkey in about 100 AD. The Romans fought against the Parthians (Parthian is another way of saying Persian at that time). The Parthians still managed to rule the southern part of Albania. Albania at that time meant Azerbaijan. There was some contact between Rome and Albania. The Albanians traded with the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire ruled much of Europe, North Africa and West Asia at that time. The Romans conquered Georgia but they never conquered Azerbaijan.


Latin inscriptions have been found on rocks in Qobustan. It was written by some Roman soldiers in the time of the Roman Emperor Domitian. The Romans launched a military expedition to Azerbaijan but did not take control of the country.


In Kalbajar in Azerbaijan there is also Roman rock art. Kalbajar was an is part of Azerbaijan. It is now under illegal occupation by the forces of Armenia. Kalbajar means in Old Turkic, ‘fortress at the mouth of the river.’


The Arsacid dynasty ruled Albania. They were loyal to the Persian Empire. People in Azerbaijan appear to have been sun worshippers at the time. Some of them followed the ancient Persian religion. This religion was led by priests called ‘Magi’. The Magi sacrificed animals to their gods. According to a Greek historian alive at the time, Herodotus, this religion taught people to think of others. A person would pray that the gods would be a good to everyone. A person was not allowed to ask the gods for favours for himself or herself only.


Persia came to adopt a religion called Zoroastrianism. It was called this because it was led by the prophet Zarathustra. The Zoroastrians worshipped a god figure called ‘Ahura Mastra’ – meaning the Lord of darkness. The Zoroastrians were against a devil character called Angra Mainyu.


The Zoroastrianism believed that there were four sacred elements – water, wind, fire and earth. The Zoroastrians keep a flame burning in their temples at all times. This is why their places of worship are called ‘fire temples’. The Zoroastrians see the flame as a reminder of their religion. They are sometimes wrongly called ‘fire worshippers.’ In Iran and Azerbaijan oil leaked through the surface of the earth and the earth caught fire. Ancient people did not understand this and saw it as a miracle.


The Zoroastrians do not bury their dead because that would defile the earth. They do not burn their dead because that would defile the fire. They do not put their dead into water because that would defile the water. They take their dead to a building that they call a ‘Tower of Silence.’ The dead are attached to wooden poles and the corpses are dried out by the sun and the birds come and eat them.


A fire temple was established in Baku by the Zoroastrians. Azerbaijan came to be known by this name because it probably means ‘land of fire’. This is because of the land seeming to burn. At Yanar Dag (fire mountain) the oil escaping through the soil makes the land suddenly burn. This was a place of wonder for Zoroastrians.


Azerbaijan came to be ruled by Caucasian Albanians in the 1st century AD. For a while it was independent. Then the Sassanids made Albania a province of their empire. King Unayr of Caucasian Albania adopted Christianity as the state religion in the 4th century AD.


In about AD 150 a man named Ptolomey wrote a book named ‘Georgraphy’. In fact he invented the word Geography. Ptolomey was a Greek-speaking man living in Egypt. At that time the upper class in Egypt spoke Greek and Ptolomey’s books were in Greek. Ptolomey wrote about many countries including Azerbaijan. Ptolomey described the fire mountains and fire temples of Azerbaijan as well as the Caspian Sea. He did not mention the eastern shore of it – he only knew about the western side of the Caspian. It is doubtful that he ever left his home town of Alexandria in Egypt. Ptolomey was probably relying on what travelers had told him.


Questions on the above.


  1. What do we know about the Scythians?


  1. What were the main beliefs of the Zoroastrians?


  1. What evidence is there that Romans visited Azerbaijan?


  1. Why was a man named Ptolomey so famous?


5. Why was King Alexander of Macedonia known as ‘The Great’?





Enter Islam.


Islam began in the 7th century AD in what we now call Saudi Arabia. Arabs brought Islam to Azerbaijan . Those who believe in Islam are called Muslims. Muslims can belong to any country. An Arab and a Muslim are not necessarily the same thing. The Muslim holy book is called the Koran and it is written in Arabic.


In 642 AD the Arabs defeated the Sassanids. The Sassanids continued to resist the Arabs until 667 AD when Prince Javanshir surrendered to the Arabs.  The Sassanids who were ruling Albania (Azerbaijan) were allowed to rule on as long as they obeyed the Arab Muslim Empire. For a while Christianity remained the main religion of Albania. Later, in the 8th century and Islam replaced Christianity as the official religion. Christianity remained the religion of a minority. Islam took over as the dominant religion in the country partly by persuasion but also be military conquest.


The Muslims split into two main denominations in the late 7th century AD. The two main denominations were Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims.


Azerbaijan followed the Shia denomination of Islam and not the Sunni denomination of Islam. The Sunnis are the majority amongst Muslims in the world. About 85% of Muslims are Sunni and about 15% are Shia. However, in Azerbaijan the great majority of Muslims are Shia Muslims.


Zoroastrians were persecuted in Iran and in Azerbaijan. Most Iranians and Azeris abandoned the Zoroastrian faith and converted to Islam. Zoroastrians did not seek for other people to turn to the Zoroastrian religion. Very, very few ZoROASTrians were left in Iran and in Azerbaijan. The Zoroastrians also had a rule of endogamy – people can only marry within the group. A child may only be a Zoroastrian if his or her mother and father are both Zoroastrians. The rule was that a half Zoroastrian is no Zoroastrian at all. Soon there were not enough Zoroastrians to marry. Those who married outside the community were no longer part of the community. The number of Zoroastrians went into decline. Now it is not known if a single Zoroastrian remains in Azerbaijan. In Iran there is a tiny community of Zoroastrians left.


Most of those who kept to the old religion left Iran and went to live in what we now call India. The Zoroastrians in India mostly live in Mumbai. The Zoroastrians in India are known as Parsees because they came from Persia. There are a few Parsees in Pakistan especially in the city of Karachi. The Parsees tended to do very well in business and in the professions.


Arabs from Basra (in Iraq) came to live in Albania (Azerbaijan).


Other peoples passed through Azerbaijan such as Huns and Khazars. The Khazars were people who lived around the Caspian Sea. The Khazars had been pagans but converted to the Jewish religion. Azerbaijan built up forts to defend itself against invasions.


The Huns and the Arabs are among the ancestors of the majority of the population of modern Azerbaijan.


There is evidence that Vikings visited Azerbaijan and intermarried with local people. The Vikings came from Scandinavia. That means the lands we now call Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Greenland. Thor Heyderdahl was a famous Norwegian explorer and historian of the 20th century. Thor Heyderdahl found runes in Azerbaijan. He came convinced that Vikings settled in Azerbaijan and that the Azeri people are partly descended from Vikings.


For a time all Muslim lands were united under the Caliph. Caliph comes from the Arabic word ‘Khalifa’ meaning successor. A successor is one who takes over after the old ruler. The Caliph was the man who ruled on in the name of the Prophet. For a time the Abbasid family provided the Caliph. The united Muslim empire eventually split up into many countries that often fought against each other. Before the Islamic empire broke up coins issued by the Caliph were circulated in Azerbaijan. This was the first type of money used in Azerbaijan. Paper money was not used at that time.


Official seals were put on documents by the government. A seal is a piece of hot wax that has an image stamped on it. The seal proved that the document really was issued by the government and was not a fake. The seals had images on them and slogans in Arabic.


When the Abbasid family declined a period of disorder started for Azerbaijan. Many different rulers tried to grab a hold of the country.


Questions on the above text.


  1. When and how did Islam come to Azerbaijan?


  1. Why did the Zoroastrian religion die out in Azerbaijan?


  1. What is the Caliph?







Early Modern Azeri History.


Early Modern Azeri History.


In the early 18th century Azerbaijan was closely linked to Persia (now called Iran). The language of Persia was and is Farsi. Farsi is sometimes called Persian. Azerbaijan was more than double its current size. Much of what we now consider Iran was then part of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan had a close relationship with Iran. However, a civil war in Persia weakened Persia at this time.


In the early 18th century Azerbaijan was an independent country. 9 out of 10 people were Shia Muslims. There were a few Sunni Muslims, Christians and Jews living in the country. Persia also had a Shia Muslim majority – about 90% of the people being Shia Muslims. The Azeri language was written in Arabic script. The Azeri language was similar to Turkish but contained more Persian words than it does now. Azeribaijan was culturally influenced by Persia (the old name for Iran). Of course the fact that Azeris and Persians were mostly Shia provided a strong link. In Turkey, by contrast, most people were Sunni Muslims. Persia and Azerbaijan had a lot in common. They were among only four countries in the world where the majority of people were Shia Muslims. The other two are Iraq and Bahrain.


To the west of Azerbaijan lay the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire had Turkish as its official language and Istanbul as its capital. In those days Istanbul was known in Western countries by its old Greek name – Constantinople. Most of its people were Sunni Muslims. The Ottoman Empire at that time included the countries we now call Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, Romania, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and parts of Saudi Arabia.


To the north of Azerbaijan lay the Russian Empire. Russia then had St Petersburg as its capital. The Tsar was Peter the Great. Peter the Great was keen to expand his territory in all directions. He sent his soldiers to conquer the coast of Azerbaijan. In 1722 they conquered Derbent and Baku.


In 1726 the Ottoman Empire attacked Azerbaijan and took over the southern part of the country.Ottoman rule lasted till 1736.


Persia was sympathetic to Azerbaijan and gave Azerbaijan some help. However, Persia entered a period of great instability and grew weak. A former slave named Nadir Shah came to rule Persia. He set off to conquer India – this includes what we now call Pakistan since Pakistan did not exist until 1947. Nadir Shah sacked Delhi and carried off the PEACOCK throne of the Emperor of India. However, Nadir Shah’s campaign exhausted his army and Persia almost collapsed. Persia started to break up. Persia was in no state to assist Azerbaijan against the Ottomans or the Russians.


Azerbaijan broke up into several different khanates. A khanate is like a kingdom and a khan is the equivalent of a king. The khanates sometimes fought against each other.


Russia became more interested in controlling the Caucusus. They conquered Georgia which had formerly been part of the Persian Empire.


A new dynasty came to the throne in Persia called the Qajars. The Qajars decided to conquer Azerbaijan. In 1796 Persia launched a major attack on Azerbaijan and took a lot of land. Some Azeri khans appealed to Russia for help in resisting Persia. Some Azeris were happy under Persian rule.


A war broke out between Russia and Persia and Azerbaijan was the main battlefield. Finally in 1812 Persia and Russia made peace by dividing Azerbaijan between them with Russia taking the northern half and Persia retaining the southern half. This was the Treaty of Gulistan. Tabriz, formerly the Azeri capital, was in Persia.


Some local khanates were abolished. Other khanates were preserved and the khan had to rule on behalf of the Tsar of Russia.


Russia emphasized that Orthodox Christianity was essential to being Russian. As Azeris were almost all Muslim it was difficult for them to identify with Russia. At that time very few Azeris spoke Russian. The Russian Government at first did not intervene much in Azerbaijan and life continued as normal. There was little Russian immigration into Azerbaijan – just a few soldiers and officials.


Shamakha was the capital of Azerbaijan under Russian rule. Then and earthquake caused great damage to Shamakha and the capital was shifted to Baku.


In the 1870s oil was discovered on the AbsheronPeninsula. People flocked to Baku to get rich quick. The city’s population rose from 10 000 to 300 000 between 1879 and 1900. In 1879 Baku had been little more than the old city. After 1879 many handsome buildings were put up by men who had struck in rich in the oil business.


One of the men who came to make a fortune in Baku was Alfred Nobel. Nobel and his brothers prospered in business in Azerbaijan. Alfred Nobel was a Swedish scientist and businessman. He is famous for inventing dynamite. Dynamite is an explosive he invented to be used in mining – to blast away rocks. However, it soon came to be used for military purposes. Alfred Nobel came to regret inventing dynamite because it killed so many people. One day Alfred Nobel read a newspaper that read that he, Alfred, had died. An obituary was published. An obituary is an article recording the life of someone who has just died. The obituary said that he was a wicked man who had caused so much suffering. In fact Alfred Nobel knew very well that he was not dead. His brother had died but one newspaper had got the wrong message and heard that Alfred Nobel had died so they accidentally reported that Alfred Nobel had died. This caused Alfred Nobel to think about what he had spent his life doiong. He thought he had cause a lot of misery by enabling so many people to be killed . He decided to use his wealth to do something positive for mankind. He set up a fund to award a Nobel Prize each year for people who have achieved the most in various fields – peace, physics, chemistry, literature and so on.


Baku came to look like a European city. Many Russians, Belarussians and Ukrainians moved in. People did not distinguish much between Russians and Ukrainians at the time. Ukrainians were often called Russians by others. Many Ukrainians and Belarussians were happy to simply call themselves ‘Russians’ back then. The Ukrainians who moved to Azerbaijan back then mostly spoke Russian.


Baku was a heavily Russian city – it was like a different country from the rest of Azerbaijan. Some men grew very rich very fast. Some oil workers were treated badly.


Azeri thinkers and writers became influenced by western ideas. Some of them began to write about how they disliked inequality and poverty. Some called for independence. ONE such writer was Nariman Narimanov.


Those men who made a great amount of money in Azerbaijan tended to take their money out of the country. The often lived in St Petersburg or Moscow. If they were French or British they normally sent the money to their home countries. It seemed to many Azeris that Azeri oil was not benefiting Azerbaijan. The wealth of Azerbaijan was being taken away to enrich other people. This struck more than a few Azeris as being rather unfair. An independent Azerbaijan could control the country’s natural resources and make sure that the wealth of the country was used to benefit Azeris.







In 1904 the Japanese Navy attacked a Russian base in China, Port Arthur. Russia declared war on Japan. Japan and Russia both had territory in the Far East.


The Russo-Japanese War went badly for Russia. She suffered heavy losses and humiliating defeats. A peace agreement was negotiated in Portsmouth in the United States with American President Theodore Roosevelt mediating between the two sides.


The Russo-Japanese War caused enough strain within Russian society to provoke a rebellion before the war was over. In Azerbaijan there was fighting between Azeris and Armenians who lived in Azerbaijan. Revolutionaries in Azerbaijan fought against Tsarist forces. One of the revolutionary leaders in Baku was Josef Stalin who was later the ruler of the USSR.


In 1906 elections were held in the Russian Empire. Azeri representatives traveled to St Petersburg to take part in the debates about issues facing the Russian Empire. The Tsar of Russia at the time was Nicholas II. He was very old-fashioned and thought that he should make all the decisions about running the country. He hated having to agree to the Duma (parliament). He only did it because the 1905 Revolution in Russia was so strong. He agree to the Duma so that some people stopped supporting the revolution and the Tsar’s forces were able to defeat the revolution. About allowing a Duma to be elected Nicholas II said he was, ’’sick with shame at this betrayal of the dynasty.’’ He had inherited absolute power from his father Alexander III. Nicholas II wanted an absolute monarchy with all power concentrated in his hands. He believed that he was appointed by God and no one had any right to disagree with his decisions.


Some Azeris wanted independence. Some wanted to unite with the Ottoman Empire. Others wanted to stay within the Russian Empire but to have major reform. There was one thing that almost all Azeris agreed about.


The Musavat (Equality) Party was the main force in Azeri politics. It is because of this political party that nowdays there is a newspaper called Musavat. They wanted Azeris to unite with other Turkic peoples such as the Turks, Uzbeks, Tajiks and the Kazakhs and all Muslims to unite despite Shia and Sunni differences. The Musavat Party co-operated with the Russian Social Democratic and Labour Party (RSDLP). The RSDLP was illegal and many of its members were in prison. The Hummet Party was another Azeri nationalist group that was active at the time. Hummet may be translated into English as ‘endeavour’. The Hummet Party was founded by the RSDLP when they realized that they had little appeal for the Azeri speaking Muslims of Azerbaijan. One of the prominent members of Hummet was the writer and teacher Nariman Narimanov. The Hummet Party wanted immediate and far reaching change and to do a lot to help the poor.


The leading light of the Hummet Party was Mammad Amin Rasulzade. He wrote for many Azeri language newspapers. He wanted to get rid of the monarchy. He was also a playwright. Some people say that Rasulzade saved Stalin when Stalin was on the run from the Tsarist police in Baku.


Nicholas II wanted as little change as possible. When the Duma demanded serious changed he dissolved it and called new elections. He changed the voting system to favour the rich more. The rich were more likely to want to keep things as they were because the rich were doing well under the political system as it stood then. Yet still the new Duma wanted too much change for Nicholas II’s taste.


There were some changes. Trial by jury was introduced and the press became fairly free.


The Russian Empire was going through an industrial revolution. Many factories were opening and there was more demand for coal and oil. Coal was as important as oil back then. As Azerbaijan was the main source of oil for the Russian Empire it meant that Azerbaijan was very important for the Russian Empire. There was no way the Russian Government could contemplate Azerbaijan becoming independent or joining the Ottoman Empire because then Russia would lose access to cheap oil. Oil in Kazakhstan had not been discovered at that time.


Trades unions were founded at the time. A trade union is an organization for ordinary workers. The workers try to improve their situation by demanding higher wages, shorter working hours, more holidays, safer working conditions, not be to sacked without good reason and so on. The workers negotiate with the bosses. If the workers cannot get what they consider to be a good deal then they go on strike. That means they refuse to work until they get what they want. The boss may say, ‘’you should be grateful to me workers because without me you would not get any money.’’ The workers reply, ‘’you should be grateful to us the workers because without us you would not get any money.’’


Trades unions grew in the oil fields especially among Russian speaking workers. The working conditions in the oil fields were dirty and dangerous. Many oil workers died in accidents and others suffered terrible health problems and died young. Those who owned oil wells became very rich indeed.


The political parties spread throughout the Russian Empire at the time (including Azerbaijan) were as follows.


The Social Revolutionaries – known as SRs. The SR’s wanted to have no Tsar and for the Russian Empire to be a republic. They really were revolutionary and had been involved in fighting in the 1905 revolution. They wanted to break up the estates of the aristocrats and share land among the peasants. They were not against private ownership. Their support mostly came from Russian-speaking peasants so they had little following in Azerbaijan. This was the most popular party in other parts of the Russian Empire.


The Octobrists were a party based on the October Manifesto. The October Manifesto was a document that the Tsar had issued in October 1905. The Octobrists accepted this as the final change in the Russian political system. They wanted the Tsar to share power with the Duma. They did not want any more reform. They wanted the Orthodox Church to have a privileged status. They were against Jews. This political party had some support among rich Russian speakers in Azerbaijan.


The Constitutional Democrats was a political party known as the Cadets. The Cadets were middle of the road. They wanted further reform but not revolution. They wanted the Duma to make all the decisions. They wanted to retain the Tsar as a symbol like the monarchy in the United Kingdom. They had some support from the middle class and peasants. They had some support from Russian speakers in Azerbaijan.


The Menshevik Party believed in revolution. They had support from factory workers, train drivers, servants and so on. They wanted the land and property to be taken away from the rich and run by the government for the benefit of the poor. They wanted there to be no state religion. The Mensheviks had been involved in fighting in 1905 against the Tsar. Their most famous member was Leon Trotsky, a Ukrainian Jew.  The Mensheviks and Bolsheviks had once both been party of the Russian Social Democratic and Labour Party. The RSDLP split but both still claimed to be the RSDLP.


The Bolshevik Party was led by Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov who was known as Lenin. Lenin wanted there to be violent revolution as soon as possible. He believed that Tsarism could not be reformed but only destroyed. The Bolsheviks wanted to take property from the rich. They believed that people could organize themselves in communes to run farms, factories, railways and so on for the benefit of everyone. They were against all religion. They said that the non-Russian regions of the Russian Empire must be allowed to break away if they wished.


The Musavat Party and people like them were the most popular force in Azerbaijan because they emphasized Azeri identity.


The Hummet Party declined somewhat. Narimanov who was one of the chief figures of the party became attracted to independence for the whole of Transcaucasia as one country. He was an Azeri born in Tiflis so he felt a lot in common with the Georgians. Although Hummet’s members were almost all Muslims unlike Musavat the Hummet Party did not stress Muslim identity. Narimanov although brought up as a Muslim said that he was an atheist.


The Tsarist authorities, despite their promises of allowing all political activity, saw the Hummet Party and the Musavat Party as dangerous. They wanted to arrest Rasulzade. In 1909 he fled to Iran. He became involved in the Democratic Party of Iran. Rasulzade wrote for newspapers there that advocated major political changes including greater freedom for the Azeri speaking people of north-west Persia.





In 1911 there were moves in Iran to make Iran more liberal with political power being taken from the Shah and exercised by an elected parliament. The Democratic Party of Iran pressed the Shah for major reforms. The Qajar family was the ruling family of Persia at the time and they were used to ruling as they wished.


The changes in 1911 were known as the Constitutional Revolution. This title rather exaggerates events. Russia and the British Empire saw the changes in Persia as threatening to them. The Shah of Iran had been friendly towards them and they feared that Persia would now become hostile. Moreover, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (British-owned) was making a lot of money in Persia. The British Government feared that this company would be seized by the Persian Government.


In 1911 Russian troops entered Iran to reverse the political changes. British and Indian soldiers also marched into Persia. India was then the largest British colony and Indian soldiers were under the command of the British king. The King of the United Kingdom (George V) also had the title Emperor of India.


Rasulzade fled to Turkey. The Ottoman Empire had also undergone major political changes. The Ottoman Committee for Union and Progress (commonly called the Young Turks) had seized power a few years before. The Young Turks had taken effective power away from the Sultan Mehmet V.


In 1913 the Romanov dynasty in Russia celebrated its tercentenary. It was 300 years since the 16 year old nobleman Mikayil Romanov had become Tsar of Russia. For the first time since the 1905 Revolution Nicholas II dared to appear in front of crowds. In 1913 he seemed very popular. Perhaps Tsarism had weathered the storm and would last. In a spirit of generosity the Tsar declared and amnesty. Political dissidents such as Rasulzade would not be sent to prison. Rasulzade returned to Azerbaijan. He left the Hummet Party and joined the Musavat Party.


The Musavat Party called for all Muslims joining together especially the Turkic worlds. The party wanted to help the poor. There were arguments in the party as to whether the property of the wealthy should be taken away or not. This issue was never resolved. Most of all Rasulzade wanted independence for Azerbaijan. He coined the immortal slogan, ‘’the flag once raised will never fall!’’


The two most renowned Azeri revolutionaries had a falling out. What was the priority? Was it for Azerbaijan to be independent or was it for socialism to prevail? Rasulzade said Azeri independence was the most important goal. Narmianov said that socialism was the most important goal and it might be better for Azerbaijan to remain united with the rest of the Russian Empire. It was considered possible that the two goals could both be achieved together. There was also disagreement about the role of Islam in Azerbaijan. Should religion be a private matter or should the government try to promote Islam? Some very religious people said that the laws of Azerbaijan must be based directly on the Koran. What would then happen to those who were not Muslims? Would they be treated fairly or not? There was some discussion as to whether in an independent Azerbaijan only Shia Muslims would be full citizens. Some Azeris took the view that being Sunni or Shia did not matter – Muslims are Muslims whatever denomination they are.








The years before 1914 was a period of rising tension in Europe.


Germany and Austria-Hungary had a very close relationship. Austria-Hungary was an empire that ruled much of Central Europe. Austria-Hungary included also what we now call southern Poland, Slovenia, Croatia, northern Romania, western Ukraine and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Ottoman Empire also co-operated eagerly with Germany. German army and navy officers went to command units of the Ottoman military. Germany built a Berlin to Baghdad railway – Iraq was part of the Ottoman Empire.


France and Russia had an anti-German alliance. The United Kingdom had developed a friendly relationship with France and Russia. The United Kingdom increasingly viewed Germany as a threat.


The United Kingdom was the heart of the British Empire. The British Empire included many countries across Africa and Asia as well as islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean. The largest population of any British colony was India. India had half the population of the British Empire. India at that time included what we now call Pakistan and Bangladesh. About a quarter of the population of India were Muslims. There were many Muslims in other territories of the British Empire such as Dubai, Nigeria, Somalia and so on. The British Government did not want to upset Muslims.


The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire was also the Caliph. This means that he was the leader of all Sunni Muslims. British policy had been friendly to the Ottoman Empire for a number of reasons. One of these reasons was because in return for being helpful to the Ottoman Empire the Sultan told Muslims in the British Empire to obey the British Government. The British Government was worried that if they fought against the Ottomans then the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire would tell Muslims in India, Nigeria, Abu Dhabi, Kenya, the Gambia and so on to rebel against the British Empire.


In the years leading up to 1914 the Ottoman Empire was in serious decline. British policy began to shift away from being friendly with the Ottoman Empire and towards a closer relationship with Russia. Russia and the Ottoman Empire were traditional enemies.


Dreams, three.


I dreamt a few nights ago of delicate young lady named Helen. This petite colleague of mine is 23 years old and like my good self hails from the Emerald Isle. She has dark brown hair and very fair skin. She is pretty but not impossibly so. She has a personality to match her physical beauty. She is graceful and possessed of a mellifluous voice. Lamentably she is also possessed of a boyfriend with pots of money.

I was speaking to Jonathon – my chubby Mid-British colleague in my dream. He told me that Helen was doing a number one. I tore off a strip of loo roll and said I would give it to her to wipe off her pudendum. I did not do so to be bawdy or droll. It was matter of fact. It made me think of my girlfriend Emma from a dozen years ago. I remember going into the loo just after her in a frog farm in Singapore and seeing a strip of loo roll there and realising it has just touched her privities.


I spent Tuesday night at the house of Emma and Neil. She is 48 and he is 38. They have an earthy sense of humour.

I dreamt of being at an orgy of middle aged working class whites in northern England. It was frank and gratifying. The women were no beauties. A young man walked in nude – he was the son of one of the women. He had his girlfriend in two. The small and scrappy flat where this took place was greyish and ill-lit. It reminded me of Leather Lane. I do not remember copulating with anyone.



Last night I dreamt of a long and agreeable conversation with Martin McGuinness. Later Gerry Adams came along. McGuinness was genial. I asked him direct questions about the IRA. He was never fazed. He said he had stood down from his position in the IRA in 1998. Adams looked younger and thinner in the dream than in real life. I cannot remember what I said to him.