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1918: The 26 Baku Commissars

September 20th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1918, 26 Bolsheviks and Left SRs were shot in what is now Turkmenistan, their bid to establish Soviet power in Baku defeated — temporarily.


The Execution of the Twenty-Six Baku Commissars, by Isaak Brodsky (1925)

The 26 Baku Commissars were the men of the Baku Commune, a short-lived Communist government in 1918 led by the “Caucasian Lenin,” Stepan Shahumyan. (He was a good buddy of the Russian Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov.)

In a cauldron of ethnic violence and against the military interventions of Turkey and Britain, these worthies were tasked with extending Soviet writ to the stupendous Azerbaijani oil fields* — the predominant source of tsarist Russia’s oil, and destined to be the engine of Soviet industry as well.

The Baku Soviet was expelled by the British, who inherited the bloody fight against an advancing Ottoman army.

Shahumyan and his fellow commissars, meanwhile, fled by ship across the Caspian Sea to Krasnovodsk (now Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan), where they fell into the hands of a the anti-Soviet factions — backed, once again, by the British — of a brand new locale’s incarnation of civil war.

The commissars’ “presence in Krasnovodsk was a matter of great concern to the [anti-Bolshevik] Ashkhabad Committee, the members of which were seriously alarmed that opposition elements in Transcaspia might take advantage of the presence of the Commissars to stage a revolt against the government.” Said concern was relieved by the expedient of escorting the Baku Soviet to the desert and shooting them en masse.

The Red Army recaptured Baku in 1920, this time for good, and Shahumyan and friends were raised to the firmament of Communist martyrology, and not only in the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. Streets and schools throughout the USSR bore their names.

As with many Soviet icons, the commissars had a rough come-down after the Iron Curtain fell. Their monument in Baku stood untended for many years, its eternal flame extinguished … until it was finally (and somewhat controversially) torn down earlier this year.


The Baku Commissars’ monument and its dead eternal flame, prior to its early 2009 demolition. Image (c) denn22 and used with permission.

* The Nobel family, which established the Nobel Prize, had a significant presence in the Baku petrol industry.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Arts and Literature,Azerbaijan,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Martyrs,Mass Executions,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Power,Revolutionaries,Ripped from the Headlines,Russia,Shot,Summary Executions,USSR,Wartime Executions

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2 thoughts on “1918: The 26 Baku Commissars”

  1. Mani says:

    Shahla, It is so easy for an Azerbaijani brainwashed chauvinist like you to blame Armenians for anything wrong in the world. You should look into any history book to see MILLIONS of Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and other Christians that went to horrendous tortures, rapes, mass killings, beheadings, children abductions by Turks and Azerbaijanis between 1890 and 1920. The death toll of more than 3 million christians erased Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks from Asia Minor and other Azeri cities. In 1988 and 1990 you killed more than 1500 Armenians in the streets of Sumgait, Kirovabad and Baku. Read history of your nations mass murders before blaming others. One more thing, why do you have hundreds of thousands of Lezgins, Talysh and other minorities under sever deprivation of political rights and their leaders executed or banished? You will never do your previous crimes against Armenia ever again. NEVER!

  2. Shahla says:

    Thanks God, that monument to 26 commissars is not present anymore! It stayed in downtown Baku like an insult to the people of Azerbaijan for decades. By the way back in March 1918 they were among organizers and ccommitters of the Armenian slaughters against Azerbaini people in Baku. Thousands of innocent people were killed by Armenian cheauvinists. Similar events took place in 1905 all over the Azerbaijani territory. Again, Armenian armed groups killed thousands (the exact number could be found online) of innocent people all over the country.

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