Posts filed under 'Azerbaijan'

1937: Panfiliya Tanailidi, Azerbaijani actress

Add comment October 15th, 2016 Headsman

On this date in 1937, Azerbaijani actress Panfiliya Tanailidi (various other transliterations are possible) was purged during Stalin’s terror.

Born in a tsarist governorate to Greek emigres, Tanailidi (English Wikipedia entry | Azerbaijani) was treading the Caucasus boards as a teenager in the pregnant century’s first decade.

She became an accomplished stage and screen actress, starring in 1930s silents Ismet and Almaz.

Come the Stalin years when any pretext was enough to destroy a body, the pretext against Tanailidi was apparently her affiliations with an Iran then taking a concerted anti-Soviet line: the actress had toured Iran in 1917 and had friends like Govhar Aliyeva who had fled the Soviet Union for Iran. This was more than enough to cast the pall of espionage about her.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Artists,Azerbaijan,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Espionage,Execution,History,Russia,Shot,USSR,Women

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1939: Mikayil Mushfig, Azerbaijani poet

Add comment March 12th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1939, Azerbaijani poet Mikayil Mushfig was shot during Stalin’s purges.

The 30-year-old former schoolteacher was a socialist enthusiast as a youth in the 1920s; his work celebrated officially sanctioned subjects like virtuous peasants and workers, and modernization of the alphabet.

How far to go to put aside the backward old ways? Poets debated in verse whether the traditional instrument tar ought to be banned.

[O]ne poet, Suleyman Rustam, wrote, “Stop tar, stop tar, You’re not loved by proletar!” Another poet, Mikayil Mushfig, countered, “Sing tar, sing tar! Who can forget you!”

The tar wasn’t banned, but Mushfig’s enthusiasm for the Soviet project was deemed (however genuine) insufficient, “petit-bourgeois”.

The nightingale is sorrowing near the rose,
Though autumn comes-it lingers to depart,
Life, life! This cry of longing ever grows:
With love, with burning passion how to part?

With feelings new, you string your singing lute
My youthful pen, now just about to start!
O friends, give answer to my pain acute:
With this great seething fire flame, how to part?

Here‘s a pdf of some Mushfig poetry in Azerbaijani.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Artists,Arts and Literature,Azerbaijan,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,History,Posthumous Exonerations,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Russia,Shot,Treason,USSR,Wrongful Executions

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1918: The 26 Baku Commissars

2 comments 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.

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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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1947: The avatar of Doctor Wonder

1 comment July 1st, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1947, according to the modern mystical sect of Daheshism, the eponymous founder Dahesh was shot as a spy at the Iran-Azerbaijan frontier — only to reappear perfectly alive in his native Lebanon.

Not that Dr. Wonder.

This Dr. Wonder:

Now, every theology looks like mummery to an outsider practically by definition, and far be it from Executed Today to impugn anyone’s spiritual truth. But: you might want to strap yourself in for Dahesh.

Born Salim Moussa Achi, “le docteur Dahesh” — “a Franco-Arabic amalgam that translates as ‘Dr. Wonder'” — made his unusual name in Beirut in the 1930’s and 1940’s “for his mesmeric gaze, the sway he held over some highly placed Lebanese (especially women), and his propensity for performing Houdini-like ‘wonders’ — including transmuting strips of paper into banknotes, appearing and disappearing at will, removing his head before retiring, and summoning spirits.”

Expelled from Lebanon, he is supposed to have walked across Syria and Turkey to Azerbaijan,* been caught without papers in that dangerous neighborhood, and shortly thereafter executed as a suspected spy.

Next thing you know, he’s back in Beirut, ready to fulfill his destiny of dying in New York in 1984 as a collector of forgettable 19th century art. And also performing “thousands” of miracles revealing him to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, which we know for a fact because he never claimed to be Jesus.

Something like that. Finer points elided.

Daheshism today evidently claims a few thousand followers — including the wealthy Zahid family — and no centralized church-like entity. Its most prominent public billboard is New York’s Dahesh Museum, which houses the late Doc Wonder’s collection of the official French Academy art overthrown by impressionism.

And the miracle on this date in 1947?

Sure, you (o ye of little faith!) might think that he slipped back into Beirut and seized on the shooting of some poor undocumented schmo who happened to resemble him.

But actually, the trick was to swap places with one of your six celestial avatars, a race of real good sports about suffering martyrdom since that’s also what the “crucified” Jesus did.**


* The sourcing is mixed on whether “Azerbaijan” here should be considered the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic then a constituent of the USSR, or its neighboring Iranian region, also called Azerbaijan.

** In this, Daheshism echoes very longstanding mystical approaches to spirit/body dualism; some early Gnostic Christians seem to have believed that Christ was not flesh in the literal human sense, and therefore his apparent death was otherwise. The Koran also supports the notion that Christ did not die bodily.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Arts and Literature,Azerbaijan,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Espionage,Execution,History,Iran,Known But To God,Public Executions,Religious Figures,Shot,The Supernatural,USSR

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838: Babak Khorramdin

Add comment January 4th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 838, Babak Khorramdin was chopped to pieces for his 20-year rebellion against the Abbasid Caliphate.

A Zoroastrian son of northwest Iran’s Azerbaijan region, Babak rose to head a movement at once political and religious rooted in cultural preservation against the Arab-dominated caliphate.

Captured at last — he had spurned a guarantee of safety with that timeless insurrectionary sentiment, “Better to live for just a single day as a ruler than to live for forty years as an abject slave” — he had his hands and legs struck off in the presence of the caliph. It is said that Babak washed his face in the blood of these wounds to deprive his royal observer the pleasure of seeing his face fall pallid.

Babak remains an iconic figure in his homeland for his resistance to Arab domination, as evidenced by this Farsi-language vignette …

… and this performance of the Persian Ballet.

But he is not an unproblematic character for contemporary Iran, and not so much because of the anti-Islamic character of his revolt. Babak, whose personal ethnic composition seems to be a bone of historical contention, is also hailed an Azeri nationalist hero vis-a-vis Iran. His fortress is mountainous northern Iran still stands … and has latterly become a meeting-ground for advocates of “greater Azerbaijan” on the occasion of Babak’s birthday in July, much to the displeasure of Iranian authorities.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: Azerbaijan,Caliphate,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Dismembered,Early Middle Ages,Execution,Famous,God,Gruesome Methods,History,Iran,Martyrs,Persia,Power,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Revolutionaries,Summary Executions

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