Baku’s March Days

The Trancaucasus region saw increasing conflict in 1918, and the end of March that year saw one of the most infamous chapters play out on the streets of Baku, the capital of modern-day Azerbaijan  In simplified terms, the struggle for the city in the so-called March Days violence lay between the Bolsheviks (supported by the Armenian Dashnak party) and the Muslim Azerbaijani Musavat party.  In practice, the March Days took place in a context of recent and long-standing complications, including strained Azerbaijani-Armenian relations, the presence of Ottoman Turkey on the area’s doorstep, and the Soviet need for Baku’s oil fields.

In the course of only a few days, thousands of chiefly Azerbaijani lives were lost in violence that caught up many unarmed citizens.  The Soviet side would then set up the Bolshevik and Left SR Baku Commune; led by Stepan Shahumyan, the Commune would last only a few months.  Azerbaijani-Armenian violence would continue into the 1920s, in a spiral of violence that would see Ottoman and British intervention, before Soviet control of the Trancaucasus was complete.

Baku’s oil reserves brought unwelcome focus during conflict but had attracted significant investment beforehand.  The six postcards shown here date from earlier in the 20th century, and show (clockwise from top left): a general view of the city; the Marinskii girls’ school; the town gardens and harbour; Olga Street; the embankment; and the Balakhany oil field.

[Baku postcards] Cooke.Postcards