1920 Ganja revolt

The 1920 Ganja revolt (Azeri: Gəncə üsyanı), also referred to as the Ganja Uprising, was an anti-Bolshevik rebellion that took place in Ganja, Azerbaijan from 26 to 31 May 1920 as a reaction to Azerbaijan's sovietisation.[1]


The disintegration of the Russian Empire resulted in the formation of a number of independent states on its territory. On 28 May 1918, the Azerbaijani National Council declared the independence of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Twenty-three months later the political power in Azerbaijan was ceded by the democratically elected Musavat Party to the Bolsheviks to avoid the bloodshed that the advancing 11th Red Army might have brought upon the country. On 28 April 1920, Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed.[2]

Azerbaijan's Sovietisation significantly reduced the Bolshevik pressure on the neighboring states, which caused much resentment and unrest among demoralized Azerbaijanis shocked by such rapid political change. Civil masses were angered by Bolsheviks' requisitions of provision supplies and their strong and explicit antireligious sentiment. The unrest was also triggered by various political organizations founded by Musavat members who fled to Georgia or went undercover. The anti-Bolshevik attitude went on to spread onto the Azerbaijani army dissatisfied with the Soviets' plan to reorganize it according to the Red Army model by discharging the officers and dividing the units.[3]

The revoltEdit

The discharge of the Commander of the Ganja garrison Mahammad Mirza Qajar[dubious ] and his officers led to the strongest civil unrest among Azerbaijanis. On the night of May 25 to 26 1920 the garrison consisting of 1,800 servicemen revolted and seized control over the Muslim quarter of Ganja. They were led by General Qajar, General Javad bey Shikhlinski, General Teymur bey Novruzov, and Colonel Jahangir Kazimbeyov. The Soviet units which arrived by railway ringed the city. On 29 May, they attempted numerous times to launch an attack but each time were hurled back with heavy casualties. They only became successful upon deploying heavy artillery. Around 1,000 rebels were killed; the rest fled into the mountains to join the units that had been formed there. The battle lasted until 31 May and ended in the Bolshevik victory.[3] Afterwards the city was looted and pillaged for an entire week.[4]


Azerbaijan People's Commissar for Internal Affairs Hamid Sultanov who was dispatched to Ganja carried out mass repressions against those suspected of being linked to the uprising. Hundreds of people were publicly executed. Twenty-two officers (among them six generals) were immediately exiled on the island of Nargin and shot by firing squad the next day, together with fifty-seven other exiles. The 11th Red Army issued a special decree by which detachments were to strengthen control of Azerbaijani locales with potential civil unrest. They were ordered to seize guns from the population. Those unwilling to turn in their guns were to be shot immediately, and those who turned in their guns and ammunition voluntarily were financially rewarded.[3]

The 1920 Ganja revolt initiated a chain reaction of regional rebellions in June 1920 such as Shusha massacre led by Nuri Pasha and one in Zagatala led by Molla Hafiz Afandiyev, however neither was as large scale as the Ganja Revolt. Starting in September 1920, a new series of rebellions of various scale took place in Dagestan and Quba, in Garabulag, in Shamkhor, and in Lankaran, overall lasting until 1924.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The New York Times, June 17, 1920. Latest massacre by reds; Tartar Population of Elizabethpol Reported Wiped Out.
  2. ^ (in Russian) Ganja revolt[permanent dead link]. The Great Soviet Encyclopædia.
  3. ^ a b c d Swietochowski, Tadeusz. Russian Azerbaijan, 1905-1920: The Shaping of National Identity in a Muslim Community. Part III. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995
  4. ^ Pipes, Richard (1954), The Formation of the Soviet Union, Communism and Nationalism, 1917-1923, p. 228. Harvard University Press