Azerbaijan People's Government

The Azerbaijan People's Government (Azerbaijani: آذربایجان میللی حکومتی - Azərbaycan Milli Hökuməti; Persian: حکومت خودمختار آذربایجان) was a short-lived unrecognized secessionist state[3][4] in northern Iran from November 1945 to December 1946. Like the unrecognized Republic of Mahabad, it was a puppet state of the Soviet Union.[1][2] Established in Iranian Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijan People's Government capital was the city of Tabriz. It was headed by an ethno-separatist and communist government led by the Azerbaijani Democratic Party,[5] which, in addition, also followed a pan-Turkist discourse.[6] Its establishment and demise were a part of the Iran crisis, which was a precursor to the Cold War.

Azerbaijan People's Government
آذربایجان میللی حکومتی
Flag of Azerbaijan People's Government
Coat of arms of Azerbaijan People's Government
Coat of arms
Anthem: Anthem of the Azerbaijan People's Government
Location of the Azerbaijan People's Government
Location of the Azerbaijan People's Government
StatusPuppet state of the Soviet Union[1][2]
Common languagesAzerbaijani
GovernmentMarxist-Leninist one-party state
• 1945–46
Ja'far Pishevari
Historical eraCold War
• Established
November 1945
• Disestablished
December 1946
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Imperial State of Iran
Imperial State of Iran
Today part ofIran


To supply the Soviet forces with war material through Iran, British and Soviet troops jointly occupied the country in August 1941.[7] Soviet forces entering Iranian territory from the Armenian SSR and the Azerbaijan SSR and British and Indian forces entering from Iraq soon took the control of the country.[8] On 16 September, the British forced Reza Shah to abdicate in favor of his son Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, who ruled until 1979.[8]

With the dethronement of Reza Shah in September 1941, Soviet troops captured Tabriz and northwestern Iran for military and strategic reasons. The Azerbaijan People's Government, set up by the Soviets, under leadership of Ja'far Pishevari was proclaimed in Tabriz in 1945.[8] Lavrenti Beria was nominally in charge of the operation, but delegated it to Mir Jafar Baghirov, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan in Baku.[8] The Democratic Party of Azerbaijan was also created by the direct order of Joseph Stalin[9] and capitalized on some local people's dissatisfaction with the centralization policies of Reza Shah.[8] It was supplied with money and weapons by the USSR.[8] Stalin wanted to make pressure on Iran to get an oil concession in Iranian Azerbaijan.[8] During this time, a revival of the Azerbaijani literary language, which had largely been supplanted by Persian, was promoted with the help of writers, journalists, and teachers from the Azerbaijan SSR. In the quest of imposing national homogeneity on the country where half of the population consisted of ethnic minorities, Reza Shah had previously issued in quick succession bans on the use of Azerbaijani language on the premises of schools, in theatrical performances, religious ceremonies, and, finally, in the publication of books.[10]

The U.S. supported the Iranian complaint against Soviet actions lodged with the Security Council in Resolution 3 and Resolution 5; in mid December 1946, the U.S. supported the shah's government in sending the Iranian army to re-occupy Mahabad and Azerbaijan. The leaders of the Azerbaijan enclave in Iran fled to the Azerbaijan SSR, and the leaders of the Kurdish Republic were tried and sentenced to death. They were hanged in Chwarchira Square in the center of Mahabad in 1947.

1947's efforts centered on the issue of Soviet designs on Iran's northern oil resources. Following the election that year of a new Majlis, the newly elected deputies were reluctant to ratify the Soviet-Iranian oil agreement, which had been concluded under duress in March 1946 and had granted the Soviets 51% ownership and de facto control. On September 11, 1947, U.S. ambassador George V. Allen publicly decried intimidation and coercion used by foreign governments to secure commercial concessions in Iran, and promised full U.S. support for Iran to freely decide about its own natural resources. With this unequivocal encouragement, the Majlis refused to ratify the Soviet oil agreement on October 22, 1947; the vote was 102 to 2.[11]


The Firqah-i Dimukrat, or Azerbaijani Democratic Party (ADP), publicly announced its formation in Tabriz on 3 September 1945 by a group of veteran communists headed by Ja'far Pishevari. After the announcement, the communist, Soviet-supported Tudeh party dissolved its Azerbaijan chapter and ordered its members to join ADP.[12] ADP expanded throughout Iranian Azerbaijan, and initiated a local coup d'état with help from Soviet army, who prevented the Iranian army from intervening.[13] During the first week of September 1945, the Azerbaijani Democratic Party, led by Ja'far Pishevari, a long-time leader of the revolutionary movement in Gilan, declared itself to be in control of Iranian Azerbaijan, promised liberal democratic reforms, and disbanded the local branch of Tudeh.[14][15] Later in September 1945, at its first congress, the Azerbaijani Democratic Party authorized the formation of a peasant's militia. This militia started a bloodless coup on 18 November 1945[16] and by 21 November they had captured all remaining government posts in the province, and Iranian Azerbaijan "became an autonomous republic under the direction of a 39-member national executive committee".[13][17] The power seems to have been exercised by Mohammed Biriya, the Minister of Propaganda and head of the local secret police.[8]

A Overprinted Iranian stamp with the portrait of Mohammad Reza Shah issued under the name of National Government of Azerbaijan.

At the same time, the US was steadily increasing its military assistance to the Iranian government. Under pressure by the Western powers, the Soviet Union revoked its support of the newly created state and the Iranian military succeeded in re-establishing Iranian rule in November 1946. According to Tadeusz Swietochowski:

As it turned out, the Soviets had to recognize that their ideas on Iran were premature. The issue of Iranian Azerbaijan became one of the opening skirmishes of the Cold War, and, largely under the Western powers' pressure, Soviet forces withdrew in 1946. The autonomous republic collapsed soon afterward, and the members of the Democratic Party took refuge in the Soviet Union, fleeing Iranian revenge. In Tabriz, the crowds that had just recently applauded the autonomous republic were now greeting the returning Iranian troops, and Azerbaijani students publicly burned their native-language textbooks. The mass of the population was obviously not ready even for a regional self-government so long as it smacked of separatism.[18]

Soviet supportEdit

New declassified evidence of formerly top secret documents from the Cold War implicates the USSR in forming the government of Pishevari by the direct orders of Stalin.[9] The Soviet military supported the new autonomous entity and prevented the Iranian army from restoring governmental control over the area. After the Soviet withdrawal, Iranian troops entered the region in December 1946 and Pishevari and his cabinet fled to the Soviet Union.[19][20] According to Prof. Gary R. Hess:

On December 11, an Iranian force entered Tabriz and the Peeshavari government quickly collapsed. The Soviet willingness to forego its influence in (Iranian) Azerbaijan probably resulted from several factors, including the realization that the sentiment for autonomy had been exaggerated and that oil concessions remained the more desirable long-term Soviet Objective.[21]


On 13 June 1946, an agreement was reached between the Central Government in Tehran and the delegates from Azerbaijan, headed by Pishevari.[22] Under the agreement, Pishevari agreed to abandon the APG's autonomy, to relinquish its ministries and premiership, and to become once more part of Iran. Its parliament was to be transformed into a provincial council – a system recognized and provided for in the Iranian Constitution.[22]

By mid-December 1946, the Iranian army, backed by the United States and the British,[23] reentered Tabriz, thus putting an end to Azerbaijan People's Government after a full year of its existence.[24] During the lawless interregnum, approximately 500 supporters[25][26] of the Ferqeh were killed. According to the U.S. Supreme Court Justice, William O. Douglas, while the Red Army had been on its best behavior when stationed in Azerbaijan, the Iranian Army behaved as an occupying force and brutalized the local inhabitants. The beards of peasants were burned, their wives and daughters raped. Houses were plundered and livestock were stolen. The Army left a trail of death and destruction behind it.[27]

Many of the leaders took refuge in the Azerbaijan SSR. Ja'far Pishevari died in a car accident in Baku in 1947. Prime Minister Kordary was jailed for many years by the Shah and later released due to the efforts of his brother Kazem Kordary.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Frederik Coene (2009), The Caucasus - An Introduction, Routledge Contemporary Russia and Eastern Europe Series, Routledge, p. 136, ISBN 9781135203023, As a result, the People's Republic of Azerbaijan and the Kurdish People's Republic (the Republic of Mahabad), two short-lived Soviet puppet states, were set up late in 1945...
  2. ^ a b Donald Newton Wilber (2014). Iran, Past and Present: From Monarchy to Islamic Republic. Princeton University Press. p. 136. ISBN 978-1400857470. In December the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, announced the establishment of an autonomous state of Azerbaijan, and at the same time the Russians set up another puppet state, the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad, also in Azerbaijan.
  3. ^ Chelkowski, Peter J.; Pranger, Robert J. (1988). Ideology and Power in the Middle East: Studies in Honor of George Lenczowski. Durham: Duke University Press. ISBN 9780822307815. OCLC 16923212.
  4. ^ Abrahamian, Ervand (1982). Iran Between Two Revolutions. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691053424. OCLC 7975938.
  5. ^ Bonakdarian, Mansour (2022). "ḴIĀBĀNI, SHAIKH MOḤAMMAD". In Yarshater, Ehsan (ed.). Encyclopædia Iranica, Online Edition. Encyclopædia Iranica Foundation.
  6. ^ Ahmadi, Hamid (2017). "The Clash of Nationalisms: Iranian response to Baku's irredentism". In Kamrava, Mehran (ed.). The Great Game in West Asia: Iran, Turkey and the South Caucasus. Oxford University Press. p. 109, 121. ISBN 978-0190869663.
  7. ^ Reza Shah Pahlavi :: Policies as shah. - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Sebestyen, Victor (2014). 1946: The Making of the Modern World. Pan MacMillan. ISBN 978-0230758001.
  9. ^ a b "1945-46 Iranian Crisis". Cold War International History Project. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
  10. ^ Tadeusz Swietochowski, Russia and Azerbaijan: A Borderland in Transition. ISBN 0-231-07068-3
  11. ^ George Lenczowski, American Presidents and the Middle East, (1990), p. 7-13
  12. ^ Iran in claws of the bear, The failed Soviet landgrab of 1946, Farhad Tale, iUniverse books, 2007, ISBN 0-595-41345-5, p19
  13. ^ a b Abrahamian, Ervand (October 1970). "Communism and Communalism in Iran: The Tudah and the Firqah-I Dimukrat". International Journal of Middle East Studies (PDF). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. 1 (4): 291–316. doi:10.1017/s0020743800000702. JSTOR 162649. S2CID 161572906.
  14. ^ Sepehr Zabih. The Communist Movement in Iran, Berkeley, 1966, p. 99
  15. ^ Ervand Abrahamian. Iran between Two Revolutions, Princeton, 1982, pp. 217-218
  16. ^ Jessup, John E. (1989). A Chronology of Conflict and Resolution, 1945-1985. New York: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-24308-5.
  17. ^ Fred H. Lawson. "The Iranian Crisis of 1945-1946 and the Spiral Model of International Conflict", International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 21, No. 3. (Aug., 1989), p. 316
  18. ^ Swietochowski, Tadeusz 1989. "Islam and the Growth of National Identity in Soviet Azerbaijan", Kappeler, Andreas, Gerhard Simon, Georg Brunner eds. Muslim Communities Reemerge: Historical Perspective on Nationality, Politics, and Opposition in the Former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Durham: Duke University Press, pp. 46-60.
  19. ^ Azerbaijan Crisis (1947-1948)
  20. ^ Iran in World War II Archived October 16, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Gary. R. Hess Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 89, No. 1 (March., 1974) [1]
  22. ^ a b A. C. Edwards. "Persia Revisited", International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944), Vol. 23, No. 1. (Jan., 1947), p. 58
  23. ^ McEvoy, Joanne; O'Leary, Brendan (2013). Power Sharing in Deeply Divided Places. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 191. ISBN 9780812245011.
  24. ^ George Lenczowski. "United States' Support for Iran's Independence and Integrity, 1945-1959", Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 401, America and the Middle East. (May, 1972), p. 49
  25. ^ Swietchowski:"Addressing the troops entering Azerbaijan, General ‘Ali Razmara proclaimed that they were restoring the soul of Iran to the nation, and henceforth the anniversary of the event would be celebrated by a military parade. By all accounts the population’s enthusiastic welcome of the Iranian army was genuine. Among the elated throngs were many who barely a year ago had also enthusiastically greeted the rise of the Pishevari government; the change of heart was due not only to disenchantment with the Democrats but also the uncontrollable violence being meted out at the sympathizers of the fallen regime. Rossow conservatively estimated 500 killed during the lawless interregnum that preceded the coming of the Iranian troops. Hundreds of others were tried and jailed, and scores were hanged. "( Tadeusz Swietochowski, Russia and Azerbaijan: A Borderland in Transition. New York: Columbia. University Press, 1995. pg 154)
  26. ^ A British source cited by the US Embassy in Tehran gives the number of killed Democrats as 421. The American Embassy’s report has been classified under Wash. Nat. Arch. 891.00/1-1547, 15 January 1947"( Touraj Atabaki, Azerbaijan: Ethnicity and the Struggle for Power in Iran, [Revised Edition of Azerbaijan, Ethnicity and Autonomy in the Twentieth-Century Iran] (London: I.B.Tauris, 2000. pg 227).
  27. ^ Douglas, William O. (1951). Strange Lands & Friendly People. Harper. p. 45. ISBN 978-1199639806.

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