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Издание К. Н. К

MEHMED EMIN RASUL ZADE
(1884-1955)

Like many of the young noblemen of his generation, Mehmed Emin Rasul Zade, born to an aristocratic family of Baku, became interested in Marxism early in life. In 1904, already a promising and prolific writer, he joined the Circle for Study of Socialism, called Hümmet (“Endeavor”). Sometime later the Circle was transformed into a political party under the name of the “Muslim Sosial-Democratic Party - Hümmet”. Among Rasul Zade’s comrades in the Hümmet group were the majority of the leaders of future Communist Party of Azerbaijan, including Sultan Mejid Efendiev and Asadullah Akhundov, who were at the same time members of the Baku organisation of the Russian Sosial-Democratic Workers Party (RSDWP); Nariman Narimanov and Meshadi Azizbekov, both of whom joined Hümmet in 1905; and many other future Bolsheviks. Most were young radical nationalist intellectuals of upper-bourgeois or landed aristocracy origins who sincerely accepted the general Russian Bolshevik line: that socialism in its Marxist form would  bring liberation to the Muslim world. Their ideological vistas were at once revolutionary, Marxist, nationalist and Islamic.

In 1906, at the  Sixth Congess of the RSDWP, Hümmet was officially recognised as a separate political party open exclusively to Muslims. This  decision was taken despite strong opposition of some Russian RSDWP leaders who suspected, with good reason, that Hümmet would become a kind of “Muslim Bund”, harboring ideas which were at bottom more nationalist than socialist.

Rasul Zade, as a brilliant journalist, played a leading role in the ealy history of Hümmet. In 1906-07, he was one of the best-known left-wing journalists in Baku. He contributed to several socialist periodicals published in Baku by Hümmet, in particular Koch-Devet (“The Appeal”), a bilingual weekly in Armenian and Azeri, whose other editors were Narimanov, Efendiev and Azizbekov. Rasul Zade was also chief editor of another Hümmet newspaper, Tekammül (“Perfection”), which appeared in Baku in 1906-1907 under the same editorial team as Koch-Devet. Tekammül was suspended by the authorities in 1907. He edited still a third socialist periodical, Yoldash (“Comrade”), which ultimately was closed by the police for “revolutionary propaganda”; Rasul Zade was forced to flee to Iran.

Despite his membership in there radical political groups, Rasul Zade did not consider socialism a one-way street. While participating fully in the activities of Hümmet, for example, he cooperated with the liberal wing of the nationalist movement. Thus, in 1905-07, he was a regular contibutor to the pan-Turkic newspaper Irshad (“The Guide”), which was published in Baku by Ahmed Aga oglu.

In Teheran, Rasul Zade proceeded on his revolutionary course, and in August 1909 he founded the daily newspaper Iran-i Now (“The New Iran”), which became one of the most influential and popular Marxist papers in the Iranian capital. According to specialist of Azerbaijan history Tadeusz Swietochowski, Rasul Zade was its chief editor and its main director . He used sign his articles with the pseudonym “Nush” – The Sting. In October 1911, Iran-i Now became the organ of the Democratic Party of Iran. In May 1912, the Russian legation in Teheran demanded of Iranian authorities that they arrest and deport Rasul Zade to Russia. This time, Rasul Zade escaped to Turkey.

In Istanbul, the political views of the young Azeri intellectual underwent a dramatic change. Under the influence of the Young Turks, Rasul Zade became a nationalist and adopted strong pan-Turkic ideas, although he remained a dedicated radical and revolutionary, never completely abandoning his sosialist notions. In Turkey, he collaborated closely with the famous Türk Yurdu, along with other Russian Muslims, such as the Azeris Aga oglu and Husein Zade, the Tatars Yusuf Akçura oglu and Abdurashid Ibragimov, and others, who had been obliged to leave Russia after 1908 at the beginning of the repression of the Muslim national movement by Stolypin.

In early 1913, taking advantage of the amnesty for political emigres on the occasion of the three hundredth anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, Rasul Zade returned to Baku where he became president of the great national political party Mussavat (“Equality”), which had been created in 1911 in the city of Elizavetpol’ (formerly Genje, today Kirovabad). He published his nationalist ideas - moderately pan-Turkic and autonomist, but not separatist – in several Baku newspapers, Shilale and Dirlik in particular, which adhered fairly closely to the general political line of Mussavat.

When World War I broke out, Rasul Zade understood than a premature open conflict between Azeris and Russian authorities lead to a useless tragedy for the former; he therefore behaved as a loyal citizen of the Russian Empire and was even allowed to publish in Baku the newspaper Achyq Söz (“The Free Word”), whose orientation was pan-Turkic and nationalist, but favourable to Russia’s war effort.

Following the February Revolution, Rasul Zade emerged as leading personality of Russia’s Muslim national movement. At the First All-Russian Muslim Congress, held in Moscow on 1 May 1917, he was the main speaker on behalf of those supporters of territorial autonomy for each Muslim region within a Russian federal state. This position was opposed by the “unitarians” led by the Ossetian Ahmed Tsalikov, who were partisans of an extra-territorial national-cultural autonomy for all Muslim nationalities within a unified Russian state. The “federalists” under Rasul Zade, consisting mainly of Caucasians, Crimeans, Turkestanis and Bashkirs, won the day by 446 votes to 271 from the “unitarians”, most of whom were Volga Tatars.

As in most Muslim regions of Russia, the primary impact of the February Revolution in Transcaucasia was to widen the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims. The Muslim political parties - the leftist Hümmet and the centrist Mussavat - despite their very different platforms, observed between themselves a quiet neutrality, made possible largely by the good personal relationships of the leaders, all of whom came from the same upper social levels of Azeri society, and by their being confronted and opposed by the local Soviets, who were almost exclusively Russians, Armenians, and some Georgians. Two blocks, a moderate-liberal blok represented by the Mussavat and a radical-socialist block, represented by the Hümmet, shared the leadership of the Muslim community. Both were pan-Turkic and nationalist and hoped for Russia’a defeat in the war, and both demanded a “peace without annexations or reparations”. Both stood for the autonomy of the eastern Trancscaucasia within a Russian federal state. Separatist trends were not  as yet in evidence. Mussavat’s leaders still hoped eventually to be able to cooperate with a democratic Russian republic, a hope which faded rapidly as 1918 approached.

In May 1917, Mussavat gliding steadily to the right, affiliated itself with the more conservative Turk Federalist Party, a moderate political party founded in April 1917 in Genje and directed by a group of Azeri landlords. Rasul Zade was elected president of the new party, Turk Federalist Party – “Mussavat”

The division of the Muslim  communite into two political trends , as described above, was logical because of the presence in Baku of a large class of Muslim industrial workers, who, curiously, were only poorly represented in the radical-socialist Hümmet. Even so, the Islamic bond  was to prove the most important cement between the two trends until the October Revolution and beyond. This was due to the fact that Baku posessed a powerful Armenian community which was well-organized and agressive and supported by Russian authorities, tsarist and socialist alike. This formidable opposition compelled Muslims, whatever their political colouring, to form a united front in the face of a common enemy.

After the October Revolution, the three main native nationlities of Transcaucasia - Azeris, Georgians and Armenians – refused to recognise the new Soviet regime. Still, they remained unwilling no secede from Russia. Instead, they formed in Tiflis a Provisional Transcaucasian Government – the “Transcaucasian Commissariat”, or Zakavkom - which lasted until May 1918, when the tripartite national republic disintegrated into separate republics of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. Rasul Zade was one of the Azeri  representatives to the Zakavkom.

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* Tadeuzs Swietocowski, Russian Azerbayjan, 1905-1920: The Shaping of National Identity in a Muslim Community (Cambridge: Cambrigde University Press, 1985), p.69