Vol. 6, No. 8 (April 15, 2013)

Azerbaijani-Chechen interactions: The present and the past

Sevinj Aliyeva, PhD
Institute of History
Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences

On November 15, 2012, head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov paid a visit to Azerbaijan to discuss prospects for cooperation between the two republics.  The visit of the Chechen leader to Baku was not the first contact between Azerbaijan and Chechnya.  AZPROMO, the Azerbaijani Foundation for Supporting Exports and Investments, on April 4, 2012, organized in Baku a presentation on investment possibilities in the Chechen Republic.  The presentation was attended by a Chechen delegation headed by the Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Chechen Republic and Finance Minister Ali Isayev.  Among others in the delegations were also the Industrial and Trade Minister of Chechnya Galas Taymaskhanov and Culture Minister Dikalu Muzakayev.  The delegation met both with members of the Azerbaijani government and with the country’s business circles, in which they—with a view to laying the groundwork for mutually profitable economic cooperation between the two sides—proposed projects in various segments of the economy. [1] This elicited interest from the Azerbaijani side, which prepared a draft agreement on cultural and economic cooperation.  The Chechen delegation also visited major industrial objects of the country, and an agreement was reached on a visit by an Azerbaijani delegation to Chechna at a later point.  Still earlier, in November 2011, an Azerbaijani delegation headed by Economic Development Minister Shahin Mustafayev visited Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. [2]

An interest to foster bilateral relations is shared by both sides, with Chechen President Kadyrov having emphasized that, “[w]e must strive for all-sided strengthening of contacts with Azerbaijan.” [3] Azerbaijan, in turn, which now hosts a representation office for Daghestan and Chechnya, has been expanding its cooperation with a range of republics and oblasts of the North Caucasus, including Chechnya.  With the latter, Baku’s relations have been advancing both in the trade and economic sectors and in the military and political directions.    

Baku’s engagement with the Chechen people is far from a new phenomenon and traces back to many decades ago in history.  By early 20th century, Baku emerged as the center not only of religious, spiritual and cultural life of the Muslim peoples of the Caucasus, but also a focal point of the ethnically varied work force of the region.  In 1917, 999 North Caucasians lived in Baku, including Chechens, Daghestanis, Osetins, and others. Baku got to know quite a handful of prominent Chechens and Ingush in the 20th century who lived and developed their activity in the Azerbaijani capital, including enlightener Adil-Girei Dolgiyev; ethnographer, regionalist and folklorist Chakh Akhriyev; public teacher Tashtemir Eldarkhanov; famous composer and pedagogue Muslim Magomayev, and others.  The daughter of Chakh Akhriyev, Tamara (Gul-Bahar khanum) Akhriyeva received her education in Baku’s St. Nina female academic institute and stayed to teach in Baku afterwards.  In 1911-1915, she worked as the head of the female Russian-Muslim Aleksander Institute. [4]

In the second half of the 19th century, Azerbaijani oil specialists would share their experience in the development of all aspects of the oil industry in Grozny, which was the main oil centre in the North Caucasus.  One of the well-known oil industrialists involved in the Grozny works was A. Akhverdov. [5] The improvement of rail, highway, sea and air communications in the 20th century to a still greater degree made possible the close economic and cultural ties of the regions of the Caucasus.

A new stage of Azerbaijani-Chechen relations set in following the February 1917 revolution: National Councils and various political organizations came to surface.  The Chechen Congress in Grozny sent a telegram to members of the Ozakom M.Yu. Jafarov and M.I. Papadzhanov requesting that the Ozakom send the inspector of the Goychay higher educational institution Eldarkhanov to serve as inspector of primary schools in Chechnya. [6]
Following the February 1917 revolution, virtually in all regions of the former Russian Empire the tsarist administration began to be disbanded and replaced by all-national institutions, the latter dominated by bourgeois nationalist parties.  The national bourgeoisie and intelligentsia, the Cossacks, and various strata of the population, having supported the democratic transformation in the country, began to insist upon freedom of speech and the press, the creation of national schools and a national administration.

Cooperation between the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (1918-20) and the Mountaineer Republic included the dispatch of Azerbaijani military units to the latter.  Azerbaijani-Turkish forces, supplemented by native gortsy forces, occupied the coast between Derbent and Petrovsk.  On 7 November 1918, Petrovsk was seized.  The territory of Daghestan and Chechnya was freed from the Bolsheviks and power passed to the Mountaineer Government.  Turkish forces let by Col. Ismail Haki-bey, together with Azerbaijani units and others from the North Caucasus, began an attack against the Denikin-led Armed Forces of White Russia.  Ismail-pasha was sent to Daghestan and Chechnya, while Shukri-bey went to the Terek and Kuban regions.  However, as a result of the defeat of the German bloc in World War I and the withdrawal of the Ottoman Empire from the war in November 1918, Turkish forces had to quickly leave the territory of Daghestan and the South Caucasus. 

In these conditions, an independent Mountaineer Republic was proclaimed at a general assembly of representatives of the peoples of Daghestan and Chechnya.  According to the representative of the Azerbaijan Republic to the Mountaineer Republic, A. Akhverdov, there were no political parties in the latter, which only featured national fractions instead, such as the Ingush, Chechen, Kumyk, and the like; and the majority of the members of the Union Council were spiritual leaders and influential people. [7]
A delegation of the Mountaineer Republic, together with the Azerbaijani delegation, set off for the Paris Peace Conference in January 1919 to seek international recognition.  However, the White Army occupied Chechnya and Ingushetia.  The senior commander of the units of the Volunteer Army in the Caucasus, Maj.Gen. Shatilov, sent the Azerbaijani Government a letter on February 13, 1919, in which he assured the latter about the voluntary nature of the subordination of these two North Caucasus regions to the Volunteer Army and about the introduction in these places of self-administration.  He consequently recommended that the Mountaineer Government yield its authority given the lack of demand for it.  The Chechen delegation visited the diplomatic representative of the Azerbaijan Republic in the Mountaineer Republic, described in detail their republic’s fight with the White Army and declared that if it did not receive support, it would be forced to surrender since its supplies and materiel were near exhaustion.

In his proclamation, Shatilov noted that the command of the Volunteer Army knew about the preparation of the Azerbaijan Republic to support the Chechens with its own forces and about the disinformation of the Chechens by statements that the White Army wanted to subordinate Chechnya to the Cossacks.  Regarding the Cossacks, he gave assurances that the White Army intended to make peace with the Chechens. [8] One should note that after the occupation of the Terek oblast by Denikin’s army, a dubious attitude toward the events could be seen.  The Chechen National Council headed by Chulikov supported the appointment as ruler of Chechnya Voluntary Army General Iris-Khan Aliyev.  But part of the population of Chechnya spoke out against the occupation of its territory by the White Army.  On April 26, A. Kantemir, at the direction of the chairman of the Mountaineer Government P. Kotsev, sent the government of Azerbaijan and the allied command a note of protest against the actions of the White Army on the territory of Chechnya.  The commander of British forces in Petrovsk responded that Denikin would not continue his military actions and would make peace with the Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, and Osetins and await the decision of the Peace Conference on the independence and borders of states formed on the ruins of the Russian Empire.  In exchange, he wrote, the Mountaineer Government must allow the White Army to struggle against the Bolsheviks on the territory of the Mountaineer Republic.

Following the defeat of the forces of the Mountaineer Republic, a powerful uprising led by the local spiritual leaders broke out in Chechnya and Daghestan.  In his memoirs, Denikin described this as follows: “In its search for a way out, the Mountaineer Parliament began to seek political union with Azerbaijan in the name of the defense of religion and the unique qualities of Daghestan … The Mountaineer Government continued its agitation and set to mountainous Chechnya small Daghestani units and Azerbaijani volunteers.” [9] A. Akhverdov, in turn, was asking the Azerbaijani Government to send Azerbaijani officers to provide help to the Chechens, because “this could have … a moral impact on those who are fighting.”  Akhverdov also asked Baku to send a small unit toward Khasavyurt.  A detachment under the command of Kazim-bey was dispatched for the defense of the Mountaineer Republic.  Representatives of the Ingush met with told Akhverdov that they had assembled a serious force and were preparing an attack from three sides: Ingushetia, Chechnya ad the Georgian military highways.  According to Akhverdov, “the Chechens also were ‘inclined to unite with Azerbaijan….” It was particularly emphasized that the head of the Noth Caucasus Emirate Uzun-Haji also called for joining with Azerbaijan. [10] The White Army at that time was engaged in battles on the territory of the Terek region, in particular in Ingushetia and in Chechnya.  As is well known, Denikin set as his main task the liquidation of all newly formed sovereign states and the restoration of “a single and indivisible Russia.”

Following the seizure of Gudermes station by Denikin, the English colonel Rowlandson officially declared to Chechen governor Col. Jafarov about the inclusion of the North Caucasus into the sphere of influence of the White Army and of Daghestan into the English sphere of influence.  In response, a session of the inter-party commission in Baku adopted an appeal to the citizens of Azerbaijan in which it declared, “In the North Caucasus, the freedom-loving mountaineers true to the behest of their ancestors and the principles of freedom and independence of small peoples, is shedding blood in an unequal battle with the reactionary forces of Denikin and company …it is the responsibility of every Muslim to provide help to the fraternal mountaineers in a timely fashion….” The Inter-party commission set on the formation of an Azerbaijan Volunteer Detachment under the leadership of experienced officers to provide such help. 
Uzun-Haji, the head of the North Caucasus emirate, sought to achieve via the diplomatic channels of Georgia and Azerbaijan recognition of his monarchy by the world powers.  He asked Akhverdiyev to convey from him a message of greetings to the Azerbaijani government.  In the middle of May 1919, it was reported that Uzun Haji, together with Akhverdov, was getting ready to come to Baku for talks concerning Chechnya.  However, it appears that he sent as his representatives the brother of Mogamed Efendi Dibir-Magomayev and the honorary Chechen Magomed Piralov, while he himself went to Chechnya.  According to a dispatch from A. Akhverdov, “after the seizure of Petrovsk, Daghestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia will recognize the authorities of Azerbaijan; they are prepared for this.  After this, the Mountaineer Republic can be reestablished under the protectorate of Azerbaijan.” [11]
At the beginning of June 1919, Azerbaijani agents were dispatched to Temir-Khan-Shura, Shamil-Kala (Petrovsk), Grozny and Vladikavkaz in order to follow the actions of the Volunteer Army.  According to Akhverdov, the population of Daghestan and Chechnya impatiently awaited the arrival of Azerbaijani forces.  Uzun-Haji from Botlikh reported about the readiness of the Avar and Andi districts to rise against Denikin’s army.  The residents of the auls of mountainous Chechnya reached agreement about not subordinating themselves to Denikin.  And already at a congress in Shali, the Chechens resolved to defend the interests of the mountaineers to the last drop of blood and to preserve their freedom, and not to help in any way the Volunteer Army.  Akhverdov sent two letters to Baku from the Chechen people—one written in Arabic and one in Turkic—reporting about the situation in Chechnya and the destruction of villages there by the Denikin forces.  In July, intense battles against the Denikin forces and the Cossacks were conducted by Ingush and Chechen mutineers in the directions of Vladikavkaz and Grozny.  They cut the Grozny-Beslan line.  The Ingush National Council organized a rising against Denikin, which seized the lower portions of Ingushetia in the middle of July 1919.  On June 28, Abubakar Pliyev, the representative of the Ingush people and a member of the United Council of the Mountaineer Republic, sent a special letter to the Chairman of the Parliament of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic requesting assistance and left for Baku. [12]
In September 1919, a new wave of the national liberation movement of the peoples of the North Caucasus began.  The national movement in Daghestan was headed by N. Gotsinsky, that in Chechnya by Uzun-Haji, and that in the Northwestern Caucasus by Sultan Klych Girey.  Meanwhile, members of the Mountaineer Government, located provisionally in Tiflis, reached agreement on forming a Committee of Mountaineers consisting of 12 people under the chairmanship of A. Tsalikov.  The conduct of foreign policy was entrusted to Dzhabagiyev.  They appealed to Vekilov with a request to the Azerbaijani government for subsidies and the transfer of the activities of this Committee to Baku.  Vekilov transferred to Dzhabagiyev a 250,000 rubles loan for the needs of the Mountaineer organization. [13]
In November 1919, the Azerbaijani government sent Nuri Pasha to Daghestan as the commander in chief of the North Caucasus front.  He and his Turkish officers formed a regular division in Daghestan and a cavalry division in Chechnya.  Nuri-pasha organized negotiations between the commanders and the leaders of Daghestan and the North Caucasus, Ali Haji Akushinsky, Ibrahim-Haji, Kazim-bey, N. Gotsinsky, and K. Alikhanov.  Nuri-pasha promised military assistance from Azerbaijan.  He planned first to liberate the territories of Daghestan, then to establish a new provisional government and together with Uzun Haji occupy the Terek district.  He also planned to conclude an agreement with the parliament of the Mountaineer Republic.  Following the recognition of the Azerbaijani Republic by the major powers and the non-recognition by them of the Mountaineer Republic, Azerbaijan continued to support the North Caucasus peoples in their struggle for independence. [14]

Following the victory of the Red Army in Azerbaijan and in the North Caucasus, the power of the Bolsheviks was established, but even during Soviet times, relations between the Azerbaijani and Chechen peoples did not break off and continued within the framework of the Soviet state, the latter having promoted a mutual enrichment of cultures and the establishment of cultural links.  According to the 1989 census, 456 Chechens lived in Azerbaijan.  Following the war in Chechnya, the number of Chechen refugees there reached 4,700.  And Azerbaijan took them in despite the problems it had with its own refugees as a result of the occupation of Azerbaijani lands by Armenian forces.  If the Azerbaijani refugees had somewhere to retreat to, the Chechens did not.

Consequently, in the 1990s and 2000s, a new wave of resettlement of representatives of many North Caucasus peoples to Azerbaijan was under way.  They found work, sought education, and received local residence permits (Rasulov 2005, pp. 42-43).  In 1995, a Cultural Center of the Chechen Republic-Ichkeria was opened in Baku.  Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev considered the political problem of Chechnya as an internal affair of Russia, but the Chechen issue as a humanitarian problem.  For the resolution of the problems of Chechen refugees, the main office of the plenipotentiary representative of Chechnya to the Muslim countries, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, was opened in Baku.  The number of Chechen refugees in Azerbaijan grew to 10,000 by the year 2000.  Despite its own problems with refugees, Azerbaijan could not close its borders to suffering people who were hostages to larger political games.  And most of the latter found refuge and a better life there. 

The situation changed in the fall of 1999.  According to Azerbaijani political scientist R. Musabayov, “the watershed became the explosions of the fall of 1999 when the Chechen resistance turned to terrorism.  Azerbaijani society could not find a justification for this type of action, which discredited the Chechen resistance.” In July 2000, the office of the representation of the Government of Ichkeria in Muslim Countries was suspended.  Pressure from Russia played an essential role in that decision.  With the coming to power in Russia of Vladimir Putin, relations between Azerbaijan and Russia improved.  According to the director of the Chechen human rights center in Baku, Mairbek Taramov, after the events of September 11, the international Islamic foundations which were operating in Baku in 1999-2000 under pressure from the US, Russia and Azerbaijan, ceased their activities and assistance to the Chechens. 

As a result, in March 2001, the Chechen refugees turned to President Heydar Aliyev with an open letter, noting that they did not want to be returned to Russia and insisted on their rights under the 1951 convention.  These refugees indicated that they were encountering difficulties in obtaining the necessary documentation, because Azerbaijani officials were referring them to the Russian embassy.  They asked that their problems be referred to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and that their position in Azerbaijan be regularized.  As a result, they were issued a form of UNHCR identification, which legalized their status only in Azerbaijan, but stayed short of guaranteeing the provision of financial, humanitarian, medical, and other kinds of assistance.  At the present time, there are 4,930 Chechen refugees in Azerbaijan.  They continue to complain about problems with the police, obtaining documents for themselves and their children, and access to education.

These minor problems notwithstanding, the Chechen refugees in Azerbaijan have not lost hope and continue to support the position of an independent Azerbaijan in all questions and share the feelings of Azerbaijani refugees and martyrs who—just like themselves—suffered in the early 1990s.  Thus, the Council of Chechen Refugees expressed its solidarity with Azerbaijan and sympathies on the occasion of the tragedy of January 20, 1990: “January 20 in the history of the Caucasus will always remain a day of loss and gaining: patriots died and a worthy Republic was born… The Chechen, sympathetic to the ideas of freedom and independence and having suffered enormous losses on this path have a deep understanding of what is taking place today on the territory of Azerbaijan.  We will never forget the asylum offered to Chechen refugees on this land, the warmth and tolerance of the Azerbaijani people… The glorious action by the Azerbaijanis was among the first and served as a worthy example for the continuation of the national liberation war of the Caucasus.  At the present time in Baku, there is a Chechen school, various committees established for work with mountaineers arriving from the North Caucasus, and a women’s committee of Chechnya.  There are also representations of Daghestan and Chechnya, as well as other organizations.

Indeed, the Azerbaijani population, despite its own far from simple position, continues to show tolerance and friendship toward its North Caucasus neighbors.  There is no ethnic discrimination or hostile attitude toward other ethnoses in Azerbaijani society.  The North Caucasus population in Azerbaijan is involved in trade and transit through the country.  Now, thanks to the stabilization of the situation in Azerbaijan itself, the efforts of individual extremists have been blocked.  Chechens are living in a stable environment, and everything is being done to ensure that they, like all the other ethnic minorities of Azerbaijan, can continue to do so.

In the post-Soviet period, several projects for the integration of the peoples of the Caucasus have been developed.  On August 26, 1989, at a congress of mountain peoples of the Caucasus in Sukhumi, on the initiative of the Popular Front of Abkhazia, the Assembly of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus was established, with Kabardin Yury Shanibov as its president.  In the fall of 1991, General D. Dudayev took the Assembly under his protection.  In November of the same year, that organization was transformed into the Confederation of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus.  The confederation united in its midst the Chechens, Kabardins, Cherkess, Adygeys, Abaza, Abkhaz, and others.  The Ingush did not joint it, nor did the Turkic language mountain peoples (the Kumyks, Balkars, and Karachays) save Akhysk Turks.  The Nogays and Azerbaijanis who were living on the territory of contemporary Daghestan also refused to join that group.  Instead, they entered the Association of Turkic Peoples.

A round table on a common “Caucasus home” took place in Grozny on September 4-5, 1992.  Participants proclaimed the creation of a Higher Religious Council of the Peoples of the Caucasus and a Single Information Center of the Caucasus.  Allahshukur Pashazade, sheikh-ul-Islam and head of the Muslims of Azerbaijan, was elected chairman of the religious council.  In the declaration of this meeting, reference was made to “the necessity of creating a confederation of Caucasus states.”  On September 27, 1992, the International Forum of the Caucasus Home was established in the Chechen Republic, and a program was developed for the unification of the peoples of the Caucasus.  On October 19, 1992, at the initiative of Dzh.Dudayev, the Confederation of the Mountaineer Peoples of the Caucasus was reformed as the Confederation of the Peoples of the Caucasus.  The group discussed the participation of the Cossacks and the possible formation of Cossack autonomies in places where the Cossacks lived together.  This congress was created in opposition to the CIS.  Its second conference was scheduled for Baku in the fall of 1993, but it was not held. 


Rasulov, М.А. (2005) Embployment and Labor Market in Daghestan (1991-2001 гг.), in Russian, Makhachkala: Epoch. 


[1] See http://chechnya.gov.ru/page.php?r=126&id=10810 (accessed 13 April 2013). 

[2] Ibid.

[3] See http://chechnya.gov.ru/page.php?r=126&id=10848 (accessed 13 April 2013).

[4] Первая всеобщая перепись населения Российской империи [The first general census of the population of the Russian empire], 1897, Бакинская губерния [Baku province], 1904, pp. 52-53.

[5] Каспий, No. 222, 12 September 1893; Каспий, No. 81, 16 April 1895.

[6] Баку, No. 137, 27 June 1906; Каспий, No. 66, 23 March 1917.

[7] State Archive of the Azerbaijan Republic (henceforth SAAR), f. 897, op. 1, d. 22а, l. 23, 24–24 ob., 25; SAAR, f. 970, op. 1, d. 59, l. 7, 7ob.; Каспий, No. 74, 9 October (26 September) 1918. 

[8] SAAR, f. 970, op. 1, d. 23, l. 9-10; SAAR, f. 970, op. 1, d. 59, l. 1-3.

[9] Грузия (Georgia), No. 55, 11 March 1919; Грузия (Georgia), No. 39, 20 February 1919; Грузия (Georgia), No. 93, 3 May 1919; Грузия (Georgia), No. 54, 9 March 1919. 

[10] SAAR, f.970, op.1, d.59, l.13-16ob., 17 ob., 21, 25, 26, 26 ob.

[11] SAAR, f.894, op.10, d.62, l.37ob., 40; SAAR, f.970, op.1, d.59, l.5ob.-16, 28, 31; Грузия (Georgia), No. 93, 3 May 1919.

[12] SAAR, f.894, op.10, d.62, l.41, 41ob., 62-63; SAAR, f.970, op.1, d.46, l.6-6 ob.

[13] Заря России (Dawn of Russia), No. 25, 14 (27) September 1919. 

[14] Борьба (Struggle), No. 82 (637), 14 April 1920.