RUSSIAN AFFAIRS AND INTERTRIBAL PROBLEMS
11. Azerbaijani Tatars.
The Caucasian Muslims can be divided into two strict categories for difference on their characters: first category would consist of Muslims lived in Turkey and especially Persia with its vassal khanates; the second one – of residents of Dagestan and other highlanders worshipping Islam. There are little of Turkish and Kurds within our borders and they represent a small dim spot on the colourful Caucasian carpet. Azerbaijani Tatars are different story: there are many of them and they constitute significant and valuable, in many respects, element which should be looked closer.
For centuries the eastern Transcaucasia was considered the Persian possession, but in fact it used to be such in some discrete cases; usually it was divided into small khanates (Ganja, Erivan, Talish, Sheki etc.) and initially their lords were officials appointed by the Persian government, who then managed to achieve transfer of their administrative rights by heritage and, finally, to peel off from Persia and reach independence becoming small tyrants of the oriental style. The beks, especially when they had kinship relations with the khan families, used to reach the same succession of power over smaller parts of territory. The mass of the Muslim population obeyed these rulers on the oriental-state basis, not the serfdom. Azerbaijanis were engaged in cultivation of land, gardening and cattle breeding, hunting, war and … raids, their principal difference from war is still unclear to the local population because of the indistinct land borders and legal definitions. When residents of one khanate or bek
domain attacked villages belonging to the other one with purpose of plunder, blood vengeance or demonstration of courage, then it used to be called war. Now it’s plunder, and by opinion of the modern Russian court, principles of that plunder are unclear to the population, and forms are sources for temptations generating hatred and new crimes. Armenians were engaged in trade, trembling before the khans’ whips, crawling before the beks, and paled in a view of a man armed with dagger. They often unwillingly had to share their gain with Muslim rulers.
The Azerbaijanis are called Tatars, but that is completely wrong if we attribute Tatars to the Mongolian tribe. Even if the Azerbaijanis have a Tatar blood in their veins, then it is only result of the Mongolian raids of the times of Batuy, Mangu and Khulagu-khan (to the Transcaucasia); similar results have left after the Arabs: in the eastern Transcaucasia one still can meet people of the Arabic type and even reminding mulattos, with very dark skin and curly hair. For their main genesis Azerbaijanis are Turks, Turanys, and blood relatives of ancient Oghuz, Seldjuks, and modern Turkish. Azerbaijan gave Persia one of its greatest dynasties and during its reign sciences, culture, agriculture and military had blossomed. The name of Alp-Arslan is not forgotten in this part of Asia.
Unlike Petersburg where a tendentious requirement is established in the halls and meeting rooms, filled with cosmopolitism, not to raise an issue of anybody’s tribal origin, there is a custom in the Caucasus, and generally in all countries where people are close to nature, to pay attention to blood: they know that human being is psycho- physical entity, not just an abstract mathematical calculation; spiritual organization has close connection with shape of skull and other body parts, actions of the
person are guided by not only present, but the past as well; blood of ancestors speaks through them.
Azerbaijanis undoubtedly have noble blood; for their nature they are kind, courageous, gracious, talented for intellectual and moral development. Despite of their apparent anarchism, predetermined by history, geographic situation of the province and communal conditions deriving from that, they undoubtedly have a concept of the statehood, and especially of the strong one, inspiring respect to the power, traditions and order. The Azerbaijani man basically is spontaneous supporter of the unlimited power, strong and patriarchal-just. It is almost the same psychologically racial character available with the Russian people, loyalty to the Autocracy by not only mind and heart, but, so to say, by very nature. The more Armenians and Jews, for their racial instinct, are hostile by nature to any statehood and particularly idea of the absolute monarchy, the more Azerbaijanis spontaneously, organically compassion to it – even rebels and robbers. Of course there is no psychological equality with Russians in this issue, since the Russian people had accepted the more advanced Byzantine religious-political culture and hadn’t been subjected in mass scale to such anarchical influences, which had imprinted on the character of the Azerbaijanis; but surely there is an analogy in fundament.
The Islam, being one of the cultural basics of this people, could only develop the mentioned character and give it ideological substantiation: one Allah, one prophet, one representative of the prophet, bearer of the secular power. Everything is filled with idea of the autocracy, this idea is so strong that crosses borders of the confessional differences – and any king, although the alien one, is saint as representative of the unlimited autocracy. The Transcaucasian Muslims have repeatedly fought against
their co-religious Turkish under banners of the White Tsar, bending before the grandeur of the enlightened cultural autocracy.
The people of the West, and particularly the most energetic part of the German tribe – Anglo-Saxons – is organically inclined to politics with its details, intrigues and everyday routine taking a bulk of the time and efforts in struggle for the decisive role in the power relations. The people of the East, and particularly Azerbaijanis, prefer entrusting politics with the powerful person enjoying respect and gratitude for paternal care about needs of the people, for peace, might and glory attained under his banner. This is exactly the organic difference in the world outlooks pregnant with political and communal consequences.
There is hardly any need to prove that people with oriental view on the state represent valuable creative element for such absolute monarchy like Russia; that is a construction material, which can be used by the state power, having enough of sensitivity, for self-development and successful realization of its historical mission.
It is our custom to link the concept of Islam exclusively and indiscriminately with definition of fanaticism. Once somebody speaks about Muslims the word of “gazavat”, i.e. holy war, is mentioned right away, they threaten with pan-Islamism, Turkish atrocities and so on, especially now under impression of the unspeakable sufferings brought down on the poor population of Macedonia and Old Serbia oppressed by the savage Balkan Muslims; and here it is usual to forget about cruelty of the Americans towards niggers and people of Philippine, of the Germans towards the Chinese, of the British towards the Boers, hireling banker Jews towards congregations. Our people don’t know Islam: they know only two or
three belligerent verses from Koran, written for some purposes and taking provisional-dogmatic importance only in cases, when the Muslim population of any country is either outraged by the abnormal life conditions, or inspired by some energetic leader drawing a picture of bright perspectives.
We still treat the issue of Islam in uncultured way. The Muslims take the first position for their number in our country after Russians, but we don’t have the translation of book “Le Coran analysé”, which is the table book for every French official in the Northern Africa; there is not a sign of at least serious and impartial independent researches which could help our officials dealing with Muslims to comprehend the main source of their world outlook. Truly speaking there is nobody to write such books for, because officials at our Asian outskirts are captured by other interests.
Loyalty to faith, the man considered the right one, should coincide with denial of truth of other confessions in full scale: as an Orthodox I can consider the Orthodoxy the only true faith with detriment to other religions. Nevertheless, it would be strange to deny that they contain parts of that unique eternal truth, which completely constitutes the nature of the Orthodoxy; that would be even stranger to deny not only beneficence of influence of the alien religions on the people enlightened by them, but in some cases even the practically-subjective advantage of those religions for human races standing on the appropriate spiritual stage and beset by special conditions. For instance, that concerns Islam. From our point of view, it doesn’t have absolute truth, but gives elements of that truth to the people accepting faith in brief, comprehensible formulas and digestible dozes. Practically speaking we may conclude that the same person truly
accepting imperatives of Islam, containing big portion of the Christian morality, and subsequently leading the decent patriarchal life, could become much worse person if taught although more sublime, but less comprehensible and compatible with his mental organization basics of the Christianity; misunderstanding would be accompanied by inactivity. The mental context would evaporate leaving only a dead ritual, another form of the same paganism, fighting which Muhammad came as real enlightener, real creator of the moral progress among his co-ethnics.
Taking a closer look at the dogmas and history of Islam one can easily acknowledge that this religion, professing mercy to the neighbour, care of about the weak and glooming, enlightening the human several times in a day (strictly required namaz) with reminder of the Only God, for its ethical sides interrelated with the military intolerance and sensible materialism is a spiritual branch of the Christianity, which has sprung away from that great stream and which certainly would come back to it. If for example one compares an Islamized Georgian- Adjarian with an Orthodox Gurian (almost brothers for their tribal origin), then the advantage would be given to the first one because he is more honest, gracious and generally higher morally. If one compares a Muslim Azerbaijani, even robber, but faithful Muslim with a “Christian” Armenian, “respectable” and endeared by the Caucasian authorities, having diploma of Philosophy Doctor in his pocket and honourable title on the visit card, then all moral advantages would fall to the side of the first one; although he is a sinner, he sincerely believes in God and hence his soul is basically Christian; the second one is just a cunning beast dressed in the English frock-coat, the Christianity for him is dead, moreover, perverted letter.
The great cultural credit of Islam before the people accepting it was simplicity and clarity of its requirements and dogmas. That doesn’t exclude the presence of deep theosophical basics, logical development of which visually and immediately brings Islam closer to the Christianity. Sufi sects serve the obvious prove to that, and verses by Omar Khayyam describing the “invigorating breathe of Christ” are the artificial evidences of the Christian moods of Islam. The complicate dogmatic work of Islam brought very original fruit in time of blossoming of the Arabic civilization, and namely an aspiration to reconcile a faith with mind. Several theological schools have dedicated themselves to that task not without success. The idea that a real wisdom coincides with virtues and Divine truth, can often be seen in very unique forms among the Caucasian Muslims. For instance, the Azerbaijani man, condemning some cunning and far-sighted rascal, will certainly say shaking his bold head: “What an irrational man!”…
Of course, there is a significant difference between the supreme origins of the religion and forms of its practical implementation. Speaking about Islam in the Transcaucasia one should also take into account the obscurantist attitude of the ignorant mass to the letter of religion (for instance, “shakhsey-vakhsey” with Shiites), and roaming dervishes exciting people by their fantasies, dimmed sermons and tricks, and emissaries from the neighbouring countries – political actors on the religious ground. In practice Islam frequently takes rude, coarse forms and superstitions described by knyaz Dmitry Kantemir in his notorious “Book of Systime”, a pamphlet against the “Muhamaddan religion”, and they still are not and, probably, won’t be consigned to legend soon. All that exists and must be taken into consideration, one can’t ignore those sides of Islam, although rarely implemented, which have
to be acknowledged as positive from point of view of the universal human truth and our state interests.
It is even less affordable to ignore those natural features of the population, which, if developed, might and must bring positive results from the state point of view. The cultural development of the Azerbaijanis this way or other can lead them to acquisition of the exclusively Russian origins, instead of western-European; the Azerbaijanis like Tatars of all Povolzhye and population of the Central Asian khanates in cultural meaning gravitate towards the Russian order, which is the natural stage of development for them. The Russian-Tatar schools perfectly accommodate and enjoy compassion of all population, from top to bottom, striving to learn the Russian language and reproach with Russians. Such phenomenon like the insolent fight of the Armenian priesthood and plutocracy against the Russian power about the oldfashioned schools, where the Russian was taught only fictitiously, has not been encountered among the Tatars so far. Nothing demonstrates that prejudiced hatred against the Russians, which is sometimes shown by the Armenian population instigated by its self-styled leaders. Naturally first colonizers of this province, our sectarians, initially had to taste the Tatar daggers. The ancestors of the modern sentimentally-crazy Dukhobors, driven to hysteria by count Tolstoy, regarded that issue quite really and had offered bloody repulse to the Tatar raiders; the issue reached such point that none of the armed Tatars dared to show at a distance of several rifle shots near the sectarian settlements, this is how the Dukhobors have attained complete security.
The Tatars understand and value the force guided by the mind. Due to the energy of the sectarians the Russian name was set high among the Tatar population,
and for the current Russians settlers in the Transcaucasia it is much easier to deal with Tatars than with any other neighbours. Even the co-religious Georgians frequently become less comfortable than Muslims, because the latter are benevolent to Russians for their nature and lessons of history.
The Azerbaijanis have good historical memory and great successive respect to the feats. The name of Kotlyarevsky, hero of Lankoran, who with a bunch of fighters kept all the Muslim Transcaucasia in obedience and fear, still shines in rays of glory. Of course, the chancelleries with their routine and dead attitude to life, poor bureaucracy and courts, alien for local understanding, have strongly damaged the Russian prestige for the past 50 years, so the current situation of the Muslims and their mood can not be called normal. A sort of the present order is still based upon the historical memory and deep faith in justice of the White Tsar. This way or other, today we spend in this province the dear heritage of our clever ancestors, while the post-reforms conditions of the provincial life, as if deliberately, have formed in a combination supporting isolation among the alien elements, artificially pushing away everybody who believed in our force and truth, and finally bringing the bloody conflicts.
The Azerbaijani Tatars were not lucky under our reign. Even knyaz Vorontsov, creative-governor, because of his personal views had made a mistake setting a serfdom right in place where it had never existed, and trying to promote the Tatar family nobility. But even that mistake was not finished, and the Muslim population of the Transcaucasia is still doomed to the chaos in the title- land sphere because of the unjustifiable reasons.
A lot of things have been and are being done, as if deliberately, to complicate the normal life of this population and its transfer to more cultural forms of life. The title-land
commission, which had existed for several decades, was doing nothing and then abolished, its files were transferred to the chancellery of the supreme director of the civil part in the Caucasus for the militarypopular administration. But nobody heard about progress in this direction. Meanwhile the confusion of relations is unspeakable: the serfdom right is abolished, but the obligatory links of the Muslim peasants to the beks remained, and possessions have not been demarked; misunderstandings happen everywhere, serving the source of income for small local authorities and provoking the just dissatisfaction in all classes of population.
The lack of clarity of the title rights is also followed by heavy economic and communal consequences. Due to the number of circumstances, created by abolition of the serfdom and gradual endearment of life, crossing from the patriarchal order to the decayed-bourgeois one – the beks and agalars, i.e. local land owners, started requiring a credit. On the other hand, since they have not been approved as having nobility rights, they can’t use credit at the nobility bank, while the peasants’ bank necessary for the popular mass has not been established yet. In result, all classes of the local population have been submitted by the improvident Russian power in catchy hands of the Armenian usurers. Collating this fact with the long-standing inactivity of the title-land commission one can easily draw the logical and life-proved conclusion that the Armenian plutocracy, benefiting from this abnormal situation of things, has been supporting it through own ruinous influence on the local governmental institutions and individual dishonest actors. The Muslim bek, whose ancestors had held prominent positions under the Georgian tsars, and then served as officers of the Russian service, can’t place his son in the cadet corps at
the expense of treasury because of uncertainty of his title rights. Representatives of the supreme class, beks and agalars, are talented for the military service; but even when they discharge the flawless and excellent service they are not indemnified from the tax collected from the Muslim population for liberty from military service.
Due to absence of the national financial policy in the province the economic situation of particularly Muslims deteriorates year by year. The Armenian plutocracy represents the organized mob devaluating the labour of the Tatar farmers and cattle breeders, catching all markets, credit and general circulation of money. The entire province is divided into districts taken by more or less big Armenian spiders exploiting the local Tatar population. Some Khublarov is sitting at one place, buying mulberry and grape for nothing, Sogomonov at another place, somebody of that kind in the third place. These agricultural products get spoiled very fast: if they are not sold in time, then a lot of labour would be lost and farmer’s family would remain hungry. Running for city? The buyer-ups may block the way to market and low-ranked police will be on their side. One has to follow the Ukrainian saying: “ride as the Pan says”…
Under the present abnormal conditions of the Caucasian life that would be strange even to imagine that the external economic force would break in the regions of the usurious exploitation of the Tatar population, create competition and raise the level of the popular income. The hooks or crooks, including grave crimes, are used to fight such attempts. The case of Khublarov or murder in Shelly village of Elisavetpol province caused great noise across the Caucasus. The Russian entrepreneur decided to establish the liqueur factory in district caught by the Armenian monopolist Khublarov. People tried to convince
and even prevented him from that project. He sent several of his clerks to the Agdam district of Shusha uyezd with the task of designing the factory, who got killed; their bodies remained unburied for several days because the court investigator – Armenian – was distracted from his duties by some family celebrities. He started investigation with an enthusiasm, described as “face of female going to work”, and despite his efforts for acquisition of evidences acquitting the monopolist Khublarov the latter had to be subjected to preliminary detention in prison due to very substantial evidences, what strongly infuriated the Armenian financial plutocracy. The especially aggravating evidences were discovered not by the preliminary investigation, but by the police interrogation. So began the attacks against all persons sincerely trying to reveal culprits of that savage murder. They brought up to light cases compromising the chief of uyezd and district marshal; those cases were made up long before that and then shelved, and the critical moment they have been brought up to daylight with the only purpose of undermining testimonies of those officials and their exclusion from the official circulation. Simultaneously they composed an outrageous tale about Tatar Djafar bek Vezirov, the landlord in Shusha, guilty of showing interest to the investigation since one of the victims was his relative. They composed and, in order to prepare the public opinion to the beforehand conceived trick, dared to speak the transparent hints publicly in layers’ society that Djafar bek Vezirov, as an influential person in his district, brings people to the mosque and forces them to take the oath of loyalty (!) to himself. Simultaneously with the news about transfer of Khublarov’s case, by decree of the Caucasian administration, from civil court to the military one, and dismissal of the policemen
unpleasant to Mr. Khublarov from service, Tiflis became filled with gossip that defence of Khublarov is organized in a very specific way: one local rascal from the Caucasian natives, who had contacts in different spheres of Tiflis and disgraced his Russian name long ago by cynical service to various Armenian intrigues, engaged himself to “conduct” it. He had to “conduct” the case staying in shadow personally: the sum of money assigned for these innocent expenditures varied in tongs of narrators from 40 up to 100 thousands. The Armenian press reached the extreme lyrics defending Khublarov, while it was rather more than difficult to write against the latter because of the local censorship situation.
The session of the military-district court under chairmanship of the military judge Ivanenko has arrived to Shusha. The course of the process, i.e. new preliminary and forensic investigation, could be revealed by the impartial reviser, but unfortunately he wasn’t sent there. There are only three undoubted facts: assistant of prosecutor instead of the charging speech delivered something like the acquitting one, which was published in the Armenianized “Novoye Obozreniye” newspaper as is; two days before the announcement of the verdict, which seemingly could not be known to anybody in advance, the entire Shusha has been preparing for the Lucullus style Asian feast and later all members of the assizes, except for one lieutenant-colonel from the Erivan regiment, had participated in the Khublarov’s feast after Mr. Ivanenko had concluded his justifying verdict with lyrical greeting to the successful Mr. Khublarov. Unexpectedly for the province Djafar bek Vezirov was arrested and subjected to the preliminary detention. They have kept him there for quite long time and then released old ill man saying “pardon, monsieur!”
Then … everything is fine. None of the new entrepreneurs engaged in competition with the Armenian industrial feuds, which are “invincible”. The honest people in the Caucasus, especially representatives of our valiant army, were outraged, crying, speaking, and then this dirty case gave space to other dirty cases, and their name is legion.
The mentioned case, just like many other judicial dramas played in the Caucasus, had the same although unpleasant, but characteristic for the Tatar population, details connected with presence of the assassins and remarkable inclination of the Tatars to the perjury. Reasons for both phenomena are complicate and can’t be attributed exclusively to the fault of the Azerbaijani race. The issue of assassins can be conveniently regarded in connection with issue of plunders, which shall be highlighted further and which is the Achilles’ heel for all administrators of the province, obviously breaking the harmony of the reported wellbeing in the Caucasus.
The perjury is sad and almost general phenomena, meanwhile rooted rather in external circumstances, than in character of the Muslim population. The Azerbaijani Tatar is religious and truthful in common life; he is reliable in friendship, keeps his word, values good name. But he will definitely lie in the court. On one hand, he doesn’t understand the principles of out court, on the other hand – our court process makes harmful effect on his nerves. For his nature he is passionately-sportive man; the competitive process for him is not a method for establishment of truth, but struggle, where victor is the only right. In addition, the court, disregarding local customs and definitions and frequently offending the truth of life, doesn’t inspire the Muslim with that trust and respect, when the tongue can hardly move to lie. The advocates
both the underground and the “jury”, ironically called so, engaging to defend whomsoever and whatsoever, push criminals and witnesses to the path of lie and contempt over the law. It would be easy to understand, and to some extent to justify, the negative attitude of the Muslim Azerbaijanis and all other Caucasian population to our court, if to complement the picture with those lowering the moral stance hard material and communal circumstances, which our officials, including the judicial institutions, have to live in at the Caucasus.
The business is strongly affected because the natives lack knowledge of the state language, which is the language of the court process, and judicial officials lack knowledge of local languages; hence the wide and to some degree decisive part is played by the less reliable interpreters. The natives know what the latter is worth of, and that gives them additional reason to treat the Russian court with scepticism. There is another reason for that in psychology of the Azerbaijani Tatars. For centuries they got used to immediate application of the strict decisions of their khans and agalars, i.e. the culprit used to be subjected to hanging on the nearest plane-tree or immediate confiscation of property. The concept of criminal offence was not so distinct from the civil offence, and in some occasions its interpretation was life-supported. For instance, if the baker quoting too high price for the bread was causing discontent of population, then khan or judge used to nail his ear to the door and kept him in this position until he refused from the usurious prices for the essentially necessary product. This practice is still continued in Persia. That is too cruel for the nerves of the modern law-makers, but from the point of view of local customs it is more rational than our long paper court process with all appellations, cassations, bailing and exile,
where the courageous man can easily escape from. Bearing in mind the last two conditions the witnesses are afraid to tell truth, perfectly knowing that the criminal will definitely revenge them by arson or murder. Such reasonable fear strongly complicates the cause of justice across not only the Transcaucasia, but the rest of Russia as well; so that would be unjust to attribute it to the lack of culture at Muslims only.
Clearly, the Transcaucasian natives, and particularly Muslims, need a different, more thoroughly thought court and process, along with appropriate regulation of stable state functions in the province, which activity of the judicial power is tightly linked with. By the way, the school is required to be as wide as possible and influence the mass of population. Unlike the Armenian and partially Georgian patriots, the Muslim influential circles do not object to introduction of the Russian schools, but the Caucasian authority stints money for that, to great joy of the Armenian wire-pullers, tradesmen and provincial officials, who are interested in keeping the Muslim population, knowing neither the state language, nor the laws, as victim of various exploitation as long as possible. The Armenians also benefit from forming of the negative opinion within the Russian society about Muslims as uncultured, wild and absolutely unreliable element. The Armenian press really celebrates when it has an opportunity to write about the Tatars’ plunders, contrasting the ostensibly peaceful mood of the “Christians”, i.e. Armenians, and undermining the trust to the Russian power in the province.