History of the City of Baku. Part IV
The development of Baku also continued after the establishment of the Soviet power. To attach the Baku oil district towards herself more strongly Russia took measures aimed at giving Azerbaijan the status of “a model Soviet Republic in the Islamic East”. This kind of measures included the improvement of the living conditions of the Baku workers, mainly of the oil workers, as well as the solution of the problems related to the town-building of the capital. From 1924 to 1937 three variants of the city’s over-all plan had been worked out. In this period the widest housing and cultural constructions were being carried out in the central historical part of the city and its suburbs, the foundations of the new housing unit areas were laid: the settlements after M.Mammadyarov, P.Montin, S.Razin, etc. In 1926 the first electric railway in the USSR was constructed to connect Baku with the suburban settlements of workers. The work on the considerable increase of the areas under green plantations in Baku also dated to these years. Gardens, squares and parks were laid both in the historical part of the city and in its new districts with the compulsory participation of thousands of citizens of Baku in numerous subbotniks.
Beside these achievements, obtained due to utter enthusiasm and labour of the rank and file citizens of Baku one must also remember the innocent victims of Stalinist repression of the 1930s. The losses were particularly great among the reviving young Azerbaijani intelligentsia, whose best representatives were either exiled or shot dead.
With the outbreak of World War II again Baku turned out to be in the focus of attention of the great world powers. After the Soviet-German non-aggression pact had been signed in 1939, the USSR started to provide Germany with oil. In 1939-1940 France and England planned to bomb Baku and to occupy the Baku oil industry district. In the French generals’ opinion such kind of operation would have weakened the economic might of the Soviet Union and led to the collapse of the Soviet system. England also had an analogous plan. The headquarters of the British Royal Air Forces thought that “three squadrons of bombers operating for a period of time from 6 weeks to 3 months could put the oil fields out of action”. Only the Germans’ powerful attack on the western front forced the allies to postpone their plans with respect to Baku.
The contribution of Baku in the successful defeat of fascism was very weighty. During the war the oil reserves of Baku comprised 75% of the country’s overall oil reserves, and 90% of the jet fuel consisted of Baku oil. Taking into consideration the growing demand for oil, the Baku oil workers reached the record level of oil extraction in 1941 – 23,482 million tons. Never before such amount of oil had been extracted and up to now, this record has not been surpassed yet.
When the German military forces attacked the Caucasus, Hitler fixed the date of seizing Baku – September 25, 1942. German reconnaissance planes started to appear over Baku and one of them was shot near the city. 764 oil wells were deadened and prepared for destruction and 81 sets of drilling equipment with the personnel were sent to Turkmenistan in case of seizure of the city by the autumn of 1942. Despite this, Baku provided the front with oil, restoring and exploiting the old oil wells. Thousands of oil workers went to front to fight and in the oil fields they were replaced by the women. A considerable number of military equipment and ammunitions were produced here. Baku was the most important transport junction in providing the USSR with military and humanitarian aids rendered by the allies through Iran. During the years of war Baku as a city in the rear received about 440 thousand wounded from the front.
The further development of the city continued after the war. In 1949 the construction of Oil Rocks started and this was the first world experience in exploiting oil fields in the open city. The construction of living houses and public buildings was recommenced in Baku from the very first years in the post-war period. Thanks to the classics in the Azerbaijani architecture, M.Huseinov and S.Dadashov, as well as G.Majidov, E.Gasimzade, G.Alizade, G.Alasgarov and others and due to their talent and artistic skills the centre of Baku and its new districts enriched themselves with new and very important architectural constructions.
Baku became one of the biggest and most significant industrial centres of the former Soviet Union. Electronics, instrument engineering, light and food industry developed intensively along with the oil extraction, oil refining and oil machine building. Within a relatively short period of time there were built in Baku such big industrial objects as the factory of domestic air conditioners, the Baku instrument making factory, and the factory of electronic computers, the factory of champagne wines, the factory of deep water bases and other enterprises which won not only the domestic market of the Soviet Union but also the markets of numerous foreign countries for the products of high quality.
Enormous was the role of Baku as an important transport junction of the former USSR. In those years it held the third place among the other cities in all the Union Republics for its volume of the freight turnover. Of a particular importance was the Baku commercial seaport - the biggest port not only in the Caspian but also among the numerous Soviet ports. In 1967 the opening of Baku underground – the first of its kind in the entire Middle East became a significant event.
Baku became the biggest centre of education and culture. Almost all the big higher educational institutions of Azerbaijan were located in Baku, here tens of theatres, palaces of culture functioned successfully, there were held social, scientific, professional forums of international and All-Union significance.
For its achievements the city was repeatedly rewarded with Challenge Red Banners of the Central Committee of the CPSU, of the Cabinet of Ministers, All-Union Central Trade Unions and of the Central Committee of the All-Union Young Communist League. And on November 24, 1977 Baku was awarded the Order of Lenin according to the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.
The perestroika movement started in mid 1980s turned the entire country including Baku into a chaos and instability for a long period of time. A number of bloody hotbeds of interethnic conflicts broke out in the territory of the USSR, the first one of which was and is still in Garabagh. The conflict arose because of the Armenian nationalists’ territorial claims. In 1988 there appeared a claim of annexation of Mountainous Garabagh of Azerbaijan to Armenia. At the same time the entire Azerbaijani population was driven out of Armenia – more than 200 thousand people whose greater part arrived in Baku. A movement for the protection of the territorial integrity started in Azerbaijan. In view of the reluctance of the USSR leadership to stop the Armenian nationalists’ claim, it grew into a national liberation movement. On November 17, 1988 continuous protest meetings against the Soviet leadership’s policy and for the national independence started in Lenin Square (now Liberty Square) in Baku. Now this day is officially celebrated as the Day of National Revival. Despite the introduction of the state of emergency in Baku on November 25, the meeting lasted till December 5 when the square was cleared of the strikers with the help of the military forces. But the national movement in Azerbaijan gathered power.
To suppress the national movement, to ban the calls for national sovereignty and not to allow the collapse of the USSR, the Soviet leadership’s punitive action unprecedented in cruelty and cynicism and savage reprisal against unarmed population of the city were carried out in Baku in January 1990. At night from January 19 to 20 troops were brought into Baku. The engagement of the military units and formations in the city was accompanied with firing which victimised the peaceful citizens: the youth, the old and the children – part of the defenceless unarmed population of Baku who either protested against the entry of the unbidden army into the city or happened to be on its way. Tanks crushed the passing emergency vehicles, the cars on the roadside, the wounded were crushed, and the medical personnel rendering first aid on the spot were fired at. Death overtook some people in their flats, in the porches of the houses, in buses and at their workplaces. As a result, 131 people died and 744 were wounded and a lot of them were crippled forever. The January tragedy of 1990 entered the Azerbaijani people’s national consciousness as the most sorrowful event, at the same time, as the turning point in the history of Azerbaijan in the XX century on its way to the national independence.
After the collapse of the USSR the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan accepted a declaration “On the Restoration of the State Independence of Republic of Azerbaijan”. In accordance with this declaration Republic of Azerbaijan was proclaimed sovereign on October 18, 1991. For the second time in the history of the XX century Baku became the capital of an independent state.
With the independence gained in 1991 Baku as well as the entire Azerbaijan clashed with a range of uneasy problems associated with the collapse of the planned economy and the hardships of the transition period. The independent Azerbaijan fighting for the territorial integrity had to solve also a range of complicated problems caused by the aggression of neighbouring Armenia which had occupied one fifths of the Azerbaijani territory. The most complicated were the questions associated with the solution of living problems of more than one million refugees who had to leave their homes. The Armenian aggression inflicted on the economy of Azerbaijan such a heavy blow that it stops the reform processes, has an impact on the micro-economic indices of the country and impedes the further economic structure.
Heydar Aliyev’s return to the leadership of the Republic in 1993 enabled to stabilise the internal political situation in the Republic and to attract the investments of the biggest international oil companies for its development. A significant event of this kind was the signing of the great oil contract in September 1994 also known as “the Contract of the Century”. This enabled to start the realisation of several concrete issues including the ones connected with the consolidation of the independence of the Republic, the development of the city’s economy and the constructions in Baku. Today being actively developed the capital of Azerbaijan plays a significant role and has become the biggest political and economic centres in the region.
The citizens of Baku are always notable for their belief in future and great optimism despite any adversity. And today when our young republic has chosen the road of its independent development, we are sure that Baku will achieve great successes and hold a place worthy of its past, present and future to rank with the famous capitals of the world.