124th Birthday of Mahammadamin Rasulzadeh

Azerbaijan, Baku, 31 January /Trend corr. S.Ilhamgizi / The 124th birthday of Mammadamin Rasulzadeh, one of the founders of the first independent Republic in the east, Azerbaijani Democratic Republic, was celebrated on 31 Jnauary.

Mammed Amin Rasulzade was an Azerbaijani statesman, scholar, public figure and one of the founding political leaders of Azerbaijan Republic (1918-1920). His expression Bir kere yukselen bayraq, bir daha enmez (The flag once raised will never fall!) has become the motto of the independence movement in Azerbaijan in the 20th century.

Mammad Amin Rasulzade received his education at the Russian-Muslim Secondary School and then at the Technical College in Baku. In his years of study he created Muslim Youth Organisation Musavat, first secret organisation in Azerbaijan's contemporary history, and beginning from 1903 Rasulzade began writing articles in various opposition newspapers and magazines. At that time, his anti-monarchist platform and his demands for the national autonomy of Azerbaijan, aligned him with Social Democrats and future Communists. In 1904 he founded the first Muslim social-democrat organisation Hummet and became editor-in-chief of its newspapers, Tekamul and Yoldas Rasulzade also published many articles in non-partisan newspapers such as Hayat, Irshad and also Fuyuzat journal. His dramatic play entitled "The Lights in the Darkness" was staged in Baku in 1908.

Rasulzade and his co-workers were representatives of the Azerbaijani bourgeois intelligentsia. Most of them, including Rasulzade himself, had been members of the Baku organization of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party (Bolsheviks) in 1905. A photograph is extant in Soviet archives, showing Rasulzade with Prokopius Dzhaparidze and Meshadi Azizbekov, Bolsheviks who later became famous as two of the 26 Baku Commissars shot during the civil war. During the First Russian Revolution Rasulzade actively participated in revolutionary developments. As the story goes, it was Rasulzade who saved young Joseph Stalin in 1905 in Baku, when police were searching for the latter as an active instigator of riots.

In 1909, persecuted by Russian Administration, Rasulzade left for Persia to participate in the Constitutional Revolution of 1905-1911. While in Persia, Rasulzade edited the newspaper "Iran-e-Azad". Rasulzade became one of the founders of the Democratic Party of Iran and began publishing its newspaper called Iran-e Nou, which was the first modern-type newspaper in Iran's history. In 1911 he also published his book Saadet-e bashar (Happiness of mankind) in defense of revolution. After Russia troops entered Iran in 1911 and put and end to the Constitutional Revolution in a cooperation with the British and Royal Court of Iran, Rasulzade fled to Istanbul, where he founded the journal Turk yurdu( Land of Turks), in which he published his famous article "Iranian Turks".

After the Amnesty Act of 1913, dedicated to the 300th anniversary of the Royal Romanov Dynasty, Rasulzade returned to Baku, left the Hummet party he was previously member of, and joined the then secret Musavat (Equality) party in 1913, established in 1911, which initially promoted pan-Islamist, pan-Turkist and Socialist ideas, or more precisely Pan-Islamism yet with affinity for greater cultural bonds with the Turkic world, and which eventually became Azerbaijani nationalist party, and quickly became its chief. In 1915 he started to publish party's newspaper "Ac?q Soz" (Open word) which lasted till 1918. When February Revolution happened, Musavat together with other secret political parties in Russian Empire quickly legalized and became a leading party of Caucasian Muslims after it merged with Party of Turkic Federalists headed by Nasibbey Usubbeyli. October revolution in 1917 lead to secession of Transcaucasia from Russia and Rasulzade became head of Muslim faction in the Seym, parliament of Transcaucasian Federation. After the dissolution of the Transcaucasian Federation Muslim faction re-organized into Azerbaijani National Council, whose head Rasulzade was unanimously elected in May 1918.

On May 28, 1918, the Azerbaijani National Council, headed by Rasulzade, declared an independent Azerbaijan Republic. And even though Rasulzade never held any governmental post in either of the Cabinets of Ministers, as an active member of the Parliament he remained a kind of ideological leader of the newly-formed state until its collapse in May 1920. Rasulzade also initiated the establishment of Baku Stat University together with Rashid khan Kaplanov, minister of education with the funding of oil baron Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev in 1919. Rasulzade taught Ottoman literature at the University.

After the collapse of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in April 1920, Rasulzade left Baku and went into hiding in the mountainous village of Lahij to direct the resistance to Sovietization, but in August 1920, after Soviet Russian army crashed the rebellions of Ganja, Karabakh, Zagatala and Lankaran, lead by ex-officers of the Azerbaijani National Army, Rasulzade was arrested and brought to Baku. It was only due to his earlier rescue of Joseph Stalin in 1905, that Rasulzade was released and transferred from Azerbaijan to Russia. For the next two years, Rasulzade worked as the press representative at the Commissariat on Nations in Moscow. He was seconded to Saint Petersburg in 1922 from where he escaped to Finland.

For the rest of his life, Rasulzade settled as an exile first in Turkey. However, the 1931 suppression of the emigre publications oincided with Rasulzade's expulsion from Turkey, and some saw it as the result of caving in to Soviet pressure. In reality, the reason went deep into the complex relationship between Turkey and Azerbaijan. Tensions had been growing toward the end of the decade, and by 1930, they had reached a boiling point. In reply to Turkish criticism that the Musavat was neglecting the cause of Turkic unity, Rasulzade published a pamphlet titled O Pantiurkizme v sviazi s kavkazskoi problemoi (Pan-Turkism with regard to the caucasian problem), in which he firmly stated his view: Pan-Turkism was a cultural movement rather than a political program. Thus, he went to Poland in 1938, where he met his wife, Vanda, niece of Polish statesman Jozef Pilsudski then to Romania in 1940. During World War II he went to Berlin and met with Azeri POWs in attempt to encourage them to help Nazi Germany, although the mission proved insuccessful. Finally, after World War II, he went back to Ankara, Turkey in 1947, where he participated in the politics of the marginal Pan Turkic movement. Due to sensitivity of his presence in either Turkey or Iran, and being often exiled, Rasulzade "cherished bad memories of both Iran and Turkey". In his appeal to Azerbaijani people in 1953 through Voice of America, he stressed his hope that one day it will become independent again. He died in 1955, a broken man according to Thomas Goltz, and was buried in Cebeci Asri cemetery in Ankara.

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