World War I and Independence
After the Bolshevik Revolution, a mainly Russian and Armenian
grouping of Baku Bolsheviks declared a Marxist republic in
Azerbaijan. Muslim nationalists separately declared the
establishment of the Azerbaijan People's Democratic Republic in
May 1918 and formed the "Army of Islam," with substantial help
from the Ottoman Turkish army, to defeat the Bolsheviks in Baku.
The Army of Islam marched into the capital in September 1918,
meeting little resistance from the Bolshevik forces. After some
violence against Armenians still residing in the city, the new
Azerbaijani government, dominated by the Musavat, moved into its
capital. Azerbaijan was occupied by Ottoman Turkish troops until
the end of World War I in November 1918. British forces then
replaced the defeated Turks and remained in Azerbaijan for most
of that country's brief period of independence.
Facing imminent subjugation by the Red Army, Azerbaijan
attempted to negotiate a union with Persia, but this effort was
mooted when the Red Army invaded Azerbaijan in April 1920.
Russian leader Vladimir I. Lenin justified the invasion because
of the importance of the Baku region's oil to the Bolsheviks, who
were still embroiled in a civil war. The Red Army met little
resistance from Azerbaijani forces because the Azerbaijanis were
heavily involved in suppressing separatism among the Armenians
that formed a majority in the Nagorno-Karabakh area of southcentral Azerbaijan. In September 1920, Azerbaijan signed a treaty
with Russia unifying its military forces, economy, and foreign
trade with those of Russia, although the fiction of Azerbaijani
political independence was maintained.
Data as of March 1994