Azerbaijan People's Government
|Azerbaijan People's Government
آذربایجان میللی حکومتی
|Puppet state of the Soviet Union|
|Government||Communist puppet state|
|Historical era||Cold War|
The Azerbaijan People's Government (APG; Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan Demokratik Hökuməti , آذربایجان میلی حکومتی, Russian: Азербайджанское народное правительство, Azerbajdzhanskoe narodnoe pravitel'stvo) was a short-lived Soviet puppet government in northern Iran from November 1945 to November 1946. Established in Iranian Azerbaijan, the APG's capital was the city of Tabriz. Its establishment and demise were a part of the Iran crisis, which was a precursor to the Cold War.
To supply the Soviet forces with war material through Iran, British and Soviet troops jointly occupied the country in August 1941. Soviet forces from the Armenian SSR and the Azerbaijan SSR and British and Indian forces from Iraq entered Iranian territory and soon took the control of the country. In September, the British forced Reza Shah to abdicate in favor of his son Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, who ruled until 1979.
With the dethronement of Reza Shah in September 1941, Soviet troops captured Tabriz and northwestern Persia for military and strategic reasons. Azerbaijan People's Government, a puppet government set up by the Soviets, under leadership of Jafar Pishevari was proclaimed in Tabriz. The party, which was created by the direct order of Joseph Stalin, capitalized on some local people's dissatisfaction with centralization policies of Reza Shah. With northern Iran under Soviet occupation, Stalin made plans to "spread Socialism" by creating separatist puppet states. The Kurdish Republic of Mahabad was one such state and the Soviets decided to create a separatist state for northern Iran's Azeri population as well. During this time, a revival of the Azerbaijani literary language, which had largely been supplanted by Persian, was promoted with the help of writers, journalists, and teachers from Azerbaijan SSR. In the quest of imposing national homogeneity on the country where half of the population consisted of ethnic minorities, Reza Shah had previously issued in quick succession bans on the use of Azerbaijani language on the premises of schools, in theatrical performances, religious ceremonies, and, finally, in the publication of books. These directives were issued despite the fact that Reza Shah's mother Noosh Afarin and his wife Taj-Al-Molook Ayrimlu were both of Azerbaijani descent.
The Firqah-i Dimukrat, or Azerbaijani Democratic Party (ADP), publicly announced its formation in Tabriz on September 3, 1945 by a group of veteran communists headed by Jafar Pishevari. After the announcement, the communist, Soviet-supported Tudeh party dissolved its Azerbaijan chapter and ordered the members to join ADP. ADP expanded throughout Iranian Azerbaijan, and initiated a local coup d'état with help from Soviet army, who prevented the Iranian army from intervening. During the first week of September 1945, the Azerbaijani Democratic Party, now led by Jafar Pishevari, a long-time leader of the revolutionary movement in Gilan, declared itself to be in control of Iranian Azerbaijan, promised liberal democratic reforms, and disbanded the local branch of Tudeh. Later in September 1945, at its first congress, the Azerbaijani Democratic Party authorized the formation of a peasant's militia. This militia started a bloodless coup on November 18, 1945 and by November 21, 1945 they had captured all remaining government posts in the province and Iranian Azerbaijan "became an autonomous republic under the direction of a 39-member national executive committee". The only Prime Minister of this short-lived republic was Ahmad Kordary (variously spelled Kordari or Kodari).
At the same time, the US was steadily increasing its military assistance to the government. Under pressure by the Western powers, the Soviet Union reneged its support of the newly created state and the Iranian military succeeded in re-establishing Iranian rule in November 1946. According to Tadeusz Swietochowski:
As it turned out, the Soviets had to recognize that their ideas on Iran were premature. The issue of Iranian Azerbaijan became one of the opening skirmishes of the Cold War, and, largely under the Western powers' pressure, Soviet forces withdrew in 1946. The autonomous republic collapsed soon afterward, and the members of the Democratic Party took refuge in the Soviet Union, fleeing Iranian revenge. In Tabriz, the crowds that had just recently applauded the autonomous republic were now greeting the returning Iranian troops, and Azerbaijani students publicly burned their native-language textbooks. The mass of the population was obviously not ready even for a regional self-government so long as it smacked of separatism.
New de-archived evidence of former top secret documents from the Cold War implicates the USSR in forming the government of Pishevari by the direct orders of Stalin. Soviet military supported the new autonomous entity and prevented Iranian army from restoring governmental control over the area. After Soviet withdrawal, Iranian troops entered the region in December 1946 and Pishevari and his cabinet fled to Soviet Union. According to Prof. Gary R. Hess:
On December 11, an Iranian force entered Tabriz and the Peeshavari government quickly collapsed. The Soviet willingness to forego its influence in (Iranian) Azerbaijan probably resulted from several factors, including the realization that the sentiment for autonomy had been exaggerated and that oil concessions remained the more desirable long-term Soviet Objective.
On June 13, 1946, an agreement was reached between the Central Government [in Tehran] and the delegates from Azerbaijan, headed by Pishevari. By that agreement, Pishevari agreed to abandon its autonomy, to relinquish its ministries and premiership and to become once more part of Iran. Its parliament was to be transformed into a provincial council- a system recognized and provided for in the Iranian Constitution.
By mid-December 1946, the Iranian army reentered Tabriz, thus putting an end to Azerbaijan People's Government after a full year of its existence. During the lawless interregnum, approximately 500 supporters of the Ferqeh were killed.
Many of the leaders took refuge in the Azerbaijan SSR. Jafar Pishevari, who was never fully trusted by Stalin, soon died in a car accident under mysterious circumstances. Prime Minister Kordary was jailed for many years by the Shah and later released due to the tireless efforts of his brother Kazem.
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- Swietchowski:“Addressing the troops entering Azerbaijan, General ‘Ali Razmara proclaimed that they were restoing the soul of Iran to the nation, and henceforth the anniversary of the event would be celebrated by a military parade. By all accounts the population’s enthusiastic welcome of the Iranian army was genuine. Among the elated throngs were many who barely a year ago had also enthusiastically greeted the rise of the Pishevari government; the change of heart was due not only to disenchantment with the Democrats but also the uncontrollable violence being meted out at the sympathizers of the faller regime. Rossow conservatively estimated 500 killed during the lawless interregnum that preceded the coming of the Iranian troops. Hundreds of others were tried and jailed, and scores were hanged. ”( Tadeusz Swietochowski, Russia and Azerbaijan: A Borderland in Transition. New York: Columbia. University Press, 1995. pg 154)
- A British source cited by the US Embassy in Tehran gives the number of killed Democrats as 421. The American Embass’s report has been classified under wash. Nat. Arch. 891.00/1-1547, 15 January 1947”( Touraj Atabaki, Azerbaijan: Ethnicity and the Struggle for Power in Iran, [Revised Edition of Azerbaijan, Ethnicity and Autonomy in the Twentieth-Century Iran] (London: I.B.Tauris, 2000. pg 227).